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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The One Another Commandments: Bear the Burdens of One Another
Text:Galatians 6:2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2021-11-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Galatians 5:11-6:2

Text: Galatians 6:2

 

THE ONE ANOTHER COMMANDMENTS: BEAR THE BURDENS OF ONE ANOTHER

  1. With Open Eyes

  2. With Open Hearts

 

  1. Psalm 68: 1, 2, 8

  2. Psalm 55: 1, 10

  3. Psalm 40: 1, 3, 5

  4. Hymn 43:1, 3, 5, 6

  5. Psalm 3:2

  6. Hymn 49:1-4

 

Words to Listen For: hordes, horns, heaping, Henry, halved

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Does God give us more than we can handle?  Why or why not?

  2. How is the concept of “burdens” central to the Galatian church?

  3. What happens if we have open eyes without open hearts?

  4. What are the “real questions” we should ask?

  5. What are the 5 steps of bearing one another’s burdens?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ,

“God won’t give you more than you can handle”  God won’t give you more than you can handle - true...or false?

This idea has been floating around the internet for the past few years, and, undoubtedly made it into various people’s minds...that this statement: God won’t give you more than you can handle” is one of those Christian-isms with no foundation in Scripture.

This phrase is just like “Let go and let God” or “God helps those who help themselves” … or… the one that I’m glad is just a human saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

This idea had faded from my memory until I saw it posted again this week on social media.  This is what the post said:

"God won't give you more than you can handle..."

Odd, I can't seem to find that verse.

I'm guessing Job would take exception to that cliche.

So would Joseph.

Paul did.

 

So.  Is this saying true or false?  Does God give us more than we can handle?

Well, it’s true if you understand it properly.  It’s false if you try to make it mean something that it was never meant to mean.

Let’s examine this.

 

If you can’t find this verse, it’s because you have spent all of zero seconds looking for it...it’s right there.

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

It’s right there, in black and white.

But what then about what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1?

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength

Is Paul speaking out of both sides of his mouth here?  No!  For these two verses go together so perfectly.

It is not that God promises that we, in our weak, sinful, human selves will be able to stand firm when faced with the Prince of Darkness and all his weapons...it isn’t that one single unarmed Christian can stand up to the hellish hordes of demons seeking our very souls…

Not at all!  What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians is exactly the same that he is saying in 2 Corinthians…We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

IN OURSELVES we are weak, we are helpless and we are hopeless.  But THANKS BE TO GOD THAT WE ARE NOT BY OURSELVES!  THANKS BE TO GOD, that when trials come, God has provided us with strength, God has provided us with a way out!

Even though our text isn’t 1 Corinthians and our reading isn’t 2 Corinthians, this example, this example of misunderstanding, that leads us right into our One Another commandment for this week.  We are to bear the burdens of one another.  We are to do this precisely because if we stand on our own, we will fall.

If we do not stand together, we will fall apart.  If we do not stand together, we will fall apart.  Believers standing together, bearing one another’s burdens, with the strength that the Holy Spirit provides...THIS is unity, THIS is love, THIS is victory, THIS is the church.  So this morning, as the church, let us see what it means to be the church.

THE ONE ANOTHER COMMANDMENTS: BEAR THE BURDENS OF ONE ANOTHER

  1. With Open Eyes

  2. With Open Hearts

 

With Open Eyes

I have heard it said, that in marriages, the bride and groom should go INTO the marriage with eyes open wide, and they should BE MARRIED with eyes half shut.  The idea is that both the bride and the groom should really and true know who their spouse is, they should really and truly know exactly what they are getting into when they get married, but after that, when you are “stuck with each other” then you should take a gentler view, a more relaxed and passive view, half closing your eyes to the flaws of your spouse.

And maybe this works for marriages, maybe this is wise advice...but I’m not here, preaching to you about marriages.  What I can tell you, what Scripture tells us, is that this kind of attitude does not work with the church.  This cannot be how we live as the body of Christ...and I fear that, so often, it is.

