Craig Groeschel - Stop the Division
How many of you would agree that this has been one heck of a difficult year. All of our churches, you can just type in the chat, "yes I agree it's been a very, very difficult year". I wanna take a moment and just recap the obvious. By early to mid-March of this year, most places in the world were closed, completely shut down for the COVID-19 global pandemic. You know that it's obvious. So many people lost so much. Some people lost, loved ones, which is tragic beyond measure others lost jobs. Some people lost income, some people lost their business. All of us lost a sense of normalcy. What's the world gonna be like going forward?
What's interesting is that many crisis have a unifying effect. For example, if you take September 11th, 2001, when terrorist planes fly into the Twin Towers, American patriotism served, there was a unifying effect like this is our country, our nation we stand together. Unfortunately though, COVID-19 seemed to have the opposite effect. Instead of this uniting us as a nation, it seemed to be more divisive instead of standing together apparently we're becoming more polarized and it feels like we're divided between two different groups between those who would say, "yes, this is very serious and we should be wise. But I wonder if shutting down the economy might end up having more painful impact than, than not". And then there's the other side that would say, "no, no, no, no, no it's completely irresponsible and reckless to reopen don't be stupid, we gotta keep the virus from spreading".
And so many people are completely divided. We felt this honestly just in the church world, we had people really upset whenever the church closed, they said like, "where is your faith? Keep the church open to fight the government". And then when we opened back up, some people said, "what are you doing? You know you're risking lives". And there's so much tension, so much discord, so much division.
Then when you think things couldn't get any worse, our nation experienced the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. And this brought to the forefront of our attention, the ongoing problem of racism. Unless you don't acknowledge that racism is an ongoing problem. And suddenly there's more anger, more disagreement, more discord and more division.
My guess is that the Devil is laughing and rejoicing and celebrating in all the division, because one of our spiritual enemy's greatest strategy strategies is to divide, especially when it comes to the family of God, especially when it comes to the body of Christ. Because we as Christ followers, when we are United, when we stand together in unity of mission, we are unstoppable, empowered by the Spirit of God. But when we are divided, we quickly become weak and ineffective and often even overlooked in this world.
I Craig Groeschel, I don't have a lot of power to change a lot of things in this world, but I do have some influence into our first family. So what I wanna do today is I wanna make the same passionate faith feel filled appeal as the apostle Paul made to the believers in Corinth. This is what he said is reported in first Corinthians chapter one, verse 10. He said, "I appeal to you or I begged you. I urge you, I plead with you brothers and sisters in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. That all of you agree with one another in what you say", and that there may be, watch this he said "there may be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly United in mind and thought".
I begged you, I'm pleading with you I urge you that there would be no divisions in the family of God that we be United in mind and thought. Paul used a word that's in the Greek, it's the word divisions is translated from the Greek word schisma and it means a split, a division, a schism, a ripping or tearing apart. In fact, just to kinda illustrate, I have what you might consider the classic picture of the blonde hair, blue eyes version of Jesus. I had this picture in my garage growing up. Why am I garage? I have no idea, but this picture was in my garage. And Paul says, "I just, I beg you I plead with you that there would be no schisma's, no division, no tearing or ripping apart".
When we as the body of Christ fight and argue, essentially what we're doing is we're dividing the body of Christ. We're ripping apart the unity that makes us strong. We're tearing our faith that unites us to be a light into a very dark world. Whenever we fight, whenever we argue, when we ever, we let smaller issues divide us from our primary mission, we're essentially tearing apart the body of Christ. I hope you don't run and call me a heretic for ripping up a picture of Jesus, but I want you to feel it. I was, what we're doing when we don't stand United, but instead we bicker, we fight, we argue and we divide. Paul said, "I beg you, I urge, I plead with you. Stand together as one don't let any divisions be among you".
Now, if Paul's appeal isn't enough. I wanna show you the prayer of Jesus. The cry of the heart of our savior to his Father in heaven is reported in John 17, starting in verse 20. When Jesus said this he said, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one" everybody in the family of God, that we would be one, why? So that they may be brought to complete unity, that we would be unified around the truth and the mission of Jesus.
What will happen if we're unified? Jesus said, then the world will know God that you sent me and have loved them. Even as you have loved me. I pray Jesus pray, Jesus prayed to his Father, that all the believers may be one that they may be brought together in complete unity. In other words, instead of being divided and weak, if we stand United and strong resisting the schemes and the attacks and the strategies of the evil one, we could help usher in God's will on earth as it is in heaven.
Paul prayed that we would be United. Jesus prayed that we would be one. What if we could be the generation that is the answer to their prayers? Help us God unite, help us stand together around the truth and the message of Jesus. The question is how do we do it? How do we become one? What would it take for us to unite around the truth and the mission of Jesus? What would unify the church? The answer's very simple, it would take one enemy and it would take one mission.
