October 31, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 6)

Submitted by Thomas C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Galatians 6:1-5

  • Think about the word “restore.”  You “restore” something when it has fallen into disrepair, i.e., damaged but not entirely destroyed.  And in restoring, you return it to its original, pristine condition.  Why is it necessary for restoration to occur after a moral failing?  In other words, what fact about sin is being taught here? 

It’s necessary to restore after a moral failing because sin has a ruining and lasting effect—it soils a person’s heart and conscience, and if not dealt with properly, moral failings and sins will leave a permanent stain or mark.  Moral failings end up having effects or consequences that aren’t always so obvious or at least not considered in the moment of transgression.  For example, to ignore a marriage for a moment of pleasure isn’t just to destroy a spousal relationship, but often has lasting repercussions on the family and children, in addition to the parties for life.  Moral failings in betrayal, sin, idolatry, greed, and other such sinful desires that are actually acted out not only harm others, but they have a very detrimental effect on the sinner himself.  After such a sin or fall, that person must become more brazen to live with himself, or deaden his conscience to avoid the guilt and shame.  The effects on the ego, sense of shame, and even ability to speak honestly, cannot be ignored.

Often the world treats sin like it has no consequences.  Being true to one’s self, and appetites, is lauded.  Movies and websites and books glorify sin without ever talking about the downside. Human nature is not neutral—we aren’t the same all the time.  There is something about each person that can be built up or ruined by our actions and decisions.  As in life it is easier to destroy than build, so it is with our hearts, consciences, and spiritual life—sin and moral failings are destructive.  Our decisions have consequences, and sin has consequences that mar and ruin a person—so that after such a fall, restoration is actually required.  There is something about the inner life that can be built up toward holiness through obedience, but that can also be utterly destroyed by sin.

Paul had such a sense of what sin could do to a person, and if I had this sort of view constantly, then I would be far more vigilant and wouldn’t trivialize even the “smallest” sin, the stray thoughts or desires of feelings: the quick burst of temper within, the longing look at the world and what it offers, the desire to compare myself against others that creeps in.  To appreciate sin and its power to destroy that requires restoration means to take even the smallest sins very seriously before God.

  • What would such restoration entail?  Who should be the ones doing the restoring?  Why is this important? 

It’s an involved process depending on the actual moral failing, but it’s a lot more than just confessing and saying sorry to God once.  It often requires time in the word of God and prayer, and through that process, reflection over the word of God and how it relates to the particular sin and failing.  It may involve lengthy times of prayer, retreat, and reflection to seek God’s face, ask for God’s mercy, and ask for God’s Spirit to help parse through the motivations and desires within. It can involve restoration of broken relationships or restitution.  It will also involve building up the defenses and walls of protection, whether physical habits or just the voice of conscience so it can be heard again.  This is a lengthy process and not to be trivialized or thought simple—it can take weeks, months, or even longer.

The ones doing the restoration must be spiritual.  Paul says “you who are spiritual”—most likely the plural you.  It may be one person like a spiritual mentor figure, or it might be multiple such mentors, or even friends who are in the right mind and heart before God.  But the requirement is spiritual—because the restoration itself is actually spiritual in nature.  Thought it may certainly involve other things such as emotions or emotional health, or even physical or material things, like restitution of money, the ultimate reality is that the restoration is spiritual in nature.  Restoration is not equal here to counseling or therapy—it’s far more comprehensive than just that.  So proper restoration involves someone who is right before God and mature, so as to help the sinner get right before God, to help them deal with the motivations or desires or internal issues, which often require maturity and subtle discernment.  Restoration involves comfort at times, painful truth to be spoken at others.  This requires a certain level of spirituality and commitment, an understanding of sin and human nature, and often ministry experience.

  • Why is it important to do it gently?  (Elsewhere, for more grievous sins, Paul specifically instructs the church leaders to rebuke sharply.)  I.e., in his advice to be gentle, what reality about sin and what reality about human feelings is Apostle Paul instructing the church to recognize?

Because to do it without love and gentleness, and to try to restore harshly and quickly and strongly, can end up destroying the penitence of a sinner who is seeking restoration.  There is a very fine line between sorrow that leads to death because it is centered on self, and sorrow that leads to repentance and a desire to clear one’s self and be right before God.  It is so fine that a wrong approach by an uncaring or unthoughtful or immature restorer can destroy the restoration process, or set it back.

The process of restoration is delicate, and with moral failings in particular, there is a certain amount of shame and humiliation involved when such failings come to light.   When moral failings are involved, it can be addictions, deeply embedded fears, emotional issues—the sort of failings that are often hard for a person to even admit and open up to others about in the first place.  To open up about such sin is difficult—and to respond harshly and without gentleness and forgiveness can quickly drive a person away from God and God’s church, and often right back into the hands of sin.  It’s not surprising when I look within and realize that to confess the darkest thoughts, the corners of my heart where I cringe to even look—it isn’t easy to come out with those things.  Even when I ask for accountability, the reality of confession isn’t easy.

It takes a certain level of other-centeredness and right view of God’s heart to have this sort of proper gentleness in confronting, speaking truth, and restoring others, things that I am challenged to grow in.

  • In his admonition to be careful of temptation, of what reality about sin is Apostle Paul warning them? 

That sin spreads.  When someone else deals with a sin, there is often the reality that I struggle with the same sins as others.  And even when I may not struggle with a particular form of sin, the reality is that it doesn’t take much for that to become a snare to me. Human nature is such that sin can spread like cancer.  So even in dealing with other people’s sins, there is a need for strong vigilance and careful self-examination to not move in that direction.

  • How does the advice to “bear one another’s burdens,” the warning against pride, and the call to self-reflection (“test his own work”) fit into all this?

This advice from Paul are very practical tips on how to avoid falling into sin as a result of another person’s sin or moral failings.  The warning against pride is the most apparent, and particularly for someone who is restoring a repentant sinner—it is easy to look at the person being restored as someone who is needy, hurting, or some other way to look down on that person.  And it’s not a stretch for a more mature restorer to think he is simply better than the person being restored.  It’s sad, but human pride is strong.  And so the call against pride, the desire to find a way to look down on others and self inflate for the sake of ego—is something that any minister needs to hear.  I know I need to hear it constantly as I see what those I minister to deal with.  Self-reflection is part of that process, and a very practical way to do this.  Self-reflection reveals that I too am a sinner, broken in other ways perhaps, and sometimes in similar ways.  And self-reflection reveals that I am sometimes only a step away from the same moral failings if I ignore God’s Spirit and my conscience.  It is hard to be proud when I am reflective because I have a myriad of reasons to be humble and needy before God myself.

Bearing another’s burdens is another route to being careful about sin and avoiding pride—to bear another’s sins, to truly feel empathy for the brokenness for another and earnestly desire that person to be restored and made right before God, gives the proper perspective to view the repentant sinner.  It is other centered, and there isn’t any room for pride to rear its ugly head.  It also gives proper perspective so that I would not want to copy that person’s sin or moral failings myself.

Submitted by Chris L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Galatians 6:1-5

  • Think about the word “restore.”  You “restore” something when it has fallen into disrepair, i.e., damaged but not entirely destroyed.  And in restoring, you return it to its original, pristine condition.  Why is it necessary for restoration to occur after a moral failing?  In other words, what fact about sin is being taught here?

Restoration is necessary because the shame of our moral failure and corruption causes us to feel unworthy before others, which can further lead us to a feeling that we should be banished and abandoned.  Left alone in such a state, we would go astray even more as we doubt God’s promise to forgive and bring us back into fellowship with him, and even think that as a punishment for our sins God wants us to suffer and remain miserable.  In our relationships with people, we would further distance ourselves with shame, guilty, sense of unworthiness, eventually cutting off ourselves from the very people who can help us.

  • What would such restoration entail?  Who should be the ones doing the restoring?  Why is this important? 

Restoring someone would entail helping that person through repentance, claiming God’s promise of forgiveness, and, where appropriate, setting up some protection to help guard the person against the temptation of the sin.  One who is doing the restoring should be someone spiritual.  That person needs to be someone who walks by the spirit and does not gratify the desires of the flesh, at least in the area in which he is helping restore someone.  If he himself is just as entangled in the same sin, he would be of little help.  He himself would feel like a hypocrite, and he would not be able to earn the trust to lead another through restoring.

  • In his admonition to be careful of temptation, of what reality about sin is Apostle Paul warning them?

Apostle Paul is warning them of the reality that we are all vulnerable to sin.  If it happens to be that I am not as vulnerable to certain sins that entangle others, it isn’t the case that I am a better than they are, but it is so only by God’s grace.  By His grace, I’ve been able to take sin seriously, and with the brothers and sisters of our church, take caution to guard ourselves against sin, through many concrete commitments over the years.  I see more clearly each day how that is true.  When I see someone who has fallen to sin, I no longer think, “How can you do that?”  I can see how I would have done the same thing if I were in that person’s shoes, but I was spared by the many layers of hedge of protection that God placed around me.

  • How does the advice to “bear one another’s burdens,” the warning against pride, and the call to self-reflection (“test his own work”) fit into all this?

Pride is one thing that can keep me from bearing others’ burdens.  When I have thoughts such as to why someone is still having the same issue when I have put that issue behind me a long time ago, what’s going on in my heart is absence of sympathy and love.  I need to self-reflect and test my own work, rather than comparing myself with another.  I need to evaluate myself based on all that I have received–messages, devotions, training, instructions, love that I have received over the years.  When I consider what I have received, and then consider what kind of a person I am now, what I am doing to others, it is humbling.  I ought to be far more compassionate, far more loving, far more concrete in acts of love, taking up far more burdens of others.  As Apostle Paul says, I need to test my own work, so that pride doesn’t creep in through deception.

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