Before Public Profession of Faith, young people are encouraged to have their eyes open wide.  We have a Pre-Confession class that is for that exact purpose.  Know what you believe, know what the Canadian Reformed Church believes, know what the Bible says...have your eyes open as wide as you can.  And then, at the end of it all, there is even an interview where the elders witness just how wide the eyes of the students are open.

And then, after the pomp and circumstance of the day, whether through the honking of horns in the parking lot, or the long line of hand shakers, the eyes are tempted to close.

But brothers and sisters, this is not right.  As we’ve already mentioned, as the church, we are called to stand together.  As we have already heard in this series so far, we are to LOVE one another as Christ has loved us.  We are to be HOSPITABLE to one another, welcoming each other in, because this is the message of the gospel.  When our Lord gathers us, He doesn't just gather us as individuals, but He places us in the church and binds us together, urging us to share in one another's joys and sorrows.

And so, as members of Christ’s Church, we need to come together with eyes wide open.  We need to be looking, and seeing each other.  Really and truly seeing each other - warts and all.  This is the only way that we can fulfill the command in our text:  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

Now, there’s something important that we miss in this commandment if we do not know the context in which it comes.  The letter of Galatians isn’t an easy letter.  It’s not a nice letter.  But what exactly was it that prompted this?

 

The Apostle Paul, in his church planting evangelism, had planted various churches at Galatia, and then, he was called by the Holy Spirit to plant churches elsewhere, and he left the Galatian church in the hands of who he thought were capable elders.  But no sooner did he leave Galatia, but then the Judaizers moved in.  These were Jewish Christians that had deep disdain for the Gentile Christians.

Paul’s Christianity was too easy! they thought.  What these Gentiles need is a bit of good, old Testament LAW.

You’re not a Christian by FAITH ALONE...they said.

You’re not a Christian by FAITH ALONE, saved through CHRIST ALONE, but rather, you need to follow the Old Testament laws.  You must be circumcised.  You must follow the Old Testament law of clean and unclean.  You must ADD to the work of Jesus Christ.  It’s not enough.

And so the Apostle Paul is rightly angry that these teachers would add this burden to these Gentiles.  These new believers.

 

I don’t know about you...but there is something amazing, something wonderful, something that brings a smile to my face when I meet a new believer.  To see someone so overwhelmed by the goodness of grace, and the greatness of God.  To see someone with a real fire, a real fervour, a real passion for God and His Word.  This is so inspiring.  And then to see these people, so full of energy, so full of enthusiasm for the gospel being loaded down with the weight, the burden of the Old Testament ceremonies?  The smile fading into a grimace, the enthusiasm turning to bitterness.  This is not the way of Christ!  He came with a light burden, not a heavy burden!  His burden was light, and his yoke was easy.

Our Lord came into this world, knowing that the Law of God did nothing but expose our sin.  He took that heavy load onto Himself, fulfilled the law on our behalf, and bore our sins in His body on the cross.  He bore that heavy load, and gave us the one commandment in its place - love as I have loved you.

And so the Apostle Paul, further explaining what that commandment entails, gives the Galatian church this instruction:  Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This letter is a rebuke, and it’s what the Galatian churches needed, but the Apostle Paul begins this chapter by calling them brothers.  Throughout this letter of admonition, the Apostle Paul is always loving.  

9 times - 9 times in 6 chapters - the Apostle Paul calls them brothers.

This letter is filled with correction and rebuke, it is filled with pleading and admonition, but the throughline of it all is love.  The churches in Galatia are made up of Paul’s brothers and sisters, and it is out of that love for them that he writes.

The Judaizers were there, heaping up these burdens, completely undoing what Jesus had done on the cross...chaining up these freed people, and so Paul is rightly furious!  They were attempting to undo the gospel, and so  Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit told the Galatian churches to do the opposite.

Don’t HEAP UP BURDENS ON EACH OTHER...but instead, carry the burden of your brother.  Carry the burden of your sister.  Bear their burden so that they can serve God freely and fully.

Now, what exactly are these burdens?  you might be asking.  Do these burdens refer EXCLUSIVELY to the Old Covenant demands?

No.  A burden should be properly understood as anything that gets in the way of proper service to God and proper love for one another.

