Saturday, February 27, 2016

One in Christ

Let’s get some things in perspective before we go any farther.  God prepared a place and an inheritance for you long before there was a before.  He predestined you to be with him through Christ.  We need to understand that God wants a wonderful relationship with everyone he made.

Does God get the desire of his heart?  That’s a tough question.  We hope so.

We also must understand that God began explaining this relationship that he wants with all of us with just one people.  God chose a people to tell his story and show his love and benchmark what a holy life should be.

We need to understand that we were not and are not those people.  God chose the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—Israel if you will—to reveal himself to the world that he created.

God chose a people.

He gave them an identity as his chosen people.  That identity was symbolized by a sign in the flesh for all males.

He gave them the law as a guide to good living.

He gave them a land that he had promised long, long before the people would possess it.

He blessed them and charged them to bless the world.

He did all of this through the Hebrew people, a people later called the Jews once they had been delivered by God from their Babylonian captivity. 

Most of the story of God and man as we know it in the Bible involves God’s Chosen People.  I know, how could God not have chosen America for this special relationship?  What was he thinking?

He could have brought us on the scene sooner.  We could have waited.  The world wouldn’t have noticed if God didn’t pick a people until 1775.  I’m thinking that 10 November 1775 would have been perfect.

The Marines were being formed in Tun Tavern, Pennsylvania.  I can just see God saying, “Yes, Americans will be my chosen people and we will have Marines, and it will be good.”

What was he thinking picking a bunch of Hebrews to be his chosen people?  Did he not know how much they would gripe and complain and turn their backs on him?

Understand that my humor setting is always between dry and arid and my tongue is often stuck in my cheek, but so many Americans do not have a grip on or a grasp of the story that set the stage for the greatest story ever told.

That story that set the stage involved God’s Chosen People.  They have been closer to God ever since he chose them than any other people.  They never got it exactly right, but they were closer to God than the rest of the world.

Remember that I said God chose them to be his people, this gave them an identity, he gave them the law, he gave them a land full of houses they didn’t have to build and crops they didn’t have to plant, and he gave them a charge to bless the world—well, he also gave them one more gift.

He gave them the Messiah.  The Messiah—the Christ—was Abraham’s seed and the means by which God’s Chosen People would ultimately bless the world.

God’s Chosen People were distinct from all other peoples; yet, they were very much the same for they were dead in their sin.  God looked upon  an entire world of people.  For those who should have known him, tithes were being short changed.  Offerings were not the first or best of anything.  Rules replaced the response of love that the people should have known for God.  Yes, God’s Chosen People were closer to him than the rest of the world, but they too were so far from where God wanted them.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

God chose a people and they were closer to him than any other people on the earth but all of the earth—including these chosen people—was lost in sin.

So God in his mercy, in his grace, in his love that goes beyond our comprehension made us right with him through Christ; and none of this is our own doing.

What would happen if any of it was our part?  Human nature would surely kick in again.  What if it was 99% God’s grace and 1% our doing?

In a year, we would be telling the story like this.  God did 90% and I made my 10%.  It’s better than a 401K.   After a couple years it would be a 50-50 split and surely before we had logged in five years of salvation we would be the 99% part with God throwing in just a little to seal the deal.

So that none of us can boast, God did it all.  By grace alone you have been saved!

What about faith?  Is that not my 1%?

It is not.  It is faith that what God has done—this gift of God—is real and for you and for all who call upon the name of Jesus.  It is believing—just as if we could touch, feel, taste, and smell it—that God loved us enough to sacrifice his own Son.  It is knowing with absolute certainty that after this incredible sacrifice, God raised Jesus from the dead and will do the same for us.

That is faith.  It is not the gift but knowing that the gift is 100% from God and 100% true and 100% for me and all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Paul wrote that Jew and Gentile lived in separate relationship with God for ages but even still were both dead in their sin.  They were separate but both were still without life.

But in Christ both Jew and Gentile can come to life.  In this way we have become one people.

