“Merciful Mechanics” on the Road to Judgment Day
When you see someone broken down on the side of the road, how often do you stop to help? One of the excuses I often think of for not stopping in those situations is that I know absolutely nothing about cars. I have no tools; I have no expertise; I would probably be completely unhelpful. I’m just not the right guy to help in those kinds of situations.
As far as I remember, I’ve never been broken down on the side of the road myself, so I don’t know what it’s like to call for “roadside assistance,” or to have someone stop to attempt to help. Some of you probably have been in that situation. Even if you haven’t, perhaps you could imagine what it would be like if you broke down on the side of the road, due to some inexplicable malfunction in your car, and before you even have time to call for help, someone pulls over, gets out of their truck, walks up and says, “What seems to be the trouble?” You respond, “Well, I’m not real sure. I can’t tell where the smoke’s coming from. I was driving along, and it just died on me. No warning lights inside or anything.” Then, the stranger announces, “Well, don’t worry; I’m a mechanic; I work on cars for a living, and I see what the problem is, and I have the tools in my truck to fix this precise problem.” Now, maybe that’s too idealistic a scenario, but if that were to happen I can imagine I would feel utter relief and deep gratitude.
This scenario is not unlike what Paul is describing as we open Galatians chapter 6. Turn there with me in your Bibles, please. The picture he paints in verse 1 is that of a Christian caught in some sin, and another Christian comes along to provide assistance, to bring restoration. He addresses the Galatians again as “brothers.” Actually, chapter 6 both begins and ends with the word “brothers,” not counting the closing “Amen.” This probably indicates that “everything from start to finish in this chapter is about how we interact as brothers and sisters in the family of the local church.” In fact, I’d like to start at the end of our passage this morning. Look down at Gal. 6:10: So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. In Ephesians 2:19, Paul addresses Gentile Christians in particular and says, So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, and there he seems to be referring to what we might call the “universal Church” or the “global Church.” All believers of all times and all places are part of the “household of God,” the family of God.
But, with this particular command in Galatians, it makes good sense to recognize that Paul was directing the Galatian Christians to do good to each other as brothers and sisters, as members of the same family. Surely we have a greater obligation to care for the needs of the family members we rub shoulders with on a regular basis. If you consider Kilgore Bible Church your “church home,” I hope you view the people of Kilgore Bible Church as your closest family. That’s how God intends local churches to function.
Now, let’s go back and read verse 1: Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Let’s stop there for just a moment. Every phrase in that sentence could be understood in multiple ways.
First, what does Paul mean by “caught in any transgression”? Well, he might be referring to this situation: I commit some sin, and you “catch” me doing it. Or, he might be metaphorically describing sin overtaking a person, as if sin were executing a sneak attack and got the jump on the Christian. I think this is the better way to understand the phrase, but, even though this phrase pictures the person as a victim of sin’s assault, we shouldn’t draw the conclusion that the sinner is somehow not responsible for the transgression in view. We can see this as another reminder from Paul about how complex the reality of sin in the life of a believer actually is.
However we understand what “caught in any transgression” means, it’s plain that the transgression is visible to others. Paul might be painting the picture of a person who has developed a particular pattern of sinful behavior, something the person clearly is having difficulty shaking off or getting rid of. So, Paul calls for some intervention. He’s commanding someone else to do something about it, so he’s assuming that someone else can see the transgression. He addresses “you who are spiritual.” At first glance, it seems like Paul might be referring to some super mature Christian, someone who has “arrived” in their discipleship. The English word “spiritual” is such an unhelpful word. If you look it up in an English dictionary, you basically have two categories of meaning: non-physical or vaguely religious. When you see the word “spiritual” in your English Bible, especially in Paul’s letters, it never means either of these things, non-physical or vaguely religious. Instead, almost every time, with maybe 1 or 2 exceptions, Paul is talking about something that is in some way connected to the Holy Spirit.
So, here, Paul addresses “you who are spiritual,” meaning something like “you whose lives are clearly characterized by the Holy Spirit.” Or, drawing from the imagery used in chapter 5, Paul is addressing those who “keep in step with the Spirit,” those who recognize their utter dependence on the Holy Spirit for growth in the Christian life. Now, it is true that the one “caught in a transgression” is a Christian, and the Holy Spirit lives in the person “caught in a transgression” just as much as he lives in those who would come to restore the one “caught in a transgression.” However, when sin becomes prevalent in a Christian’s life, we can say, at the very least, that he or she is not depending on the Spirit in that area of life. We could say that the person has lost sight of their need for the Spirit to produce righteous fruit in this area of life. So, others who do recognize their constant need for the Spirit to produce righteous fruit in every area of their life, and who are depending on the Spirit to produce that fruit, must come to the aid of their brother or sister. However we define “you who are spiritual,” it is certainly not referring to an elite group of Christians who have some special status within the community.
So, finally what does Paul command “you who are spiritual” to do? Restore him in a spirit of gentleness. The Greek word translated “restore” is fascinating; it has a wide range of uses in the ancient world, but the one I think Paul probably has in mind comes from the medical world. This word was used to describe what you need to do when you’ve dislocated your shoulder or when you’ve broken a bone. Not having x-ray technology in the ancient world, the dislocation of joints and the fracturing of bones were often described with the same terms. We would speak of “relocating” the shoulder, or “setting” a bone. If you’ve ever dislocated your shoulder, you know that putting it back into place can be even more painful than the dislocation! Likewise, setting a broken bone—putting the bone in a position where it will heal properly—can be incredibly painful. I wonder if Paul has the larger metaphor of the church as the body of Christ here. When a Christian is sinning, it’s like he’s broken or dislocated; he’s not functioning properly. So, another part of the body must reach out to help put him back in place, for the health of not only the individual member, but also for the health of the whole body. If you get a pain in your left shoulder, don’t you automatically reach up with your right hand to massage it, or turn and look at it out of the corner of your eye, trying to assess the damage? I think that’s the image Paul’s thinking of here.
He also begins to tell us how this must be done, “in a spirit of gentleness,” which could simply mean with a gentle attitude. However, the word “spirit” could very well be capitalized here as another reference to the Holy Spirit. I think Paul’s commanding Christians to do the work of restoration, not simply with a gentle attitude (though that’s true, too), but rather he’s saying Christians must do this work “by the Spirit who produces gentleness.” This gentleness is listed among the fruit produced by the Spirit back in Gal. 5:23. Paul is clearly addressing the “restorers” here, not the broken; the work of restoration must be done depending on the Spirit’s work, expecting that the Spirit will produce the gentleness required to bring comfort and healing to the one “caught in a transgression.” This connection between gentleness and restoration is what drives the first phrase of the sermon title, “merciful mechanics,” a phrase I borrowed from John Piper. Think of the illustration I began the sermon with: we are driving along the road of discipleship, and we notice someone broken down on the side of the road; maybe their headlights have failed and they can’t see the sin in their life; maybe they got a flat tire, wearied by some trial in their life; maybe they just ran out of gas, too tired to carry on. If we are depending on the Spirit to keep our headlights working and our tires aired up, Paul is saying that we have an obligation, and we have the tools needed, to pull over and give them some aid, to get them back on the road of discipleship. We have the Spirit of God and the Word of God, and we’ll see how these fit together in just a bit to make us “merciful mechanics.”
Paul goes on to add a warning: Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Paul might be warning others that, when you come close to someone “caught in a transgression,” you might be tempted to fall into the same sin. But I think it’s more likely that Paul is warning against pride. When you come to help someone, isn’t it easy to think you’re somehow superior to the one who needs help? We can easily think things like, “I have the tools; I have the expertise.” We too easily forget who provides the tools and the expertise, the Holy Spirit. And we too easily forget how it was us who were broken down on the side of the road, “caught in some transgression,” yesterday or last week. So, restoration must be done both gently and humbly.
Paul broadens out his concern somewhat in verse 2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. The false teachers in Galatia wanted the Christians to feel the need to keep the law of Moses; Paul has insisted throughout this letter that Christians are not bound to the law of Moses; rather, they are now obligated to the law of Christ, which actually sums up and fulfills the law of Moses anyway. Paul had summarized the thrust of the whole Mosaic law in Gal. 5:14 by quoting Lev. 19:18, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, and this also works as a summary of the law of Christ. This law-fulfilling love is expressed here in the form of carrying each other’s burdens. What burdens? Well, as verse 1 highlighted, sin can be a burden. We carry each other’s burdens by restoring each other to health when our own sin overwhelms us. But I think Paul is speaking more generally here as well. So, burdens could refer to any great weight you have to carry. Sickness can be a great burden. Financial troubles can be a great burden. Anxiety. Emotional instability. Family stresses. Marital conflict. Death. Broken down cars.
In fact, some time before I was dating Tamara, just a few weeks after she began attending services here, the people of Kilgore Bible Church carried her burden in the midst of a broken down car and some financial trouble all at once. She had been bringing some international students to church with her, and one Sunday morning, her transmission went out suddenly. So, a couple in the church loaned her their van for a couple of weeks, and several individuals donated money so that she could get her transmission replaced.
That’s a beautiful picture of carrying each other’s burdens. How else does carrying each other’s burdens look? Well, quite literally, it looks like this. (I’ll lift a large box, getting some assistance from a brother.) Look how close he has to get to me to help me lift this burden. So it is in the church. If we’re going to obey Paul here, we’ve got to get close to each other. Really intimate. Close enough to smell each other’s breath. Close enough to feel each other’s pain.
If we want to know further what bearing each other’s burdens looks like, we need only look to Jesus. Jesus came really close to sinners; I love how Dan Albert gives thanks to God in his prayers for the immeasurable distance the Son of God came to rescue sinners. However far “from heaven to earth” is, that’s how far the Son of God came to be close to us. He came to bear our burden of sin and take it way; Jesus was called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And, Jesus came intimately close to us; he took on flesh and became human, experienced a complete human life, without sinning, and died a terribly human death. It is this burden-bearing Savior who rose from the dead, and now the Spirit of God unites us to this resurrected burden-bearing Savior, so that as he bore our burdens by dying for our sins, so we may also bear one another’s burdens by helping each other kill the remaining sin in our life.
But Paul returns to warning about pride. It’s interesting how helping others contains an inherent danger of pride. Look at verses 3-5: For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. When we carry someone else’s burden, we can think, “Man, I am strong! Look how much stronger I am than this guy. He couldn’t carry this little box, this tiny burden, but I could do it with my little finger!” Paul says, if you think like this, you have deceived yourself most thoroughly and most terribly.
Every Christian must “test his own work”; every Christian is to evaluate his own life, and not in comparison with the failures of others. I should constantly be asking myself, “What is God doing in my life?” and praying that God would show me what he is doing, so that my “boast” on Judgment Day will be rightly settled on what God has done in my own life. I think that Paul is pointing to Judgment Day, when the Christian’s “boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” Thinking in terms of restoring Christians “caught in a transgression,” on Judgment Day, I will not be able to boast that I restored that Christian to health. As one commentator writes, “Believers will only be able to praise God for the work he has done in their own lives, and they will not be able to claim any credit for what God has accomplished in others.” Later, in Gal. 6:14, Paul rejects all boasting “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and I think this carries over even to Judgment Day; Judgment Day will be an individual encounter between God and each individual sinner, and, as Paul says in verse 5, on Judgment Day, “each will have to bear his own load.” So, during this life, we are to bear each other’s burdens, which will prepare us to bear our own load on Judgment Day.
Now, at verse 6, most folks see a drastic change of subject, but I don’t think so. Look at what it says: Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. This verse is usually cited as supporting the practice of churches paying their pastors, and I do think that is an implication of this verse. But I think it has more immediate connection with the paragraph that just ended. Verses 1-5 addressed specifically those “who are spiritual” in connection with restoring those “caught in a transgression”; now, in verse 6, I think Paul turns his attention to those who have been restored, those who were once “caught in a transgression.” He refers now to them as “the one who is taught the word,” and this implies that the way we are to restore those who are “caught in a transgression” is by instructing with the Word. When we refer to “the Word” or “God’s Word” or “the Word of God,” we are usually referring to the whole Bible, and that’s not wrong. But, it’s likely that when Paul speaks of “the word” like this he’s actually referring to the gospel message in particular.
So, Paul here identifies the toolbox the “merciful mechanic” needs to restore any Christian “caught in a transgression.” We need a good understanding of the gospel and how to apply the gospel to the various circumstances that arise in our lives. But, here, Paul’s attention is now focused on the one who receives help, and less so on the one who gives help. The one who has been restored to health, Paul insists, must “share all good things” with the one who provided the restorative instruction. The word translated “share” is related to the well-known Greek word koinonia, which is so often translated fellowship. The picture is not being given of “payment for services rendered,” but rather a sharing of life and, in particular, once a person has been brought back to health, they are in a position to offer restoration to others, even the one who just helped them.
