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Relationships Transformed By The Gospel

Blest Be The Tie That Binds!

And what is that Tie?

Jesus and the Gospel He brings.

A gospel that can deliver us not only from the penalty of sin,

but also from the cruel power of sin.

Sin abuses, breaks, and destroys relationships that are precious to us.

The movie Beaches is a classic in women’s friendships.

Though a secular movie, it vividly portrays

the pain in the demise of a close relationship, but also,

the power of a Christ-like response to redeem that same relationship.

Watch this clip:

How we need the power of Christ in our relationships.

In the final chapter of Galatians,

Paul gets so practical in applying the power of the gospel

to our relationships,

showing us how to respond to people

in the Spirit instead of in the flesh.

He has told us the whole law is summed up in this:

And now he gives us practical ways

to love our neighbor.

All spring from “staying in step with the Spirit” so that 

the power of the gospel can be unleashed.


In the above clip from Beaches, Barbara Hershey, who plays Hillary, confesses her jealousy of her friend CC Bloom, played by Bette Midler. Jealousy destroys relationships. Think of how Saul initially was so drawn to David, but then jealousy turned him into one trying to destroy David. We too can be plagued by jealousy — and often we are most susceptible to the green monster with those who excel in an area where God has gifted us.

I remember picking up Ann VosKamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, wondering how a Christian book on gratitude could get on, and stay on, the New York Times’ Bestseller list. I’d read only a few sentences before I understood. God had gifted this woman extraordinarily! I had the true, laughable, and small thought: “I hope she’s old and ugly.” I flipped to the back to see a young and beautiful woman.

I began to preach the gospel to my depraved heart, my heart that tends to crave the praise of man more than the praise of God:

Dee, you are so loved that Christ went to the cross for you. He has also given you talents, and though they pale in comparison to this woman’s talents, they matter. All God asks of you is that you be faithful, not that you get on the New York Times Bestseller list. You can either be jealous of her or serve her, helping others discover her teachings.

God opened a little door for me to serve Ann when I saw she was being so unfairly attacked for using language from the scriptural bridegroom metaphor. She wrote that she flew to Paris and made love to God. I understood what she was saying, for I have been so captivated by the bridegroom metaphor throughout Scripture. It was bold of her to say “made love,” yet isn’t that the metaphor the Song of Songs uses? And I have had the same sense of when I am overwhelmed by His beauty and mindfulness of me. But so many did not understand and turned viciously on her, devouring her, hurting her deeply, living out what Galatians 5:15 says about how we in our flesh devour our brothers and sisters. A mutual friend told me Ann was most grieved, not over her loss of reputation, but wondering if she had indeed grieved God. I defended her in my blog and someone showed it to her. She then wrote me the most beautiful letter of thanks and a little friendship began. Then, a few years ago, my friend Christy sent me this. So like Ann — so full of gospel love.

When we bite and devour, it is we ourselves, others, and the testimony of Christianity that is destroyed. But when we stay in step with the Spirit, loving and serving, beauty is infused into our lives and the lives of others, and joy follows!


1. What do you learn about jealousy from the above that might be helpful to you?

2. Of whom do you tend to be jealous? How could you preach the gospel to yourself about this?

3. Has “staying in step with the Spirit” helped you redeem a relationship? If so, share briefly about it.


Monday: Serve People Instead of Eating People


The Lord opened my eyes to a sinful way that I have approached new people, looking at them through the question, “How will they be useful to me?” Keller says “The world eats people, the Christian serves people.” Staying in step with the Spirit means serving, not eating. Our own Chris put it well last week:

I think in our flesh we look at other people as ways to fill up ourselves, when self interest rules my heart I will use people or step over them to get what I think I need. This is a dangerous way to live.

4. When we look at people as ways to fill us up, what will be the result according to Galatians 5:15?



5. How might you apply this gospel principle to a relationship in your life?

Tuesday: See People Through Your Father’s Eyes

“Staying in step with the Spirit” means seeing people as Jesus does. We need His Spirit to see people like He did — as individuals with different kinds of brokenness and needs. Though Martha and Mary each said the same thing to Him, (“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”) Jesus responded so differently to each for He could see their hearts and their needs. So often we get really angry with people who are broken, but if we knew what God knew, we’d respond with compassion, knowing that hurt people hurt people.

