Closing the Gap – Week 14 Notes

By April 8, 2018Sermon Notes
  1. INTRO:

The hijackers that would take the towers down on 9/11 were here and the CIA knew but didn’t tell the FBI

Because of personality conflicts, lack of trust and immaturity and pride…organizations whose sole purpose is to protect America were unable to do so.

An FBI agent sent an email to agents in New York telling of the possibility of a coordinated effort by Bin Laden to send students to the US to attend aviation universities and colleges.

It was ignored.

In August, one month before the attack an FBI agent called NY about a suspicious foreign national who was a student in a flight school in Minnesota asking questions about flight patterns in NY and whether the cockpit doors could be opened in flight.

He was accused of trying to get people “spun up” and was told to stand down.

He said he was that “No, he was trying to keep someone from a taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center.”

He was making a point…but turned out to be prophetic…sadly so.

My purpose is not to condemn individuals or the important agencies in the US that have many good and dedicated people working to keep us safe.

My point is simply this…human pride and sin is enormously costly.

9/11 is a dramatic case in point…a terrible example of individual pride and competition coming in the way of the faithful discharge of duties that could have saved many lives.

Let’s take it way down from the international level to the personal level.

Our own pride, sin is enormously costly in our personal relationships.

We can miss joy and happiness that could be ours…we endure trouble and conflict that need not be ours.

We tragically miss the opportunity to express and experience God’s glory in and through relationships because of our pride.

But let’s go to positive…when we do practice the “one anothers” in the NT…we move farther into the kind of life God wants us to live.

There are about 47 “one anothers” in the NT given to followers of Jesus…most speak to unity, love, and humility…”love one another” “Be devoted to one another”

We are going to spend the spring season looking at 8 of these “one anothers”

Our yearlong emphasis is closing the gap on faith and love.

We spent the winter season on faith…now we look at closing the gap on love for one another.

Love for God is expressed in love for one another…and in the various “one anothers” that reveals our love in practical ways.

1John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Love for one another is to be bottom line for us.

TODAY’S PASSAGE:

Gal. 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.

Today we look at the opportunity and responsibility we have to carry one another’s burdens.

Carrying one another’s burdens is a practical expression of a “Spirit filled” life.

In Chapter 5 Paul spoke extensively about the spirit-led and filled life

So does that life look like?

Mystical experiences? Dreams? Miracles? Manifestations of gifts?

There is fruit…but most of the descriptors of the fruit have relational applications.

In Chapter 6 he describes that spirit-led life starting with two vary mundane, normal parts of life

6:1-5: Good personal relationships within the church

6:6-10: The use of money, particularly giving to support the work of the church you are receiving help from…(that’s the meaning of 6:6)

So the spirit filled life shows up in loving the people in the body God has placed you in and financially supporting the church that supports you.

Not flashy stuff…but stuff that shows the heart.

Heart follows investments…time, talents, treasure.

This was probably surprising to the church then, and it is often surprising to many today.

The clearest evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is not supernatural gifts…but practical love.

Prior to the attacks of 911, some members of Al-Qaida (who didn’t know of Ben Laden’s plans) had dreams of planes flying into towers…in fact Ben Laden told some of them to stop talking about these dreams because he afraid it might give away his plans. (they didn’t know what they were dreaming, he was planning)

Many religions have experiences that appear to be supernatural in nature, some probably are…but the realm of the supernatural includes evil forces not just God.

Supernatural stuff…by itself is not evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work.

Paul had supernatural experiences…from God…but he didn’t advocate strongly for them…he did, over and over say…love one another, live in unity, be devoted to one another, give your money, your time, your life to one another.

In 1 Cor. 12 he discusses spiritual gifts…then in the last verse he says…I’ll show you the most excellent way…then straight into chapter 13 the famous chapter on love.

There again…the expressions of a spiritually changed and charged life are seen in practical expressions of love for one another.

Today we see love expressed as “bearing one another’s burdens.”

Paul begins with the example of someone whose burden is they are trapped in a pattern of sin.

  1. Gal. 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

This person walked into the trap of sin…it didn’t just happen to them

James said that each one is tempted when “by their own desire…they are dragged away.”

But the fact they choose this situation (at least initially) doesn’t change the fact that they are there.

Sometimes we find it easy to be sympathetic with others who are under heavy burdens that they did not choose…but not so much when we deem it to be “their fault.”

Interesting that Paul uses someone caught in sin as an example…they are caught because they choose sin.

But that doesn’t change the fact that they now are trapped and need help.

Sharing each other’s load is not related to “whose fault it is” but rather to the reality that someone God has given me to love needs my help.

Of course there must be boundaries and wisdom in the applications of this principle but it is to be the normal course of our relationships with one another that we bear each other’s burdens.

Paul gives a simple plan of action to help someone trapped in a sin pattern: What, Who, How

  1. What: Understand that the goal is restoration.

The word translated “restore” was a medical term used for setting a bone.

What is wrong is to be set straight in this person’s life…its not to be neglected but restored so health can return.