Again, this text is often used to support the practice of paying pastors, and I do think that is implied. Think about it: if the work of restoration in particular is in view, and Paul’s saying this restoration happens as the gospel is applied to a person’s circumstances, then we should expect our pastors to proclaim the gospel to us every Sunday morning, to apply it to the various circumstances of our lives (in a general way, at least). Thus, the pastor preaching the Word on Sunday mornings becomes one way, perhaps the primary way, spiritual health is cultivated in the church. If all of that is true, then “sharing all good things” surely could include sharing financial resources with the pastor. After all, Paul does say in 1 Cor. 9:14, In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. On a personal note, I am very grateful to you as my church family who have supported me financially as I preach and serve in your midst. I know Pastor Barry is very grateful as well.
Now, look at verses 7-9: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. I think Paul is still primarily addressing those who have received help, those who were once “caught in a transgression” but have been restored. He’s issuing a warning. Earlier, he had warned those who would step forward to help of the danger of pride in this situation. Now, he warns those who receive help of not being response to the help that’s been given. Earlier, he had noted that those who become prideful deceive themselves. Now, he warns that continuing in sinful behavior will lead to a terrifying harvest on Judgment Day.
We can sometimes slip into thinking that our “little sins” don’t register on God’s radar. But Paul here warns against that kind of foolishness; God is not mocked. People will be held accountable for this kind of thinking, to be sure, and Paul quotes a general principle that we’re all too familiar with: you reap what you sow. But he then applies it specifically to Judgment Day; I see this because of his mention of reaping corruption, on the one hand, and eternal life, on the other. Paul pictures “the flesh” as one field we could sow into and the Spirit as the other field. He warns that sowing into “the flesh field” will only produce a crop of corruption, but he promises that sowing into “the Spirit field” will produce a crop of eternal life. Corruption is probably a reference to eternal punishment, as it is set opposite eternal life. I don’t think he’s listing the two options for the Christian; rather, he’s warning those “caught in a transgression” that, if they continue sowing in that field, “the flesh,” they will show themselves to be non-believers.
What does “sowing to the Spirit” mean? Well, I think he elaborates in verse 9, calling all Christians to keep on doing good deeds, without growing weary, without losing enthusiasm. Why does he need to encourage them (and us!) not to lose heart in doing good? I suspect it’s because we so often measure the success of our efforts in terms of “visible results.” Just this week, Tamara and I heard from an old friend. Many of you might remember her; she’s a Japanese woman named Yuki. She attended this church for a long time many years ago, while she was a student at Kilgore College. Scott Woods spent a good bit of time talking with her and helping her out at school, but Tamara became her dearest friend. Eventually, Jeff Brady started meeting with her basically weekly, teaching her the Bible one-on-one. I even remember one afternoon sitting in my living room for several hours, teaching her church history, because she had asked me about it. She did make a profession of faith during her time here and seemed to experience some growth. But, she moved back to Japan a few years ago, and we’ve had trouble keeping in touch with her. We talked with her on Skype this past week and found that she’s separated herself from her family, she hasn’t attended a church in a very long time, and she doesn’t seem to have any interest in the Lord now. So, Tamara was saddened by this and she asked me, “Did we waste all that time with her?”
What an important question. Surely, many of you know what that’s like. Paul has an answer here in verse 9. “In due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” God is the one who delivers the harvest to those who sow in the field of the Spirit. Now, ultimately he’s referring to the reaping of eternal life, but he’s probably also got in view the results of our “sowing,” the results of our good deeds, along the way. This fits quite well with Paul’s assuring words in 1 Cor. 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. So, my dear Tamara, and all who have ever looked at your hard work and wondered what good it does, the apostle Paul assures you that, because of the resurrection of Jesus, because of the Holy Spirit’s work, and because of our loving Father’s plan, investing our time and resources in pointing people to Jesus and his Word is never wasted!
Paul’s summary exhortation in verse 10 flows from this truth: So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. God has made us a family. He has united every believer to his Son, so that we are all sons of God, and that makes us brothers and sisters. We live out our family responsibilities in the local church, and we are obligated to one another. God has made us “merciful mechanics,” and we are all on the road to Judgment Day. Are we providing “roadside assistance” wherever it’s needed? Are we even paying attention? We want to Kilgore Bible Church to be “a grace-filled community...where broken bones get healed and souls get fully restored.”
How do we become “merciful mechanics”? Let me suggest two necessary, non-negotiable ways. We must know Scripture, and we must know people.
First, we must know Scripture. The mechanic must have a toolbox containing all manner of tools, so that he can be ready to face any mechanical challenge. He needs 18 differently-sized wrenches; he needs both a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips head; he needs an abundance of screws, nails, washers. He needs every kind of tool to be ready for the unexpected breakdown. Likewise, “merciful mechanics” who would restore one caught in sin must know the Scriptures. He must know how the story of the Bible progresses, from Creation to New Creation; he must know that the different parts of the Bible point ultimately to Jesus Christ; and he must know where we fit in that story. He must also know what the Bible says about God, about humanity, about sin, about Christ, and about how God wants us to respond to his Word. He must know how to apply different parts of God’s Word rightly to different situations.
Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? “You mean I’ve got to know all the ins and outs of Scripture, all the details, and how all of it fits together before I’m qualified to help another believer deal with her sin? Sounds like you need a seminary degree!” No, you don’t need a seminary degree, but some training is required, but it’s the kind of training you’re already getting. The people of Kilgore Bible Church really love the Bible, and we seek to teach and preach it faithfully. So, how can you know Scripture better, so that you’re better prepared to help another believer deal with her sin? Pay attention to the sermons that are preached. Regularly attend a Sunday school class. Ladies, attend one or more of the ladies’ Bible studies offered during the week. Ladies and gentlemen, everyone: attend the Wednesday night Bible study. You say, “But that’s another night I have to drive out to the church? But I’ve got other things going on during the week. You want me to get up an extra hour early on Sunday morning?”
Yes, I’m asking you to sacrifice. How important to you is growing in your knowledge of Scripture? Honestly assess yourself on this. Are you reading Scripture every day? This is the most basic level of preparation, but it is of crucial importance. Your God wants you to hear his voice; he’s given you a book. I really want to hear God speak to me; I’m desperate to hear his voice in the midst of the craziness of my life. His voice is soothing; his voice is reassuring; his voice is comforting like no other. I love to hear my wife speak to me; I just enjoy hearing her voice addressing me. But, even more desperately, I want to hear God’s voice, and the way I hear God’s voice is through reading Scripture.
Are you attending Sunday morning worship services regularly? When you come, are you listening intently to the preaching of the Word? Pastor Barry and I labor to give you God’s Word, to help you understand it, to teach you how to read it better. We draw on all of our resources and attempt to make clear what God’s Word says. But, ultimately, we don’t trust in our resources or our words or our manuscripts to impact your life. No, we have great confidence that God’s Spirit uses God’s Word, when it is preached, to change your lives, and our lives, too.
Are you attending a Sunday school class regularly? We’ve got several to choose from. Are you studying the Bible with us on Wednesday nights? There are maybe a dozen people who attend relatively regularly on Wednesday nights. Now, many of you are serving faithfully in our AWANA program, which is also a way to grow in your Bible knowledge, by the way. But many of you are just not here. Attending Sunday school and Wednesday night Bible studies are easy ways for you to grow in your knowledge of Scripture, in healthy discussion with other believers. Are you studying the Bible on your own, going beyond simply reading a passage or two every day? It’s good to read Scripture both fast and slow. What I mean by that is that it’s good to read, at a moderate pace, large chunks of Scripture in one sitting. “Reading fast” might mean you sit down for one hour and commit to read through the book of Hebrews, or Romans, or Ezra, or Nehemiah. You aren’t necessarily concerned to absorb every detail, but you want to get the message of the whole book in your mind; you want to pay attention to how the logic of the book flows or how the narrative unfolds. “Reading slow,” on the other hand, means you sit down for an hour, pencil in hand, taking every word, every phrase, every sentence, and making sure you understand what the author meant. You might circle repeated words, underline phrases that seem important, write question marks in your margins, draw arrows and connecting lines between different verses, noting how they relate to each other.
I think it’s healthy to be doing both of these kinds of Bible reading all the time, if not daily. You say, “I can’t carve an hour of undisturbed reading or study time out of my day.” That may be true. But, if you make this a priority, if you realize how important this is for how you parent your children, for how you interact with your boss, for how you love your husband, I think you can commit to some amount of time. It might be 15 minutes. Did you know that half the books in the New Testament can be read through in 15 minutes or less? Examine your life; see what can be sacrificed for the sake of your knowledge of Scripture. This isn’t just an academic exercise; knowing Scripture better will help you know God better and it will help you live your life better.
So, to become a “merciful mechanic” you must know Scripture. But, secondly, you must also know people. And I mean this in two ways. First, you must know people, generally. You need to understand how people “work.” You need to remember that people are sinful and inconsistent; you learn this from experience, as well as from Scripture. But, you also need to understand something about how people are influenced by the culture around them and the pressures of life. You need “empathy” in your toolbox. Secondly, and more importantly, you must know people, specifically. If we are to carry each other’s burdens, we must get close to each other. We must get into each other’s lives. Look around the room for a moment. How many people within your line of vision would you say you know really well? If the answer is “nobody” or “only the person sitting next to me,” what will you do to change that?