Burdens are therefore, not only Pharisaical legalism, but the transgressions that Paul refers to in verse 1 - if anyone is caught in any transgression - and even other burdens.

Not every burden is sinful, but every burden can lead us into sin.  Not every burden is the same.  Some cause exhaustion, others frustration.  Some leave us lonely and isolated, others drag us into arguments and lead to bitterness.  The burdens aren’t all the same, but our response to those who are burdened SHOULD BE.  But the challenge is, that none of us want to seem burdened.  We want to maintain the illusion that, of every single human being on earth, we are the only ones who can make it through life alone.  We pride ourselves on our self-sufficiency.

          How are you doing?

          Just fine!

And we go about our day, knowing that we just lied to that person.  "Well...I don’t want to burden them with my life!"

But don’t you see?  When you refuse to share your burdens with someone else, when you build up that wall, then you are making it so much more difficult for THEM to share burdens with YOU.

Because how easy is it for a conversation to go this way?

          How are you doing?

          Just fine, and you?

          Well I’m actually having a really rough time.  Can we talk about it?

This is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE.

 

Let me use myself as an example.  Many years ago, I was going through a rough time.  I steeled myself for the difficult task of asking for help.  I opened the door, and was greeted with a “How are you doing?”  And DESPITE MY PREPARATION FOR THIS MOMENT, despite the fact that I was there to ask for help, I just faked a smile and said “Just fine!  And you?”  It wasn’t the most convincing smile, since my eyes were also filled with tears and I looked like I had slept in my clothes...but I had to then correct myself...actually no, I DO need some help.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

 

We have to recognize that we all have burdens.  We not only have to have eyes wide open when we look at others, but also when we look at ourselves.  When we self-examine, we shouldn’t gloss over our difficulties and burdens, but we must recognize them for what they are.

We ALL have burdens and we were never meant to carry them alone.  Self-reliance is not God’s plan for us...for self-reliance is just poorly disguised pride.

I can do it without you.

I don’t need you, I don’t need anyone else.

I’m strong enough to handle all my problems on my own.

You’ll see just how strong I am.

This is why misinterpreting the saying “God will never give you more than you can handle” is so dangerous.  Not understanding what this truly means leads us to live individualistic and prideful lives, contrary to His design...and we end up falling and failing.

But God has created us to rely on Him and to rely on others.  And that is why He has given us Himself and gave us others.  It’s not rocket science.  God has given us everything we need to live the Christian life...let us not convince ourselves that we are wiser than God and break our backs, trying to shoulder our burdens all alone.  We must be willing to offer help and we must be willing to accept help.

And I know that this is a tall order.  It’s a tall order, for extroverts as well as introverts.  Because whether we are energized by people or exhausted by them...we shy away from being vulnerable with them.  We are scared of opening up the deepest and darkest parts of ourselves because we fear being hurt.  We fear this...because we have been hurt.  Maybe in the church, maybe in other relationships.

And this is why we have to do better.  We have to do better as the church.  We must have, not only open eyes, but open hearts.  Our second point.

Having open eyes is part of the equation, but without this second part, it is very dangerous.  For open eyes, coupled with hard hearts, callous hearts, or judgmental hearts leads to gossip and ridicule.

And many of us engage in gossip.  It’s one of the worst-kept secrets about the Reformed churches - we are gossips!  Information spreads like wildfire.  And it’s all too easy to brush this off as something UNFORTUNATE, maybe even SINFUL...but not all that bad.

But let us not downplay the utter wickedness of this sin.  We will hear more about this next week in our treatment of the 9th commandment, but for now, let me simply remind you that gossip is listed alongside offensive sins such as homosexuality and being a hater of God in Romans 1, and in 1 Timothy 5, gossip is one of the indications that someone has strayed after Satan.

Gossip is DEEPLY offensive to God, and it is so destructive to the church.  Gossip is the opposite of bearing one another’s burdens.  Instead of showing love and compassion, instead of caring, and BEING CHRIST to our brothers and sisters, we mock and hate and ridicule those who struggle.

This is not the way of Christ, and those of you who engage in this sin must stop and must repent - before God, and before your brother or sister whom you have hurt.  This is non-negotiable.

