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.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
How are we to respond ⇒ when we find out a fellow believer has fallen into sin???
- Maybe they are a close personal friend…
- an active member of the congregation.
- Maybe they are in leadership, long admired as a model of the Christian life, but that respected image was shattered through a lapse in judgment.
What are we supposed to do?
Sadly, by not knowing what to do we often wind up making matters WORSE. As someone accurately observed, Christians have the uncanny ability of ‘killing their own wounded.’
We hear of a failure, and it almost seems like we’d rather gossip about it than restore them. And because of our reaction to the weaknesses of others, not only do we bring greater injury to the already broken, we foster a spirit of hypocrisy in our people by convincing them it is better to hide their sins than come clean.
No matter how long we have been in this thing or how many stories we have heard, it is difficult to know WHAT to do. Any interactions are AT BEST - awkward - and AT WORST avoided altogether. When compelled to pray we don’t know enough about the circumstances to pray intelligently. We just hope that time will either bring healing, or help us forget.
While we KNOW we shouldn’t be the first ones to bury them, we also don’t want to send the unintended message that we condone their behavior.
So, what ARE we supposed to do?
Paul offers insight in our text. There are three valuable lessons in this passage:
1. First, Paul shows us How Christians can STUMBLE. Though we are victorious in many ways, we still struggle with temptation and sin. Believing in Jesus does not insulate us from poor judgment or shield us from being deceived. Christians CAN stumble.
Notice verse 1, “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.”
If you have ever wondered, “Am I the only one who struggles with sin?!?” let me put that question to rest… ALL of us struggle with temptation and sin. I know we like to project an image that “We are above making mistakes,” but trust me when I say this ⇒ it is a struggle for ALL of us.
Paul makes an interesting point when he says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression....” The key word is “caught.” It is the idea of being surprised or caught off guard, being ensnared. Kind of like a hungry animal being lured into a baited trap. It’s not that the Christian has made it his habit to sin OR went LOOKING for it… but in a moment of unpreparedness sin ensnared him.
There will be times in all of our lives when we are lured into sin regardless how strong we think we are. In our pride we foolishly act as if we are above such actions. But Satan is very patient… he will set you up for a long time… like luring a bird into a trap with breadcrumbs…
He will tell us that ‘things will be different for us.’
He will tell us that “we deserve a little happiness” and that happiness is BETTER THAN holiness
He will tell us we can control or minimize the damage if we do this thing or that we can keep it hidden.
And before we know it, ⇒ we are trapped.
It’s - a - reality. That’s why Paul says...
“You who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” We might not LIKE getting involved in another’s mess… we MIGHT be DISAPPOINTED that they would throw their testimony away over something, so, so temporary. But the responsibility of restoration rests squarely on the shoulders of those who ‘are spiritual.’
It’s not your job to be a private investigator, prying into the private lives of others to see if you can dig up some hidden scandal.
It's not your job to be their prosecutor or judge either. NO, when a fellow soldier falls on the battlefield, those who are spiritual REFUSE to leave them behind.
The word “restore” was a medical term describing how doctors would reset a broken bone. When someone has a broken bone, a doctor must put it back in place so the injury can heal. That bone will never be exactly the same as before, but the only chance it has of regaining ANY usefulness is for it to be “restored.”
And the same can be said of the Christian, that, in a moment of weakness, allowed himself to be duped by the devil. Those who have fallen into sin have almost ZERO CHANCE of being healed ⇒ without our help.
It is only natural for us to be disappointed when a Christian falls. After all, sin brings shame – not just to the one who has committed it – but to those who love them. The RIGHT THING to do, the Spiritual thing - is to restore them.
And he even tells us to have the right attitude as we do it - to be gracious - humble – not judgmental or rude.
And he tells us WHY when he says, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
The words “Keep watch on yourself” come from a single word used only 6 times in the NT. It is the Greek word “sko-PE-o.” This word gives us the English word “scope.” Like tele-scope or micro-scope or the scope of a rifle.
Those of us who have looked through a “scope” know that it is designed to enlarge objects that might be small or far away. It brings the thing into view. It helps us see with clarity those things that are unrecognizable to the naked eye.
Paul is telling us to put ourselves under the scope.
We need to remind ourselves that WE TOO have weaknesses that can lead to sin. We should remember that all of us are human and can be deceived. By putting ourselves under the microscope, we can see when we have allowed some things to come into our lives that ought not be there.
But beyond that, I must remember to show grace because there may come a time when I need that same grace. I should ask myself, “What if I was in their shoes?” “How would I hope to be treated if I or one of my kids had sinned?”
So Paul reminds us How Christians can STUMBLE.
2. Secondly, he tells us How Christians can STAND. Notice vv. 2, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
I am so thankful for my church family - that I have a support system in place when my world falls apart! I can face calamities of all kinds when I have people like you standing WITH me.
