October 28, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Rachel and I would like to express our thanks to you for agreeing to partner in prayer for our prodigals and for revival. This past Sunday, one of our elders, Vince Giraldi, gave an excellent and encouraging message entitled “Meeting Jesus” in which he quoted the poem, “Footprints In The Sand.” This moving poem describes a man’s dream in which he viewed his life as a walk with God on a beach. He noticed with disappointment that in times of sadness and difficulty there was only one set of footprints in the sand instead of two. When he questioned the Lord, he learned that these were the times when God took him in His arms and carried him. You can read the poem here: “Footprints In The Sand.”
Through the book of Galatians, as Paul pursues the path of freedom and in the opening verses of chapter six, he focuses on our response to the fallen believer. He reminds us that true freedom leads to a life of supporting others. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:1-3).
One of the most beautiful illustrations of the Christian life comes from the story of the sheep in Luke fifteen. The sheep had strayed away from the shepherd and was hopelessly lost, but the shepherd searched for the desperate creature until he found it. And returning home, the shepherd tenderly carried the sheep on His shoulders. What a wonderful place for the sheep to be - safely held by the shepherd! But it caused me to ask myself, what is my attitude when a believer gets lost? How do I respond when my brother or sister loses their way? Do I act like the shepherd in Luke fifteen? Do I choose to behave like the Lord Jesus who was willing to go as far as it took to find the sheep that was lost? To do so, Paul explains, is to live in true freedom.
In Galatians six, Paul highlights four characteristics of the person living in freedom. Here, that person is called spiritual, and the first quality is gentleness, gentleness with those who have fallen. All of us have fallen at one time or another, probably many times, and have needed the gentle, helping hand from a fellow believer to help us back on track. The Passion Translation says, “Win him over with gentle words, which will open his heart to you.” The spiritual person is a gentle person. And a gentle person speaks gentle words.
I get really tired of so-called spiritual teachers, leaders, preachers, (whoever) taking God’s word and using it to hurt God’s people. Their tone is sharp. Their words are cutting. Their stand is assertive. Their hearts seem arrogant. They are “standing for the truth” and trying to correct God’s people, yet they are not being gentle. Anything but. How dare they? This is not how Jesus spoke. Nor is it how He treated the beloved of the faith. The truth is that the Good Shepherd and true shepherds of God’s people are marked by gentleness.
Gentleness carries the idea of mildness, humility, and meekness. It’s a person who knows who she/he is, knows how to control themselves, and knows the purpose of their mission. The person in Galatians 6:1 is seeking to restore, not destroy. Maybe you know of a lost sheep that needs a loving hand today.
The second characteristic is watchfulness. A careful watchfulness for your own weaknesses and failures will preserve you from the same fate of falling. “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” This is personal preservation. You can be no help to anyone if you have not been fed, satisfied, and nourished by Christ first. This is a life lived in closeness with Him.
The third is awareness of the needs of others so you can assist them. Notice that the spiritual person will not only be gentle towards a fallen saint, but also understand their needs and help them in carrying their burdens.
How is this done? How do you lift the burden of another believer? It requires you to get close enough to see it. Close enough to reach it. Close enough to listen. Close enough to share. Close enough to know what the burden is.
The last is humility. Humbleness is the attitude of accepting who we are before God. If you have a prideful heart and think yourself to be above and beyond the task of helping others, God says you are deceived. Paul reminds us, “If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important" (Gal. 6:3 NLT).
Humility will keep you real. It is not self-serving or seeking self-gratification. Humility is the characteristic that will not only enable you to do whatever needs to be done, no matter how small or menial the task, but also will keep you focused on what really matters: the benefit of the other person!
May God help us develop these spiritual, shepherd-like, freedom qualities and seek the furtherance of God’s eternal kingdom.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel