Sermon for Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 7, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18
Sermon Theme: “The Laws of Christ Differ from the Laws of Moses”
(Sources: Emphasis online Illustrations; Concordia Journal, Spring 2013; Believer’s Commentary; original ideas)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
It seems like just the other day that a couple of young friends and I planted a spring garden together. For weeks, it produced wonderful cucumbers and beans and squash, and now it’s gone. Not everything planted came up and made.
When it comes to planting seed, certified seed, though more expensive, is the way to go. Certified seed has the following benefits: it is pure seed, meaning a very high percentage of the seeds will be of the variety you wish to sow; there is a low percentage or zero percent of other crop seed present in the seed. It contains very little inert material (sand, twigs, chaff); there is little or no weed seeds present; and the germination rate is high.
In our garden business arrangement, one of my jobs was to purchase the seed. At first I bought high quality certified seed or baby plants, but then a day or so later that wasn’t convenient, so I bought cheap dollar store seed. Some of the cheaper seed didn’t even come up.
Considering that the cost of using certified seed constitutes only one and a half percent to two percent of total crop production, it is well worth the price. Expert gardeners will tell you that using such seed reduces the costs of herbicides; the crop produced is generally hardier and better able to withstand changes in the growing season; and the harvest generally produces a better quality vegetable.
The past few months, I learned that it pays to use certified seed, or you reap what you sow.
That just happens to be one of the three laws of life, or “laws of Christ,” Paul talks about in our sermon text from Galatians. In the text, he says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Now the “law of Christ” includes all the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ for us that are found in the New Testament. It is summed up by the commandment in John 13:14, that we love one another. We fulfill this commandment when we bear one another’s burdens.
The law of Christ is far different from the law of Moses. Moses’ law promised us life for obedience, but gave us no power or ability to obey, and could only encourage obedience by fear of punishment. The law of Christ, on the other hand, is loving instruction for those who already have life. With the law of Christ, believers are enabled to keep its precepts by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the motivation for believers is love of and loyalty to Christ.
These laws of Christ are not for the purpose of earning God’s approval, no, they serve as guidelines for those who love and want to please God. These laws of Christ are the laws of life, and they are threefold:
One, you reap what you sow. Two, we are to bear the burdens of each other. And three, we are to glory in the Cross, not in self. Let’s look at each one.
No doubt every one of you in here today could come up with an example of reaping what you sow. But the New York Times published the most bizarre example of this I think I’ve ever seen or read about.
A nineteen year old young man named Grant kept a pet python in his apartment. To have such a pet as this, he knew everything there was to know about pythons and how to care for them. Although he knew how much food the python needed every day, Grant refused to feed him enough, feeding him only one chicken per week. For a large python, that’s a starvation diet. One day, the 19 year old man was found by his neighbor, crushed to death by the snake. Authorities speculated that either the young man forgot to wash the smell of chicken off his hands after feeding him, or the python was unhappy about his meager diet and decided to try for something bigger. A hungry python can move at incredible speed.
If you are going to live with a python, you’d better be prepared to feed it well. We reap what we sow.
The second law of life, or law of Christ, is that we are to bear the burdens of each other. You may wonder how far we are to go with this. It’s a fact that many non-Christians look upon the loving kindness and the caring hearts of Christians as weaknesses to be exploited for their own gain.
Pastor Derl Keefer tells that even as a youth, he was a kind and caring Christian who was always doing good deeds and helping others, something that caused him to be called names by his worldly friends. He said even as a teenager he was called “preacher,” “Deacon,” Billy Graham, Jr., “Goody Two Shoes,” “Holy Roly Poly,” and some other names we don’t want to mention in church.
Keefer said he just wanted to be good. To be ridiculed for being good was hard for a teenager to take. Goodness was not something that came natural to anyone; even Keefer had to struggle to be good. He didn’t feel holier than anyone else, as he knew how hard it was to be a good person, to do good works and to help others. But he was taught that we must deny ourselves, that is, from evil motives, take up our cross, that is take on good motives, and follow the laws of Christ. And he understood, as we must, that it is only through God’s grace and his transforming goodness though the work of the Holy Spirit that makes us good people. Left to ourselves, we can do nothing.
It’s no easy task to bear one another’s burdens in the first place, and then to be ridiculed for doing so makes it even harder. Yet our very purpose for being in this world is to love and obey the laws of Christ.
The third law of Christ is that we are to glory in the Cross, not in self. Yet we are living in a self-centered, self-indulgent, self-loving, self-seeking, self-serving, narcissistic-driven society.
You know the Greek legend of Narcissus, don’t you? Narcissus was the beautiful son of a river god and a nymph, who one day saw his own reflection in a pond, and was so taken by his own beauty that he fell in love with himself. One version of the story says he pined away for himself and died of a broken heart; another version says he fell in the pond admiring his own beauty and drowned.
In any case, he is a symbol of self-love, and in many ways a symbol of the people living in today’s world.
Today’s youth spend a fortune on buying the right style of jeans, the most “in” T-shirts, famous brand shoes, and hours making sure their hair has just the right look, the zits are gone and there’s nothing dorky about any aspect of their being. They are so worried about what other people are going to think of them. And like my mother-in-law used to say, “The truth of the matter is other people don’t think about you at all, because they are too busy thinking about themselves.”
Adults are no better; they too are much more focused on themselves than on Christ. Many adults are far too concerned about status and keeping up with the Jonses than they are with salvation and keeping up with Jesus. It is our nature to want to glory in self, — even Jesus’ disciples wanted to be his number one and two men. It is not our nature to want to glory in the Cross, so the thought of sacrificing for others is repugnant. Instead, we like to glory in our own accomplishments and the accomplishments of our kids.
Yet Paul says in the text, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Jesus says in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Let’s face it, — none of us are willing to deny ourselves and sacrifice for others any more than young people are. But with Christ and the Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we are enabled to do the impossible. So then, as Paul says, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Amen.