The most natural response in the world when people hurt you is to either hurt them back or withdraw.  Philip Yancey says that grace is amazing because it’s not natural, it’s supernatural. Again, we need to be filled with His Spirit, rather than quenching His Spirit through the flesh.

When I was in Georgia last week, one woman gave a testimony of how she would cut herself. She did it to keep people away for she has been so hurt by people. So often when people hurt us it is because they are wounded themselves, and are putting up a wall, a wall only the love of Christ can melt. I saw my husband Steve restore our very wounded daughter Beth when we adopted her from Thailand at the age of 12. She rejected us whenever we reached out to her, for she had built a wall. I got weary of being rejected, and, in part, withdrew. Steve pressed on, seeing Beth through God’s eyes, and the wall melted.

6. Think about someone difficult in your life who has brought you pain. How might they be broken? How might Jesus see them and restore them?

We know that insofar as it lies within us, we are to be at peace with all men. It isn’t always possible, but it is so pleasing to God when we humble ourselves and give it our very best. It is rare for the one who has inflicted the most hurt to initiate reconciliation, so it is left to the one who is “spiritual,” “in step with the Spirit,” to not cling to her rights, but to humble herself, admitting her share of the blame, and not accusing.

First, we truly must forgive from the heart — and that is painful, for someone must pay the price for forgiveness to happen, as Christ did for us. Then, if it seems wise and could be effective, go to the person, preferably in person, confessing any wrong, affirming where you can, and asking caring questions to try to understand their hurt, seeing them as Jesus does. This is truly the gospel in action.


7. Is there a time you have done this, or is the Lord leading you to do this? If so, share.


Wednesday: Gently Restoring A Brother Caught in a Sin

The Keller sermon this week is not free, but I hope you will listen. One of the gems he shares is that this passage is talking about confronting “brothers” gently. Confronting unbelievers about their behavior often backfires for what needs to be changed is their hearts, their blindness. It is better to look for opportunities to introduce them to Christ and HIs gospel, rather than challenging their opinions or behavior on what God considers sin. I don’t think Keller means we can’t have caring and listening discussions when an unbeliever initiates a discussion about homosexuality, abortion, or whatever, but that there is not much hope for a change in attitude until the blinders are removed, and that indeed, arguments lead to walls being built, and less chance of them responding to the gospel.

8. Read Galatians 6:1

A. Whom is he addressing (first word), and why is this important to note?

B. What do you think it means to be “caught in a sin?”

C. Give an example of another restoring you gently, or you restoring another gently.

D. What warning follows? Why, do you think?

Keller believes this is not when you have been offended by someone, but rather, when you see a brother caught in a sin — and you should pray, asking God if it would be effective, and how to do it gently. I always remember how Jan Silvious gently restored me when I was complaining about my administrative assistants quitting. All she said was “Dee, this seems to be a pattern in your life.”

Thursday: Carry Each Others Burdens

I’m not sure why it divides the pain when someone grieves with me instead of preaches to me when the sky falls, but it does. Indeed, it truly feels like they have gotten next to me and lifted some of the burden. Watch this following clip and comment:

9. What stands out to you from the above?

10. Read Galatians 6:2

      A. What command is given and what do you think this means?

      B. How have people helped you to carry a burden

If Galatians 6:2 is actually a continuation of Galatians 6:1, and I am thinking it is, which is a lightbulb for me, for usually Galatians 6:2 is taken as a solitary verse. But it may be the burden referred to here is the burden of sin, and how it enslaves us. Strong’s Concordance supports this translating: ‘bear one another’s faults’). I think of the volunteers in the prison ministry who are helping women break the cycle of addiction — that’s work, but they are “bearing their burden of enslaving sins” to help them get set free.

A young woman I’ve been mentoring whom I’ll call Ellie provides a living example of helping someone get set free, of taking on a job she didn’t need to take on, but doing it out of obedience to Galatians 6:1-2.

Ellie was aware of hostility toward her from a woman in her church I’ll call Jo. She knew that several other women in her church also felt that hostility. So Ellie went to Jo in hopes of understanding what was going on and helping her. Ellie listened carefully, affirmed her where she could, and drew out the deep waters of her soul with questions. She discovered that Jo had been severely hurt by another woman in the church, and now was erroneously projecting that woman’s feelings to Ellie and some other women. Ellie told me, “It made me realize how easy it is in our brokenness to make wrong assumptions. I do it too. And I think some light came for her. I’m glad I went.” Ellie didn’t have to go, but she stayed in step with the Spirit by going, loving, listening, and helping Jo get set free.

