“Living Spiritually Minded in Christ”
(Galatians 6:1-10, 14-16 – Pentecost 7 – July 28, 2019)
Galatians 6:1-10, 14-16 – Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith… But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Dear Redeemed, family of God in Christ Jesus:
In 2004, country music singer Tim McGraw released the hit, “Live Like You Were Dying.” It tells of a man in the prime of life learning he had terminal illness. When asked what he did, he spoke of making the most of his time on earth doing things he hadn’t done. Besides trying challenges like sky diving, mountain climbing, and riding a rodeo bull, he tried doing important things of life better. He said: “I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying… I was finally the husband, That most the time I wasn’t. And I became a friend a friend would like to have… I finally read the Good Book, and I Took a good, long, hard look.” As he told of living with a new perspective he said: “Someday, I hope you get the chance, To live like you were dying… Like tomorrow was a gift, And you got eternity, To think about what you’d do with it.”
Like the Tim McGraw song, our text leads us to live life from a new perspective. Here the Apostle Paul is continuing a discussion about living by the Spirit and walking in newness of life. Our text shows us how to spend our time on earth living as those who are dying to the world, and yet living forever in Christ, living by His Spirit in us. When we see each day as a gift from God, as we live in view of eternal life, it gives us a new sense of purpose in this world, a new way of looking at the people around us. Our text leads us to be “Living Spiritually Minded in Christ,” both with regard to our place 1) In the world and 2) In the church.
1) In the world
First, what does it mean to live spiritually minded with regard to our place in the world? It means that we always keep in mind how we have been saved out of this fallen world, by the grace of God. Paul says: “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” “The world” refers to everything around us that is sinful and opposed to God’s truth. Paul says in Philippians 3:18-19: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.”
Once we lived this way, apart from Christ. Without His Spirit in us, like the rest of the world we could only follow our sinful nature and Satan who is at work in the world to lead it astray. Ephesians 2:3 reminds us that, like the rest of the world: “we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” What is the end result of such a life? Here Paul warns: “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption.” Truly many people are living like they were dying in the worst kind of sense. For the corruption of the grave and eternal death in hell awaits them. Like the rest of the world, this was our doom.
But in His mercy and love for us sinners, God could not bear to see us go to eternal ruin. He chose instead to punish His Son. He took all of our sin and placed it on His Son on the cross. Jesus reaped the harvest of condemnation for all the sin we have sown. He paid dearly with His life, to save us from our deserved hell. Now by grace, God has joined us to His Son by faith. He has put His Holy Spirit in us. He has made us “a new creation” (vs. 15) as His children.
Now, we can live like we were dying in the best kind of sense – dying to sin and living to Christ. Each day we live in the power and promise of our Baptism into Christ. By repentance, we drown the old sinful nature; we die to sin, to the world, and to Satan’s rule. By faith in Christ we rise with Him, washed of all sin, free to walk by His Spirit in the new life He has given.
Now, we can we can live in this world as those who are living forever in Christ. We are among those Paul speaks of when he says: “He who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” Sowing to please the Spirit is not something we do to earn salvation. It is our thankful response to God’s gift of salvation in Christ. It is being led by His Spirit to do what is pleasing to Him, using His gifts of life to His glory and for the good of our fellow man.
Now, God’s love for us in Christ motivates us to share His goodness with others. As Paul says: “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all.”
As we live in this world, the Spirit of Christ in us leads us to “do good to all.” Here we may think of acts of charity by which we can help those in need, as Jesus reached out in compassion to help others. It is a way to show our Savior’s goodness to others. As Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). As those who “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), “doing good” applies not only to friends; but as He said: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28).
Living spiritually minded means seeing people around us in a new way, as souls with eternal needs, as souls for whom Christ died. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16-19: “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh… Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.” The greatest good we can do for others is to share God’s Gospel of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life in Christ. This is our central purpose in this world.
