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HUNGER FOR GOD 9a May 20- Unity

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Spiritual Passion and Unity

May 12, 2002

One of the greatest speeches made in Washington DC, during the 20th century, was not made by a president, but instead by a King.  On August 28, 1963, on the mall in Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood before the throngs that were gathered and delivered one of the most heart-rending, culturally challenging speeches of that era.

The “I have a dream” speech, was one man’s rendition of what he hoped he would see, that is the walls of racism, injustice, and segregation torn down, a nation in which people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Why has it taken so long for us to even approach Dr. King’s dream?  Why is it so difficult, not only in the world, but even more so in the church?  Why is it that alcoholics can get drunk across racial lines and athletes work on the same team, but then on Sunday everybody goes their own way.  What is the root that has produced the fruit of our inability to address this situation?

I would contend this morning, that the racial, cultural, and class problems that continues to plague the Church are due to the fact that Calvary has been diminished. In other words, we have lost touch with the deep and abiding meaning of Amazing Grace.  That’s a keyword today: Grace.  We just really do not understand what happened on Calvary when our Savior was lifted up, His Blood was poured out, and His life was given for the sins of the world.  In other words, we do not understand peace.  We do not understand, nor have we embraced,  what the Scriptures call “the peace that passes all understanding.”  Peace – that’s another keyword today.  Peace – that is, the eradication of all previously held hostilities.

And I will flat out tell you my sisters and brothers the absence of peace, or to put it another way, the absence of unity (our final keyword) along racial, social, and theological lines with fellow believers in Christ, is stifling our hunger for God.  God will not pour His passion into a person who is not at peace with His body of believers.  Where do I get this?

Well, Jesus prayed a prayer just prior to His Crucifixion in JOHN 17, and He said these words: V21.

Jesus as He prays this prayer, prior to His death, asks that His followers would no longer be divided by the “evil one,” but instead would be one.  (i.e. – in unity.)  But unity is NOT uniformityUnity is uniqueness moving toward a common goal.  Jesus called for unity, but unity is NOT everything being the same: for the Father is not the Son, and the Son is NOT the Spirit, and the Spirit is NOT the Father, yet they dwell in perfect unity with the same essence.  Jesus said in His prayer, “that they might be like Us.”  That is one in purpose and nature, yet distinct in personhood – that’s the Trinity.

And so Jesus prayed that upon His departure, God would bring about unity, in history, through the Church for a purpose, and that is this – that the world may know that Jesus was indeed the “Real Deal,” the One and only Messiah of God.

In other words, Jesus makes the validity of the Church and Her message about the Christ before the world, contingent upon Her unity.  IOWs,  a lack of harmony in the church discredits the validity of Jesus as the Christ.  If that is not true then Jesus would not have needed to pray this prayer, and the fact that He needed to pray this prayer says it is not automatic.

In fact, so significant was this prayer, that God has made Jesus’ prayer for oneness, a criteria, even for our relationship with Him. That is to say, that God has decided that His Son’s prayer is so critical to the carrying out of His plan in history, that He says to every believer and every collection of believers, that if reflecting the oneness of God in His one body the Church is not a priority in our life and ministry, He will not have fellowship with us.

Have I over reached here?  Well let’s look at it in 1 John 4: vv. 20-21.  In other words, this is a “both-and,” not an “either-or.”  He goes on: 5:1  So, let me say it again – God has made our fellowship and intimacy with Him, contingent on our relationship with other believers.  Therefore, we are not to make judgments about other believers based on the false criteria of place, race, or face.

PLACE—That is their station in life, IOWs they don’t live in the same neighborhood, they don’t make the same amount of money, they don’t have the same standard of living, or race – the color of their skin or their ethnicity.  Or face – that is, they don’t have the same personality or taste.

There’s a lot of talk about revival today, so as Dr. Tony Evans was being interviewed about the book upon which this message is based today, he was asked if he thought revival was close at hand and Dr. Evans said “No, I don’t.”  Shocked at his response, they asked him why he felt that way, and he answered simply, “There’s too much division in the Body. You cannot have a revival where Christ’s body is divided.”

So critical is this issue that Paul warns us in Romans 16:17-18.   Paul says if you have folk who are splitting up the body, you keep your eye on them, don’t let them out of your sight, and take whatever measures are necessary.  Why – because God has lifted up the unity of the church as a critically important issue.  Okay, but how do we achieve it?

Well, go to Ephesians 2, pls which will frame the rest of this message, and give us the basis and the means of unity, and that is grace: VV 5b, 7,  8.

It’s a great passage, and remember grace is getting something you don’t deserve.  Don’t forget that, it’s a critical understanding for this message.  Grace is getting something, you do not deserve.  This definition is critical because once we forget about grace, we begin to think more of ourselves than we ought to think.  You see, when we focus on what everybody else has done wrong, we tend to forget that we’re one of the “everybody else’s.”

