The question remains, how do we keep in step with the Spirit that results in loving Jesus, trusting Jesus, being close to Jesus, and ultimately becoming acting, loving people like Jesus?
6:1 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. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.
One quick announcement as well. It’ll be in the upper right hand portion of your notes, in the grey-barred section; update on what we got with the building. Where we’re at – I’ll give you guys a background. If you’re new and you don’t understand kind of the background, my name is Mark, a pastor here at the church. This building was given to us. We moved in here about two years ago. We started services in here about a year and a half ago. Services here went from 40 to 800 on us in this building. And so, we ended-up going to 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 a.m., and 5:00 p.m. services. We cut back a little bit for the summer, ‘cause things slowed down. I’ve got one legal parking place. It’s just total mayhem, especially when school kicks in, in the fall.
So, what we have done is, we have started a number of other churches. There are now two in Portland, one in Mount Vernon, one in Kirkland. There is one that is going up in West Seattle, one that is going up in South Seattle. We also have another congregation over in the university district with an all-ages concert venue. And in order to continue to accommodate further growth at this church – this last year we went from 600 a week, and we spiked-out at 1,200. So, we doubled this last year in attendance. The only thing that prohibited further growth was seats. We had people standing outside and sitting down the hallway. It was – it was totally insane. The only thing that really saves us is the fire-marshal actually goes to church here, and so when we’re over capacity and should go to jail, he just says, “Well, it’s in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that’s good.”
That’s a true story. So, what we have done is we have been searching for a building that would enable us to remain in the city. And we’ve purchased a $4 million, 40,000 square foot facility down on 14th and Leary, right next to the Ballard Bridge, toward Fremont. It’ll seat about 1,200. There is nursery space for lots and lots of kids. If you’ve looked around lately you’ve seen that everyone is pregnant, except for the men and they look like it, they’re just fat. But the women are all pregnant. And what we’ve got is an enormous number of children coming, because we – we believe that is good to be fruitful and multiply, and we particularly enjoy the process that leads to that end; and we encourage it whole-heartedly among God’s people. So – so we got a lot of kids on the way. September, October, November, I think almost every week we have a wedding and a baby due.
And so it’s like – it’s like planes coming into the airport. Just every 10 minutes someone gets married, or someone has a baby, and that’s the way we do things. So, we need lots of space, and we, by God’s grace, have obtained it. The purchase price was settled. Where we’re at presently, here’s the update. All inspections are nearly completed. We are finishing-out the budgeting issues of exactly hard costs with our contractor. We’ve settled on a contractor. We have raised to $230,000.00 for the purchase. We have raised $50,000.00 toward the build-out. We have about another $600,000.00 to go. That will allow us to build more bathrooms, since we only have one men’s stall here. We’re gonna try and improve upon that; maybe just get crazy and go to two or three. We also then will build-out the nursery space for the kids. Some carpet, staging, lighting, sound, video; very basic package to get us in – chairs and such.
Our goal is to be in there and worshiping for Christmas Eve, which means we’ll be back to an enormous number of services this fall; and then hopefully, in there in the winter. And so, what we have – we have a couple things going on. We’re asking that if you can contribute to the build-out and help us get in this building, we’d surely appreciate it. You could do it online, or you could fill it out – put it in the offering box and note it toward the build, or there’s a pledge card in the back as well. And some of you participated a few weeks ago in the parable of the talents. We gave you each $20.00, gave you 60 days to turn it around, find some way legal and ethical to invest that. Had to – had to make sure we stressed that. Didn’t wanna fund our building on dime-bags to elementary school kids. So, everyone in the church is trying to find creative ways to take their $20.00 and invest it.
On August 11th we’re gonna collect those monies back from you and see what we’ve got, and celebrate how things have gone. And the rummage sale next week is a part of that. Keep praying, stick with us. And the last thing is, Jamie, our lead deacon and administrated wanted me to tell you about a work party that is coming up on August 7th, 8th and 9th. They’re gonna be doing a lot of demolition and tear-down. And so, if you would like to go to the new building and break things, it’s cheaper than therapy and we’d love to have you. You could just go destroy things and sort of get it all out. So, that’ll be August 7th, 8th, and 9th.
That’s all I got.
There’s a Bible at the end of your row. If you don’t have one, feel free to grab one. Do you guys wanna go right into Galatians, or you wanna hear the Van Halen story?
Response: Van Halen!
Van Halen story? Okay, you can get a Bible and we’ll do a little Jesus in a second. I’ll give you a little Van Halen first. Yesterday my daughter had her fifth birthday party. Okay? We had 16 little girls over. And they were all dressed-up like princesses and butterflies. It was a dress-up party. Right? So, they all show-up with, like, prom dresses with tiaras and crowns, and high heels. It was amazing. And they made purses with glue guns, hot glue guns, so they all have jewels all over their purses. I think they played pin the poinsettia on the flower vase. Never seen it exactly like that. And they danced. They had a lot of dancing I was told. And it was funny ‘cause my son, Zack, he’s almost three, and we were at home and the doorbell rings. And he opens up the door, and there’s like six girls in these full-length prom dresses; all these little four and five year olds. And they all come in, and they’re just all talking and hanging out, and dancing, and very excited. And I hear Zack yell, “Dad! Dad!” I think he’s dying or something terrible’s going on.
So, I run in there, and I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “We need to go! We need to leave!” He was just totally overwhelmed. (Laughter) So I said, “Okay, man. Maybe that’s a good – that’s a great idea. We’re gonna do that.” So, no matter where we go or what he’s wearing, he always wears these full-length rubber green boots with frogs on the end; they’re his frog boots. So, he’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and puts his green boots on with no socks. And I said, “Okay, dude. We’re gonna get a dad day, we’ll go do whatever you want. We got four hours to kill. Whatever you wanna do, you and me will do it. The girls, they can have their – you know, their princess party. That’s fine. Praise the Lord, we won’t be anywhere near that.” So, I said, “Well, what do you wanna do?” He says, “Well, we need to take the truck.” Okay? ‘Cause I got a – I got a ’78 Chevy short-box man-truck, and it doesn’t even have fuel injection. It’s got a carburetor, it’s got a four-barrel. It’s got an Edelbrock carburetor, an intake manifold. It’s got a shift kit in the transmission. It’s a 350, a little built-out with a cam. It’s nice. Dual exhaust. Get’s about a mile a gallon. And the speedometer’s broken, so you never know exactly how fast you’re going. But, you’re going fast. It works pretty good.
And so he said, “We need to take the truck.” So, we got in the truck, and I said, “Okay, where do you wanna go, buddy?” And he says, “Let’s go to the hardware store.” So, we went to Home Depot and we got tools. I think he just needed a cleansing, sort of a purging of his soul. You know? So, we went to Home Depot, got some tools, got some stuff. And then we got all done and we were walking out, and I said, “Okay, we’re gonna go out to dinner. We gotta eat something. What do you wanna eat?” And he saw the hot-dog stand there at the Home Depot. So, we had a lovely, romantic dinner at Home Depot. We ate a bunch of hot dogs, and he was very happy with that. And I said, “Okay, what do you wanna do now? We got some more hours to kill.” And he’s such a thoughtful young man. He says – we have these divots in our yard where the root system has collapsed portions of the yard and there’s holes, and his sister keeps turning her ankle – he says, “We need to go get, you know, some dirt so we can go home and shovel it and fill-in the holes so Ashley doesn’t turn her ankle.”
So, we went to one of those dirt yards, which is very exciting if you’re three years old ‘cause they have lots of dirt and heavy equipment. And so we went there, and they brought-out the scooper and they dumped a full ton of dirt in the back of my truck. And my son was standing up on the seat, and he was jumping up and down. He was like a – he was like the winner of the Miss America pageant; just sort of overcome with emotion and all happy, and felt like he’d won something tremendous. All this dirt is getting poured into our truck. And he was very excited. So, we went then out for ice-cream, and we fought for a while, and we came home. And we walked in the door, and he’s wearing his frog boots carrying all of his tools, covered in dirt, and he’s got a sword. And we walk in an there’s my daughter with a – she’s got a tutu on, and she’s got a crown on, and she’s laying out all of her Barbie clothes that she got for her birthday. And she’s dancing with her friends. And it was pretty exciting, because the first thing my son did is, he took his sword and he – he went after her Barbies. All these issues. So, we had a good weekend. I hope you guys had a good weekend. Oh, and here’s the Van Halen part. The whole time – totally forgot that. The whole time we’re driving, he – I said – he wanted to rock-out. He likes to rock-out. But he can’t rock-out very much in the car, because his brother’s usually sleeping and his mom and his sister like R-and-B. And so he always gets out voted. But, when he’s with me, I grew up in the south and in Seatac, so I’m totally comfortable with rock. It’s like a natural environment for me.
And so we – we listened to Van Halen the whole time, really. And it was – it wasn’t Van Hagar, the post “5150”, “Live Without A Net”, Van Halen with Sammy Hagar. It was – it was the classic vintage stuff like Jesus liked. It was with David Lee Roth. And so we listened to that as loud as we could driving around in the man-truck with a ton of dirt, and the whole truck riding on the springs for a couple hours. And it was – it was one of the best days of my life. So, glad to see you. Welcome to Mars Hill. That’s the Van Halen story.
Galatians. We’ll do that, too. Galatians is good, also. Galatians chapter six. Here’s where we’ve been in Galatians. Galatians is a great book. It tells us what the gospel is not; what Christianity is not. It is not about morality, it’s about Jesus. It’s not about being a good person, it’s about being a transformed person. It’s not about obligation, it’s about transformation. It – it is about God and his work in people’s lives. And where we have come in our study of Galatians is always up to sort of the – the culmination and climax, I think, really happens in chapters five and six. Chapter five, what Paul distinguishes for us is this conflict that goes on between what he calls “The flesh and the spirit.” We looked at this last week. If you missed it, you can get this sermon online. It’s free, and you’ll get what you paid for. The way this goes then, is he tells us that we have passions and desires. And those passions and desires motivate and compel us in life; either toward God or away from him. So, passions and desires are not in and of themselves bad, evil, or wrong.
You could have passions and desires to – to love God, to study the scriptures, to pray, to serve the Lord. Those passions and desires are well and good. You can have a passion to be a good husband or wife, a good friend, a good parent, a good employee, a good employer. All of those passions and desires are certainly good. As well, there are passions and desires that come out of our flesh that lead us away from God. Passions for sin, and for destruction, and for death, and for rebellion; rather than a love for God and obedience to his word. And the flesh and the spirit are in continual conflict. And the flesh is not just our physical body, it is the seed of rebellion within us. It is a flaw that we inherit from Adam. It is a propensity to sin against God. And when Paul talks about the flesh he’s always talking about this continual desire that we have to do the wrong thing, and to rebel against God.
What he says is, that when our passions and desire are working themselves out through the Holy Spirit, God’s presence within the Christian, it leads to a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control; basically, a reflection of Jesus. And when our desires are connected to our flesh, they come out in four basic categories. The first is sexual, where we become very polluted and very perverse. He uses the word, “Sexual immorality.” It’s the word “porneia” that we get our word “pornography” from. It’s an issue of defilement and of sickness in our sexuality. It comes as well out socially, he says, in divisions, and factions, and hatred, and animosity, and envy, and conflict among God’s people in the church. It comes out spiritually, he says, as well, in such things as idolatry, which is loving anything more than Jesus; or witchcraft, which is seeking to manipulate God, even through things that are seemingly spiritual.
For example, I’ll pray, or fast, or have a quiet time every day, because then God will have to do what I tell him to do. It’s an issue of trying to manipulate God, which is a form of witchcraft. And he says that, as well, when the flesh has desires that are lived out, it comes out in our sexuality, in our spirituality, in our social relationships, and also in such things that he labels “debauchery.” To use the common vernacular, we’re talking about addictions. Sexual addiction, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, whatever it might be. And so what he tells us is, that these two sources of desire are in continual conflict. And what must be done by the child of God is we must belong to Jesus, and we must crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. It must die. And in that way, like he says to the Romans, we can then be alive to Christ and dead to sin, where previously we were alive to sin and dead to Christ.
“And that the flesh must die, and we must live by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and therefore also keep in step with the Spirit,” is the language that Paul uses at the end of Galatians 5. What we looked at then, is there are two sources from which we live our life: our flesh that’s in rebellion to God; and the Holy Spirit, which is God’s presence. It leads to lives that are either harmonious with God’s intention and His Word, or in conflict with God and His Word, and His will, and His way. And that the way that we go from this life of the flesh to the life of the Spirit is through the Holy Spirit, belonging to Jesus, crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires. That’s where we left it last week.
That’s the issue of ends. Now, the question becomes means. What does it mean to live by the spirit? What does it mean to keep in touch with the Spirit? What does it mean to keep in step with the Spirit? What does it mean to be a Spirit-led person, whereby we’re not being governed and driven by our flesh, but by God? What does that mean? And how do we obtain that? How do we walk in that? And how do we live in that? And as I told you a few weeks ago, the issue is important, because the issue is not that we wanna be like Jesus. The issue is that we wanna be with Jesus. And if we’re with Jesus, we’ll end-up being like Him. But, trying to be like Him without being with Him, Paul says, “Is a work of the flesh.” It’s bad, sinful, idolatrous religion. It’s empty, and vain, and worthless.
And the only way we go into greater intimacy with Jesus, trust of Him, love of Him, deep affection for Him, is through the Holy Spirit, following the Holy Spirit, being led by the Holy Spirit, and continuing to keep in step with Him. And so, as we hit that issue last week, I don’t think I had a great answer for you. And I left that question unanswered because I was not sure. Right now, if I were to ask most of you, “What does it mean to be led by the Holy Spirit, and to keep in step with the spirit?” we would have all kinds of disagreement, because there is a great variance of teaching on this issue among Christians. Some will say you need a mystical encounter or supernatural experience, or an extra-Biblical revelation, or something tremendous needs to happen. That’s what it means to be led by the Spirit. That’s what it means to keep in step with the Spirit. Something extraordinary.
And as I was meditating on the scriptures this week, and praying them through, and trying to be faithful with and for you, I think that Galatians 6 is perfect, just as we would expect. That as Galatian 5 sets up this – this compelling argument that we should live by the Spirit, and belong to Jesus, Galatian 6 tells us how we get there. Okay? And so that’s the backdrop for Galatians 6. If you’ll read with me, Galatians 6, beginning in verse one. Here’s how we crucify the flesh. Here’s how we belong to Jesus. Here’s how we are led by the Spirit. And here is how we keep step with the Spirit.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But, watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then, he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to somebody else. For each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.” What that means is, if you have Mariner season tickets, I get one. Seriously.
What I think Paul does here is, he tells us how to be led by the Spirit, and the Spirit’s leading brings us to Jesus. And as we are with Jesus, that’s where the flesh dies, and that’s where fruitful living is birthed, through intimacy with Him. So, the goal is not to have the flesh dead, and the goal is not to be fruitful in our living. The goal is to be in love with Jesus. And if we’re in love with Jesus, those things are by-products. They naturally happen. You can’t be in love with Jesus and governed by your flesh. And you can’t be in love with Jesus and not be being led by the Holy Spirit. The goal is to be loving with Jesus. And how we get there, he tells us, is I believe he lays out here four different factors by which God works in our life. That the Spirit of God works through these different avenues in the Christian’s life, and – and through these opportunities, this is how He leads us, and guides us, and keeps us in step with Him; and compels us toward deeper love for Jesus.
The first, he tells us, is that we need to be in a church. He begins in chapter six, verse one. “Brothers, – “ that’s the church. The church is, he’s already told us earlier in Galatians, “That God is our Father, and that we are brothers and sisters, and we should love one another as a family.” He uses the same language in Ephesians where he says that, “We are the household of God.” That a church is literally a big, extended family, where we are brothers and sisters who love, encourage, and support, and instruct, and admonish one another. And that God is our Father, and he makes the house rules, and we love and obey our dad. That’s the church. And so what we need is brothers and sisters. And he’s writing this to the church at Galatia. And if you read your Bible, you’ll discover that most of the time God is writing to churches through His servants, and he’s assuming, if you wanna talk to the Christians you write to the church, ‘cause all the Christians are in the church. So, to the church at Ephesus; to the church at Thessalonica; to the church at Corinth; to the church at Philippi; to the church at Galatia; to the church at Rome; to the church at Thyatira; to the church at Sardis; to the church at Laodicea. There are all these churches that are mentioned in the New Testament.
And the assumption is, if God wants to speak to His people, He writes to the church ‘cause His people are always together gathered for worship. Now, can we make that assumption in our day? That if you wanted to talk to all the Christians you would just make sure that an announcement was made in the church. Because all of the Christians, after all, go to church. We can’t assume that at all. A lot of people who claim to be Christians don’t go to church. They’re not involved in a church. They don’t participate in the local church. And not only must we be in a local church, we must have brothers and sisters in that church. What this is, is this is real, live, spiritual friendships with people who love God, and who love us. People that we can look at like family. Men we can look at and say, “Those guys are like my brothers.” Women we can look at and say, “Those are like my sisters.” And that’s the heart of what Paul says as well, to a young man in the New Testament. He says, “To treat older women like mothers and younger women like sisters, and to treat fellow men like brothers, that the church should be like a large, extended family.” And within that then, we should know each other to the degree that, in the church, we can be vulnerable and open, and honest, and transparent with one another.
This means, before a couple hits the place of having a catastrophic relationship or a divorce, before that happens, there are other people who love and know them, and see things before they become critical. What this means is, if someone is starting to drink too much because it’s their sophomore or junior year of college, and they’re over extending their freedom in Christ, that they have brothers and sisters around them that are involved that see that and say, “You have sinned that grace may abound. You have extended your freedom in Christ beyond its Biblical limits.” It means that we should lovingly be involved in each other’s lives enough that we know where the other person is at, and that the love and the trust is built in such a way that we can actually be involved in one another’s lives and building each other up, and holding each other accountable. At any point that the church mandates this, it becomes legalism. At any point that it just happens because we love each other, that’s the work of God.
And so, we need to be in the church, a good church; a church where people love each other and are involved in one another’s lives. The second thing we will need then, is this church that we are involved in must practice Biblical discipline. That’s what he’s talking about here. That there has to be discipline. He says, “If you are caught in a sin – if someone in the church is caught in a sin, those who are spiritual should restore them – “ he does so with a qualifier – “gently.” That is in humility. And they must be careful, otherwise they’ll fall into temptation. What this means is this: You and I, invariably, at some point, will be caught in a sin. It’s as if the enemy is out setting traps, and we step into one, and we get stuck. And at that point, we are in trouble, and we need our brothers and sisters to come, and to open that trap, and to deliver us and rescue us, so that we can be free again, and back in friendship with them. And he says that those of us who are out on these sort of rescue missions looking for God’s people that are suffering or stuck in their sin, we have to be very careful; one, that we don’t become tempted. Right? How many people have gone out to help people who are in sin, and rather than converting them, they end-up being converted by them and joining them in their sin?
I had a guy not too long ago, a new Christian, stopped drinking, was really excited because he wanted to go back to all his drinking buddies and tell all his drinking buddies that they didn’t need to get drunk to escape their problems, and listen to Country/Western music, and throw themselves in a deep depression. Which country music will do with our without alcohol, and alcohol only exacerbates that kind of tremendous, deep scarring. He said, “I need to go talk to those guys about Jesus.” So, he went to talk to them about Jesus, but before the night was over he was drunk. Which is not exactly the goal. You wanna be all things to all men, but you don’t wanna be drunk with them. And so, he – the problem was, he wasn’t very spiritually mature. Mature people should be involved in the discipline process, and sometimes it is the less mature people who are involved, because they’re closest to people that are sinning; because they’re kind of sinning a little bit themselves – or a lot.