2) In the Church
Paul continues: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” This brings us to our second point. While we live spiritually minded in regard to the world around us, what does it mean to live spiritually minded in regard to our place in the Church, “the household of faith”?
Our text is saying that, as the family of believers in Christ, we are to look out for each other’s best interests. In fact, this is a priority. You may have had various jobs outside the home where it was your duty to serve other people. Yet, your first priority remained toward your family at home – honoring your parents, being faithful to your spouse, serving the needs of your children. So it is with us whom God has called us into His eternal family in Christ. He wants us to do good to all, but especially to be here to help each other and build each other up in the true faith.
This means that, at times, we must be ready to help each other stay in the right path. As it says: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” When we see a brother or sister in Christ fall into temptation and sin, it is not something to ignore. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us: “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” A fellow believer has fallen into the devil’s trap; his soul is in danger. Being spiritually minded means recognizing our personal Christian duty to rescue him or her from a wayward path.
“You who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” Let us say a church member has fallen into a sin of sexual immorality. Restoring him gently does not mean treating the sin lightly, telling him his behavior is socially acceptable nowadays, or that some inborn trait made him this way. Leave that to false churches that teach what itching ears want to hear, leading sinners right back into the fallen world again and into hell. In the true Church, we are here to restore a fellow sinner God’s way, through repentance and forgiveness. We speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). As Matthew 18:15 says, our goal is to gain back the one who has fallen, to lead him to confess his sin so we can restore him by God’s forgiveness in Christ. To the penitent we say: “Your sin is forgiven, paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross. He has cleansed you of all sin. Go in peace.” Then we are here for that restored brother or sister, to help him or her continue to fight the good fight of faith against temptation.
Being spiritually minded means that we look out for each other with a humble attitude. For we all struggle against our inborn sinful nature, with its thoughts and desires. That is why, when addressing another’s sin, it says to do so “considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” We can be tempted to join in his sin. We can be tempted to make his sin a personal issue, harboring hatred toward him. We can be tempted to conceit, self-righteously comparing ourselves to him.
This is why it says: “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” Being spiritually minded means testing our own lives under God’s perfect Law. Then we see that we must bring our own load of sin before God. There at His feet, we are led to say again: “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” When we have humbly repented of our own sin, trusting only God’s forgiveness in Christ, then we can rightly help one another in the straight path of faith.
This is the high calling Christ has given us in His “household of faith.” In doing so it says we “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Bearing each other’s burdens may take time, effort, and patience; but we are doing just what Christ, in His love, would do.
Besides helping each other against sin, think of other ways we carry each other’s burdens. Perhaps a brother in Christ has a weaker faith. He needs us gently to teach him from God’s Word so he can grow in faith and understanding. Perhaps at times, we have different opinions about how things should be done when it is a matter of Christian freedom to do it either way. Such things call for prayer and patience, bearing with each other in love, forgiving each other in Christ, and seeking the best way to edify and encourage each other in faith.
Or perhaps a brother in Christ is undergoing hardship or sorrow. Sometimes the one in need worries, saying: “I’m such a burden; I don’t want to bother you with my problem.” It is like when Peter did not want Jesus to trouble Himself with washing his feet. But Christ has brought us together in His family that we may learn to serve each other.
Living spiritually minded in the Church means seeing it as our privilege to “bear one another’s burdens.” It is our privilege to lift each other up to God in prayer, to help each other with Christ’s forgiveness and love, and to encourage each other by His Words of eternal life.
A country music song like Tim McGraw’s reminds us to “Live Like You Were Dying” – to make the most of our days on earth doing the important things. God’s Word leads us to live as those who are dying to the world, yet living forever in Christ. By God’s grace, we have been given the most important things of life. We live in His forgiveness. We live by His Spirit in us. We live with heaven’s joyful eternity before us. As those who are spiritually minded in Christ, let us make the most of our days, both out in the world and here in His Church. Let us share the most important things of life with the people God puts around us. Let us share His goodness, forgiveness, and salvation in Christ as abundantly as we have received it.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.