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05.20.18 Galatians 6.1-10 Christ, Spirit, and Us Sermon Summary

by on June 15, 2018

There are at least four answers to the question, What does it mean to live the “Christian life”?

The first is a cultural answer. To be Christian is to be American. And to be an American is to be a Christian. “What else could it mean to be Christian?” “What else could it mean to be an American?” I am reminded of a youth leader I had who pointed out to me that, “You are no more a Christina by being born in America than you are a car if you were born in a garage.”

The second is a doctrinal answer. A Christian lives according to certain statements. If you assent to various claims, “believe” certain things, then you are and will live a Christian life.

The third is a communal answer. You live a Christian lifestyle when you belong to a group, or “tribe,” or church.

And the fourth answer is a spiritual answer. The Christian life is recognized relative to the Spirit. When the Spirit is your guide and power, you live the Christian life. This sermon explores this final answer. It’s Pentecost, after all.

We begin by recognizing that the resurrected Jesus gave instructions to his disciples “through the Holy Spirit” according to Acts. We see that the Christian life according to the Spirit is not a matter of place so much. Jesus does say, “stay,” but he also says they will radiate out from  Jerusalem.”

Rather than tied to a place, the Christian life as determined by the Spirit is more a matter of activity. Jesus says, “be my witnesses.”

It is less a matter of culture—even though, “there were devout Jews from every nation”—and more a matter of message: Everyone was given the “gift of tongues” in order to hear and understand the Gospel.

And what is that Pentecost message? What is Spiritual Christianity? We gain insights from Galatians 6.

First, Spiritual Christianity is non-judgmental. Paul urges the faithful to “restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness,” not a spirit of righteousness or condemnation.

Second, Spiritual Christianity is able to be gentle because it is humble. The faithful recognize their own vulnerability. This is why Paul says, “take care that you yourselves are not tempted.”

Third, Christianity is Spiritual when it recognizes that gentleness and humility are part of what it means to be loving. Paul says the faithful are to “bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.” What is that law? It is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Fourth, Spiritual Christianity is self-assessing. Paul says the faithful are to “test their own work.” Their pride is to come from the progress they make in their own spiritual life, not from comparing themselves with others.

Fifth, Spiritual Christianity is responsible. The faithful acknowledge the law of karma: We reap what we sow. Paul says if we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption. But if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap life.

Sixth, Spiritual Christianity is patient and persevering. The faithful are not to “grow weary in doing right,” for they will reap a harvest if they do not give up.”

Seventh, Spiritual Christianity is open and opportunistic. Paul writes, “whenever we have an opportunity, work for the good of all.”

Look around, and you will find many examples of Spiritual Christianity at Faith Presbyterian Church. At the last deacon meeting, someone came to the door seeking assistance. When they learned of our limits, they became belligerent. Nonetheless, one of our deacons offered assistance and came back an urged the rest of the board to pray for this family. That’s a non-judgmental and loving Spiritual Christianity.

Recently I was driving by the “big” Presbyterian church in town. I was at the back edge of their property and it was immaculate! I thought of the challenge we have in keeping our grounds nice and I was jealous. But then I remembered that they have a full time staff person whose sole responsibility is making the place look beautiful. We don’t. We have unpaid volunteers—lots of them—who  give of their time to work on our grounds bit by bit. And that made me proud. That’s an example of Spiritual Christianity being self-assessing verses comparing with others.

We talk about membership at Faith as taking responsibility for the church. People move from being consumers of the church to stewards of the church. Members show their responsibility for the church through financial support, volunteering, and serving in the ministry. If we’re growing in the Spirit, we find that we’re all called to do this—to take responsibility for the church.

By these examples, it’s clear that Spiritual Christianity begins with the Spirit, but it continues with us. The question facing each of us is, How are YOU following the Spirit?

If you will follow the Spirit, it will lead to a spiritual church which bears witness at Pentecost—and at all times—of the Spirit’s presence in the world.

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