SERVICE TO FELLOW CHRISTIANS
There is no closer fellowship outside of the immediate family than church relationships. And just like a family, this closeness brings blessings but includes the possibility of strife, and maybe even more so because of the greater diversity of its members. Some are strong, some are weak, some are up, some are down, some need help, others need to extend it.
The Spirit-led Christian thinks of others and how he can minister to others (CIT). The legalist is not interested in bearing burdens but in adding to them (Acts 15:10; Mt. 23:4). The Spirit-led Christian demands more of himself than he does of others because he is determined to help others.
A believer is free from the law of Moses and possesses liberty in the Spirit, but he must fulfill the law of Christ. The law of Christ is the law of loving others. This Christ-like life can only be lived in the power of the Spirit. Such a life involves sacrificial service directed toward the Christian who is arrogant, sinning or burdened. Let us look at some practical application for Christian relationships through the following points:
I. THE CHRISTIAN WHO IS ARROGANT, 5:26.
II. THE CHRISTIAN WHO SINNED, 6:1.
III. THE CHRISTIAN WHO IS BURDENED, 6:2-5.
The Bible warns church members not to become conceited. In verse 26 we learn that conceited Christian provoke and envy others. Let us not become conceited /boastful, provoking one another, envying one another.
The Fruit of the Spirit does not make us "holier than thou." A favorite trick of the devil is to tempt the Christian to think how great, how much better he is than others because of his radically changed lifestyle and the blessings of God upon his life. Thus Paul warns against feeling pride about who we are or what we have, or what we think we have accomplished.
Conceited or boastful (kenodoxos) indicates a tendency to honor self above God. [IN LOVE WITH A MIRROR] A group of TOURISTS WAS TRAVELING through the mountains in Switzerland. At one high point they could see magnificent snow-capped peaks and look into the deep blue of the Alpine lakes below. The view was stunning, absolutely awe-inspiring.
After the visitors stood for a long time in silence, amazed at the wonder of God’s creation, the guide noticed that one woman in the party seemed to have no eye at all for the breathtaking grandeur. Instead, she was constantly looking into a mirror, checking her hair and powdering her nose. All she could think about was her own appearance.
We were created to glorify God. Yet, since man’s fall into sin, we’ve had a craving to glorify ourselves.
If a Christian believes he has fully subdued this sinful tendency to call attention to himself, he is self deceived. Even though we may not be preoccupied with "looking good" to others, we may be selfishly thinking about our own interests or indulging in hypercritical introspection. A truly humble person will not concentrate on himself most the time.
As Christians, we are on earth to glorify God, not to feed our own egos. We must beware of seeking the temporary and fickle approval of people, and of becoming wrapped up in ourselves and in our agenda. You can’t glorify self and Christ at the same time.
Everyone needs a certain amount of approval from others. But those who go out of their way to secure honors or to win popularity with a lot of people become conceited and show they are not following the Holy Spirit’s leading. Those who look to God for approval won’t need to envy others. Because we are God’s sons and daughters, His Spirit ministers His loving approval to us. Yet don’t be proud of the Spirit’s work in you or envious of it in the lives of others. Just be thankful for the Spirit’s presence and follow His leading.
True servants concentrate on their God-given assignment - not on what somebody else is doing! When you’re busy serving you don’t have time to be critical or provoking.
Grow up! Get over your petty jealousy! Competition between God’s servants is illogical: we’re all on the same team. Our goal is to make God look good, not ourselves. When Martha criticized Mary, she lost her servant’s heart. True servants don’t complain of unfairness, don’t have pity-parties, and don’t resent those not serving in the same way. They just trust God and keep serving. It’s not your job to evaluate others. Listen: "Who are you to criticize. . . The Lord will determine whether His servant has been successful" (Rom 14:4 GWT). God determines who’s successful, not you!
Nor is it your job to defend yourself against criticism. Let God handle it! Nehemiah’s response to his critics is a classic: "My work is too important to stop now and. . . visit with you" (Neh 6:3 CEV).
