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2021 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - The One Thing

Craig Smith - The One Thing


Craig Smith - The One Thing
TOPICS: Identity Theft

Hey, welcome. I got to spend this past week in a pastor’s conference in San Diego or L.A., and picked up a lot of great wisdom for which I’m really grateful. I also picked up a nasty head cold for which I am less than grateful. So I’ve got sort of an assortment of stuff here. If I drink from this occasionally and then wince, just so you know, it’s not whisky. It probably would be better if it was whisky, actually. It’s apple cider vinegar, and a little bit of honey and some water. And here’s the thing, like, people tell me, “Oh, that’s a good remedy for laryngitis.” I think most remedies, they’re just people going, “I wonder if I can get this guy to drink this?” It is absolutely horrific but it does seem to be kind of getting me through, so we’re gonna give it our best.

If you got your Bible, why don’t you go ahead and grab it and turn with me to Ephesians, Chapter 4. We’re gonna be coming back into a series we started in the fall that we called Identity Theft, because the book of Ephesians, it’s really all about who we are in Christ and the fact that we live in a world that is overseen by an enemy that wants very much to steal that identity from you. Our enemy, Satan, recognizes that when we come to Christ, who we are transforms fundamentally and that he can no longer stand against us. And so his only real hope is to try to keep us from standing against him. And one of his tactics for doing that is to get in and undermine our understanding of who we are in Christ. And so we’re gonna be picking that series up again and I’m really excited about it. Really, the first half of the book of Ephesians is all about kind of the theology, it’s all about what has God done to give us this new identity. And the second half of the book is really all about the practical outworking of that, what does it look like to put that identity into practice?

And so we’re gonna start today in Chapter 4:1 where Paul says this, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling that you have received.” Three things there I wanna make sure we understand. The first one is the word therefore. I’ve got it up here, the NIV, some versions of the NIV...there’s two main versions of it, some of them have the word therefore. Others have the word then and, depending on the translation, you may see the word therefore or then. You may even see language like, “For that reason,” but I wanna stop and I wanna push into that language for just a second because it’s important that we understand what’s going on there.

The word therefore, or for this reason, or then, whatever it is, is really kind of a way of saying, “Hey, because of what I’ve already been talking about, now I can tell you this.” So it’s almost Paul going, “Finally, I finally get to tell you what I’ve been excited to tell you all along. I’ve been building up to this, I’ve been laying out the foundations for it, I’ve been telling you what God has done, but now I get to lay out what that means for us.” And so there’s a certain amount of excitement that comes in with Paul’s language there. And so, again, as I said, what he does from this point on in the book of Ephesians is he really kind of drills down the very practical stuff. What does it look like to take hold of the identity that God has given us in Christ, and how do we begin to live that out?

Second thing I want you to notice is that he talks about living a life worthy. He says, “I urge you to live a life worthy.” That’s what his point is, is “I’m gonna tell you what it looks like to live a life that’s worthy of what God has done.” But I want you to notice that he doesn’t say, “Live a life worthy of the gift that you’ve received.” He doesn’t say, “Live a life worthy of the salvation that Jesus has accomplished.” He says, live a life worthy of the what? The calling. Because here’s the thing, and we get this wrong in the church a lot. Jesus didn’t save you to save you. Salvation is not an end to itself. Jesus saved you so he could set you free for being part of what he’s doing. Do you hear me?

We’ve said this a lot of different ways, even in the last four months that I’ve been here that following Jesus is always following Jesus on a mission. That God set us free from sin, he set us free from slavery to darkness so that we’d be free for participating in his kingdom. We’re called to participate with God in the work that he’s doing in the world, and that’s what Paul’s getting at there. He says, “I want you to live a life worthy not of what’s been done for you, but a life worthy of the calling that’s been put on your life. Live a life worthy of what God is calling you to be part of.” And he says this, the third piece we wanna make sure we understand is just, he says, “And I urge you this as a prisoner for the Lord. As a prisoner for the Lord, I want you to live a life worthy of the calling.” As a prisoner for the Lord.