The name “Donna Rice” may not ring a bell with the younger crowd, but in 1987, her name was on the lips of every newscaster in the country. She was the woman accused of ruining the presidential hopes of THEN Colorado Senator Gary Hart. Their affair was captured by paparazzi and plastered on every news channel and paper in the country.
A little known fact??? At the time of her adulterous tryst, Donna Rice was a backslidden Christian.
When she was a teen, her life revolved around the Lord, the Church, and her youth group. But when she went away to college, she began to neglect her relationship with God. And like so many, it wasn’t long before Donna was FAR from the Lord.
That’s when she met Gary Hart ⇒ and her life fell apart.
Harassed by the press, she had to quit her job. She couldn’t escape the drama… everywhere she turned, reporters dogged her every step. She didn’t know what to do to put her life back together.
Her mother told her, “Before you do anything, Donna, get your heart right with God.” Then she gave her a recording from a former youth-group friend with THIS message:
“Donna, I imagine you are suffering a great deal of shame right now. I just want you to know that God still loves you, and so do I.”
Then her friend sang some of the songs they use to sing together in youth group – and Donna fell to the floor… sobbing. Broken before the Lord, she asked God to forgive her for what she had done – the shame she had brought her church, her family – the lives she had ruined with her sin – and then she THANKED God for sending her a friend who cared enough to reach out to her and help her get back up.
We need each other!
When you were saved, a glorious thing happened – EVERYTHING became NEW. All that was old… the guilt, the shame of sin, was WASHED away. You were SO NEW, in fact, that the Bible likens you to a “newborn baby.” And because God loves you and wants you to grow in a safe, healthy environment, He places you in a family that will teach you, pray for you, and support your development.
We NEED each other!
Late in life, Solomon opined,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
The devil knows this - so he will convince us that we don’t NEED a church. He will deceive us to believe we can be healthy Christians without the support of a church family. Satan knows that there is strength and accountability in the family of God, so he works to isolate us from each other, so that when hard times come, we will fall away.
According to Paul, one of the important functions of the church is that we, “Bear one another's burdens...”
We are called of God to help each other. It is our Christian obligation. We are to provide the accountability and support they need that will help them be restored. WITHOUT that support, the person who has fallen into sin may not have the strength to overcome it. We need people who aren’t afraid to get involved in our controversies.
In our impersonal world, no one wants to to get involved in the lives of others. But God expects more of His Church. He would have us pray for and support those who are struggling. Friends who call and encourage and offer help to each other.
Those who stumble can stand, when we are mindful of our need for the family of God and understand the difference between HUMILITY and HUMILIATION.
3. And then finally, not only does Paul show us how Christians can stumble and how Christians can stand, third he shows us how Christians can SERVE in vv. 4 and 5, “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”
Paul has just told us how we are to demonstrate the love of Jesus to those who have fallen into sin. He commanded us to “bear their burdens.” But NOW he is telling us to bear our OWN burdens?? What does that mean???
OUR BURDEN is the realization that all of us, whether we have fallen are not, will one day stand before the Lord to give an account of the things we have done in this life. On that day, we won’t be able to hide behind the shortcomings of others or blame others for our failures. God isn’t going to compare us with each other to see if one is better than the other.
No, each one of us will stand before the Lord to give an account of the things we have done OR not done in this life. It is our job to be faithful and serve the Lord in the local church, regardless what others do.
This is our burden. THIS is how we serve.
We would be a lot better off if we would quit measuring ourselves by the deficiencies of others. Those comparisons might make us feel good NOW, but they won’t be any help to us on the day of judgment.
On THAT day, I won’t have you to hide behind. I am going to answer for ME. YOU are going to answer for YOU.
THAT is our burden.
One of these days, I am going to look into the face of the Judge of heaven and earth, and I will have to answer to HIM.
When a fellow Christian falls into sin, I may not answer for his sin… but I WILL answer for MINE - including - how I treated him.
I am to be compassionate and redemptive. I am called of God to help them – and talking about them or putting them down or acting like I don’t know them or as if I’m better than them isn’t productive.
Maybe YOU know what it is to have suffered failure. Like Donna Rice, you drifted, your love for God and others gave way to love for self…and NOW you are in a mess. Satan has convinced you that others are judging you, that you are alone and no one cares. But that is a lie. I care. And I want to help you be restored, so you can heal, so you can be whole and useful again – you don’t have to stay in that pit, broken and useless. Will you come pray about it?
maybe you are here and you know someone who has fallen and you haven’t known WHAT to do. But today, God has spoken to YOUR heart about helping those who have fallen be restored? Maybe you want to come pray for them?
Whatever your need this morning, we invite you to take it to the Lord right now…