One of the most beautiful acts of love shown to Jesus was criticized by His own disciples. When Mary took the most valuable thing she owned, expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus, they called it "a waste." But Jesus called it, "significant." (Mt 26: 10 TM). There’s only one opinion that matters - His! Your service for Christ is never wasted, regardless of what others say.
II. THE CHRISTIAN WHO SINNED; 6:1.
Galatians 6:1 instructs us in the delicate art of constructive criticism. Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Paul now deals with a Christian who gets caught or captured by a sin. The picture is of someone who thought they could out run the sin but the sin being faster and more powerful overtakes and dominates or captures them. Though Christians ignore or refuse to admit they are hostage to a certain sin, or try an keep it private, it is a common lifestyle.
A COMPUTER VIRUS on the loose is a computer user’s worst nightmare. A virus can destroy everything in a computer’s memory. According to S&S Software International and writer James Coates, here is how a computer virus works.
A computer virus is software, or a piece of programming code, whose purpose is to replicate...many viruses enter the computer via a port or are downloaded from another source.
Once the computer is infected, the virus program checks each time a program is opened to see if the program is clean. If it is, the virus copies itself onto the program. Because viruses need time to spread undetected, most will not affect the proper functioning of the computer right away.
But eventually their destructive power is felt as files are erased or corrupted.
Just as a computer virus spreads through the files of a computer, so sin can spread in a believer’s life until he is caught and incapable of restoring himself.
How we react to a fellow Christian caught by his sin is one mark of our spirituality. The Christian should restore him. The word restore was also used for setting broken bones and mending fishing nets. It means to bring someone back to their former position of wholeness or soundness. This task of restoration is not to be under taken by any Christian but by the spiritually mature who recognize their own vulnerability.
If criticism is not done with the right attitude it can do more harm than good. [UNHELPFUL HELP] In Your Health Al Hinman writes about hidden kitchen health concerns. "A spotless kitchen may harbor as many bacteria as a less tidy one, says a surprising new finding from the University of Arizona, in Tucson. That’s because the most germ-laden object in a kitchen is often the sponge. Researchers tested sponges and dishrags collected from five hundred kitchens across the U.S. and found that as many as one out of five contained salmonella bacteria. Almost two thirds had at least some other bacteria that, when ingested, could make people ill."
Some attempts to cleanse can cause more harm than good. So it is when a pharisaical attitude prevails. Condemnation, self-righteousness, and judgmentalism are the salmonella of the soul.
[KILLER SOAP] Sometimes we consider it our responsibility to correct a brother or sister in Christ. We may notice an action or attitude that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. So we decide it’s up to us to correct the wrong. We need to be sure, however, that we are led by God. Helping to clean up another person’s life is a very delicate task. Above all, we must beware of feeling superior, or we may do more harm than good.
Leslie B. Flynn told of a youngster who won some goldfish at a school carnival. The child’s father found a fish tank complete with gravel and filter for only $5.00. He industriously scrubbed it and filled it with fresh water. Then he dropped the fish into their new home. But within a few days, all the fish died. He soon discovered his mistake: the soap he had used to clean the tank had poisoned the fish. He had unknowingly used "killer soap."
Far too often, when we are busy "cleaning up" the lives of others, we do more harm than good. Harsh criticisms and a judgmental attitude cause deep hurt and create bitter feelings- not only toward us but also toward God and the church.
If you think God wants you to correct someone, be careful you don’t use "killer soap." Use gentleness and humility, and leave the rest to God. The one who overemphasizes the faults of others underestimates his own.
[RESTORATION] In 1987 Donna Rice was involved in a scandal with presidential hopeful Gary Hart. She accompanied Hart, who was a married man, on a pleasure cruise to the Bahamas on a yacht called Monkey Business.
At the time, Donna Rice was a backslidden Christian, says Ramona Cramer Tucker in Today’s Christian Woman. As a freshman in high school, Rice had received Christ at a Cliff Barrows crusade. Throughout high school her life revolved around choir, youth group, mission trips, and inviting friends to church.