So having discussed grace in the first 10 verses of Ephesians 2, it’s interesting that in the rest of the chapter, verses 11 to 22, Paul talks about race.  You see, Paul had a social problem on his hands.  Jews and Gentiles who were being saved, were now sitting in the same church. And as they did, the Jewish Christians were coming to Church with their history, background, culture, and traditions, but the Gentile Christians were also coming to church with their history, background, culture, and traditions, the problem was, they were totally opposite.

But they not only came with their different backgrounds, they came with name calling: V 11a You see, the Jews called the Gentiles “uncircumcised dogs,” so they were both coming in from a world where they called people names.  You see, the Bible was not written in a vacuum.  We’re not dealing with theory here, Paul had a problem on his hands.

But in addressing the problem, Paul starts out with grace, we want to start out with race.  Paul says no, let me spend some time reminding you who you were when you found grace.  Then and only then can we talk about race.

Then Paul introduces a word that is the theme of the section, one of our keywords – PEACE:   VV 14a, 15b, 17

What Paul says in this passage is that because of peace, the issue of unity has already been solved, it has already been addressed.  Now how do I know this?  Because in John 17, Jesus, knowing He was going to the Cross, as the Prince of Peace in order to make peace between the Father and us, prayed that we would be united as believers.  And the Father always grants to the Son what He has asked for.  And so Paul writes: VV 13-14a.

IOWs, mortal enemies have been reconciled:  it’s a done deal Jew – Gentile; Black – White; Red-Yellow; once a person comes to faith in Christ Jesus, they come into a realm known as peace.

Now this may not sound like much to you, but it has staggering repercussions.  It has staggering repercussions because if you’re trying to make unity happen, you are looking in the wrong direction.  That’s why Paul says… in Ephesians 4:3….  Notice he said preserve it, why – because it has already been established

IOWs we cannot make unity happen, in fact, unity meetings are a waste of time.  Reconciliation services reconcile no one.  If they did, it would mean our efforts are greater than the cross.  You see, if the cross can’t do it, what makes you and I, in our feeble humanity, think we can do it. We spend too much time trying to solve a problem Calvary has already addressed: V 14.

When Christ died on the cross, the Bible says, “The veil in the temple was rent.” (That is, torn in two).  In other words, the artificial walls that had kept Jews and Gentiles separated for centuries, was now irreparably destroyed, and it was done so by the death of Christ.  In other words, to contemporize it for us, the blood of Jesus Christ has removed the Mason-Dixon Line.

So what does this mean?  This means that nobody, based on race, or color, or class, or denomination or any of the other artificial barriers we erect, has any spiritual advantage over anybody else.  That’s why Paul says in Galatians 3:27-28.

Paul keeps driving us back to the cross.  He keeps driving us back to the person of Jesus.  But notice, Paul still continues to use the descriptive words, Jews and Gentiles, why – because it was never expected that Jews would become Gentiles or that Gentiles would become Jews, he just wanted them to understand there was now something bigger than being white, something bigger than being black, something bigger than being Hispanic, something bigger than being Asian and that was their commonality in Christ.

The marvel of the American experiment, flawed as it is – is that people from around the world are invited to set up shop here, and it has continued to happen.  But even so in the cities you can still find ethnic expressions of that diversity.  In other words, there might be a China town, or a little Italy, or you name it, sections where people still represent the uniqueness of their culture… in their dress, in their food, whatever, but even as they express the uniqueness of their culture, they’re all a part of something bigger.  So you might be an Asian-American, or an African-American, or a Hispanic-American, or an Irish-American, but all that means is there is a recognition of your distinctiveness, but also the common recognition that you are part of something bigger; that you are connected to something national, under which your uniqueness must come or submit.

That’s why it’s wrong to try to make somebody else… what you are. Because if we do that, it eradicates their uniqueness which is a necessary ingredient for unity.  Unity assumes uniqueness, not Uniformity.  But here’s what it does mean: 2 Corinthians 5:16 – that is we do not make judgments based on illegitimate criteria.

You see, when you come through the door of the family of Christ, your significance is at the cross. IOWs, there is no difference before God between someone working on their PhD and someone working on their GED.

It means as James 2 says, why do you discriminate against the poor man?

Because he can’t dress like you – that is sin, James says: James 2:5-7

Yet, right here in Great Bridge, we have wealthy churches and poor churches, and politically connected churches, all so that we can go to a church where everybody makes what we make or drive what we drive, IOT be around people who make us comfortable, who are in our station of life and therefore will not challenge any of our assumptions.