And so, discipline must be done by those who are spiritually mature. And they’ve gotta be careful not to be tempted to get sucked into the same trap. Right? Men, if you’re married and you’re worried about a man who’s mistreating his wife, and flirting with other women, and being unfaithful to her, and you go hang out and talk to that guy, you better make sure that you steer that conversation toward Christ. Don’t let him give you all of his answers and reasons why he can be bitter against his wife, or the next thing you know you’ll be bitter against your own wife; because he’s convincing. See, Satan is deceived and a deceiver, and people who believe lies are very convincing because they’ve deceived themselves. You gotta be careful when you’re dealing with them. All of the sudden you’re going to change their mind, and they’ve changed yours. And you climb in the trap with them. So, the goal is not to avoid those people, but to be spiritually mature, to be gentle and humble, and to be careful so that you don’t get stuck with them, but instead you restore them gently; you help them out. Okay?
And so, where this goes then, the purpose of church discipline is very simple. It is restoration. It’s like a father disciplining his children. The goal is not to harm them, but to help them. The goal is not to – to kick them out, but to draw them near. The goal is not to punish them, but to correct them. That’s the point of discipline. And you and I, the one thing that mitigates this issue of discipline, is most of us believe that we are individuals, and we’re independent, and we’re isolated. And the Bible doesn’t teach that at all. In fact, it teaches that we’re interdependent, and that we’re connected in Christ. That sin separates us, and as Jesus forgives our sin, He reconciles us, the Scripture says, to God and to each other. And because of that, now we are connected. And Paul says to the Corinthians that, “If one of us suffers we all suffer; and one of us honored, we’re all honored.” That something that happens to you is not an isolated, independent thing. It affects all of us in one way or another, because we are knit together as a community and a church and a family. And so, the reason that we discipline is because we love those people that we are seeking to discipline, in the same way that the Psalms and the – and the book of Hebrews says that, “God disciplines the children that he loves.” God only disciplines the people that he cares about. If you have never been disciplined, what that indicates Biblically, is that no one has ever loved you; and they don’t care what you do; and they don’t care what happens to you.
But if someone loves you and cares about you, and is concerned about what happens to you, they will discipline you. And if they’re mature spiritually, they will do it humbly. They won’t come in with arrogance, self-righteousness, and guns blazing. They will come in and look you in the eye and say, “I love Jesus. And I love you. And I’m worried, because you’re not walking with Jesus. And sin leads to death. And this scares me. It could kill your marriage. It could kill you. It could kill your family. I’m worried about you, and I love you. And I’m not here to judge you. I’m not here to condemn you. I’m not here to embarrass you. I’m not here to parade my righteousness before you. I’m here to help. And I’m here to help you get out. And I’m here to invite you back to be restored with God and with his people.” And this is the kind of compassion that ends up completely disarming those people that are stuck in their sin.
The Bible says in the book of Romans that, “It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.” That’s what’s happening here. People show-up that are grace-centered and loving and merciful and understanding, and they say, “Look, God loves you, and I love you. And you need to repent. And you need to get out of here. And you need to stop this, because this is not what God has created you for.” And a church that doesn’t practice that kind of discipline, what invariably happens is that everyone functions as an independent, isolated individual. I don’t tell you about my life; you don’t tell me about yours. You don’t meddle in my affairs; I don’t meddle in yours. You don’t tell me what is happening; I don’t tell you what is happening. And we’ve even created a theology in America to vindicate and justify this, and it’s called: “A personal relationship with Jesus”; which is language that you will never find in our Bible. It does not exist from Genesis to Revelation.
We should have a personal relationship with Jesus whereby we love Jesus, and we’re looking forward to being with him, and we serve and pray to him. But it is not exclusively a personal relationship; it’s a community-wide matter. It’s a community-wide matter. I dealt with a pastor recently – and this is very frustrating – continually drunk, committing adultery on his wife with his secretary. He’s out of state. You guys don’t know him. And I confronted him on the issue, and I said, “What are you doing?” And he said, “Look, it’s none of your business. It’s a private matter.” I said, “It’s not a private matter. You have a wife. You have children. You have a church. You have a secretary that you’re sleeping with, and her family, and her fiancé. And I’m sure that he doesn’t think that this is a private matter. This is a public matter. This affects everyone. This pollutes all of us. This defiles all of us. This implicates all of us. Because if we are wed together, none of us sin in isolation; none of us suffer in isolation; none of us fail in isolation. It affects us all.”
And so, if you’re going to keep in step with the Spirit of God it is vital that you’re in a church that loves Jesus and loves each other. And in that church, there has to be a willingness among people to open their lives and be transparent, and to not legalistically check-up on each other, but to involve themselves when people are stuck in their sin; for the goal of restoring them and bringing them back. The other thing he says that we will need then in this church is the ability to distinguish between burdens and loads.
It almost looks like your Bible has a contradiction. If you read chapter six, verse two, he gives us a command. He tells us that, “We should carry each other’s burdens.” And if you look at verse five, he tells us that, “We should carry our own load.” And the question is: Well, what is it? Do we all carry the burden, or do we carry it as individuals? Which is it? And there’s two different words that are used here in the Greek text. The word for load is: Light; a light responsibility. The word for burden is something that is very, very heavy. Alright? And the issue is, if it is light we need to just buck-up and be mature adults and carry it. And the issue is, if it’s a deep, heavy burden, it is going to crush us, and we will need brothers and sisters to help us carry it. Do you understand the difference?
A load is something that is a life responsibility, that God sort of puts on your shoulders. And He does so intentionally to help you mature and grow, to build some strength and win; and to cause you to grow. It builds humility. It builds faith. It builds perseverance and character and hope, and such things. Now, a burden is totally different. It’s the kind of responsibility that comes on your back and you say, “I cannot carry this. This will crush me. This will not make me strong. This will kill me. I can’t possibly carry this by myself. I need my brothers and sisters to come and to throw a shoulder under me, and to help me carry this load.” Now, the problem is, if we don’t distinguish between burdens and loads, what happens is: The church comes together. People love each other; they develop friendships. They get involved in one another lives. They try and help one another. But, they end-up helping too much. Because some people use the church as the place where they always treat loads as burdens. Okay?
They think, “Great! Here’s the church. Now, when I have a problem, these people will take care of it. You’re my brothers and sisters. You love me, right?” “Yes, we love you, but one of the most loving things we can tell you is, ‘Buck-up, buddy, and carry it. You’re an adult. You’ll be fine.’” And it is not the responsibility of the church to allow you to determine what is a burden, and what is a load. The church determines that. Have you ever met people that it doesn’t matter what happens, it’s a crisis; it’s an emergency? Call 911. Helicopters should come in. Men should rappel down on ropes. The National Guard should be called. The elders should be convened. It’s a critical emergency. And you get there and you realize it’s not that big of a deal. They will be fine in 24 hours. They’re just freaking out, and there’s no reason to. Okay?