Let's talk about it, what would unify the church? One enemy would help us unite. In fact, the apostle Paul said this in Ephesians 6:12, he said, "for our struggle is not against flesh and blood". In other words, we have to recognize that our battle is not against other people. Our battle Paul said, "is against the rulers and against authorities and against the powers of this dark world. And against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms". In other words, we have to understand that the church down the street, they're not our enemy. Those who use a different version of the Bible, they're not our enemy. Those who worship in a different expression of worship, they're not our enemy. The person who votes differently than we do they're not our enemy.
And yes, I'm meddling right now and getting up into your Facebook rumored business. The person with a different skin color they're not our enemy. Those with a different background or enjoy different music or they dress differently or they express themselves in different ways, they are not the enemy. We have one enemy he is the Devil. He's the Prince of darkness, the father of lies, the great deceiver. Jesus called him the thief in John 10:10. He said the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. The Devil, Lucifer, Satan wants to steal our unity, kill our churches and destroy our witness as a light into a very dark world. Why? Because if we stand United around the truth and mission of Jesus, we're unstoppable to show the love and the grace of our savior into a broken and a hurting world. But when we're divided, we become weak and ineffective.
What's one of the strongest unifying forces, a common enemy unites us. We have one enemy it's a little bit like in my old college fraternity days there were kinda like two top fraternities at the school that I attended or at least two competitors. And we disliked the other fraternity and they disliked us and we hated each other until one day, the baseball team egged both of our houses. Then what happened? Well suddenly we were United against the baseball team because they were a common enemy. The only problem is the baseball team players were stronger and carried baseball bats, so we were in trouble, but at least we now had a common enemy and we were United.
You know this is true in your family. You might have a brother or a sister or sibling, and they drive you crazy. You pick on them, they annoy you and you rarely can barely tolerate them until somebody else messes with your sibling. And suddenly you realize blood is always thicker. You can't mess with somebody that I love. I hope you'll understand that the Devil is attacking the body of Christ the devil is attacking our nation. And if we recognize we have a common enemy that will unite us, what will unite the body of Christ? What will help our churches to stand together strong in mission? One enemy, one enemy.
I hope you're recognizing, just look and see, "Oh, I see what you're doing there devil. I see what you're doing. We're not gonna stand for it, we're not gonna let you divide us". What would unite us as followers of Christ? One enemy and also one mission. The mission unites us, what did Jesus say after you suffered brutally on a cross, looked up to heaven and said, "Father into your hands. I commit my spirit". Shed his blood and gave his life. God raised him from the dead.
And the last moment he's speaking to his disciples and gives them, here's your divine assignment. Here's your calling, here's your reason, here's your mission, this is what Jesus said. He said, "therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit". That's what you do, that's who you are, that's your mission, that's what you stand for. That's the calling of the church, the Ekklesia the called out ones. We don't go to the church feeling were called into the world to fulfill the mission for which we were created.
One mission, one mission to help people know the life giving love and grace of our savior Jesus. Sadly, what are we known for today? When you ask just kind of a regular person on the street, like what do you think about the church? What is the church often known for? Some people would say, you know the traditions of the church, other people might say the architectural structure of the historic buildings that are so beautiful. Some people would talk about the style. You know they're traditional, they're contemporary, they've got a really cool worship leader with skinny jeans and has a hair product and tattoos you know whatever the thing would be.
So often, you know what they'd say is they know us for what we're against. Oh, they don't like this and they don't believe in that and they don't go there. And they don't associate with that type of person too often when people think about the church, they tend to think about what we're against. What if instead of being known for what we're against, what if as followers of Jesus, we were known for what we were for? For love and grace and mercy and compassion and justice and generosity.
You see the Bible gives us one example and only one of how the world will know that we are followers of Jesus. The reason they will know is by the way we love one another. Jesus said it this way in John 13 verses 34 and 35, he said a new command I give you love one another as I have loved you. So you must love one another by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Would it be amazing if people would talk about Christians and talk about church goers and talk about the body of Christ and say things like, "did you see how that person forgave? Did you see the grace that they displayed on it? It is like mind blowing the way they treat one another and the way they care about one another, they're always full of grace and always full of compassion. Oh my gosh, those Christians, I may not completely agree with what they believe, but they always stand with the oppressed and they always give to those that are hurting and oh the church down the street, they help rebuild my house after the tornado, or they visited me when I was in prison and now I'm different because of the love that they showed, they helped tutor my child, these Christians my gosh, do the most compassionate, grace-filled, loving and generous people that I've ever seen".
