Galatian Sermon Series # 5

by   |  03.19.19  |  Sermons

Christ Formed in You

Galatians 4:8-20

Focus: Christ in us generates a blessed way of being in the world.

Function: To affirm the forming of Christ within us that is expressed by a flourishing life.

Plotline: The letter to the Galatians is part of an ongoing story of Paul’s relationship with these churches: a relationship that began full of joy and goodwill; as blessed people. But all that changed. The blessing was gone. They no longer felt goodwill towards Paul. So Paul asked them, “What happened to your blessed way of being?” Paul thought the birth process would have to start over until they are formed in Christ. But that is not what he says. “Till Christ is formed in your midst.” So how does that does that flourishing blessed life formed in us play itself out? We will wait till next week to see Christ formed in us as freedom and love. For this week, let’s look at virtue.

 

A good friend at Purdue nicknamed me, “stone-faced.” It wasn’t meant to be a compliment. If you have not noticed, I do not carry many of my emotions on my face. I once told the campers at Carolina Bible Camp that if they caught me smiling, they could make me run around the mess hall after lunch. However, the Galatians were not so much having stone faces as they were developing stone hearts. READ TEXT

4:12 Friends, I beg you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong. 13 You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; 14 though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What has become of the goodwill/blessedness you felt? For I testify that, had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them. 18 It is good to be made much of for a good purpose at all times, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Stone-Faces in Galatia