Having hard hearts is one of the most serious accusations that can be made against the people of God.  So instead, let us have soft hearts.  Loving hearts.  Open hearts.

And what exactly does that look like?

It means not being satisfied with pat answers like “I’m doing fine.”  Now, not every time is appropriate for your brother or sister to open their heart and have their burdens spill out.  But at the appropriate time, have the strength to ask the real questions.  The hard questions.  Ask questions like:

  • What’s hard for you right now?

  • What saps you of your strength?

  • What robs you of your joy?

  • What would it look like if God met your greatest need?

It might take time to get answers to this, because trust can take years to build.  So start on this today!  Dare to have real conversations with your brothers and sisters.  Dare to ask them these questions...and be prepared for when they answer.

Trust can take years to build, but only seconds to break.  So be on guard against yourself.  Be on guard against the judgmental nature that lurks inside all of us.  Because if someone opens up to you, and you react with disgust, if you shrink back from their sins, they will learn that you are not safe, and maybe nobody is safe.  You will have taught them that they must bear their burdens alone, and you will have contradicted the command of Christ.  You will have contradicted His command, and are ignoring His example.

Imagine if Christ had done that with us!  What if He saw our most horrible burdens, our sins, what if He saw that and said: “I’m not going to save THESE people...they’re too sinful!”

But no!  What did He do?  He saw us, helpless and hopeless, in desperate need of salvation, and came.  The more sinful we are, the more we need salvation, and so He showed up!  Christ is drawn to your weakness, because that’s exactly where you need His strength!

Bearing burdens is a very serious, very important thing.

We have to know the burdens that exist in this body, and meet each one of these burdens with love.

We have to know...and sometimes we don’t.  So let me share some of the burdens that exist within this body, so that you can lift them up to God.  Individuals may not be ready to share this with you, so the first step, in preparing and softening your heart, is to pray for them anonymously.

What are burdens going on in this congregation?

  • There are those who fear unemployment due to the vaccine mandate

  • There are those who fear gathering together with family or friends because some of them are unvaccinated

  • There are those who, when they sit at the Lord's Supper table, focus is hard due to anxiety of getting sick

  • There are those who aren’t sure if they can remain...in Cloverdale, in the Canadian Reformed Church, even in Canada, because of what is happening

  • There are men who long to be fathers, and women who long to be mothers

  • There are those who mourn due to a miscarriage

  • There are those who wonder if God has made a mistake calling them to a certain task

  • There are those who struggle with alcoholism and sexual sin

  • There are those who feel overlooked and that they don’t belong

 

And I could keep going.  I could preach a 30 minute sermon that is simply a list of burdens.  This is the life of our congregation right now.  What are we going to do about it?

Now don’t get me wrong on the Covid stuff here...I have opinions on all of this too.  I am a human being, of course I have thoughts on Covid-19.  It’s dominated the life of the world for the last 2 years.  But it would be completely inappropriate if I denied love and care to those I disagree with.  This would be ADDING to their burdens instead of EASING them.

You and I may have polar opposite opinions on these issues, but I have tried so hard for you to never know.  Not because I’m your pastor, although that is part of it, but because I’m a Christian!  My OPINION on your BURDEN should never enter into it!  My opinion on your burden CANNOT PREVENT ME FROM OFFERING TO CARRY IT FOR YOU.

Love that is dependent on us being on the same side is no love at all.  If my love stops because you’re annoying, or if it stops because you are a masker or an anti-masker, if you’re a vaxxer or an anti-vaxxer, if you set your clock to Bonnie Henry’s mandates or think she’s the devil-incarnate...if any of these things affect my love for you, then it isn’t real love.  Do you think that my love for you is so weak that this would make a difference?

Even if you sin against me, if you gossip about me, if you make me cry behind closed doors...I WILL NOT STOP LOVING YOU.  This is my calling to you, and this is your calling to each other.

I hope and I pray that God will give me the strength to show this kind of love to each and every one of you.  Because this is the beautiful, faithful, enduring love that God has shown to us in Christ.

But what does it practically mean?  We must know the burdens in our heads.  We must love those burdened in our hearts...but then we must bear that burden for them with our hands.