Wouldn't it be amazing if when the world thought about the church, they wouldn't think about what we're against, but they'd think about all the godly Spirit-filled values that we're for. Paul said this, and it's so important in Romans chapter 15 verses five, six, and seven, He said, "may the God who gives you endurance and encouragement, give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. So that", with here it is again "with one mind and one voice you may glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. With one mind, with one voice, united in mission to share the love of Jesus".
Now, how do we do that? Like practically in everyday life, you go to work, you're on social media, you're dealing with very complicated people and so much pain and anger in the world. How do we unite in one voice? Paul went on to say this. He said, "accept one another, just as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God". You wanna glorify God, you accept one another, you love one another?
In fact, the Greek word for except one another is it's a very long and picture S word that has depth of meaning, essentially this word, it means to open your arms and take a person to yourself. Is to embrace someone, to accept someone, to say I'm not even just gonna let you pass by, but I'm gonna pull you toward myself. I want you to feel my love, I want you to know that you belong, that you matter, that I care about you, that God loves you is to pull someone close. And then it's a picture of taking someone by the hand and walking together as companions. I accept you and I want to do life with you, I want to walk with you.
Now how do we do that? How do we accept people who are so different from us with totally different perspectives, totally different backgrounds? Here's how we do it. Paul said, "we accept one another, just as Christ accepted you". How did Jesus accept you? How did He accept me? Well, scripture tells us that while we were still sinners. In other words, when we deserve nothing at all but judgment Christ died for the unrighteous and the ungodly. He loved you that much when you were not only imperfect, but you are unrighteous you were sinning against a Holy God and God loved you. That's how we accept one another the same way Christ accepted you. Where does unity start? Yeah it starts with me and it starts with you, it starts with us. I need to do my part.
Years ago, I did a wedding for dear friends. And in my notes, I misspelled the word United. There's a verse recite "the two will be United to become one flesh". And unfortunately I typed in untied, which is something you don't ever wanna say at a wedding. What I noticed in reviewing the notes is that the I was out of place when the I is in the proper place it says United, whenever the I is in the wrong place we're untied. Right now we're a nation of people becoming untied, unraveled, divided, ripped apart, why? Because so many of us are so arrogant thinking that our perspective is the only way.
What I would like to say to you is Jesus is the only way and our perspectives of how we see the world can vary greatly, but we can be unified around the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and he changes lives. What do we need? We have one enemy and he's very real. He's attacking and he's attacking now. And we have one mission and is indescribably important. I believe with all my heart, that the world is sick and tired of hearing Jesus talk. They don't wanna hear us talk about Him, they want to see him.
So let's stop talking and start loving. Let's grow up, come on Life.Church grow up. Let's not enter into the social media battles and just kinda blow up. We don't change anything that way we change with our love. We have an enemy, Satan. His mission is to destroy our mission is to share the love Jesus we're in a war. We have to recognize it's a very real spiritual war and the sides it's not the left versus the right. It's the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of darkness together we unify around the truth and the power of Jesus.
What does Jesus do? Well, racism is a problem. Yes, it's a problem. And the love of Jesus overcomes hatred, prejudice and racism. But what about all the addictions? The power of Jesus breaks the chains of addiction. The grace of Jesus helps you forgive and heal broken relationships. What can Jesus do? Jesus is gonna hell help someone released, be released from the bondage of materialism and be set free from debt. Jesus can heal you from sicknesses, He can protect you from the attacks of the Devil. He can free you from the prison of comparisons, He can calm your anxieties, He can relieve your stress. He can give you the supernatural peace that goes beyond your human ability to understand.
Who is Jesus, He is the Son of God who never sent, who loved you so much that He gave his life on a cross for you. So you could be forgiven, so you could be healed, so you could be free. He did it when we didn't deserve it. And we're to love others, even though their behavior may not feel deserving, we love as He loved us.
We are a part of the body of Christ. The family of God, the church, we don't go to church we are the church and we believe the local church is the hope of the world. And we can do infinitely more together than we can apart. Who are we? We're followers of Jesus. They're not gonna know us just by how we vote or by what we post or for what we're against. What they're gonna do is they're gonna know us by how we love one another.
I beg you, I plead with you, I urge you for the one who gave it all for us. Can we get this right? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. That's our assignment, go into the world and love. We have an enemy who hates God and hates God's people and is trying to divide. We have one enemy, we have one mission and we recognize the enemy is attacking, but greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. We can overcome with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, that spirit dwells within you.
So let's do it. When they look at us, when I talk about us, I pray they talk about our love, be overwhelmed by the grace, the compassion, the mercy, the love. They will know that we're followers of Jesus, by the way we love one another.
So Father help us to show your love to make you known we pray this in Jesus name, Amen.