Author’s Note: This manuscript is the sermon I preached during the 2023 SCBI Annual Summit. I’m providing here as an encouragement and challenge to those who heard it preached and those who missed it. I present it humbly as a message that has been stirring in my heart for several months as I think about the Southern Baptist Convention and the SCBI.
I want to preach a simple sermon today. It centers on this idea: partnership is predicated on walking by the Spirit.
Turn to Galatians 5 with me as we contrast of the flesh v. the Spirit. I will read verse 13 through chapter 6 verse 10.
You are called to freedom, brothers and sisters! You have freedom in Christ, but freedom in Christ does not mean you have no master. This part of Paul’s letter speaks first of the life we live individually in Christ, and then in chapter 5, verse 25, it shifts to practical application of living by the Spirit in community, or as Paul says it in Philippians 1, in partnership in the gospel.
Right from the start, v.13— freedom in Christ is not a selfish freedom; it’s a serving freedom. We are to serve one another and love another in our freedom.
You are free in Christ! You’re no longer bound to sin. You are not under the law! You can serve and love others now!
And what do we often choose to do instead? Bite, devour, and consume one another.
Bite here refers to stinging someone. You know that church member who takes the chance to stab his stinger in you over something he didn’t like.
Devour refers to eating or swallowing. You know the person who isn’t satisfied with a sting, but wants to keep going to where he starts taking you apart, to where your fullness is no longer available to those who are striving to do what is right.
Consumed literally means to take away or destroy. Not just to sting someone or even to tear someone apart, but the goal is to make that person disappear. To try and remove them.
Sadly, sometimes the best biters, devourers, and consumers are pastors and church leaders. When we act like that, we’re gratifying the desires of our flesh. Not the desires of the Spirit.
We see four ways we are to relate to the Holy Spirit in this passage:
- Walk by the Spirit (v.16)
- Be (If…) Led by the Spirit (v.18)
- Be (If…) Live by the Spirit (v.25)
- Keep in step with the Spirit (v.25)
And this passage is clear what it looks like when we don’t do that:
- sexual immorality
- and things like these
This list of sins is chaotic, disorderly, vile— it is representative of the very nature of our flesh. This shouldn’t characterize the life of a believer, and it shouldn’t be present among the family of believers.
Instead, we are to walk in the Spirit, and so exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
These should characterize your life.
These should be evident when we gather and when we cooperate in Great Commission work.
If we live by the spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Keep in step— literally means to stand or go in order, advance in rows or ranks.
We are to be advancing together! We will as we live by the Spirit. As we live by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident.
In other words, partnership is predicated on walking by the Spirit.
Let’s say it plainly— you’re not a good partner when you’re:
- sowing enmity with other believers
- pursuing strife or contention
- jealous of other believers, churches, pastors
- stirring up rivalries, getting people on your team to go against other teams, causing dissensions and divisions
- Envious of others.
Don’t become conceited, provoking or envying one another.
Instead, when the people of God live by the Spirit, we’ll be able to
- properly restore those who are caught in transgression (6:1)
- Bear one another’s burdens (6:2)
- Honor teachers of the Word (6:6)
- Persevere in doing good (6:9)
- Do good to everyone (6:10)
Why is it, then, that redeemed people who are part of the Body of Christ and should be active in the Great Commission work of Christ can act so chaotic, disorderly, and vile to one another? Because we yield to our flesh instead of the Spirit.
- My pride is too strong to where I, a pastor of a larger church, don’t want to associate with you, a pastor of 50 people.
- My intellect is superior to yours to where I won’t really listen to anything you say in this discussion; It can’t be on the same level as what I’m saying.
- My track record is longer and more accomplished than yours, so I need to be the leader in everything I participate in.
- My methods are better than yours, so I’m gonna search hard for something to be wrong with yours and I’ll criticize them heavily.
Let me remind you, the Redeemed– You are no longer bound to the flesh. You’re free in Christ. You can live by the Spirit, so why would you let your flesh dictate your perspective toward partnership?
There may be some in this room:
- Who are striving to build your kingdom at the expense of other churches or leaders. You need to repent.
- Who are perpetuating lies and stirring up division by what you post online, because everything is true there. You need to repent.
- Who are avoiding others in this room because you’re jealous and don’t want to celebrate with them. You need to repent.
- Who are deepening division because you’re holding on to bitterness from things in the past. You need to repent.
- Who are turning to forms of sexual immorality and drunkenness to distract you from the challenges of ministry. You need to repent.
There may be some in this room:
- Who need someone to pray with you because you’re struggling with a temptation. Be comforted. These are people walking by the Spirit.
- Who need someone to talk through a leadership challenge because you’ve felt stuck for too long. Be comforted. These are people walking by the Spirit.
- Who need a word of encouragement because you’re close to burning out. Be comforted. These are people walking by the Spirit.
- Who feel left out because you are part of a “normal” church. Be comforted. These are people walking by the Spirit.
- Who are discerning a calling to ministry. Be comforted. These are people walking by the Spirit.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh and now we get to keep in step with the Spirit together.
Partnership is predicated on walking by the Spirit.
Let’s keep advancing together!