Now, I want to be realistic; I know that there’s only so much time in a day or in a week. I just asked you to commit time every day to reading Scripture, so there’s even less time to get to know people. Does getting to know a person have to take more time out of your schedule? No. In some cases it will, but it doesn’t always have to. You’re already in the same room with people you don’t know well; how you spend your time in this building can make all the difference in the world. What will you choose to talk about? Who will you choose to talk to? Will you walk across the room to that person who’s actually been coming for 3 months but you’ve never met and introduce yourself? When someone asks you, “How are you doing?” will you answer them honestly? Will you just say, “I’m doing fine,” or will you instead open up your life to that person and give them an opportunity to know you better? How you choose to answer the question “How are you doing?” either closes off intimacy or invites intimacy. Are we content to go on talking about sports and the weather, while our lives are actually falling apart?
Rosaria Butterfield writes in her autobiographical The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, “I think that churches would be places of greater intimacy and growth in Christ if people stopped lying about what we need, what we fear, where we fail, and how we sin. I think that many of us have a hard time believing the God we believe in, when the going gets tough. And I suspect that instead of seeking counsel and direction from those stronger in the Lord, we retreat into our isolation and shame and let the sin wash over us, defeating us again. Or maybe we muscle through on our pride. Do we really believe that the word of God is a double-edge sword, cutting between the spirit and the soul? Or do we use the word of God as a cue card to commandeer only our external behavior?”
Are you meeting with one of our Care Groups? Care Groups meet at least once a month at someone’s house. Each of them does things a little differently, as I understand it, but these are groups you can be a part of to get to know people better. These groups really are a good context for carrying each other’s burdens. If you’re not currently meeting with one of them, please get involved. It just so happens that most of them are meeting today or this evening, so take a look at the table by the entrance and sign up. If you are meeting with a Care Group, are you being honest and vulnerable, letting people get to know who you really are? Are you pursuing the other people in your group, offering to carry their burdens? (As somewhat of an aside, are we meeting regularly enough? If we are to get closer to each other, close enough to carry each other’s burdens throughout life, do we even see each other often enough to see this become a reality? I see my coworkers at LifeWay, where I work only 2 days a week, more than I see most of you. Does that fit the model of a “household of God,” a family? If Kilgore Bible Church is to live together as a family, perhaps we need to commit to meet together more often. Well, at the very least, I can challenge the Care Groups: Consider how you might meet together more regularly.)
Where are we, Kilgore Bible Church? Are we carrying each other’s burdens well? Are we working to restore each other when we’re “caught in a transgression”? Let me tell you a story to show you what this can look like, and then we’ll be done. Last year, about the time Tamara and I had been back in town for about a year, the Board was preparing to invite me to join the Board as a deacon, and I was asked about my financial giving habits. “Do you give regularly to the ministry of Kilgore Bible Church?” My answer: “No, I do not.” I went on to explain how I hadn’t given regularly to the ministry of any local church for at least the past 3 years. I explained how I didn’t see how Scripture obligated me to give money specifically to a local church, but I indicated that I would appreciate being challenged in that area. While we were in Illinois, the leadership of the church we were part of knew where I stood, but they never questioned me or suggested that I was mistaken. Well, one of the elders of Kilgore Bible Church—and I won’t say who because he probably wouldn’t want me to—but, one of the elders came to me with a typed up list of reasons and Scripture passages that I should be sharing my financial resources with Kilgore Bible Church. I assure you all: the Spirit produced great gentleness in that man on that day. He sat down with me and talked to me about why this was important, and he listened to me ask questions and evaluate what he was saying to me. Ultimately, I concluded that I had been sinfully withholding money, and the Scriptures do indeed call Christians to give money to support the church family they are part of. I was wrong. You might even say I was “caught in a transgression,” and an elder gently and humbly “restored” me, and God graciously enabled me to repent so that I began giving money consistently to support this body of believers.
We are truly heading toward Judgment Day, and we Christians are on the road that leads to eternal life. When we see our brothers or sisters broken down on the side of the road, due to some icy patch of sinfulness, or some failure of our own headlights to spot danger, or they just have a flat tire and can’t go on anymore, will we stop to help? Do we even slow down enough to notice? We have the Holy Spirit; we have the Bible; we have the tools we need to restore each other and to help each other arrive safely at our final destination.