The goal is restoration for the good of that person and the glory of God.

Any other goal is likely to lead to a lack of real spiritual power and effect.

Recently a friend was going to speak to another man who was making bad choices…the problem is my friend was not going with the right frame of mind.

So he decided to not go…at least not yet.

Later…after he had the opportunity to listen to others and to the Holy Spirit…he did go speak to the one caught in a sin pattern…but he went with a different “heart”

What is interesting to me is that he used essentially the same words he was going to use when he was angry…but this time, the man in sin received them and was powerfully moved by them…because they were the same words…but different heart from which those words flowed.

This will not always be the case…sometimes people will not respond to truth, no matter how you go…but there is power in moving towards one another with the motivation of restoration.

Clearly we will always struggle with having right motives and the right approach to others.

But we must continually examine our hearts so that we are moving forward (closing the gap) on “why” we go to others who have fallen into sin.

We must go to restore.

This doesn’t mean our right attitude will compel them to change.

But them changing is not our primary responsibility…our going with a heart to restore is our responsibility.

So the “why” go is for restoration…the “who” should go is a “spiritual person”

  1. Who: The one doing the restoring should be “spiritual.”

-This is where things can get weird.

I have seen people who have no made no real investment in the lives of others be quick to offer words of advice, rebuke, and spiritual direction.

Then, and even more telling, when they find they have no voice because they have made no investment…they can become very angry.

They might say that “God told me to come and say something to you.”

That may or may not be true…but what is certainly true is that God has clearly told them and us…to go and love others.

It is much easier to believe someone is speaking for God into our lives…when they are making regular investments into our lives.

Spiritual maturity is evidenced in a consistent life of love for God and love for others…this maturity shows up in real, actionable investments…in relationship with God and with others.

We should never have to “demand to be heard”…if you make enough investments of love into another’s life…they are very likely to hear you.

In chapter 5 Paul discussed the “spiritual” person…it is the person who is living within the realm of the Spirit’s will and power…as evidenced by spiritual fruit.

*Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

This doesn’t mean that if you don’t consider yourself to be a “spiritual” person…you are off the hook.

“Well, that doesn’t describe me…I’m pretty much not spiritual…so I’ll let someone else help my friend who is caught in sin.”

No what it means is that in order to love the people God has placed in our lives…we ought to be continually closing the gap on being what they need us to be.

Dads, moms, friends…you are to be a “spiritual person”…a person who walks in faith and obedience…not just for yourself, but so you can be positioned to help others.

Walk in faith and obedience for the good of others, not the applause of others.

Why go: restoration

Who should go: spiritual person

How should I go: gently

  1. How: Finally in regards to the person caught in sin…the restoration should be gentle

Remember restoration is like “setting bones”

I’ve had several bones set in my life and the act of setting them was not gentle…in one case it felt violent.

But the result of not setting them would have been ongoing disability…lasting damage.

Gentleness does not mean vague, or indirect, or to not address what is wrong…it is an “others-centered” approach.

Generally people are not going to love hearing truth when they are struggling…it will often seem to them like a bone is being set.

The doctors who set my bones…were gentle with me and yet were very direct with my broken bone.

Their gentleness was evidence in their attitude…and in the purpose they had in dealing with me…they wanted to see me restored to health.

Gentleness in our approach to others…a life long challenge for me…is an important part of trusting the Holy Spirit to work in others rather than believing it depends mostly on us.

We go “telling the truth” not “selling the truth.”

Subtle but profound difference…selling tends to make the issue about us, telling about what God wants for them.

It doesn’t mean the impact won’t be “hard”…the wounds of a friend are faithful…the setting of bones is painful…but it means our attitude as the one going to restore must be gentle…part of the Spirit’s fruit.

So he begins with an example…someone caught in sin.

And why go, who should go and how we should go.

Then he gives the principle at work here…he gives example…then principle.

  1. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

So going to others who are trapped in sin is just one way we carry each other’s burdens.

There are many other examples.

It could be the burden of temptation and addiction or the burden of discouragement and just difficult life circumstances.

In a variety of situations we are to carry each other’s burdens.

In all these situations the why, who and how remain the same.

Go in order to help one another return to health (restoration), go as a “spiritually empowered” person (surrendered) and go with a gentle not a rough and demanding spirit.

It is interesting that if you look down at verse 5 he speaks of the necessity of carrying your own load.

There is no contradiction between carry the burdens of others and your own load.

In verse 2 the burden is something too large for a person to carry alone.

In verse 5 the load is a word that means something like a backpack…something each person is to carry for themselves.

So the idea here is that “You can’t do it all alone and no one can do what you must do for you.”

You must be responsible for the load God has given you, but there are times when your burden will be too much you for to carry alone…the same will be true for the people around you.

Be careful: When you believe that your load exceeds your capacity, don’t become bitter and demanding about what you think others should be doing for you.

This demanding spirit can make you bitter and blind to what is true about your life and what needs to happen and your own responsibility in it…do not fall into the ditch of demanding.