And because these burdens aren’t literal knapsacks of rocks...how do we do this?

Let me give you a 5 step program.  It’s rare that I can do this, but the one-another commandments are so clear and so practical, day by day, hour by hour practical, that I can do this.

Here are the 5 steps.

Step 1 - ASK

Show your brother or sister that you are open to these deep and personal discussions.  Show them that you want to hear what they have to say, because you love them, no matter what.

Step 2 - LISTEN

Don’t ask, and then immediately tune them out.  Don’t ask if you don’t want to know the answer.  Ask, and then listen as your spiritual sibling pours out their heart.

Step 3 - LOVE

Do not show your shock, or your dismay - but show your love!  You may be surprised that this person struggles in this way, but realize that you have your own burdens.  You are not better than someone because you sin or you struggle in a different way than they do.

Step 4 - PRAY

Ultimately, beloved, we do not have the power to bear each other’s burdens.  Only God has that power, and the best thing we can do is to bring these burdens to the Lord.  They say that a burden shared is halved.  But I say to you that a burden prayed over is quartered.  Knowing that the burden is in the hands of God, the God who is all-powerful and all-loving...knowing that you are being prayed over by your fellow Christians...this helps so much more than you would think.  The burden is still there...but it has been brought before the divine expert, and hope can be restored.

Step 5 - SERVE

Do what you can, and keep praying that God will do what you cannot.  He has given each of us gifts and abilities, and these are meant for us to use them to serve.  Some burdens that are difficult for the one suffering can be easy for you to fix.

Someone is without a job, and you are looking for someone to hire.  Someone needs food, and you have a farm.  Someone is lonely, and you’re a human being.  Someone needs encouragement, and you can encourage.  Do what you can.  But also know that you can’t solve each and every problem yourself.  For this leads us down the independent prideful road once again.  You can’t  do everything...but God can.  Use His gifts and ask Him to make up for what you lack.

It’s just 5 steps.  What could be easier?

But no...each of these 5 steps go against our natural inclinations.  

We don’t WANT to do any of these things.  Asking, listening, loving, praying, and serving...this is hard work!  Like each one of the one-another commandments before it...bearing one another’s burdens is hard work.  But it is what we are called to ask Christians.

And you may be tired of me saying this, but it’s true, for each of these commandments...JESUS DID IT FIRST.  JESUS DID IT FOR YOU.  Bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of Christ.

You know who fulfilled the Law of Christ FIRST?  You know who fulfilled the Law of Christ BEST?

IT WAS CHRIST.

Romans 2 says it most clearly - Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

We bear with each other, we bear the burdens, be they heavy or light, foolish or wise...we bear these burdens as ones who have had our own burdens borne.  Everything that we are carrying around, whether habitual sins, or anxieties, or scars from past trauma...Christ appeared to bear those burdens for us.  Christ appeared to set us free from sin, and to lift every weight from us.  By bearing our burdens in His body, by carrying every weight, He has freed us to show that same love to others.

Your back doesn’t have to be bent down, struggling under that weight...you’re meant to share it...with Christ and with one another.  And when your burden is eased, then your back will be free to take a little bit of the weight of those around us.

Let this be us, beloved.

Now...as we close here this morning, reflect with me, just briefly...what are we known for as Cloverdale Church?  I'm really not sure how this neighbourhood thinks of us.   Maybe very few people even give us a second thought.

But what if…

What if we could be known as those who give help.  For those who show love and care to anyone who asks us?

Let them think we are weird for our little traditions, let them think that we’re weird for singing Hebrew songs, written thousands of years ago, set to Genevan tunes written 500 years ago.  Let them think that we are strange for eating peppermints in the pew, and saying the Apostles’ Creed in unison.

Let them say: They’re kinda weird...but if you need help, this is where you should go.

This is a hard life, beloved.  Nobody said it was easy, but nobody warned us it would be this hard either.

We can’t make it alone and the good news is that we aren’t called to.  We are called to truly know each other, to truly hear and be heard.  We are called to lean on each other and walk through this life together.

The world is a messy place, but you are here, and so am I.  Let’s struggle through it together, arm in arm.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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