Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Practical Spirituality

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Part 14 of a series through Galatians

Text: Galatians 6:1-6

This week I read about a man named Simeon Stylites (c. 390-459). For 37 years he lived on a small platform on top of a pillar in Syria as a way to show devotion to God. Is this what it means to be "spiritual"?

What is spirituality? It is saying "yes" to the Spirit. What does the Spirit want us to do? Love. Spirituality is not just about our personal relationship with Christ; it's also about our relationships with one another. Spirituality is mostly practical, not mystical.

When I was a kid, my favorite kind of hockey cards were "In Action" cards. The Spirit wants to see Christians "in action."

How should we live if we want to "keep in step with the Spirit" (5:25)?

Five habits of spiritual people:
  1. Spiritual people restore one another. "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" (v. 1). Paul has just talked about "the works of the flesh" (5:19-21). We desire to "walk in the Spirit," but too often we stumble into sin. Notice that Paul addresses the Galatians as "brothers." He is talking about sin inside the church. We are accountable to one another. The church is God's family. We are to restore our brothers and sisters when they become 'caught in a sin." (I don't think "caught" means that we are to spy on others and say, "Aha, I caught you!" I prefer "overtaken," KJV.) We should not ignore sin, gossip about sin, or revel in another person’s sin. The Greek word for "restore" (katartizo) means "to mend, to repair." In Mark 1:19, it is used to describe the mending of fishing nets. In secular Greek, it is used to describe the setting of a broken bone. (A doctor needs to be honest about the patient's condition.) 'Am I my brother’s keeper?' (Genesis 4:9). Yes! Who should restore a fellow Christian? One who is "spiritual." A person who is spiritual is a person who loves. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (5:6). "Serve one another in love" (5:13). "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (5:22). "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:10). "Speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Restoration should remain private, if possible. (Jesus outlines the steps to be taken when a brother sins in Matthew 18:15-17. The first step is to talk to the person privately.) If church discipline is necessary, it should always be done in love. "The Lord disciplines those he loves" (Hebrews 12:5). How should restoration be handled? (1) It should be handled gently. Being harsh or judgmental is a sign of spiritual immaturity. (2) It should be handled carefully. "Watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." It should be handled humbly. "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12. "We all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2).

  2. We should help one another. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (v. 2). "Burdens" (v. 2) are heavy burdens, too heavy for one person to carry. They are temptations that oppress us and trials that depress us. A "load" is a lighter burden (like a backpack). "Loads" are life’s responsibilities. Christians can go to one of two extremes: (1) some people treat nothing like a burden; (2) some people treat everything like a burden. To help someone with his/her burden is to "fulfill the law of Christ." What is the law of Christ? "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (5:14). Spirituality is not about obligation; it’s about transformation.

  3. We should value one another. "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (v. 3). "Do not think of yourself more highly that you ought" (Romans 12:3). A self-centered person is not a self-giving person. No Christian is too important to restore and help struggling believers.

  4. We should not compete with one another. "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load" (vv. 4-5). "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (5:15). "Let us not become conceited, provoking [competing] and envying each other" (5:26).

  5. We should share with one another. "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor" (v. 6). "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages'" (1 Timothy 5:17-18). A pastor must fight against two common temptations: laziness and greed ("fleecing" the flock). A pastor must not abuse his privilege. A church must not abuse its pastor. (He is more than an employee of the church).
Galatians 6:1-6 shows us the need for both personal responsibility and mutual accountability.

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