When she went away to college, though, she gradually compromised to the point where she was far from God. Then, the Gary Hart scandal put her and her picture on the front page of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Her life fell apart. She resigned her job, and she was hounded by the press. She was offered millions to tell her story. As she wrestled with what to do, her mother and grandmother said something to Rice that would seem obvious: "Before you make any decisions, get your life straight with God."
But it wasn’t obvious to Rice. She says, "I was stunned because I hadn’t yet realized I could put the entire mess in His hands."
Then Rice’s mother gave her a cassette tape from a former youth-group friend. "Donna I imagine you’re in a lot of pain right now," the friend said. "I just want you to know that God loves you and I love you."
Rice recalls, "When she began to share songs we used to sing together, I collapsed on the floor in my apartment and sobbed. I knew that I -and no one else- was responsible for my choices. I cried out, (God, it took falling on my rear in front of the whole world to get my attention. Help me to live my life your way!) God answered my plea by flooding me with His presence and forgiveness and by surrounding me with Christian fellowship."
Those who have slipped away from God can be restored. Never underestimate the role your words can play in leading someone to God.
[YOU’RE ONE OF US] A new partner in the law firm was discouraged. The senior partners had set extremely high standards and had coached him carefully. He did well in some minor trials, but he lost his first big case. The partners reviewed the trial, pointed out his errors, and suggested different strategies. Then he lost the next case. Their critique was sharper. He felt terrible. Were they ready to dump him?
Then one of the partners took him aside. "Look," he said, "you’re learning. Just keep going. You’ll start winning. Meanwhile, your position is secure. You’re one of us." Those words were exactly what he needed.
When a fellow believer falls spiritually, we too need to offer support. He or she needs loving correction and acceptance to prevent despair and to encourage growth in Christlikeness. We need to develop a compassionate heart that sympathizes with weak believers who are painfully aware of their short comings. They may even feel like hopeless sinners, wondering if God has given up on them
We must not take a light attitude toward sin. We are to confront it with humility and love. We also need to reassure the struggling believer. "Do not despair. Keep serving the Lord. Do your best. You’re still one of us."
May it never be said again that the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. Let us restore our wounded in gentleness. This is what Paul had been trying to do with the Galatians.
When confronting others about their sin, let’s remember how gentle Christ is in showing us our own sins. Although we grieve Him when we fall, He is never bitter. He holds us account able, yet supports us with His love. His convicting is kind and persistent, yet He is always quick to forgive.
When it’s necessary to criticize, treat others the way Jesus treats us. Express criticism with gentleness and tact. Kind criticism is always the right kind.
[How can we show compassion yet not take sin lightly? What happens when correction is not applied in love? How would you want to be treated?]
Be as patient with others as God has been with you.
III. THE CHRISTIAN WHO IS BURDENED, 6:2-5.
There is no other way to fulfill the Law of Christ than through the sharing of Love. Central to a Christian’s responsibility to love is helping with each others’ burdens. Verse 2 commands, "Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."
Loving Christians are to lend a helping hand with heavy loads. The principle would apply to all excessive burdens but the context has special reference to the heavy and oppressive weight of temptation that leads to spiritual failure. While the spiritual do the work of restoring, all believers are to become involved in this ministry by prayer, encouragement and sharing its burdens. This burden bearing Paul wrote will fulfill the law of Christ, that is the principle of love (5:14; Jn. 13:34). Living under grace is freedom to love and serve others, especially our brethren who are burdened.
[A BURDEN SHARED] An estimated 25 million people in the United States are providing care for chronically ill relatives or friends. Those who shoulder the burden of care giving know that it often feels like an impossible task.
How can we help each other when the load seems too heavy to bear? Paul gave simple, straightforward instructions. "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
To bear someone’s burden is to take that weight onto ourselves. If we know someone who must constantly be with a relative, we can take her place for an hour or even for an afternoon. Taking a care-giving buddy to lunch or a ball game gives him a much-needed break and someone to talk to.
In Rosalyn Carter’s book Helping Yourself Help Others, the former first lady writes, "There are only four kinds of people in this world: Those who have been care-givers. Those who currently are care-givers. Those who will be care-givers. Those who will need care-givers. That pretty much covers us all."
To "bear one another’s burdens" means to share another’s sufferings in a practical way. Fulfilling "the law of Christ" includes joyful, unselfish service of love.
When life seems to much for someone to bear, display God’s love and care by offering relief and comfort. As you do you will discover that bearing someone else’s burden makes you own seem lighter.
[FINDING MAMIE IN YOUR CHURCH] Mamie was an elderly woman, plagued with arthritis and a number of other ailments. So people were surprised to see her going regularly to the post office to buy stamps. One Christmas the lines were particularly long, but there was Mamie waiting her turn patiently. Someone pointed out that there were stamp machines in the lobby. She could save time and energy by using them."That’s true," Mamie responded. "But a machine won’t ask me about my arthritis."
No matter what size church you attend, I guarantee there’s a Mamie looking for a kind word from someone. It’s very easy to get in the habit of speaking to the same people every Sunday. After all, they’re your friends. But could someone who’s hurting and lonely be on the fringe of your class, your department, your age group? Perhaps they were drawn to your church because it seemed so friendly. Are they finding Christians who care? Do you care?
This Sunday look for "Mamie." When you find her, try to follow this verse. Both you and Mamie will be happier for it. Ask God to give you eyes to see the needy in your church.
When people are broken emotionally, they need others to SUPPORT them until they can stand again. Medical researchers have developed a bone-bonding compound that illustrates the help we can give others.
The chemical compound looks like toothpaste. Once injected into the body, it hardens in ten minutes. In twelve hours it reaches the compression strength of natural bone.
A study in the journal Science found the compound virtually identical to natural bone crystals. The compound so closely resembles real bone that the body does not reject it. Weeks after being injected into the body, the cement is replaced by real bone.
According to the Associated Press, clinical trials "show the material has allowed patients to discard casts early- or altogether–and to resume walking more quickly and with less pain."
In the same way, our encouragement enables others to overcome their pain and walk with the Lord. In the body of Christ we find strength for living especially when the burdens of life become to heavy to bear alone. The very nature of the church is to share with one another. Jesus endured the pain of the cross on our behalf when we bear one another’s burdens, we follow His example and fulfill His will for our lives. Christ, bore and bears our burden’s that we may bear the burdens of others.
Verse 3 indicates the worthlessness of those unwilling or to conceited to support others in their oppressive burdens. for if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Something must be laid aside if a believer is to be a burden bearer and that is conceit. God wants Christians to be mature enough to be humble enough to be useful. If a person thinks he is better than the guilty or burdened person he can become prideful. Pride leads to self deceit or to self-blindness. Although he may be blind to himself he does not deceive others by his conceit into thinking he is something. [The verb translated deceive (phrevapata) is formed from the word for mind and the verb to lead astray. Literally the person is leading his mind astray.] Only those who restore and carry the burdens of others will be recognized as significant by others.
Disaster results when we try to build ourselves up by minimizing the worth of others. That’s the message of an old fable about a LITTLE FROG who was startled when he looked up and saw an ox drinking out of the pond. He had never seen such a huge creature. Immediately he hopped away to tell his grandfather about the enormous ox. Determined that no one should seem larger in the eyes of his grandson than he, the old bullfrog began to puff himself up as he asked, "Was he bigger than this?" "Oh, yes, Grandfather," answered the little frog, "much larger." He inflated himself more. "Bigger than this?" he queried. "Lots bigger!" replied the grand son. The old frog continued to puff until he exploded.
Now, it is healthy to have a good self-image, but there is a big difference between a sense of Our God-given worth as His handiwork .and an ego that is inflated by pride. That’s why we must be quick to acknowledge that what We accomplish is done solely by God’s grace. Only then can we see how foolish it is to promote our selfish interests. Furthermore, humility will enable us to show appreciation for the achievement and Position of others.