Now people can go anywhere they want to go to church, that’s not the challenge here, the challenge that Paul and James and John and ultimately the Holy Spirit are making, is we must guard our attitudes and make absolutely sure that when someone walks through that door they are welcomed whether they are rich or poor, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, rings in their ears, or rings in their nose, all because of what the cross has already done for us. IOWs, because we have already experienced amazing grace. In fact, Paul calls this new entity in verse 15– the “One New Man.”  V 15a.  It’s not abolished because we have a unity meeting, it’s abolished in Jesus’ flesh, it’s abolished in the Cross, because on the Cross what the death of Christ accomplished was spiritual unity, that must now be fleshed out in functional unity. But it was first abolished in His flesh: V 15

It’s hard making two into one.  Those of you who are married understand that.  It’s hard.  It’s interesting at the end of a wedding, the couple turn and face the people and I say they are no longer two but one, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome the new Mr. and Mrs. Flysucker.  Well la-de-da-da, as if saying it makes it so. She is already having second thoughts about taking on the name Flysucker – know what I mean?

Now, there was power in that statement, because as of that moment, everything changed.  It changed them legally, how the counts will see them, how the IRS will see them.  It changed them socially, they can no longer walk into a social setting with single status.  It changed everything.  But what all of us understand, is that what is pronounced spiritually and legally isn’t always the same as how things work out functionally.

So when couples run into problems, they want to segregate, called divorce, they want to segregate because what was pronounced spiritually and legally is not working out functionally.  But what they don’t understand, is that the cross has made them, not only spiritually one, but has also provided the means—through access to the One Spirit—to work it out functionally. So you don’t divorce just because it’s hard to work out functionally what was done legally.  But that’s what we’ve done, not only personally, but also in our churches.

You see if you don’t see yourself as belonging to this NEW RACE, this “one new man”, then you will follow the world’s lead and the world’s example… which has been followed for far too long by the church. So if it’s white it doesn’t mean it’s automatically right, it must be evaluated.  If it’s black it still must be evaluated. In fact, everything must be evaluated by the criterion of Calvary. But oil and water don’t mix, we say.

That’s true, partially, I mean you put oil and water together and shake it, it will appear together but only for a while.  So we say oil and water don’t mix, black and white don’t mix; rich and poor don’t mix – that’s the lie that drives the church today, that drives even the church growth movement today.  You want to grow? Then get cultural homogenizied people together, which is just a code word for segregation—racially and economically.

So we cry out, oil and water don’t mix, even if you do force them together, eventually they fall apart because oil and water don’t’ mix!  They are too distinct. Well, there is one exception; it’s called an emulsifier.

You see, the emulsifier takes 2 incompatible substances and puts them together.  Mayonnaise is oil and water and yet it stays together.  Why? Because within mayo is an emulsifying agent called the egg.  What the egg does is grab hold of the oil and grab hold of the water and bring them together so tightly that you and I can now have a ham sandwich that tastes good!

Yes, in the world blacks and whites don’t mix; yes in the world rich and poor don’t’ mix.  But we have an Emulsifier!  “The blood of Jesus Christ is God’s emulsifier, and therefore He can take that which does not mix and put them together!

We are given a beautiful portrait of this in Scripture, it’s where I want to conclude:  Revelation 5.  Revelation was written by John who was granted a view of heaven before he was taken there for eternity and here’s the Portrait: Revelation 5:9-10a

Now I sure hope you caught the implication of that.  John is shown heaven and as he looks he sees people of every tribe and tongue and nation. So if you’re white here, you’ll be white in heaven, if you’re black here, you’re going to be black in Heaven.  If you’re Hispanic… If you’re Asian…

Now how in the world could all these people be getting along?  Because they were all purchased with the Blood of the Lamb!

So when God came and chose you…and you…and you, and me… to be representatives of our people group… what you may not understand is, it didn’t have to be you.  That’s why it is amazing grace, it did not have to be you.  It could have been someone else, but when we lose sight of Grace, and think we are more than we are – that is that God choose me because I was worthy – than I no longer understand grace.

But not only have we been purchased but:  v 10  Now why, why did God do that?  Well read on:  vv 11-14  Why all this diversity?  Because God likes to hear worship in every imaginable form

You see, what God is asking for and what God will have in heaven, is diverse cultures expressing themselves in diverse ways with a singular focus on the One purchaser.  So, there will be those who worship liturgically, those who worship, celebratively, those who worship quietly, all singing at the same time, to the same God, who puts up the same price, for all to be there.

But that’s heaven not earth.  Oh really…

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

What this means is, if you remember grace, you will be able to deal with people you don’t like a whole lot easier.  Because grace means you got where you are without any merit of your own.  Grace means you don’t keep a record of wrongs, because God erased yours.  Grace means you don’t think of yourself as better just because you were born a certain way, or with certain advantages, because you are what you are by the grace of God.

It is significant that Amazing Grace was written by a slave trader…that it was written by a putrid man who went to west Africa and forcibly took men and women and children from their homes and families, who raped the women he captured, it is appropriate that the greatest song in the history of Christianity was written by a vile man, because that means if God can save him, then God desires to save us all, it means heaven will be filled with diverse cultures, and it means if you reject anyone based on illegitimate criteria, you have rejected God.

And indeed our hunger for God is measured by how willing we are not only to receive Grace, but to give it to somebody else.

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