This is living out Galatians 6:1-2. These two women are now at peace, and this is rippling out to that church body, and is such a good stomach punch to Satan.

11. If Galatians 6:1-2 are meant to be a unit, what do you learn from this?



Friday: Optional Keller Sermon

12. Read Galatians 6 in its entirety and share anything that stands out to you and why.

There is much more we could cover in Galatians 6, but I’ve run out of time, as Lent begins next week! I have loved going through this with you. I do think this sermon is wonderful, but it is not free, so it is optional. If you listen, share your notes and thoughts. (I’m having trouble giving the link so please copy and paste the following.)


(When you go on the Gospel in Life site, you’ll see an opportunity to listen to a live stream of Keller during Lent. I’m doing it — and will make it an optional exercise during our Lenten study.)

13. Share your notes and comments.


14. What is your take-a-way and why?




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  1. It’s been a while since I have posted here. I have been a silent participant in this wonderful study of Galatians.  Thank you, Dee for sharing so transparently and for your wisdom.  Thank you everyone for sharing your hearts and your lives.

  2. Thank you so much for all the wisdom and the sharing of personal experiences here. This week especially has wore on me with 9 snow days at school and efforts to catch up with students. We have not had a full week of school since December, very few of my students have stuck it out and came to school whenever in session. The atmosphere has been of complaints and weariness. Despite my best efforts, I am starting to feel the drain as well. Just following quietly and soaking up the goodness of lessons being learned.

    Prayer request: For energy (hah) especially for this coming week- I will be flying to Seattle on the 7th to be with our daughter, Ruth. I pray for a meaningful time and an opportunity for some deep conversations. I need energy and wisdom and courage. And for Richard while he holds the home front. Thank you, ladies.

    1. Bing, so crazy about your snow this year! Oddly enough we have not even had 1 snow day yet. So unusual for New England…I completely understand how frustrated you must be; all that choppiness to the schedule. I will pray for you and your students, as well as your trip, daughter time, and Richard. Love you sister! 😘

      1. Thank you, Laura. I know you would understand my predicament at school. Love you, too!

      1. Thank you, Dee. This is a significant visit and I am praying I will stay in step with the Spirit.

    2. Bing, prayers for safe travel and for your time with Ruth!

      1. Thank you, Susan. I have been very tired lately and need extra grace to travel and to be able to spend quality time with Ruth.

  3. 6. Think about someone difficult in your life who has brought you pain. How might they be broken? How might Jesus see them and restore them?

    The person I am thinking of might be broken because of her own shattered dreams for her life and from suffering a huge loss. I know how Jesus sees her; He loves her. I think of the verse, “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”

    7. Is there a time you have done this, or is the Lord leading you to this? If so, share.

    Yes, I believe He wants me to truly forgive the above mentioned person from the heart. I was listening to a podcast this week about the book, Seven Last Words, by Father James Martin, and he quoted St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, “Even if you don’t have the desire to forgive, if you have the desire for the desire, that’s enough – God can work with that.”  The emphasis is on the “desire for the desire”, meaning there is an openness to conversion. I found this helpful. I have a very, very long history with this person. But I keep feeling that little pricking of my conscience to forgive, to reach out. A very real barrier is that I don’t trust this person, and for good reason. Often, just being in her presence brings feelings of dislike and distrust. But I did have a conversation with her this week in which I didn’t feel those feelings, and I felt it was a small victory.

  4. 8. Read Galatians 6:1

    A. Whom is he addressing (first word), and why is this important to note?

    “Brothers” – Paul is addressing fellow believers. Paul’s admonition and warning would make no sense to an unbeliever, asking them to do what they are not capable of doing.

    B. What do you think it means to be “caught in a sin”?

    The person is enslaved, in bondage, to a particular sin. It is impossible for them to free themselves; they need rescue from above, and they need their fellow brothers and sisters to come alongside of them.