Now there are still many different nationalities and ethnicities and cultures and racial differences but in Christ we truly become one.

God’s Chosen People still have their uniqueness as this special people.  If you keep reading the story, they have more to accomplish before the end of the age, but in Christ it matters not if you began as a Jew or a Gentile; your life comes from him.

He took two and make them one but didn’t give them a new name.  God simply claimed all who come to him through Christ as his Chosen People.  We join those he chose long ago.

In Christ there is no more division.

We Americans who grew up thinking we were the center of the universe, realized that God chose a people other than us to reveal himself and his love (yes, that’s redundant) to the world, can take heart that we can be God’s people too.

With Christ as the cornerstone, we are part of the same building as Moses and Elijah, Peter and Paul, Martin Luther and John Calvin, Mother Teresa and Corrie ten Boon, and unknown others who have by faith received the gift of life in Christ.

Together we are becoming a temple in which God dwells.  Elsewhere Paul will use the term body of Christ.  Here he reminds us that we are one in God’s Spirit because of our faith in Christ.

Today in western Oklahoma, we don’t see much hostility between Jew and Gentile.  In fact, there isn’t much of that going on in eastern Oklahoma or central Kansas or northern Missouri.  This is America and the beginning of a modern century or post modern if you will; and as such Jew and Gentile relationships in America are just not making headlines.

Black lives matter.

Police lives matter.

Gay lives matter.

Sadly, the rallying cry that unborn lives matter has faded significantly.

These are our headlines, well at least on page 3 or 4.  I guess Peyton Manning and BeyoncĂ© who is or is not nominated for best actor gets page 1; but Jew-Gentile relations in America don’t get much attention.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to grasp that we are all one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.  Sometimes we don’t receive that message very well.

Sometimes we like to draw some boundaries around our congregation or denomination or our own personal little group that believes just our way.  Paul reminds us that we are one in the Lord.  We are one in Christ.

We who believe in Christ all have access to God the Father through the same Spirit.  The same Spirit that walks beside you and lives within you lives in the believer across the street and across the globe.

We pray to the same Father in heaven.  He grants us the same peace that goes beyond what we comprehend. 

In the body of Christ, there are no strangers, aliens, or foreigners.  We are one in Christ.

We are brothers and sisters in Christ—fellow citizens to use Paul’s verbiage in this part of his letter.  We come back to that Koinonia word again.  We come back to community again. 

We come back to being Americans again.  Do we truly have a Christian community in America?

We see Christians listed as a voting demographic amidst others of race and gender and income, but are we truly a community?

We need to get to community.

We need to truly be one in Christ.

If the people who call themselves Christians in this country would truly live in community, then we could sure shorten all of these presidential debates.  They would only have one topic:  national defense.  Everything else would be taken care of by the community.

We seem to be a long ways from that idyllic state, but that doesn’t mean we can get closer.  You have heard me proclaim a message of connecting the disconnected for some time now.
We need to work on connecting the sort-of connected as well.  Who am I talking about here?  How about the other families of faith that meet on Sunday morning and occasionally gather with for community service a couple times a year or in the middle of a drought.

How about we go out of our way this week to let our brothers and sisters in Christ that gather in another building on Sunday morning know that we just love the fact that we are one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.

That not because of our doctrine or statements of belief but because of Christ we are fellow citizens in the Kingdom of God.  We should be throwing them a few high fives just for that reason alone.

We are God’s workmanship, his masterpiece, and we have much to do.  We are to do it hand-in-hand with our brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens in Christ, and these are not just arbitrary things, but good works that God planned for us to do in advance.

Sometimes I grit my teeth when people say, “I wish I knew what God wanted me to do with my life.”  To many people frame their lives as career choices or educational tracks what to wear to Walmart.  Too many people are looking for the logistics of God’s will when he frequently tells us in very clear terms what we are to do.

What are we to do?  What is it that is so clear?

Break down the barriers in the body of Christ and do the good works that he planned for us from the beginning:  Love one another, feed the hungry, visit those in prison, liberate people from sin and death by delivering the gospel of truth and leading men and women to God’s peace.