Don’t forget that others around you, often have their own heavy loads.

We forget this when we become largely self-focused…we can easily excuse our own demandiness (we have real needs) and fail to recognize that those we are demanding meet our needs…have needs of their own.

This passage is directed at us to “carry each others loads”

It is not about judging others because they are not helping you carry your load…apply this word to your life, not to the lives of others.

And in the church, if each person applies it to themselves and not to others…then there is no demanding…but all that would be wasted energy can go into carrying one another’s burdens. 

I apply to me, you apply to you…we carry each other’s burdens.

Do not allow your mind and heart and mouth to go to demanding…it is toxic.

In verse 2 when you are helping someone with their load, Paul says you are “fulfilling the law of Christ.”

This refers to what Jesus said is the summary of the entire law…”Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength…and love others.”

The law of love in action is seen clearly in those times we get up under the loads of others.

How do I know when I am helping others carry their load (that is too much for them) or when I’m in a situation where I’m carrying their backpack…and in so doing, I’m not helping them?

It’s a great question…and requires insight, and prayer, and consultation with others…it’s not easy to know…and we will all probably make some mistakes.

But the primary issue Paul is addressing here is a heart that understands spiritual maturity is expressed in a readiness to get up under the load of others.

Paul the constant realist then gives what he knows is likely to be the greatest barrier to our effectively and consistently bearing one another’s loads…our pride.

III. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.

Pride was the barrier that kept American agents and agencies from sharing critical information prior to 9/11

Pride is the barrier that keeps us from helping one another and it is the barrier that keeps us from allowing others to help us.

“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

One of the principle characters in the 9/11 story on the American side was an FBI agent named John Oneil.

He was a smart and talented man with a huge ego…his subordinates called him the “prince of darkness” and you thought your boss was difficult.

He wore expensive suits he couldn’t afford, spent money he didn’t have…it appeared that he thought he was something…but he was driven by deep insecurity.

He had a wife and children and two other women in different cities that he led to believe he was going to marry.

His personality was part of the reason others in different agencies didn’t want to work with him.

Ironically after he spent many years warning of Ben Laden he retired from the FBI in the summer of 2001…and went to work as head of security in the Twin Towers…he died in the attack on Sept 11.

He wanted to take down Ben Laden but Ben Laden’s plan brought him down.

It is interesting that before his death he was reading the Bible, praying, trying to return to his spiritual roots…he wept often, apparently he had began to feel his emptiness.

God knows where his heart was at the end…but he is an example of a man who believed he was something, when he was…nothing…but his insecurity was never far behind him.

Paul says we think we are something when we are nothing…this is a barrier to loving one another.

In Phil. he gives the right way to move through life…as Christ did.

Phil. 2 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Attitude is not how you “feel” but it is your essential approach to others.

The attitude of a plane…is its orientation relative to the earth’s horizon.

Your orientation relative to others is to be servant…it is the opposite of thinking we are something.

Jesus made himself nothing…he took the nature of a servant…he was made in human likeness.

What it means is that to be a human is that we are made to serve the living God by serving others

Reflect:

Trust is earned over time through authentic love expressed and experienced in real life situations.

When trust is present, good things can happen very quickly.

Words don’t have to be perfect because the heart behind the words is seen as good.

When trust is present, misunderstandings can happen yet grace is given.

Trust gives the benefit of the doubt.

When trust is absent, everything good slows down in relationships or goes away.

When trust is absent, every word and facial expression is scrutinized and held in suspicion.

When trust is absent, misunderstanding is the norm, even good intentions are misjudged and rejected.

Do you trust the people God has put in your life to the point that, if they must restore you when you are caught in a sin…or just aren’t seeing things clearly…that you will listen to them?

What if their words are not perfect?

What if their perception of the circumstances is not completely accurate?

What if their timing is way off?

Will you demand perfection from them?

Or will you accept the help that God is offering you through them?

Has someone tried to help you recently and you rejected them because they didn’t get everything just right?

Were they partially right?

Was there a single pearl in the basket of shells?

If so, will you cast off that pearl because of the shells?

Perhaps God has given you help in shouldering your burdens, but you have treated God’s provision as less than the gift of grace that it is.

The wise love correction, and they will take it from less than perfect sources.

Let’s take it from the other side…maybe you have a burden to help someone caught in sin.

Have you done the work to earn their trust?

If not, then do not assume that you have the privilege of speaking truth to them.

They may allow you to have a voice in their life, but remember that trust is earned; it is never forced on someone.

Start closing the gap today between the level of trust you have with others and where it could be.

Carry one another’s burdens…let others help you with yours.

It will very often be inconvenient…but you are not called to a convenient life…you are called to a Christ-like life.

Decide today…when I know that I should get up under the load of another I will.

Then go live deciding how to help…not deciding if you will help.

The “one anothers”…if we take them seriously…are challenging, convicting, difficult.

This is to be expected because this is God’s word calling us from where we are to where we can be…and where he is…to become like Christ.

God is too good to leave us alone…to leave us where we are.

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