I’ll give you an example. Take this in love. Trust me. My phone number is unlisted. Okay? Recently, there was a woman in this church, a great woman. She had a baby. And one of the nurses came in and her name was the – her last name was the same as mine. Not a relative. And the woman said, “Yeah, your pastor, we get calls for him all the time. And we don’t know his number. And we don’t know what to tell people to call. And they’re calling us all day and night with all kinds of emergencies, and all kinds of problems and issues. And his number is unlisted. And can you get it for us?” And she said, “No, he won’t give it to anybody.” Because I don’t wanna get those calls. Right? You understand? Because people don’t distinguish between burdens and loads. I had a guy a few years ago call me at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, freaking out. “Pastor Mark, it’s an emergency. We have to talk. You need to come over. I need the elders around me. We need to pray. And I’m thinking, “Okay.” I told him, I said, “Did you lose any major limbs or organs? And not secondary ones, primary ones.” He says, “No.” I said, “Well, here’s the deal. You better tell me what happened before I come over. ‘Cause if I get there and there’s not a critical emergency – it’s 1:00 a.m. in the morning. Okay?” And he says, “Well, I just watched a porno.” I’m like, “Okay. And now it’s over?” He said, “Yeah. I watched the whole thing, and it’s over.” “Well, what am I supposed to do now? You know? What do you want me to do? You want me to come over and eject the movie you just watched? It’s too late.” Right? I said, “Look, I’m not coming over; and I’m not calling the elders; and we’re not convening a committee; and we’re not issuing a government report; and we’re not coming in on helicopters; and we’re not calling the news. You’re just a weird guy who stayed up watching porno, which is sick and nasty and wrong, but I’m going back to bed now. You watched it for an hour and a half. It is obviously not an emergency.”
He says, “Well, it’s an emergency to me.” “Well, it wasn’t for an hour and half.” He says, “Well, how to do I stop?” I said, “Well, you take it out of the VCR and you throw it away, and you don’t buy another one. You know, you don’t need to have a PhD – you should – you know, if you’re watching pornos, the way you stop watching pornos is you stop watching pornos. I don’t know if we need to get more complicated than that. Right? If it helps you, have a ball-peen hammer next to the remote control, and when tempted whack yourself. I don’t know. I mean, just don’t watch it.” He said, “Well, that’s not very sensitive.” “No, it’s 1:00 a.m. in the morning. Right?” Now I can – that’s a load, it’s not a burden. I had the same thing in college. Right? I was a new Christian. I’m living in a room – in a house with guys. Right? Christian guy house. One guy never gets up for work, never gets up for school. We finally confront him. We’re like, “Dude, you gotta get up. You gotta go to work. You gotta go to school. You’re flunking out of school, and you’re – you’re gonna get fired from your job.”
He says, “Well, brothers, I need help. You guys need to help me in the morning. You need to come get me up.” “Look, maybe your Mom in the morning would come kiss you, give you a Danish, rub your back and put your underwear on. I’m not that guy. Okay? That’s just not gonna happen. Just not gonna happen. I don’t wanna see you in your underwear. I can’t bake. And I – I ain’t rubbing any backs. This is just – you gotta get up. And the Bible says, ‘If a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t’ – what? ‘Eat!’ So, eventually, you’ll be skinny, starving to death; you’ll be so exhausted and so hungry that you’ll have incentive to get up. You’ll be okay. You’ll get skinny, and then you’ll get up.” And that’s what the Bible says. You’ll get up eventually. The hunger pains will get you up. You’ll be fine. This is a load, right? You gotta balance your own checkbook. You gotta pay your own bills. You gotta cook your own meals. You gotta – you gotta get up. You gotta go to work. It’s just responsibilities. These are loads. You can carry them. You’ll be okay. Right? And just ‘cause you’re freaking out – right? – doesn’t mean it’s a crisis. The church helps you decide whether or not it’s a crisis. It’s just like at a baseball game. You know, they don’t let the guy up in the 300-level call the balls and strikes; the umpire does.
And the guy up in the 300-level, “That was a ball!” It doesn’t matter. You know, we’re not taking a vote, and you don’t decide. I – I know you’re really passionate, but you don’t call balls and strikes; the umpire does. When it comes to burdens and loads, the church is the umpire. We call burdens, we call loads. Now, burdens are totally different. Burdens are things that crush us, and we need our – help of our brothers and sisters. Right? Let’s play a little game: burdens and loads. Okay? Burdens and loads. Some guy spends all his money on lotto tickets, beer and cigarettes. Burden or load? Load! A load, okay? A couple’s married, has three kids, and one of the spouses dies in a car wreck. Burden, okay. Pretty obvious, right? Burden. Some guy doesn’t like to work, and he skips a lot of days, and he ends-up getting laid-off. And he’s kind of lazy and doesn’t get his resume together. So, all of the sudden, he’s short on a month’s rent. Burden or load? Load, yeah. “Here’s a tent. Go live in the park. That’s as far as our compassion goes.”
Husband and a wife get married. The wife gets pregnant. The husband bails and leaves here with a kid. Burden. Burden. Burden. An older member of the congregation gets really sick and is having a hard time living on their own, and can’t afford to go into assisted living; is having a hard time with meals and such things. Burden or load?
Burden. We jump in and help. You guys see, the Bible does distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate need. And what it says is, we need to be in a church where people love us, and our lives are trying. But we can’t use those as opportunities to take advantage of people because we’re lazy; or because we’re slovenly; or because we just like creating drama and throwing all of our responsibilities on others. Now, the church has to help us determine: Is this a load that you just need to carry or is this a burden that we really need to help you with? Right? And if we take away your loads, you’re not gonna grow in character. You’re gonna stay very immature. Because that weight that God has placed upon you is to strengthen you. And if we take it off, we’re doing a disservice, because you will never be strong. But, as well if a burden is thrown on you and we don’t help you with it, we are sinning against you because it will crush you; and you’ll die under the weight of it. And it’s – it’s the same with – it’s this issue that sins as well. Sometimes there are loads that we just need to stop, and sometimes there are burdens that we need help with.
Okay, now within this, some of you are prone to treat everything like a load. It doesn’t matter how big the crisis. You don’t tell anybody. You won’t report it. You won’t ask for help, because you don’t wanna be a burden. You don’t wanna take anybody’s time. You’re trying to take care of everything by yourself. If you have a legitimate burden, should you articulate that to your brothers and sisters, your elders, your pastors, your church, and ask for help? Of course. Of course you should. We have had people in this church that don’t tell us things until they’re over, that they should’ve told us well in advance.
I still remember, there was one woman I hadn’t seen for months. I thought she’d left because of the preaching, like most people do. And she finally came back to church and I saw her, and I gave her a hug. I said, “It’s good to see you. I haven’t seen you in a long time.” She said, “Yeah, I had major surgery. They took all these organs out. And then I was in intensive care, and I almost died.” I’m like, “You should’ve called. You know, like, I’m a professional. I pray for a living. I could’ve prayed about it. We could’ve came and visited you. You know, we could’ve brought you flowers, or a bunny rabbit or something. We could’ve done something. I mean, you had major organs taken out. We’re leaving voicemail at your house, and we don’t know what in the world is going on. You don’t tell us, and we can’t find out.” “Oh, I didn’t wanna be a burden to anybody.”