Be God’s light in this world.

Be the God-seasoning of this planet.

Build a house of God with Christ as the cornerstone from all who call upon the name of Jesus.  I am not talking about brick and mortar but being of one accord in the Lord.

We don’t need to squabble over how we baptize, whether we have musical instruments or not, the color of the carpet, or how and when we partake of the Lord’s Supper.

We need to encourage each other as fellow citizens.  We don’t need to convince folks to take communion the same way that we do, but we do need to convince them that we are absolutely thrilled to the hilt that we are one in Christ.

We need to break down some barriers with other believers.  The home-based Bible study is one way.  Day to day affirmations with other believers is another.

It is not really the pastor’s job to devise a comprehensive plan on how to break down every barrier; but it is incumbent upon me to challenge you from time to time to connect with others who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

We are still connecting the disconnected, but this week I challenge each of us to connect just a little more with someone who is a brother or sister in Christ but worships in a different building.

Let’s just enjoy being one in Christ with a little bigger family.

Let’s break down a barrier or two.

Let’s move a little closer to community.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

What is a Christian to do in the Cauldron of Craziness that we call today's world?

We were once the beacon of hope to the world.  Now we are a cauldron of craziness.  What are we to do?

Scripture tells us that in the last days people will want those who preach to them to scratch their itching ears.  They will only want to hear what appeals to the most selfish nature.  Our politicians have captured the most banal causes to rally people these days and people are responding.

Sound doctrine has no more voice.

But what are we to do?

Proclaim the gospel in season and out of season.  There has never been a time when true hope was needed more.  People need to return to the Lord. 

People cry out for rights and walls and security.  God has called us to love him and to love one another.

Some want anyone who can get to a polling booth to be able to vote just like they were a citizen. Others want a mass deportation of millions.

Black Lives Matter.  Brown Lives Matter.  Gay Lives Matter.  Police Lives Matter.

The life in the womb, it doesn’t seem to matter so much.  That’s why people won’t get on board with All Life Matters.

What are we to do?

When people turned away from God and sought their own purposes long ago, he confounded their efforts by causing them to speak different languages.

If anyone were to accuse the United States of pursuing godly objectives today, we would surely be acquitted.  We have confounded our own good standing in the world and with each other by turning away from God.

Many who claim to be pursuing godly purposes have twisted holy words in an effort to support their cause or garner power.

What are we to do?

Proclaim the gospel in season and out of season, and it does seem to be out of season as far as the world is concerned.  That makes it the perfect season for the one who has a heart to take God’s light into the darkness.

Make no mistake; this insanity that surrounds us is darkness.

What are we to do?

It is time to Christian Up!  That’s right; it is the old when the going gets tough the tough get going spiel.  But it happens to be right on target. 

It is time to bring light to a dark world, not in words of condemnation but in invitations of hope.  It is time to call this nation—that can be great again—to repent and come back to God.

We can be great again not because of whom we elect but because the people will come back to God.  God’s love does not fail.  He does not changeHis heart desires us to come to him and enjoy the relationship with him and each other that he planned for us from the very beginning.

We should never be surprised when the world behaves as the world.  It is, after all, the world.  We must be vigilant and press on towards the goal of taking the good news to everyone that we can, connecting those who have received Christ but don’t participate in the work of the body of Christ with a family of faith, and disciple those who do come in the doctrine of love—the royal law.

From a military perspective, we might classify the world as a target rich environment.  Look in any direction and we who follow Jesus have plenty of opportunities to do his will and bring glory to his name.

I would like to think that America will not only survive as a nation but once again be a godly beacon for the world, the land of hope, and one that puts God before self in all things.

Whether we can reclaim what was once pure and noble in this nation is at stake and the outcome uncertain.  What is very much certain is the call for every man, woman, and child who follows Jesus to live up to our calling right now.

Let’s be the light of the world and lead people to Christ.

Let’s be the salt of the earth and give people a taste of God’s goodness in their every encounter with us.

Let’s not forsake gathering together and worshiping God.

Let’s love one another.

Let’s pick up our cross every day and truly follow Jesus.

It is time to Christian Up and lead this nation to God one person and one family at a time.  So get off of your phone or your tablet or your computer and go be God’s love with your neighbor.  Share the gospel.  Invite them to gather with you and others who are learning what it is to follow Jesus.

Go into this crazy world and be God’s love!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Are you ready?

The world seems to have gone off the deep end and none of our political candidates offer any real hope.  The economy is unpredictable at best.  Are we a land of opportunity or a country that constructs walls?  Here’s the real kicker—we have it better here than in most of the world and we think we think things are terrible.

Do you ever wonder if God sometimes just shakes his head, says whatever and is ready to walk away and leave us to our certain, self-inflicted demise?

Who could blame him?

But he doesn’t.  He is the one constant in a universe of variables.  He is love and his love is still there for us.

He invites us to come to him through Christ Jesus and be holy and blameless before him, not because of something that we must do, but because of his great love for us.  God did everything needed to make us holy and blameless, totally forgiven, and full of purpose and abundance.  He did this in the blood of Christ Jesus.

He invites us to accept this gift and in response to live for him.

Imagine what it would be like to live totally for God’s purpose and have not a single sin held against us.  For those who have professed Jesus as Lord and know in their hearts that Jesus really did live, die for us, and that God raised him from the dead; that is how we live today.

In Christ, we are holy and blameless before God.  Wow!

In Christ, we are totally forgiven of our sin.  We have insight into a time to come when everything will be reconciled to Christ.

In Christ we have received the deposit of the Holy Spirit and we are assured of all of God’s promises.
In Christ, we can’t really do anything else but live for the glory of God.

Now that’s cool beans!

In the middle of a world run amuck, we are invited to be holy and blameless before the Lord and God does everything to make this happen.  He does it all in Christ.

Are you ready to accept this incredible gift?

Are you ready?

That Predestined word again

You got to know a little about the Apostle Paul as we Galloped through Galatians.   We get to see a different side of the apostle in this letter—one that is more uplifting towards his readers.  Some contest the authorship of this letter and think that perhaps one of Paul’s helpers might have written it in his name taking the message that Paul wrote to the Colossians and tweaking it just a bit for the saints in Ephesus.  Those who contest the book’s authorship did not surface for about 1700 years and today most accept the fact that Paul wrote this letter.

Unlike the letter to the Galatians, it follows a more traditional format.  It has the salutation and the blessing and some verbiage of thanksgiving—the part noticeably absent from his comments to believers in Galatia. Paul likely wrote this from prison in Rome.

Ephesus was a major port city in Asia Minor.  It boasted of a booming trade business in the Roman Empire.  It had many large public buildings for both political and sporting purposes and it had a couple of regional pagan gods for the people to worship.  In many ways, it was an eastern Rome.

But it had a church.  It had believers—saints if you prefer.  It was a city where John may have spent many years.  John surely wrote to this church as well in Revelation.  When John wrote, he commended them for resisting the idolaters but chastised them somewhat for not loving as they did at first.

Paul’s writing precedes this time and is surely to a fairly new flock of believers.  His first part of this letter is his blessing which is rich in theology for the Ephesians and for us.

In this blessing we get very much to the heart of this lesson.  In Christ, in him, we are chosen, redeemed, made harmonious with God’s will and purpose, and sealed and secured.  Apart from Christ, we are a mess—a very big mess that can’t really fix ourselves.

In this blessing part of Paul’s letter, I want you to contemplate and meditate upon who you are as a Christian.  

There are some self defined Christians in the world who think they are paupers, men and women of poverty, that this whole last will be first thing means that we can never have anything of substance in this world.

They think that they have to sing, “Poor, poor pitiful me until that twinkling of an eye when we will all be changed.”

