Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
When you read the end of the book of Galatians (especially chapter 6), you get a picture of what it looks like to be a Spirit-led church. Quite simply, these five actions come from the five main verbs (commands) that Paul emphasizes in Galatians 6 after the imperative to keep in step with the Spirit. Here are five actions of a Spirit-led church:
1. Restore the broken. This comes from the first verse:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. Galatians 6:1
What’s interesting to note is that the first command Paul gives isn’t something to earn favor with God, because remember, the gospel is that through Jesus we’ve already been made right with God. And the tendency of those who live by the flesh is to look down on those who aren’t as religious as they are. So, instead of rebuking the broken, Paul commands Christians (including us) to restore the broken. For a community that was starting to be driven by law, it was a command to show grace.
And isn’t that still needed today? Think of it this way: how crazy would it be if you were physically sick, maybe the flu, maybe something serious like cancer, but you didn’t dare go to the hospital in your community. Why? Because your hospital had a reputation for shaming and judging all the sick people coming in. If you went there you were more likely to get judged by all the well people than find healing for yourself, and you were likely to hear how all this was your fault and you just needed to work harder to make yourself well. Who would ever go to a hospital like that? Well, when it comes to the sickness of sin, who would ever go to a church like that? But aren’t there churches like that today? Maybe that’s why we’re losing an entire generation. We need to be a Spirit-led church.
So, here’s a question to drive this first action home: Who are you healing? Paul says to restore gently those who have been caught in sin. We’re all sinners. So, who are you healing? Who are you helping put back together? Who are you helping to heal mentally, emotionally, spiritually? If we’re going to live Spirit-led lives, we need to have a specific name attached to that question: who are you healing? If you don’t have anyone, ask the Holy Spirit to send you someone you can help restore.
2. Carry someone’s burden. This comes from verse two:
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Restoring the broken is the idea that you can help put all the pieces back together, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Most times when the divorce is final it’s final, and you’re not putting it back together. If you care for a loved one with a long-term illness or disability, you know this is how it’s going to be this side of heaven. If you’ve lost a loved one, you know you’re not going to see them again this side of heaven.
If we’re living by the flesh, then we’re only going to care about ourselves. We’re going to treat our religious lives like trying to get that one flat screen on sale at Walmart or Best Buy the day after Thanksgiving. We don’t care about other shoppers waiting to get deals. In fact, they’re the competition. We will elbow, run around, run over whomever we need to get what we want. Some people treat religion like that. If we’re living by the Spirit, we don’t just care about ourselves. We carry each other’s burdens, because that’s what Jesus did for us.
So here’s a penetrating question to drive this home: Whose burdens are you bearing? If you are led by the Spirit, the Spirit will always lead you to one of His hurting children who needs your help. If you’re not helping anyone, then you’re probably not living by the Spirit.
3. Check your heart. This comes from verses 3-4:
If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Galatians 6:3-4
This action by Paul is somewhat vague and depending on which scholar you read you might get a different interpretation. But here’s where I land. The word “actions” that we’re supposed to test is used seven other times in this letter. In all other seven instances, it’s translated as “works,” but more specifically, the “works of the Law.” He’s referencing the main argument of the letter, that we’re not supposed to try and earn our salvation or earn God’s favor by our actions, but by faith in Jesus.
So, when Paul says “test your actions,” I read that as “check your heart.” As we’re restoring the broken and bearing each other’s burdens, we need to check our hearts, because our motivations matter to God. If we’re doing these things to try and show off, then God sees our hearts and we need some work. That’s living by the flesh. If we’re led by the Spirit, we won’t restore the broken or carry someone’s burdens for the applause of others, we’ll do it out of genuine compassion, the compassion given by the Holy Spirit himself.
How do you test your actions? Go right back to Galatians 5. Look at the fruit of your life: is your life more accurately characterized by the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? By the way, this is something we all have to do constantly. We never outgrow our need to check our hearts. In fact, the longer we follow Jesus and the more comfortable we are around Christianity, the more susceptible we are to start doing this whole thing out of our own power rather than God’s. So, here’s a driving question for you, one that only you can answer: Are you living by the flesh or living by the Spirit?
4. Live generously. This comes from verse six:
The one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Galatians 6:6
Personally I’m thankful for this verse, and even more so my family, because this is why I get paid by my church. But the underlying issue here is generosity. If you’re living by the flesh, your natural tendency will be to hoard your resources and live selfishly. You’ll naturally assume that all the money you make is for you and you alone and your happiness and comfort, and you won’t be generous with anything God has generously given you.
If you’re led by the Spirit, you’ll live a life of generosity, modeling the life of Jesus who so generously gave his life for you. Now, living generously happens in a number of different ways: we are generous with our time, we are generous with our talents, but we’re also generous with our treasure. And it’s not a multiple choice option, but all of the above.
So, here’s a driving question for this command of Paul: How are you funding the mission?
5. Make a difference. This comes from verse ten:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10
Do good. Make a difference. If you’re living by the flesh, you’re content to make a point. You can say all the right things, nothing ever changes, and you’re okay with that. If a church is Spirit-led, it’s a church that actually makes a difference. It’s a church that actually sees people come to Jesus, get baptized, it’s a church that’s growing and thriving and seeing lives changed.
So, here’s a question for you with that: How are you making a difference? That’s the tale of two churches, the difference between a church that is living by the flesh vs a church that is led by the Spirit.