If your brother or sister has a catastrophic situation come up, is it a burden to go help and serve them? No. You’d be insulted if they didn’t let you. “It’s how I love you. I wanna help. Good night, this is tragedy. This is hard.” Okay, we have had women in this church, they get pregnant and they’re on bed-rest with two or three kids, and they don’t tell anybody. They should, ‘cause they need help. They’re in a tough situation. Other people are prone to treat everything like a burden. Just freak out at anything. Call the church. Call everybody. Get the database. Get the phone list. It’s a big deal. And what the Bible says: No, we need to tell people what is a burden, what is a load. Those with loads, we gotta tell them to carry it. Those with burdens, we need to help them. And what can happen is, some people who are very dramatic, they tend to take all the time and energy and draw it to themselves for their loads, while the people with real burdens are being totally neglected. Because these people with loads have worn us out, or taken all the attention toward themselves. Is that true? It’s true.
If you’re here this morning, you better ask yourself, “Where is my propensity? Toward treating everything like a load, and not going for help when I need it with my brothers and sisters? Or toward treating everything like a burden, and freaking out when it’s not a big deal?” And the issue is then, you gotta say, “I need to call for help when I have burdens, but the rest of the time I should spend my time looking for people with burdens and serving them. Because, as I help them, someday I will need help and they will help me.” And that’s the reciprocity of God’s church. Here’s how we keep in step with the spirit. Here’s how we put to death the flesh. Here’s how we belong to Jesus. We’re in a church with people that love each other, and are involved in each other’s lives. Where discipline is done and people that are caught in sin are brought back into restoration and fellowship. And where we distinguish between burdens and loads. Between traps you’ve gotten yourself in and you need to get yourself out of, and traps that you’ve gotten yourself in that you can’t get out of, and you need help.
And the issue is then, “Well, how do we distinguish these things?” What is a sin? What is not a sin? Who is to be disciplined? Who is to be helped? Who is to be told to carry their load? And who is to be aided in the weightiness of their burden? And he tells us that all of this gets done in the church, verse six, through a particular means. Verse six says, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word. This happens through the teaching of the scriptures.” That’s the means by which the health of the church is maintained; relationships are built; people are turned from selfish to self-less; from narcistic navel-gazing to burden-bearing for others. This is the means by which we grow up and look around and say, “You know what? I should stop freaking out. My life’s okay. Some people here have got really difficult situations, and I should just stop creating drama. And I should go help them. It’s not as bad as I thought it was.” And for some of us, it becomes the place where we realize, “Man, I’m not doing well, and my burdens are crushing me. I’m glad that I have brothers and sisters who love me and are willing to lend a shoulder and a hand.”
And all of this is formed and happens through the good teaching of the scriptures. If a church does not teach the scriptures, these sorts of things do not happen. And when these sorts of things do not happen, the church falls, Paul says, “Into factions and divisions and jealousy and discord and envy and death.” And people begin to feast on one another. He says that, “They are biting and devouring each other.” I had a – just the saddest conversation recently with a pastor. He told me a story that, in his church what had happened was a man in the church was married to a woman in the church and they had a few children. And this man walked out on his wife and children because he fell in love with another woman. Fell in lust with another woman. And he ended-up committing adultery with her, and still attending that church with his girlfriend, while he was still married to his wife. And there was one particular Sunday where the wife and the children are sitting in a pew and he sits in front of them with his girlfriend. Okay?
And the children are devastated to see their dad with another woman. And the wife, they’re still married, is obviously publically just embarrassed, and just mortified. She goes to the pastor and she says, “Pastor, I don’t wanna be mean or divisive, but I can’t go to the same church with my husband and his girlfriend and me and my children.” Is this a burden or a load? This is a burden. So, the pastor says, “No, I agree with you.” He goes and talks to the man and tells the man, “Look, you are in – you are caught in a sin. You have baited the hook, and you have put it in your mouth. And you need to – we will love you, but you need to be restored back in right relationship with God and this church and your family and your wife and your kids. And this is – this is crucial. We’re at a critical moment here.” And the man would not have anything of discipline. He ended-up calling the other men in the church and basically saying that the pastor’s being legalistic and self-righteous. And he ended-up causing an alliance of men to come around him, because he started gossiping about his wife and how bad she was; which isn’t the issue.
Even if he had the worst wife in the world, that does not legitimize committing adultery on her and sitting in front of her and the children in church. It doesn’t legitimize that. He’s supposed to love her as Christ loves the church, which means his love should transform her and make her lovely. It’s his responsibility. Even if it’s her fault. And so the pastor told this to this man. He said, “Look, you’re supposed to love her like Jesus does. And if you don’t think she’s lovely, you need to love her ‘til she’s lovely. But you don’t get rid of her and then just come to church with this other woman. You don’t do this.” Well, the man ended-up creating a division and a faction. It split the church down the middle. Half the church sided with the woman. Half the church sided with the man. Talking to the pastor, I said, “What are you gonna do?” He says, “This is a lose-lose.”
He says, “If I kick the man out, I lose half my church. If I don’t, I lose half my church.” Say, “It shouldn’t be that way. It should never be that way.” And he says, “I can’t believe I’ve got a church like this.” I said, “Then, you haven’t been teaching the Scriptures. And you have obviously not been teaching the Scriptures for a long time, because if this is even a debate among your people, they’re not well taught. The men in the church should be the first to hang that guy. They shouldn’t take his side. They should be the brothers who come along to restore him, not the brothers who get tempted and fall into the same trap that he has.” I said, “If you were teaching the Scriptures, this wouldn’t have happened. Your people are confused.” I said, “What are they thinking?” He says, “Well, the men in the church think that we should love him.” I said, “Love includes discipline. We discipline those we love. But we love the wife and the kids and the Lord and the health of the church, not just this guy’s sinful desires.” When this doesn’t happen the church dies. That’s what’s happening in Galatia.
And when the Scriptures are not clearly taught, people get confused. And so Paul says that all of this happens in the church under the rubric of good teaching of Scripture. And Paul says in Acts 20 that this must be the whole counsel of God’s word. It can’t be pet doctrines, or pet subjects. That this has to be Old Testament and New Testament, prophets, gospels, psalms, epistles; it needs to be the whole breadth of scripture. That you must be in a church that teaches the Scriptures and understands the purpose of the Scriptures. James tells us that we should not merely listen to the Word and so deceive ourselves. We should do what it says. That the teaching of Scripture is not to cause you to be holy through information; it is to cause you to be holy through transformation. That the goal is for you to be like Christ, not just memorize innumerable facts about Him. It is for you to love Him and be with Him as a person, and not just be committed to Him as a concept or a principle. And it’s not just listening and saying, “Well, I’m a good Christian because my doctrine is in order.” Doctrine is also life, and it is practice, and it is what we do.