Paul understands that we have passed from death to life as Jesus described in John’s gospel and that there is yet an age to come that is even fuller than this life we have entered; but Paul notes what we have now in Christ.

In Christ, we are holy and blameless.  We are set apart for God and not tainted by our sin.  Remember, we are only this way in Christ.

We should remember that this wasn’t just some happenstance event.  We were chosen to be holy and blameless from the very beginning.  Many times we have good discussions about God’s plan and his plan for us.

Some see God’s plan as wrapping itself around every detail of our life and causing every event good or bad that happens to us; but for the moment, consider God’s plan in this context.  He planned, prepared, made a way for us to be holy and blameless before flesh was every placed upon this planet.  Part of his plan was that we would be holy and blameless in Christ.

In Christ, we are redeemed and forgiven through his blood.  More than that, in Christ, God reveals to us what had been mystery:  That all things in creation would be reconciled to and through Christ.  Some of you may note the similarity with Paul’s letter to the Colossians, which we will get to in due time.

Remember in Galatians, Paul talked about the fullness of time when the Christ would be sent into the world; now he talks about the work of Christ coming to fruition in the fullness of God’s time. Everything in this creation that we know will be reconciled to and through Christ.

What does that mean?  Well, I am thinking that the Weather Channel will be out of business.  Earthquakes and tsunamis, tornadoes and hailstorms, droughts and floods will be things of the past.  We will not only love one another but live in harmony with this wonderful creation that we have been given.

In Christ, we become part of the glory of God.  We live for God’s purpose.  We bring glory to his name. Paul would later call our lives a living sacrifice, but in so living we know God’s purpose.  Think less mystery and more revelation.

In Christ, we are sealed.  We know that we belong to him.  The Holy Spirit lives with us and within us now guaranteeing that every promise of God will be fulfilled, assuring us of our inheritance, and helping us live to the glory of God.

Now here is the thing that some people get hung up on—all of this was predestined by God.  Most folks don’t handle that word very well.  It sounds like God made us to be robots and that our every step was recorded long before time began and we have no choice.

This predestination stuff is just hard to reconcile with free will.  It seems like it has to be one or the other—predestined or free will.

Why must we always try to fit God into our box?

Before time began God knew that Christ would be the path to the fullness that he wanted us to enjoy.  He chose us!

God not only created us but he chose us for a very special relationship, one that we could only know through Christ Jesus.

Adam and Eve not eating the apple in the garden could not have gotten us to the same place that we have now.  Maybe we should beat up on them too much.  They had and lost a paradise but through Christ we gain so much more.

We were chosen to be holy and blameless through Christ before this whole story began.  In fact this whole thing that we call history is really His Story.

The problem with this whole predestination business revolves around heaven and hell.  Did God chose some for heaven and some for hell.  The Presbyterian denomination had some trouble with this for a time.  The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith tells us early on that we do not believe God made any eternal reprobates.  That is a fancy way of saying; we do not believe that God made anyone for the purpose of sending them to hell.

How can we say this?

God desires none to perish.  We were all predestined for this special relationship through Christ.  Will we all accept this wonderful gift from the Lord?  That might just be a horse of a different color.

It is a question that we will not answer here.  Does God get the desire of his heart?  Will all come to him through Christ?

Long ago and far away, I was a lieutenant series commander at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.  I had a few series under my belt when I came into my office one Sunday afternoon only to have the series gunnery sergeant greet me with some bad news.  One of my drill instructors had gotten drunk the night before and gone into the barracks and started hitting recruits.  He didn’t get very far as the hit the platoon guide while he was sleeping and this young recruit knocked him to the ground as he awoke.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep the next couple of days as I conducted my inquiry, and subsequently recommended a court martial for the Marine.  He was charged, convicted, had a stripe taken away, and sent to the brig.

I thought that was the end of the matter at least until he got out, but it was not.  The colonel called me into his office a few weeks later and instructed me to go to the brig and get tell this Marine he could get out for a day.  I think it was his anniversary or another date that should be spent with family.