Now, he probably meant that very literally. Oh, yeah. That’s bad. He meant that very literally. He was actually in prison. But it’s interesting that he says, “As a prisoner, I’m gonna urge you to live a life worthy.” Why does he do that? Because I think for a lot of people, they would have looked at Paul and they would have, “You’re kinda out of the race. You’ve been arrested, you’ve been thrown to jail for following Jesus on mission. All this work that you’re about and you’re calling us to be about, it’s ended up and it’s putting you in a circumstance that...it’s terrible circumstances.” And in fact, to be in prison was kind of an embarrassing thing. And what Paul is saying though, is, you know, “Not only am I still in it, but my position, my circumstances allow me to tell you something even more powerfully.” What he’s really saying is just this, he’s saying, “Our circumstances don’t change our calling.”

Our circumstances do not change our calling. Paul understands himself to be engaged in the work that Jesus has called him to. And he’s saying to everybody else, “I want you to live a life that’s worthy of the work that Jesus has called you to.” And it doesn’t matter where you are, you have work to do. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, there is a calling on your life. If you’re a wife, there is a calling on your life because of your circumstances. Not in spite of it, but because of it. If you’re a husband, you’ve got a calling on your life because of your circumstances. Your circumstances don’t change your calling. You might go, “Okay, yeah, but I’m not in a position of authority.” You know, “I just started a new job and I’m the low person on the totem pole.” Doesn’t matter, your circumstances don’t change your calling.

You might say, “I’m just a kid.” Do we have any younger siblings here? Yeah? You guys got beat up a lot, right? I was not a younger sibling. I was a nice, older sibling, most of the time. But I know that the temptation is there to go, you know, “I’m the youngest in the family, I don’t really have any influence in my family.” No, no, no. Your circumstances don’t change your calling. Whatever your circumstances, God’s got a plan for you in those circumstances. He’s got a call upon you that’s very often because of those circumstances. That’s what Paul’s saying. He says, “You don’t get out of it just because you’re in a place where you can’t see how it works out.” So he says this, he says, and what he really begins to say now is, “Here’s what it looks like to live a life worthy of this calling.” He says, “Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” What he’s doing here is he’s beginning to sort of unpack that. He says, “I want everybody to live a life that is worthy of the calling that God has called us to.”

And then he begins to sort of unpack, what does that look like? And he says, really, three things here. He says, “It looks like being humble, gentle and patient.” And really, humble and gentle are...they’re almost the same thing. It’s almost like Paul’s going, “Be humble-gentle.” Okay? It’s a new word, humble-gentle. Because gentleness is really the outworking of being humble. And humility is one of those words that we find in the Bible a lot. And it’s one of those words that’s kind of at odds with our culture a little bit, isn’t it? Our culture doesn’t really encourage humility, does it? I mean, our culture says things like, “You got to look out for number one.” That doesn’t work with humility. And so I don’t know that we live in a culture that lets us understand what humility is, properly. And I think there is a lot of misunderstandings, and let me give you this working definition of humility. Humility is position in perspective. Humility is position in perspective. I’ve heard a lot of people who seem to think that humility says, “I’m no one and I got nothing. I’m no one and I’ve got nothing.” That’s true humility. It’s to downplay who we are or what we have to offer. And I wanna tell you, that’s not biblical humility. Biblical humility recognizes that God’s put us in positions, he’s given us gifts, he’s given us abilities, but it keeps all of those things, it keeps those positions that we’re in in perspective.

Think about it like this. If you’re a little kid and you’ve got a pet, you’re in a position of authority over that pet. Now, you’re in that position for a reason, though. You’re in that position to take care of that pet, it’s part of the way God set up the universe and the world. We’re made stewards over creation. So if you’re a young child and you have a pet, you’re made a steward over, your job is to protect and care for that pet. You’re with me? So, yeah, you’re in a position of authority but you’re not supposed to use that authority to grab the cat by the tail and swing it around, right? No, no, no. That’s an abuse. So, you’re keeping your position in perspective. Why do I have this position of authority? Well, it’s to take care of this pet. And that little kid can go, “I gotta realize, yeah, I’ve got this authority over this cat but I’m supposed to take care of this cat.” But then the child also realizes, “But my mom has authority over me.” So I have a certain amount of power over this pet, but it kind of pales in significance with mom’s power, right?