    C. Give an example of another restoring you gently, or you restoring another gently.

    Many years ago, I was complaining to a mature fellow believer about my M-I-L. She listened, but then switched the subject to where might my M-I-L be spiritually? She redirected me to what was more important – the relationship.

    D. What warning follows? Why, do you think?

    Paul warns us to watch ourselves lest we be tempted. Moving in close to someone caught in a sin can be dangerous; we don’t want to get pulled into it ourselves or soften our convictions.


  5. 9. What stands out to you from the above?

    That we don’t need to have the “right response” or words to say to somehow “make it all better”. And to not begin with “At least….” A response doesn’t make things better; connection makes things better.

    10. Read Galatians 6:2

    A. What command is given and what do you think this means?

    We are to carry each other’s burdens, in this way, we fulfill the law of Christ. I think the law of Christ is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I notice it doesn’t say to “solve” each other’s burdens. That’s often what I want to do. I want to come up with a solution, and the quicker, the better. But to carry a burden means to let them know, “You are not alone. I am here with you and I’m not going anywhere. Your sadness, depression, illness, or whatever, is not going to scare me away. It is safe for you to express your real feelings to me. I will not withdraw my love from you.”

    B. How have people helped you to carry a burden?

    What I want and need the most when I am troubled is for someone to just be with me and to listen. I understand that they can’t solve my problem, but just to know that they care enough to “be with” means everything.

    11. If Galatians 6:1-2 are meant to be a unit, what do you learn from this?

    Ha….I feel like these were trick questions! After watching the little clip on empathy, I believed that’s what 6:2 was talking about.  I’m not sure what it means or what it would look like practically to carry each other’s sin burdens. Dee gives us two examples here. From these, I see that it means moving towards and not withdrawing from the one caught in sin. Maybe Paul’s warning though reminds us that it’s possible to get in over our heads. I may not be equipped to deal with certain kinds of sin problems.


  6. 12. Read Galatians 6 in its entirety and share anything that stands out to you and why.

    First, verse 9, which tells me to not become weary in doing good. Paul reminds me that this life is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t quit, don’t give up. In verse 15 he says that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” It’s a reminder to let go of that active righteousness and rely wholly on what Christ has done for me.

  7. Read Galatians 6 and share anything that stands out to you and why. Verse 2 says we are to bear one another’s burdens…my footnote reads that burdens  here refers to an excessive load. Verse 5 says we are to each one bear his own load which it says is the normal amount each would carry for oneself. I think this is an important concept for us to grasp to avoid becoming an enabler…or carrying too much of someone else’s load. We are to be mature and discerning when restoring a brother caught in sin…one who was caught off-guard. But we are not to take on the responsibility for another’s actions. I can assess my own responsibility for an issue between myself and another but I am not to take on the responsibility for their part.

    I did listen to Tim Keller’s sermon and found it helpful in understanding the verse in Gal. 5:15 about biting and devouring one another. That was imagery that I had a hard time grasping. In his sermon, Keller says that the Christian definition of love is serving while the world and its evil forces define love as hunger. I have seen those who are power hungry…and if I am honest, have been power hungry, in the sense that I am hungry for glory, hungry to be noticed, hungry for approval. The world tells me that the only way to get that hunger satisfied is to eat those weaker than myself in order to become stronger and advance. Christ tells me that the only way to get my hunger satisfied is to empty myself in service, to enter into that sacred space of empathy and feel someone else’s pain…to lean in or move toward those who are the most needy. Keller described glory as being weighty…and sin as robbing us of our God ordained glory by making us weightless…or less real, and more ephemeral. God made us for relationship and for glory. We can only be restored to our glory when we, like Christ, empty ourselves of ourselves, and allow God to fill us with Himself so that we are indeed weighty with His glory as we in love lift up our needy and fallen brethren.

  8. I have not been able to finish the sermon yet (hoping to in a bit!) but this already stood out to me on the importance of relationships:

    The first thing in the history of the universe that is not good is a person without a relationship. The reason this is not good is because we are made in the image of God. Every other religion gives an impersonal god. Our God is relational, triune, and relational, filled with love. **We cannot truly know ourselves until we are in relationship, because we are made in His image. We don’t see ourselves until we see ourselves reflected. We need relationships but then sin and shame entered, and now we run from one another. Relationships bring pain and disappointment, but we need them, because we are made in the image of a relational God.