10th Sunday after Pentecost – Sermon 10
Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
Who do we look up to? Who has the biggest influence on us? – Our families? – our friends? – the people we work with? the T.V. ? – British soaps like Coronation street, Brookeside or EastEnders ? – Or maybe football stars or pop stars or if we are under 25 it’s likely to be – the spice girls or Ryan Giggs?
Lots of people influence us – Lots of adverts too! on the T.V. or in magazines – we even get salesmen ringing us up on the telephone – trying to persuade us to buy life insurance or double glazing! – We are influenced by so many things and often we don’t even realise it – sometimes we mix up fact and fiction – even to the point of doing something that is bad for us
Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians because they were getting things mixed up – being cohersed into doing – something that was bad for them and for the church as a whole
Jewish Christians were persuading them that the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament were still necessary – and new Gentile converts would have to be circumcised if they wanted to become a Christians
They were trying to devalue Paul’s credibility claiming that he wasn’t a true Apostle and that he deliberately omitted the OT rites in order to make the Gospel more palitable for the Gentiles
Paul was amazed and upset at the speed at which the Galatians were accepting this distortion of the Gospel – as far as Paul was concerned – obeying the rituals of the Law of Moses had nothing to do with being a Christian – it was not part of God’s plan for His church – it was a corruption of the Gospel message – that had to be checked –
So what does Paul tell them?
He reminds them – that his message comes from Christ and that the power of the cross is the only grounds for our salvation – That God has freely given us the means of being reconciled to Him – that it depends on faith in Jesus Christ – not on ceremony – circumcision was something that these Jewish Christians had introduced to improve their status in the church and to avoid persecution from the Zealot Jews who were objecting to them mixing with the Gentiles.
Everything we need for our lives as Christians is available to us through Jesus Christ – He came to show us what God is like – and how we should live our lives –
Jesus provides us with a new beginning – by dying on the cross and taking on the burden of our sins – He replaced the law and through His resurrection showed us the promise of eternal salvation to come.
Through our faith in Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit who becomes the source of our new life and who directs its course – the old dependence on man’s natural understanding of things is replaced by a spiritual understanding through Christ
The only thing that counts is faith – faith that God is there for us – that God works in us – that God works through us – faith that expresses itself in love and obedience to God and to one another
What is important – is the Gospel given to us by God through the life and work of Jesus Christ –
we should use the words and actions of Jesus as our standard in life and not be influenced by any extras that we choose to include to make life a little more bearable – we are sanctified by the obedience that comes from faith in God and through Him by the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s letter was written to correct the churches mistakes and put them back on course – its well worth taking a few minutes to read – its only 6 chapters long – it’s a letter that inspired the writings of Martin Luther in the period of the reformation – and led to the establishment of the protestant movement – and major reforms in the Catholic church –
So would we be as easily persuaded away from Jesus as the Galatian Church? Would we wonder off the truth so easily. The NT lesson is a conclusion to Paul’s letter and gives us practical advice on how to keep on track – and not get diverted – how we might live according to the mind of Christ –
In verses 1 &2
Paul says we must find ways of helping one another – of carrying each others burdens – we must be aware that we are just as vulnerable as others who need our help .
Jesus helped and healed many people during His time on this earth and He continues to do so today through the Holy Spirit – Jesus wants us to "love our neighbours as ourselves" – Do we respond to others in the way Jesus wants us to? – consider things from another persons point of view – help as if it is us who needs the help – after all next time it might be – Are we prepared to love others as Jesus loves them?
In verses 3 to 5
– Paul tells us to be careful of our pride – never to use the failings of others to justify our own behaviour – that in relation to God we are all weak and fall short.
Jesus never put himself above others – He made himself a servant – even though he was himself God – He washed the disciples feet at the last supper so that they would learn the true meaning of service to God and to one another – Jesus knows our weaknesses and shortcomings – He doesn’t use them to exert power over us – He suffered pain and died for us on the cross to pay for our sins so that we might have a new chance of reconciliation with God – Are we willing to put others needs above our own? – Are we a servant to others like Jesus
In verse 6 – Paul says that whatever we receive of the Gospel we should share with others – each one of us has a responsibility before God to pass on the Good News to others! –
Jesus came on this earth as the living word of God – He came to give us the good news of God’s salvation – to tell us of God’s love for each one of us – in a way that we can understand – He knew the Scriptures – He made them come alive for those first disciples and first Christians – Are we willing to share our understanding of the Gospel with others? – to make the Gospel come alive for people we know ! – we are joint shareholders of the Good News – and our shareholding increases in value if we give it to others
In verses 7 & 8 – Paul says – We reap what we sow – if we sow the seeds of the spirit we will reap a harvest of eternal life and salvation
We have to take risks for God – be prepared to spread the Gospel message to whoever will listen to it – and we have to sow good seed not chaff – we have to read our Bibles – to learn and understand the Scriptures – so that what we pass on to others is God’s word and not our own – to do this we must ask for God’s help through prayer – He will guide and help us – show us what to do and what to say – we have got to stick at it – not slacken our efforts – we have a responsibility to reach out to everyone – and through God’s help we will reap a good harvest
In the remaining verses in the chapter – Paul contrasts his own motives with those of the Jewish troublemakers – that we gain nothing in God’s eyes from boasting or looking good in front of others.
What are our motives when we offer to help others? – is it out of love like Jesus – or are we like the Jewish Christians – using others for our own gain or self esteem?
There’s nothing wrong in doing good deeds but its our motives behind them that counts – As Martin Luther said “Good works do not make a good man – but a good man does good works”
Our Glory is in the cross – in the crucifixion of our worldly horizons – in the total submission to God and acceptance of His will – and through faith and obedience to God to observe the love of Christ – which will transform us – into a new creation
So who is our mentor? – who do we turn to for advice? – is Jesus first in our lives? – do we trust Him above everybody else? –
Paul was upset at the Galatian church for being so easily persuaded – for not sticking to the Gospel message – for relying on good works rather than God’s grace for their salvation – are we just as easily persuaded – do we bend the truth a little when confronted with difficult situations – so as not to appear to be the odd one out – or do we react as Jesus wants us to and use Him as our guide !
Jesus came to show us how we should live – He brought us the Good News of God’s love and promise of salvation – Jesus is our standard in life – our power over sin – Jesus is our way of reconciliation and everlasting peace with the Father – Above all else we should follow the ways of Christ.
As we said in our collect for this evening:
Give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus – that sharing his humility, we might come to be with him in His glory
So when it comes down to it – who do we really take notice of – who do we choose to have the biggest influence on our lives – Each one of us has a choice – Who do you choose?
Prayer to Finish
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit AMEN