Saturday, June 18, 2011

Touching Base! Part 130

If Walls Could Talk, What Would They Tell Us?

(This article can also we found on our website at
http://www.bethelkingston.comunder the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

At Bethel we encourage people to P.I.E. each other (Pursue, Include, Engage). Great questions can lead to great dialogue and solid relationship-building. Here is a great question to ask (although I am not sure Sunday morning is the time or place), What are you recovering from?
If you think about it we are all recovering from something…

… a recent death
… rejection
… addiction
… personal and private
… an exhausting week
… a heated argument with spouse
… a major confrontation with kids
… financial disappointment
… a difficult season with the team
… heartbreaking news
… sleepless nights

This kind of question probably needs to be asked in a more private context, because you never know what the person may unload. What are you recovering from?

On Sunday we talked about how love is a key ingredient in developing healthy communities so that people can experience recovery. We looked at the first trait – love – that Paul lists in the fruit of the Spirit. Our key text was Galatians 5:13-15.

Text Gal 5:13-15
The question was, “how can I start loving?”

1. Stop indulging the flesh (v.13a)

While the Galatians (Gentiles) were free from the law (no need to be circumcised, to become Jewish etc.), they were not free to do whatever (this was talked about on June 5th). Paul admonished them not to indulge the sinful nature (better known as the flesh). The flesh represented those things that are contrary to the things of the Spirit.

Indulge” was a military term used to refer to the base of operations. Paul is saying don`t allow your freedom to give your flesh a base of operations in your life. If you need a reminder of how opposite the flesh is to the Spirit, just read 5:19-26. What is your most tempting context in life these days to indulge the sinful nature? Ask that of the Galatians and they may tell you the CHURCH! In fact their story might not be terribly different than ours.

Think of a church building… the church you are from, this building (Bethel). Have any memories of indulging the sinful nature i.e. a brutal conversation, a mean-spirited rebuttal, a cold-as-ice response? Maybe within these walls, or maybe within the walls of another church building? If church walls could speak, how many stories of indulging the sinful nature could they tell? Would they conclude that we have been living by the Spirit, or perhaps indulging the sinful nature? Would the walls know we are Christians by our love?

Note in our context in v.15, the progressive use of three verbs - bite, devour, destroy. What does this sound like to you? Sounds like cannibalism to me. The ancients (especially in the Old Testament and Jewish sources, e.g., Prov. 30:14) used the metaphor of being eaten by others as a grotesque description of a horrible fate or inconceivable wickedness. Paul is making his point - Stop indulging the sinful nature! What is happening is grotesque, a shame to the name of Jesus and hindering the witness of the church. Who is recovering in this kind of context? No one! In this context you leave the church just to get healthy!

Here is a little exercise. Seeing that we can all be guilty of “cannibalism” at times, ask someone you trust the following questions:
  • Who am I biting?
  • Who am I sharp with?
  • Who am I devouring?
  • Is there anybody who can’t stand to be around me because of how I slice and dice them up all the time?
  • Who am I consuming?
  • Do I need to go back and ask for forgiveness because my words and actions maimed a believer?
  • Do I exhibit unhealthy relational patterns that destroy healthy community?
  • Spouses, roommates, best friends, small group participants
(Ask these questions of each other.)

How do I start loving?

2. Start serving in love (v.13b)

Note the contrast of love vs. cannibalism. In cannibalism, it is all about satisfying my appetite, satisfying what my sinful nature wants to do. I am the focus, I am the center, indulging myself at the expense of others. But in serving others, the whole orientation changes:

Serve - refers to bondage, slavery. Paul is not saying we are in slavery to each other, but he is saying that we are like a slave. We need to be thinking about how to serve, how to better the lives of those around us.

Love - refers to goodwill towards others.

Here are some observations about serving one another:

a. We need to do the right thing in the right way.

Love is the adverb that describes the action of serving. In other words, Paul is saying it is not enough to do the right thing - in this case, serving - but we must do it in the right way, with the right heart - love.

Imagine if God said, “See that person you have been biting, devouring and consuming? I want you to go over there and serve them by greeting them, welcoming them.” So you do it- painful but you do it.

Now God says- “Repeat the action but do it with a loving attitude” See how it goes deeper? See how the Christian life is about living by the Spirit? The fruit of the Spirit drives us to depend on the Spirit to exhibit these traits.

How often would church walls speak and say, “Yeah they did the right thing but in the wrong way!” What is the hardest thing to do in the right way in your life these days?

b. He is in you to love.

Where is the Spirit in relation to the believer? Romans 8:9 makes it pretty clear that the Spirit is in us. He resides in the heart of the believer. Seeing that love is one of the traits of the fruit of the Spirit who is in you, then He is in you to love. The Holy Spirit desires His love to flow through you. Check out Romans 5:5, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Therefore, if you are not serving others in love, you are grieving the Spirit Who is in you. You are hindering a gift He has given you. What are potential “love-flowing blockages”? Start by looking at the acts of the sinful nature listed in v.19-21 and think about how some or all of these may block love from flowing. Keeping in step with the Spirit (v.16) means asking these kinds of questions and doing something by His power regarding the answers.

C.S. Lewis once reminded his listeners and readers that forgiveness was a lovely idea… until you had someone or something to forgive. The same applies to loving others. Loving others is a great idea… until the someone you are to love is a someone you don’t like. This is why challenging relationships are a great tool God uses to show us the stuff we have blocking our love flow!

c. While love is not the only fruit of the Spirit, it is the most important.

Note Romans 13:8-10, then note Galatians 5:14. How can you summarize the law with love? Here is a good quote that will help answer that question: “Every commandment is governed by love, comes out of the spirit of love and only states what love will do.” (Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher). Thus when I choose to walk in love by the power of the Spirit I am going to walk in God’s truth, live as Jesus did, reflect the heart, nature and character of God. The ultimate expression of God’s love was in sending Christ. It is only as I live by the Spirit that I can demonstrate this kind of radical self sacrificing love.

d. People are dying for community.

In Paul’s day the Galatians were in desperate need for healthy community. If they kept going the way they were going, they would be destroyed. Let me close with a great quote from Jim Martin. As you read it, be reminded of the fact that one of the greatest gifts we can give to the city is community, a community where they can experience recovery, and it starts with meeting Jesus.

“I really believe that the next generation is looking for genuine fellowship. Between an individual person and another. In families. In clusters of people. For many of them, fellowship is not something lost. Rather, it has never existed in their experience. For many of them, it may have never existed in their family of origin nor have they been able to observe it in families of their peers. One challenge for churches is going to be to really see/care about this generation and be willing to adjust, mentor, and provide both models and the experience of some kind of authentic fellowship.”

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