  1. The letter to the Galatians is part of an ongoing story of Paul’s relationship with these churches: a relationship that began full of joy and goodwill; as blessed people.
  • When Paul had first visited them they were willing to care for him even though he came beaten and worn. Much speculation has gone forth as to his condition. Some have guessed that he contracted Malaria in the lowlands of Pamphylia, and had now fled to higher altitudes. Others surmise his problem to have been epilepsy. And of course, a common assumption has been that he had an eye disease. V. 15 says they would have torn out their eyes for Paul and given them to him. They loved him so much they would have given him their right arm, plucked out their eyes for him. I believe his condition was due to being beaten, severely persecuted, so as he says, “For I bear the marks of Jesus” (6:17). Someone else had beaten him, but they received him and subsequently the gospel with all graciousness, goodwill, and blessing.
  • And Paul reciprocated by him becoming like them. He lived like a Gentile among them. He even ate with them opposing those who would not share table with them. He set them an example of how one behaves when you are with folks who are different. The experience of having someone into your house and on your turf is quite different when you are in their house and on their turf.
  • Whatever his condition though, the point is that they were blessed at the teaching of the good news of Jesus Christ that they accepted Paul in spite of his condition, and were willing to aid him. They treated him like he was an angel from heaven. Even as they would accept Jesus (v.14).
  1. But all that changed. The blessing was gone. They no longer felt goodwill towards Paul. So Paul asked them, “What happened to your blessed way of being and the goodwill you had for me?” Missionaries had come teaching rules about circumcision, special days, and dietary laws thus robbing them of their joy. Robbing them of the blessedness of the Spirit in their lives.
  • Now in Galatians 4, Paul turns from a heavy theological argument to a personal appeal. He asks them to recall an earlier time when they were united in Christ and free because of the gospel message they heard and received. So he appeals to them, “become as I am.” His classic appeal to imitate him so that we all together can live out the cruciformed life. Paul’s pastoral ministry is to call communities to be transformed into the image of Jesus (James Thompson, Pastoral Ministry according to Paul).
  • When these Galatians first came to know the Lord, they were thrilled about life in the Spirit. But the missionaries had infiltrated their midst offering them a package deal with grace+ that returned them to slavery thus undoing his work among them. Their freedom, their joy, and perhaps worst of all their relationships were lost. And Paul grieved over that loss. And the lost blessedness of life in Christ and their goodwill towards Paul.
  • And he feared that their formation would be halted. Paul thought the birth process would have to start over again. He is troubled that Christ who was conceived in them has the potential of being aborted in them.
  • Paul longed for the process of maturation would be complete “Till Christ is formed in your midst.” Christ (who is the seed of Gal 3:16, 29) is conceived and birthed in the life and ministry of the church for the sake of the world.
  1. So how does that does that flourishing blessed life formed in us play itself out? We will wait till next week to see Christ formed in us as freedom and love. For this week, let’s look at virtues.
  • A formed person will look like the fruit of the Spirit. The virtues of living a good life.
  • Conversely, an unformed person will look like the acts of the flesh. The vices that characterized a person who does not know freedom and love (explored more next week in Galatians 5).
  • The Fruit of the Spirit flourishes from the Spirit forming Christ in us; a temperament, a disposition of goodwill and blessing, a frame of mind that comes by our keeping in step while on our journey by the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit. And then Christ will be formed in your midst.
  • I was asked by a church to be part of the Wednesday night Bible series on the Fruit of the Spirit; a hallmark list of virtues. I was assigned the virtue of “Joy.” Those folks who know me best would all chuckle thinking of me as an expert on joy. How is stone-face going to talk about joy? I did what lots of preachers do; I did not do my assignment. Instead I went to this text in Gal 4 because of the NIV translation, “What has happened to your joy.” Instead of a topical sermon on joy, I wanted to keep the individual fruit of joy in its larger context.
    • Just like we refer to “boots on the ground” to refer to the whole army, and “let’s count how many head are in the barn” to refer to the whole cattle heard, so let’s allow joy to stand for all the fruit, joy as a symbol for the whole fruit bowl.
  • The fruit of the Spirit is Joy. Be joyful. Be joyful right now. 1, 2, 3 … On Cue! On Demand! By Command! Be Spontaneous! NO! Joy cannot be summoned forth on command. Joy is not a mood that needs enhancement with St. John’s Wart; Joy is not some out-of-body experience or ecstasy; not a personality trait that comes from our genetic make up; not something that changes with the wind, weather, the situations of the day, or the humor of the company you keep.
  • Joy expressed by a new father with a newborn like when Leslie, our newborn daughter, crying was first put in my arms; friends at a picnic playing volleyball; a church at Graham’s & Leslie’s baptism. I have experienced these moments of joy, and so have you.
  • This fruit as I experience it: My relationship with Laura as my best friend; this joy in my children Leslie and Graham; this fruit in completing tasks; being alone; preaching. And as I experience this fruit, it might be more subdued—quiet. But that is thinking of this fruit as an individual experience—more or less just a way of thinking about our feelings. But I believe that the way Christ is formed in me is how the fruit of the Spirit flourishes within me as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • But also, here is the mystery, holding a hand of a dying friend. Surely the Lord is in this place too. Or when my family gathered around my father’s body just minutes after his passing early one Sunday morning this past summer and we took communion together. As Paul so often reminds us, joy comes forth in the midst of suffering and in the turmoil of persecution. Often Joy is found in the context of loss, pain, and suffering. Joy that is formed in us by the Spirit’s activity in our lives is due to the gospel of the cross. Just as Jesus for the sake of the joy set before him endured the cross (Heb 12:3).
  • This fruit transcends our context and overcomes our circumstances. This fruit is found in discovery, a glimpse into eternity; beholding the spiritual perspective; where the broken is made whole; where we live into God’s new world, a new way of being. This fruit is found along our journey where we encounter the holy, behold his glory, and meet God. Surely the Lord is in this place.
  • Paul would talk about this differently than I’ve been doing—communally. How is this fruit, these virtues, experienced or expressed by the community? The ethos of the church here: For example, your gift to world missions. Your desire to bless those outside at your own loss. It is a gift that comes from the gospel and generates goodwill here. And the blessed life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control flourishes because Christ is formed in you and expressed through you.
  • The community will organically produce virtues formed by the Spirit as long as the Spirit guides and shapes us. And the guidance of the Spirit will have a recognizable character. By the Spirit of God you have been given freedom to walk in God’s way, to keep in step with God’s character. So the Joy that we experience, we experience together as the Spirit’s fruit in our lives and in our relationships. As Christ is formed in you, blessedness flourishes.

While Paul mourns what is lost by the Galatians, let us all aspire to express the fullness of Christ formed in us.