And that is the problem at Galatia. They’re arguing over speculative things. And they’re not loving each other. And they’re not loving God, which Jesus taught was the whole point of Scripture in the first place. And Jesus says as much in John 5, where false, self-righteous teachers like those in Galatia came to Him. And He says, “You’re in error. You diligently Study the scriptures thinking that in them you will find eternal life. Yet, you fail to recognize that these are the Scriptures that testify about me. And you refuse to come to me and have life.” So, if you’re gonna be in a good church that teaches the Scriptures, the goal must be not just information but transformation; because knowledge puffs up and love builds up, Paul says. And it must not be about anything less than compelling people to come to Jesus; and to be with Him; and to abide in Him; and to love Him. And Jesus says, if we love Him we’ll obey His commands. And so, the issue of the teaching of the Scriptures can’t be morality, or piety, or righteousness. It must be Jesus. And as we’re compelled to him, He transforms us, and then our lives are different. And then love comes out in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; is what happens to those people that are with Jesus. It comes out.
And all this happens under the teaching of the Scriptures, which means you gotta be in a place where the Bible is being taught rightly. And you must be in a place where the people are yielding themselves to Scripture, because it is through the Scriptures that God speaks and He reveals Himself; He convicts us of our sins; He reveals God to us; He deepens our love for Jesus; He deepens our intimacy with each other; He builds us into a loving family in the church. It’s through the teaching of the Scriptures. And he says, as a result of that, if you have someone that teaches you the Scriptures, you should share all good things with them. You should be grateful that someone loves you enough to open the Scriptures and teach you about God.
My first pastor, godly man. I thank God for him every day. As a new Christian, he just opened the Bible and pushed me to Jesus. This is the best thing that could’ve happened. Best thing that could’ve happened. If you have people that are investing in you, friends and brothers that love you, people that know the Scripture, Bible study leaders, mentors, pastors, elders, Christian friends; you should share good things with them. When good things happen, you should encourage them. When you’re growing in Christ, you should encourage them. When you are learning things, you should encourage them. You should share those good things with them. Teachers are a gift that God gives to the church. And the problem at Galatia is that bad teachers were teaching, and Paul was trying to correct them. Saying, “These people are teaching the Bible, but they’re not teaching Jesus. And if they’re not teaching Jesus, they’re not teaching the Bible. Because if the Bible is open and Jesus isn’t the subject, the Scriptures were not taught. They’ve made it into everything but Jesus.”
So, here’s our little report card, Mars Hill. How are we doing? Honestly. How are we doing in these things? Because here’s what’s important: This is how we are led by the Spirit. This is how we keep in step with the Spirit. This is how we crucify the flesh. This is how we belong to Jesus. Through these things. You get involved at church. We develop friendships. We open our lives. We submit ourselves to discipline. We distinguish between burdens and loads. We help those in need. And we cry-out when we have legitimate need. And all of this is under the teaching of the Scriptures that guides and leads and governs all of it. Because, it’s the Holy Spirit who works through our life circumstances. It’s the Holy Spirit who’s at work in the church, and gifting and leading and guiding us. It’s the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures and is working through the Scriptures. It’s the Holy Spirit who has appointed teachers and is working through teachers. It’s the Holy Spirit who dwells in the children of God, and works through our brothers and sisters.
These are the ways by which the Spirit of God works in our lives and leads us to Jesus, and keeps us in step with Him. So, providing these things are in our life, providing we avail ourselves to these things in our life, then the Spirit of God has freedom to do his work unencumbered. So, how are we doing? It’s pretty important, isn’t it? It’s not very sexy. It’s not like an extra-Biblical revelation, or a great dream, or a mystical encounter. But it works, doesn’t it? How many of you, through learning the Scriptures, being connected to God’s people, and being humble when you’re disciplined, have absolutely been compelled toward Jesus and kept in step with his Spirit?
It works. God has given us all we need for faith and godliness; all that we need. How are we doing as a church? Is Mars Hill a church where people come in and develop friendships, and learn to love each other and trust each other, and open their lives, and call one another when there is sin before it is a crisis? Is that happening? It is. By God’s grace, it is. Perfectly, and to the person? No. There’s no such thing as a perfect church. Our biggest problem as a church has been growth. There are so many people coming to Christ, and so many people coming to church, that it is hard for us to get to know them all. So, if you are here and you are new and you do not feel well connected, we invite you to make an effort to connect with people as well. It’s not that we are not wanting to know you, it’s that we have doubled in the last year. And we have sent some of our best people out to the other churches. And so we’re regrouping, which is great.
It is. I believe this is a church where lots of people love each other, are in friendship, holding one another accountable, and building one another up. How about this one: Do we practice discipline? When there is sin, are we lovingly involving ourselves in the brothers and sisters’ lives in this church, and saying, “I’m worried about this. I love you. You need to get out of this. Let me help you get back on track.” Is that happening? It’s happening. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve seen divorced couples re-married. I have seen guys get their girlfriends pregnant and marry them, and raise those children in Christ. I have seen the most amazing things, because God’s people involve themselves in people’s lives who are trapped in sin, and gently restored them. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.
How are we doing at burdens and loads? Are we willing to involve ourselves where there is need? And are we willing to receive help, humbly, where we have need? How are we doing? Doing pretty good. And lastly, how about this issue of Biblical teaching? Are you guys learning the Scriptures? Are you growing? Do you desire to learn the scriptures? Are you enjoying God revealing himself through His word? I hope, and I trust, and I pray, ‘cause that’s my primary responsibility is to make sure that that happens. And you could pray for our small groups as well. We’re launching, like, 35 or 40 small groups, home Bible studies, in the fall. Our goal and plan is to have 100 groups in the next year; over 1,000 people in Bible studies. Meeting in homes, loving each other, developing friendships, building one another up, pulling one another out of sin, under the authority of the Scriptures. Okay?
I’ll say this as your pastor, the last thing. It says that, “You are to share all good things with your instructor.” Do you guys take good care of me? You guys do. You guys do. You guys take great care of me and my family. Thank you, on behalf of my wife and my kids. We’re paid well. We’re dearly loved. I don’t know why. I’m abrasive and obnoxious. But, you guys still love me, and I appreciate that. Okay? Grace and I were laying in bed – my wife – we were laying in bed last night, and we were talking. And I said, “You know, I’m proud to be the pastor of this church. I really am. I love these people.” I can look at an enormous number of people and say, “I remember when she was not a Christian; and he was not a Christian; and when they were sleeping together; and when they were living together; and – and now look what God does – God’s a good God. God’s a faithful God. And I have the privilege of sharing all these good things that God does. You know how beautiful it is as a pastor to see people become Christians and fall in love with Jesus, and then get connected to the church and fall in love with each other, and then get married and then have children that love Jesus, too? What’s better than that?
It’s beautiful. August, September, October, November; every week we have a wedding. An enormous number of those people either came to Christ or recommitted their lives to Him here. It’s beautiful. It’s great. And you guys have taken good care of me, and my wife. And every week I get up and I give you really hard words, because I believe that hard words produce soft people; people that are tender toward God, tender toward Scripture, tender toward the things of God. Paul has hard words for the Galatians, but it’s not because he’s angry; it’s because he’s concerned. It’s not because he hates them, but because he loves them so dearly. And I believe that soft words produce hard people; where you get arrogant, and obstinate, and rebellious against the things of God.
I was talking to a pastor recently, flew-in this week. And he says, “How long do you teach?” I said, “As long as I want.” It’s hot. It’s stinky. It’s summer. Okay? I yell at you guys for an hour to an hour and a half, and you come back and you bring friends. Okay? That tells me that you wanna learn the Scriptures, that you’re a teachable people. As a teacher, it is beautiful to have people that wanna learn the Scriptures, ‘cause then my study isn’t in vain. And he said, “You know, if I go over 20 minutes, people leave. They time it, man. And they get up and leave.” He said, “It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about Jesus or not, they get up and leave.” He said, “I get 20 minutes and that’s it. They will not tolerate any more.” I said, “I don’t have that. Good night.” Factions, divisions, quarrels? We don’t have that. What’s the big church fight? There isn’t one.
We pulled all of the members together recently. We said, “We’re gonna buy a $4 million building. You guys are gonna pay for it. Do you have any questions?” One person raised their hand and said, “How could we help?” That was the only question. That was it. I go home, I’m like, “I’m glad I’m pastor of this church. These people seem to love Jesus, and they seem to wanna obey Him, and follow Him, and keep in step with the Spirit, and study the Scriptures.” And we’re not perfect. And we’re not “there.” But for me, I think that a lot of beautiful things are happening in this church. And unless God puts me in a whale and pukes me up somewhere else, I plan on being here for 50 years. We got a lot of work to do. Okay?
So, here’s where I’m at with you guys as a church: I believe that Galatians is – for us, it’s a book of encouragement. I do believe that we do know the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we have not, by God’s grace, confused it with false gospels. And I believe that people here do belong to Jesus, and I do believe that they trust Jesus; and they love Him; and they’re trying to serve Him; and they’re trying to grow in Him. And many of you are new to Christ, and you’re learning as you go. But your Bibles are open and your lives are open, and you’re giving it a sincere run.
And God always honors that. And I believe that we have been led by the Spirit, and that now it is just an encouragement to use to continue keeping in step with the Spirit; to use Paul’s language. To continue. Because the church at Galatia started really good and then got off track. And we have started really good. We are the fastest growing church in the history of Seattle. We’re in the least churched city in the United States of America. And we have gone from 12 to 1,200 in five years. And we have gone from one church to, I don’t know, eight now. And as we get the new building, and as things keep going, I am excited for the possibilities that God has for us. And I believe God is warning us, through Galatians, just to stick with those things. Stick close to your brothers and sisters. Keep your lives open. Be humble. Pull each other back on track when you get astray. Distinguish between burdens and loads. Spend your time helping those with real need, rather than obsessing about your own loads. Get involved in their burdens. And keep your Bible open. And submit to good teachers who love you and love God. Okay?
And that’s what I’m encouraging us as a church. I love you. You guys take great care of me and my wife. I’ve grown more in this church than I have at any point in my life, because of the friendships that we have here. And the elders I get to work with, and the teaching that I’m privy to get with those men, it’s great. If you’re a visitor, or you go to another church, or you’re looking for a church and you don’t feel like this is home, the issue is not Mars Hill. The issue is Jesus. We want you to belong to Jesus; to love and trust him. We want you to be in a church where people belong to Jesus; love and trust him. Where they have their lives open and they’re supporting each other, and where they have their Bibles open trying to learn what God has for them.
We’re one of those churches, but God is a good God. He’s at work in a lot of places with a lot of people. And we just encourage you, even if you leave, you graduate, you move – please, please, please. Find a good church: people who love Jesus, lives open, Bibles open; doing discipline; burdens and loads. And this is how you’ll keep in step with the spirit. And if you have these things, in 50 or 60 years, or however long God gives you, you will be in greater affection with Jesus, and you’ll be resembling Him more. You’ll be enjoying the life that He gives you, and you will be bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because those are the means by which the Spirit of God builds you, and grows you, and does those things.
At this point, we always respond. We believe that God initiates with us, particularly through the scriptures that He teaches us. He reveals himself, and then we respond to him. That response is worship. That’s what worship is. It’s responding to God. And the story is very simple. That the problem is always sin, and the answer is always Jesus. That’s the base of it. That we have sinned and separated ourselves from God, and that God has come to us as Jesus Christ. He has lived without sin. He has revealed God. When He died on the cross He took our sins upon himself. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that, “God made Him who knew no sin to become sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our sin is placed on Jesus. He is punished in our place. He dies. Death being the wage for sin. He then places His righteousness upon us. Now we do not need to be good. We need to love Jesus. That’s how we become righteous people.
We love Him for what He’s done. Not only that, He rose to conquer enemies of sin and death, and He has placed the Holy Spirit in all who love and trust Him. And now that Spirit of God leads, guides, teaches, encourages, empowers, gives and compels us to Jesus. And as we take communion, that’s what we celebrate: Jesus. His body and blood, demonstrated in the elements, shed for our sins. God come to save us, and to reconcile us as a people. We also collect an offering. If you’re a visitor or not a Christian, don’t give. You’re our guest. It’s sincerely good to have you. Thanks for coming.
Father God, we thank you that you are indeed our Father and God. We thank you so much that you have made a way for us to be adopted as your kids, and that you have sought to knit us together as a church family. Lord Jesus, we are so thankful that you came to seek and save us whom were lost; that you died for our sins and rose to give us grace and mercy and love and forgiveness; cleansing, healing, and your righteousness. Lord Jesus, we thank you so much for what you have done. We thank you that you are the head of the church; that you are the chief shepherd; that you are the senior pastor. Thank you for leading and guiding us. And thank you for sending the Holy Spirit into your children, so that we could keep in step with that which you are doing. Holy Spirit, thank you for inspiring the writing of scriptures; for teaching us; for giving us brothers and sisters with various gifts and experiences; for giving us churches to participate in where we can have others help us carry our burdens and we can help carry theirs; where we can look at our lives and realize that our loads are not as big as we had imagined, and that others have greater need for time and energy and love than we. Lord God, you are good and you are perfect, and you are faithful, and we’re here as a testimony to that. With great love and adoration in Christ’s name, amen.