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A Unifying Presence

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Our world is full of conflict.

We see this in almost every area of life: relational, political, geographical, and even spiritual.

Our world is more polarized.

Here is what I mean: there is very little room for middle ground. We have become an either/or society.

We have a choice!

We are never powerless. Yes people, our world, leaders, family members may greatly influence to the point it does not feel like we have a choice but we do.

We become like the world.

This is where we look no different. We use the same power systems and struggles. We say we believe in Jesus but we do not act like we do. Faith is just an intellectual personal decision.

We can retreat from the world.

This is where we close ourselves off from anything and everything that is similar to the world. Interestingly, both these two choices have already happened. The Sadduccees to some extent became like the world and the Qumran community/Essenes retreated from the world. Neither exist in any form today. May we learn from history.
John 17:14–15 NIV
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
This was Jesus prayer for us!

Be different but part of our world.

This has always been the task of the followers of Jesus and it will remain the task. No we will not always get it “right”. But we must continually try our best to be as the saying went many years ago, “in the world but not of the world”.

But how?!

I hope this morning to shed some light on this question. Possibly given some food for thought and some answers. Yet, there is no simple solution. Yes the answer always will be just keep looking to Jesus. But can we at least admit this doesn’t always help when I am in a meeting with others who I find out I disagree with.

We cannot be united without community.

I would also say diversity. Notice, that Acts 11 is only possible because Peter and others were in community together. Peter did not go on his own. Community will make things difficult. For some of us group projects were hard because they required more work and energy. There is in community, or should be, a difference of opinion. We cannot, must not flee God’s people just because we disagree. This is extremely hard, for me at least.

We must value prayer.

The whole experience only takes place because Peter was spending time in prayer. Notice also this wasn’t his idea and then he went to prayer for “confirmation”. In our world where there is pressure to always respond to the current event we must never neglect slowing down and praying.

The more we pray the more wisdom we gain.

This is always the result of prayer.

We must value Scripture.

Peter knew Scripture that is why he at first objected to eating unclean food. But he also knew that Scripture taught God made all things. God was not “changing his mind” but instead revealing the intent of Scripture.

The issue was of Gospel importance.

Eating of unclean food was not the real issue, it was the salvation of the Gentiles. We can make things Gospel importance that really must be left alone. Also notice that those who disagreed did so not because of the food, per se, but because Peter was associating with “unclean people”.

We must be Spirit sensitive people.

Peter was sensitive to the Spirit not just in his personal life but in the lives of others. Specifically the Spirit showed up in the same way as when the first apostles did; speaking in tongues.

Question: is this the Spirit of Jesus at work?

This is what we must ask.

Peter stuck with the story.

Peter does very little, almost none, speculating on the events. He reports what happened, what he was thinking, and why he did what he did.

Christ was glorified.

The end result was praise to God for what he was doing. The end was not how great Peter was but how Great God was. To be a unifying presence in our world we must reflect the glory to the One who alone is worthy.
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