On the Plains of Moab Blog
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January 6, 2013, 5:08 PM

Sermon Text: Dirty, Rotten Hypocrites

Galatians 4:4-10, 19    Installation of Officers Sunday

Is it easy to be a disciple?  No way.

As we just saw in the introductory video clip, to be a disciple is costly.

It means giving away money.  Giving away time.  And giving away love.  And doing this all without any expectation that it will ever be returned in kind.  That it will ever be acknowledged.

It means loving your enemies, doing right by them, forgiving them as Jesus would forgive them -- even when they don't love or forgive you in return.  It means not judging others, gossiping about them or tearing them down, even though they may do all of these things to you.

It means being salt in the world.  It means being light in the world.

Being a disciple literally means being God's hands in the world.  It means being Jesus to your neighbor.

It is no coincidence that we are installing our elders and deacons toady for the coming year.  This sermon is for them -- and this sermon is for you as well.  All of the things that we expect of our leaders, are the very same things that we would need to desire for ourselves too.

My friend and colleague, Brian Robinson, pastor of Layman Church here in Roanoke, had a post on Facebook a few days ago on his thoughts about leadership and membership in the church.  he graciously allowed me to share those thoughts with you this morning.

"Volunteer Church Leaders"... [Read, members as well!]

  • Should be fairly self-sustaining.  They shouldn't create drama nor need constant attention from pastoral staff or other church members.
  • They should keep confidences and be willing to flex when faced with alternate opinions or ideas that aren't their own.  They are never dictators.
  • They must be humble and peacemaking.  When things don't go their way- which WILL happen from time-to-time- they must be peaceable and remember that the God who called them hasn't finished yet.  So they are to remain "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."  They model the commitment they wish to sustain within their own [committees].
  • They are faithful and can be counted on- not just when it's easy.  They are never territorial.
  • It's always about Jesus.  Just...Jesus.  And, because of that, people will be served well and Christ will be glorified.
  • They are unwilling to be defensive when criticized.  Rather, they take the honest position that they will pray concerning what has been shared with them.
  • Understand...it's not about title, but comportment and heart-attitude.  There are those who could have title, but not be leaders by virtue of maturity and commitment to these things.  There are others who have no title, but are faithful leaders that the pastors, elders and congregation take notice of, pray for, respect and look to because of what their actions say on a consistent basis.

(Dec. 30, 2012 FB Brian Robinson, Layman Church, Roanoke)

Now, as we let all of those things soak in this morning, we are confronted with the awful truth.  We don't do these things very well.  We are, when it gets right down to brass tacks, hypocrites to the core.

The calling to be a Christian believer and disciple is a high and holy calling.  The bar is high.  The bar is even more pronounced when it comes to the leaders that we choose to lead us.  Some might say that it is even impossible.

Believe me, as a pastor, I am well aware of not only my own shortcomings as a pastor and leader, but the shortcomings of New Hope.  This church.  For every person who leaves our fellowship for one reason or another, I am made painfully aware of the fact -- and sometimes in great detail -- that we haven't arrived as a holy people of God.

Coming to our text from Galatians 4 this morning, we have a similar situation.  The apostle Paul seems to be discouraged that the churches that he help give birth to were seemingly floundering and falling back into their old, comfortable ways.

The main problem in Galatia was the presence of Jewish coverts who were insisting that the Gentile converts to Christ must submit themselves to all of the Jewish customs -- things like circumcision and the purity laws.  (Some call these troublers "Judaizers").  Of course, Paul would have none of that, and a great portion of his letter to them is spent tearing down that argument as he argues that with the coming of Jesus Christ, the doors have been flung open far and wide, and that the sign of belonging to God is no longer in the ethnic rituals practiced by the nation of Israel, but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  Justification -- being made right and holy -- comes by faith.

Paul seems to be dealing here with the fallout from this discouragement from the Judaizers' demands.  Most likely, these Galatian, Gentile, new believers responded by falling back into their old ways, figuring that they just couldn't live up to the standards being pushed upon them.  And so, they did what came natural, and just slid back into doing what was comfortable.  be it idol worship.  Be it latching onto worthless, meaningless rituals or just falling back into godless behavior.

Paul cries out, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?" (Gal. 4:8-9 ESV).

How can you desert Christ now?  Why would you return to your old ways when you were set free from those things?  Why would you give up so easily?

Paul says, "my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!" (Gal 4:19 ESV).

Paul is saying, I will not give up on you.  Jesus will not give up on you.  The work in your heart begun by the Holy Spirit will not come to naught.  It will bear fruit.  You will reach the finish line of faith.  If you belong to Christ then Christ will be formed in you.

Everything in my being will strive towards this end.  And it will happen.

That, my friends is my pastoral cry to you for the new year...and beyond.  I long that "Christ be formed in you."  I long for Christ to be formed in me.  I long for this from these leaders who will be installed today in your presence.  I long that they would pray and work for you in the same way.

Yes, we are hypocrites, all of us.  Dirty, rotten, etc. etc.  We too are like the Galatian church.  We get discouraged often because the price seems to expensive.  Too out of reach.

To boot...People let us down who shouldn't let us down.  The world and the church can be neglectful and hurtful.  We have personal failures.  Sin gets the best of us far too often.

Forget it all.  It's more easy to just be me.  Everybody and everything else, go away!  Leave me to my own ways and devices.

But, please understand, sin is not the last word in the life of the disciple or the church.

Listen to Paul's opening words once more, for they are yours:  "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son...to redeem those who were under the law, [bound in sin and corruption] so that we might receive adoption as [children].  And because you are sons [and daughters], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal 4:4-7 ESV).

Oh, my friends.  My prayer for you (and our leaders) in 2013 is that you would not settle for business as usual.  That you would long to have Christ shape your heart.  That you would live into the new life that God has made abundantly free to you through the life of his own dear Son.

You have heard the Word of God.  Please pray that Word would take deeper root in your hearts!   Amen.

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