4th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 9) LSB #’s 906, 608, 704
Text – Galatians 6:4
But let each one test his own work, & then his reason to boast will be in himself alone & not in his neighbor.
TESTING YOUR WORK
When I was working as an electrician, it was always a good idea to test my work before I finished for the day. I did not want to get a phone call after I got home to be told, “Hey, our kitchen lights are not working!” I know one time; I had forgotten to turn the circuit breaker back on. With electricity – testing your work is a good thing!
When you’re doing plumbing it’s a good idea to test your work. If you don’t there might be a leak somewhere. Worse yet, you could end up with flooding. When you’re the church secretary, preparing the slides for Sunday worship, it’s a good idea to test your work, because any mistakes you make will be on full display in front of the whole congregation.
Testing your work is a helpful practice no matter what your occupation. Given that we live in a broken & twisted creation, testing your work in the spiritual realm is of far greater importance. In fact it is a necessity if we are going to live a Christian life that is genuine. Not that doing so earns you anything. It’s just the only way for a sinner to express the heart of God.
In order for you & me to express God’s heart to anyone first we have to drown our own. Jesus tells us why in Matthew 15: “…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, & this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (15:18-19 ESV)
The concept that St. Paul is working with, as he writes to the church at Galatia, is meant to counter the evil that naturally springs forth from our heart: “…let each one test his own work…” (Galatians 6:4 ESV) It’s not the most familiar language from Scripture, so we’ll turn to a more well-known passage that conveys the same idea. In Luke 6, Jesus said this, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, & then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (6:42 NIV)
Testing your work is first removing the plank from your own eye. Testing your work is a solution to the problem Paul cited in the previous verse, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:3 ESV)
Notice that it does not say, “Satan is leading the deception.” Rather, it is you & me who are guilty of deceiving ourselves. It’s all too easy to be convinced that I am the one to remove the speck from your eye. That is a dangerous place to be as Proverbs 16:18 makes clear, “Pride goes before destruction, & haughtiness before a fall.” (NLT) What’s the antidote?
Testing your work is, & that takes us back to verse 1. What is the work that Paul is writing about? “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…” (Galatians 6:1 ESV) But our sinful nature finds no pleasure in being gentle!
It’s ironic, isn’t it? Our own sinful nature wants to put the other sinner in his place! So, “Pride goes before destruction, & haughtiness before a fall.” And because he knows us so well, St. Paul continues in verse 1, “…Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 ESV) It takes humility to bear the burdens of some other sinner.
In Paul’s day, bearing burdens was the task of a slave. Paradoxically, those who are free in Christ actually bear the burdens of others. And whom is the ultimate burden bearer? Is it Jesus? Yes! You know it is! Christ Jesus has already borne the greatest burden of life – sin – my sin, your sin, the sins of the entire world. Everything that we are ashamed of or embarrassed to admit, Jesus has borne the weight of it upon His shoulders & upon His heart. The Son of God did that in order to prove His love for us, but He didn’t stop there. He doesn’t just pay for our sins & leave us on our own. He also adopted us into God’s family. At the resurrection from the dead, our physical bodies will join Him in paradise, forever.
However, it’s not only at the end of time that Yahweh’s Spirit will be joined with ours. Already now, as justified children of God, the Holy Spirit is at work sanctifying us. Through the sorrows & through the joys of our lives, He is shaping & molding us into the image of Christ. That is where the text this morning comes into play.
As we do not refuse God’s work, His Spirit moves us to test our own work. He can accomplish miracles in us & through us. The struggle is that our sinful nature wants to refuse the help of the Holy Spirit. While justification is an instantaneous process, sanctification is as long & drawn out as the number of our years here on earth. It is also a very messy affair.
Testing our work sounds simple enough, but due to the evil nature living in our heart it is anything but a simple affair. It involves surrendering our heart & soul to God. You can see that struggle clearly in the lives of people who are suffering with addiction. They often have to reach bottom before they can begin to recover.
In the theological realm we recognize that as surrendering to God. It can take a lot of suffering & heartache to reach that point. Yet, even if we are not addicted to drugs or alcohol or something else that tangible, all of us are addicted to our sins. We just are not able to give them up perfectly. All sinners, in a sense, need to reach bottom & acknowledge that truth.
We need God’s help. Our friends & neighbors, our brothers & sisters in Christ, all people need God’s help. By properly testing our own works, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we will no longer condemn those caught in transgression. Instead, we will seek to restore them in the gentleness that Christ’s Spirit used with us, & inspires us to use with those whom we catch in transgression. If gentleness does not work then they cannot be restored. Jesus will come again for true judgment on the Last Day. Until then, our work is to help people be reconciled to their Creator.
Truly testing our own work, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will always lead to repentance. That includes the sorrowful recognition & confession of our sins. Repentance also, always includes the joyful reception of the forgiveness of our sins. As children of God, we will rest & find peace in that forgiveness when we stop running away from our Lord.
Christ has given us the privilege of receiving gentleness from Him as He forgives our sins & restores us. He then provides us with opportunities to share that gentleness & restoration with the people we encounter in our lives. As the Holy Spirit works in us, testing our own work helps us to get there. Amen.
Renew me, O eternal Light, & let my heart & soul be bright, illumined with the light of grace that issues from Your holy face. Remove the power of sin from me & cleanse all my impurity that I may have the strength & will temptations of the flesh to still. Grant that I only You may love & seek those things which are above till I behold You face to face, O Light eternal, through Your grace. Amen. LSB 704:1-2, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet