26 April 2008

The Law of Christ*

Galatians 6:1-5

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

The Virus of Self-Reliance
Pride, or self-exaltation, or self-reliance is the one virus that causes all the moral diseases of the world. This has been the case ever since Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted to be God instead of trust God. There is only one basic moral issue: how to overcome the relentless urge of the human heart to assert itself against the authority and grace of God. The battle against pride and self-exaltation in our hearts is a battle for joy.

Burden-Bearing and the Law of Christ
If a Christian brother or sister is weighed down or menaced by some burden or threat, be alert to that and quickly do something to help. Don't let them be crushed. Don't let them be destroyed. Don't increase burdens. Make them lighter for people. Some of you wonder what you are supposed to do with your life. Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.

The law of Christ is not easy because it's greasy, or permissive. It is easy because when we are weak, he is strong. It's easy because he produces the fruit of love: "I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (2:20). Christ never commands us to do anything that he wants us to do on our own. Therefore, every command in the law of Christ is a call to faith. Through faith God supplies the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 3:5); through the Spirit we produce the fruit of love (5:22); through love we fulfill the law of Christ (6:2). Therefore, if you trust him, you will fulfill his law of love. You will devote yourself to lifting the burdens of others.

The Burden of Trespasses
We tend to think of burdens as sickness, unemployment, loss of a loved one, loneliness, rejection, etc., and the people who bear them as victims. That is right. And if we are full of Christ, we will be about the business of bearing those burdens. But Paul shows us in verse 1 that burdens include trespasses, and those oppressed include culprits. We should probably define a burden, then, as anything that threatens to crush the joy of our faith—whether a tragedy that threatens to make us doubt God's goodness, or a sin that threatens to drag us into guilt and judgment.

A person who is sinning needs our help. Paul says, "Restore him." The word means, make things right. Ultimately, only Christ can forgive and repair the breakdown of sin. Primarily, therefore, our job is to admonish or rebuke or warn each other about attitudes and habits and plans which are wrong, and then point each other to the Great Mechanic who can fix any broken-down jalopy.

The Danger of Pride
Everything else in Galatians 6:1–5 is a warning against the danger of pride in those of us who take on the burden of correcting and restoring a fellow believer. Attention! It is not a warning against correcting and admonishing and restoring a person; it is a warning against doing it arrogantly.

The way to avoid pride as you confront a brother about his sin is to act only in the power of the Spirit. Look to yourself lest you fall prey to the temptation to rely on yourself, or exalt yourself. Remember you are a basket case of sin apart from God's gracious Spirit. Therefore, total reliance on him produces gentleness or meekness, and meekness is the twin sister of humility which is the opposite of pride and boasting.
Father, forgive us for the pride of our hearts that keeps us from meekly and lovingly admonishing and restoring each other when we sin. Transform Bethlehem into a people whose hate of sin and love for sinners creates a community of purity and peace and joy. Amen.
From DesiringGod.org. Read or listen to the entire sermon here.
*200th H.B. post. Let's get ice cream.


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