Sunday, June 30, 2013

Galatians 6 - Selfishness to Selflessness

LINK: Galatians 6


BACKGROUND


Warren Wiersbe has this great formula:
liberty + love = service to othersliberty - love = license (slavery to sin)
(Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality (The BE Series Commentary))
Warren Wiersbe's commentaries are my favorite. They are so very practical!


In light of believers receiving a gospel of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul exhorts the Galatians that they are now free to help others by restoring friends who have fallen into sin and carrying their burdens (6:1-5), helping pastors and teachers by supporting them financially (6:6-10), and serving others (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ) out of the pure motive of love (6:10-18).

REFLECTION


Below is a devotional I wrote for a marriage retreat. It can apply to all of our relationships (parents, children, friends, coworkers, significant others). So, please don't ignore it if you are single. :) 



Live creatively, friends.
If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him,
saving your critical comments for yourself.
You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work
you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.
Don't be impressed with yourself.
Don't compare yourself with others.  
Each of you must take responsibility for doing
the creative best you can with your own life.

Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God.
What a person plants, he will harvest.
The person who plants selfishness,
ignoring the needs of others — ignoring God! —  
harvests a crop of weeds.
All he'll have to show for his life is weeds!
But the one who plants in response to God,
letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him,
harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
(Galatians 6:1, 4-5, 7-8, The Message)

Take some time to slowly read through these verses. Read a little, stop and reflect, and read a little more. Now, read through them a second time: slowly, line by line, maybe reading aloud and emphasizing particular words like “forgivingly restore.”  Now read through it one more time. Don’t rush through it. Interact with the words.  Read it like you would rest in a warm bath or linger over a tasty treat.

Now, write down the passage in a journal. Then, rewrite it and personalize it in your own words.

Meditation on God’s word takes time. Don’t rush through this part. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and they became for me the joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).

These words are so important to absorb and apply in a practical way in our marriage. Some of the key things in this passage to consider include:

Forgivingly Restore (6:1) – In the original language this means “to mend, as a net, or to restore a broken bone.”  When we sin and especially when we sin against one another in marriage, like a broken bone, there is a broken relationship that needs mending! If we look at this verse within the context of the book of Galatians, we learn that Paul’s case for extending this forgiving restoration to others is because we have been forgiven and restored by God. When we live in grace and walk by the Spirit, we pass it on! Take some private time to have some restoration time with God, thanking Him for His grace toward you. Then, pray about areas in your relationship with your spouse where you need to extend grace and forgiveness.

Cancel Critical Comments (6:1) – They can kill a relationship. Sometimes, we need to not say what is first on our mind to our spouse. We need to press PAUSE and think through it.  My husband does this more naturally than I do. I have had to learn that when I want to do a bit of nagging about something he does that annoys me, I consider how graciously he “puts up” with me. Even more so, I think about what God has to “put up” with both of us, and I gain a whole new perspective!  God is so gracious and patient with us. We can be gracious and patient with one another. Once when I was winding up to make a critical reply in response to a relative who was yelling at us, George saw my face and quickly handed me a note that said, “We must extend grace, Carol.”  What a concept: I could make a conscious decision to hold my tongue. I could pray. I could “overlook the offense” (Proverbs 19:11) because there were deeper reasons for that relative’s outburst. Proverbs 19:11 in The Message says, “Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.”  Critical comments kill, gracious responses bring life.

Do Careful Self-Exploration (6:5-6) – This is a good way to apply the point made above. Take some time to do some careful “sanctified” self-exploration (different from morose introspection). Instead of giving a list of grievances to your spouse, take an honest look at yourself. We cannot change our spouse, but we can, through the power of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5), allow God to change us. We have enough to tend to with our own lives. While we live interdependently with our spouse and as “one flesh,” we have separate choice mechanisms and cannot make choices for the other. So rather than comparing yourself with the other spouse and evaluating where that spouse falls short and you reign supreme, take an honest look at yourself, evaluating your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. Then, “sink yourself” into that. Then, prayerfully ask God to change you from the inside out in those things that do not honor Him and to develop your strengths for His glory. Taking responsibility for yourself is a much better use of your time and can transform all your relationships.


Choose Selflessness Over Selfishness (6:7-8) – The choice we make in this area confronts us every day of our marriage. Do we choose to live only to please ourselves, concerned with what we can get out of rather than what we can give in the relationship? The biblical principle is clear: we reap what we sow. If we sow selfishness, ignoring our spouse’s needs and ignoring the Holy Spirit, we reap fruitless, unpleasant things! But when we live selflessly, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, we reap blessings beyond self. 2 Corinthians 9:6 in The Message says, “Remember, a stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop.” The context of this passage is talking about giving money, but it can apply to giving in all areas. In my singleness, my mentors modeled a selfless marriage, each giving lavishly to the other. The wife would often pray that God would give me a selfless spouse. Maybe you feel like you have a selfish spouse. But following on the principles of the above three points, you can 1) forgive them for what you feel you are not getting, 2) cancel your critical comments toward them, and 3) carefully examine your own life in regard to your own selfishness. Jesus gave us the ultimate example because He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Prayerfully imagine a marriage where you were both making a conscious choice to follow God in giving unselfishly to the other. What a harvest of “real living” that would be!

APPLICATION

D.L. Moody once said, “The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” We are not to just admire God’s Word. We are to apply it! This application goes beyond just this retreat weekend and can have a significant impact on your life and marriage.
Here are some things to consider doing:

  • Keep track of how many critical comments you verbalize to your spouse in a 24 hour period. Also evaluate your selfish attitudes and acts. Don’t count the ones made toward you, but the ones you made to your spouse.
  • Find a trusted friend who can give you some honest feedback. Ask them what they have observed in your speech and conduct toward your spouse. Then, ask them to pray for and hold you accountable in the next two steps.
  • Evaluate the above before God, and as He leads, acknowledge any sin to God and ask for forgiveness when appropriate.
  • Then, prayerfully ask God how you can say and do things to build up and encourage your spouse; focusing on his or her strengths rather than weaknesses. “Watch the way you talk . . . say words helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:19, The Message/NIV).

"Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener
when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other.
Act on what you hear!" (James 1:22, The Message)


PRAYER


Lord, thank You for freedom. Help us to love others selflessly because of Your great love for us. In Jesus' name, Amen. 
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