I went to the brig, had the Marine brought out to me, and delivered the news.  He refused this merciful gift.  Here I was a young officer with 3-4 years of experience delivering this gift to a Marine who had about 10 years of service in the Corps and was given a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with his family and he refused.

Long before I heard the phrase, Stupid is as stupid does, I was witnessing it firsthand.

God desires none of humankind to perish.  He grants us free will to accept this free gift of salvation.  How everyone responds is beyond our knowing, but we must know that God chose all of us to enjoy this wonderful relationship with him through Christ before the beginning of the world.

Our God-given destination is living in the fullness of a wonderful relationship with him through Christ Jesus.

For those who know this and have accepted this wonderful gift of grace, how could we ever sing, “Poor, poor pitiful me?”  We are rich in the grace of God and the fullness of the relationship that we know in Christ.

Paul continued his letter to these believers with thanksgiving and prayer.  He was thankful that these men and women had faith in the Lord and prayed that they receive the wisdom to understand the richness of the blessings that they have already received.

Paul is saying, “Do you guys really get this?  Christ is everything!  He is over everything now and forever.”

Most of all, he is the head of the church.  The church is his body.  We are that church.

Paul did not write to the church in Ephesus because they had a bunch of problems.  He wrote because they were ready to understand more of this wonderful relationship that they had entered.  They were ready to grow in grace.

He prayed that God would open the eyes of their hearts and they would know the richness of the blessings that they enjoyed.

Are our eyes and our hearts open today?  Do we understand how richly we are blessed?

God chose us.  We are holy and blameless before him.  In Christ, we are holy and blameless.  Without Christ we are dead in our sin but we are not without Christ.  We are in Christ and because of that we are holy and blameless before the Lord.

That should be a pretty good pick me up on a bad day.

In Christ we are redeemed and forgiven, and we have revelation.  We have a window into the reconciliation of all things.

In Christ, we live for God’s purpose.  We get to bring glory to God.

We as Americans thrive on making the game winning shot or a goal line stand so our team wins.  We love the walk off homerun or delivering the final strikeout in the bottom of the 9th.  We love to bring glory to our team or our school.

We get to be a part of the team that brings glory to God.  It’s been 40 years since I hit a baseball over an outfield fence.  I don’t know if I could even get one to roll to the fence now, but we never get too old for bring glory to God.  He lets us hit them out of the park as long as we live and breathe.

In Christ, we are sealed.  We know that we belong to him.  

The Holy Spirit lives with us and within us now guaranteeing that every promise of God will be fulfilled, assuring us of our inheritance, and helping us live to the glory of God.

So what can I say about this predestination business?

Nobody has a better destination for us than God and in Christ we are on the best path to that destination.  But we must realize that we are on the path and not fully arrived at that destination, and that we are currently living as the church in this world.

We are his body in this world and we need to bring glory to him because in him we are so richly blessed.

In Christ we are richly blessed, holy and blameless before God, and very much assured that God will reconcile everything in his time.  In the mean time, we have God’s own Spirit to be with us as we navigate this world.

As we go into this world we must remember that we are the body of Christ and we are to bring glory to his name.

We are the body of Christ and will are to bring glory to God.

We are predestined for a wonderful and eternal life and we are to be his arms and legs and light and love in this time and in this world to bring glory to God.

God chose us for a very special destination and richly blessed us to bring glory to his name on our way there.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Homiletic Gallop through Galatians

You have done it!  You have made it through Paul’s letter to the Galatians, at least you have heard it preached or perhaps you missed the sermon and read it instead.  It was not a point by point dissection but truly a gallop through this epistle.

I think you found (or will find if you are going to read these messages for the first time) that Paul is also speaking to a 21st century world as well.  Sometimes the messages seem even more appropriate for us than the original audience.

If you missed any of the messages or just happened upon this article, the links to the message for each chapter are provided below.

Chapter 1 – No other gospel
Chapter 2 – Crucified with Christ
Chapter 3 – Seed Syntax
Chapter 6—Reap what you sow

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.