The apostle Paul put it clearly, "For I say... to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom 12:3). If we puff ourselves up, things get blown out of proportion, and that will lead to our eventual downfall.
Rather than comparing one’s self with other people, a person should take inventory of one’s self. Verse 4 says; but each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.
Human nature leads to us to condemn sins in others that we condone in ourselves. We should be honest in self-appraisals as we are when we judge others. Are we helping to bear the burdens of others? Or do we give others burdens to bear?
The word test or prove means to prove genuine or false by testing as with metals like gold. We should not use one standard for others and a different one for ourselves (Mt. 7:2 ). The verb indicates a stepping back and taking an objective look at one’s self. It indicates it should be a continuous or continuing process . Rather that expressing censorious criticism of others we should keep our motives and work under the microscope of self analysis- not to become introspective or critical- but to see where we really are in God’s will and way.
A beauty salon sign reminded ladies to watch their figures for others were doing it. The Christian should look at his own life for the world is keeping its eyes on him. And the world expects more of Christians than most of them expect of themselves.
When you do your very best, feel good about the results. There is no need to compare yourself with others. People make comparisons for many reasons. Some point out others’ flaws in order to feel better about themselves. Others simply want reassurance that they are doing well. When you are tempted to compare, look at Jesus Christ. His example will inspire you to do your very best, and his loving acceptance will comfort you when you fall short of your expectations.
Verse 5 indicates that each person is expected to deal with the life that comes to them. For each one will bear his own load.
The Christian does in fact test himself by carrying his own load [(phortíon), different word than in verse 2. It means "a man’s pack."] This is the kind of load which falls on a man from the chances and changes in life. It comes from outside; from some crisis, emergency or sorrow that comes upon him. It is fulfilling the law of Christ to help someone who is overcome by his burden (bare, v. 2). But there is a load (phortion) which every man must bear himself. Each person is responsible for the kind of life he lives.
The word used designated a soldier’s pack. It is the load Jesus assigns to His followers (Mt. 11:30). There are certain duties or loads for which each believer is personally responsible. Phillips translates the phrase "For every one must shoulder his own pack." Though we cannot push them off on any one else, Jesus assures His disciples that He is in the Yoke with you and thus even the greatest responsibilities can be light (Mt. 11: 31).
Galatians 6:1-5 offers some guidelines for confronting a fellow Christian who is living a sinful lifestyle. The first requirement is that we’re close to the Lord ourselves, and that we don’t exalt ourselves as superior to the one who is sinning. Then we are to look at the situation as restoring the person, not bringing condemnation. We’re to have "a spirit of gentleness," all the while keeping in mind that we too may be tempted. Jesus also gave instructions that can help us with issues of sin against us personally (Matt. 7:1-5; 18:15-20). With God’s enabling we can courageously and sensitively confront and restore others.
For me, the highlight of the 1982 NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT came moments after the North Carolina Tarheels had edged the Georgetown Hoyas out of the national championship.
Georgetown coach John Thompson had every reason to be crushed with disappointment after seeing his hopes go down the drain in the last moments of the title game. But when a television camera picked him out of the hysterical crowd and moved in for a close-up, it didn’t find him wallowing in self-pity. Instead, the coach was standing there with his arm around one of his players, Fred Brown, who had thrown the ball away in the final seconds, right into the arms of North Carolina’s hottest player, James Worthy.
There coach Thompson was, trying to console a young man who was grieving over his disastrous mistake. There would be other games, other seasons. The important thing to the coach at the moment was to deal with his player’s pain.
This act of coaching was a living parable, illustrating the attitude of restoring a brother and helping to bear his temporarily unbearable burden.
No Christian should ever think that he or she is totally independent and doesn’t need help from others, and no one should feel excused from the task of helping others. The body of Christ, the church functions only when the members work together for the common good. Do you know someone who needs help? Is there a Christian brother or sister who needs correction or encouragement?
Humbly and gently reach out to that person in Jesus’ name. Ask God to give you a healing touch as you minister in His name.