You remember mom power, or dad power? It’s position in perspective. Maybe you’re the boss, you got all kinds of authority but that position’s gotta be kept in perspective. You recognize, you know, “I answer to a board, I answer to my shareholders.” Man, at the end of the day, we all answer to Jesus. And as good as we might be at certain things, it pales in significance compared to Jesus, right? I mean, here is the thing, I don’t think there’s any point in lying about this, okay, I’m a gifted teacher. It’s not because of me, it’s not something that I developed on my own, this is the way God gifted me. And humility doesn’t say, “No, I’m terrible at teaching.” No, that would actually be an insult to Jesus who gave me the gift. But that position has to be kept in perspective.

My gifted teaching is nothing compared to Jesus’. And as a gifted as I might be at teaching, there’s lots other people who have greater gifts of it. I spent some time with a few of them this past week. Humility says, “God, you’ve gifted me, you’ve put me in a position but I’m keeping that position in perspective.” And that leads to gentleness. Because when our position is kept in perspective, we tend to treat those around us gently. We recognize, “This is why I’m given these gifts, it’s why I’m put in this position.” I’m supposed to care for my wife, or my kids, or my cats, or my employees, or my neighbors, whoever it is. Because that’s part of what it looks like to live a life that’s worthy of the calling that we’ve been given.

And he also says we’re supposed to be patient. And I hate when the Bible says that, anybody else? How many of you feel like you’ve achieved patience? Be interesting to ask that question when there’s nobody you know sitting around you. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting somewhere and then I hit traffic. And traffic is the greatest test of patience. Here’s the thing, biblical patience, it’s not really the ability to just not ever let anything bug you. I think biblical patience is the ability to hope without immediate results. That’s what biblical patience is, it’s the ability to hope without immediate results. It’s actually the word that gets used in the scriptures of a farmer who plants things, who puts the seeds in the ground and then waters them, and then he has to step back for quite a while. And for days and maybe even weeks on end, there is no evidence that anything’s happening. And he just has to trust that something’s really taking place under the surface. How many of you are in a place right now where you feel like, “I want God to show up and do something?”

How many of you feel like he’s taking a long time? That’s okay. It’s okay to feel like that but you need to understand that God is never idle, that God is never just sort of going, “Yeah, I’ll get to it when I get to it.” No, what’s often happening is that God’s doing things under the surface. He’s growing things up in you that are gonna be much better that you expected. But when we look, we don’t see the shoots springing out of the ground and so we go, “Nothing’s happening, God. Where are you?” And God goes, “Just hold on.” That’s patience. It’s the ability to hope without immediate results in front of you.

There’s a couple things that he says accompany this. The first of them, he says that it’s accompanied by bearing with one another in love, by bearing with one another in love. In other words, it’s accompanied by, or it’s expressed by recognizing there’s differences among Christians. And in spite of those differences, saying, “We’re gonna stick this out together, we’re gonna keep moving forward together. There’s differences in your marriage, there’s differences in your family, but in spite of those differences we’re gonna keep working together to move forward in what God’s calling us to.” He also says, “Making every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” And here, he begins to introduce the concept that he’s really, he’s reintroducing it. He’s already introduced it earlier in the book of Ephesians, this concept of unity, of coming together.

I was speaking at a conference several years ago. There was a period of my life where I was invited to do all kinds of random things, and I never quite knew what I was getting myself into. I don’t know how they found me sometimes. And I went into this one weekend, it was a youth conference and it was...let’s just say, it was a less than conservative denomination. And it was a weird experience for me. I wasn’t entirely sure why they invited me, because I was preaching from scripture and nothing else that was happening had anything to do with the Bible. And one afternoon, down by a beach, I was walking by and I saw a counselor, and she was organizing a bunch of kids in a circle. And she saw me and she goes, “Hey, do you wanna join our unity circle?” And my first thought was, “I do not. Really, really do not.” But you can’t say that, right? So I kind of went, “Yeah, okay, I’ll join your unity circle.” I don’t know what a unity circle is. Nobody knew what a unity circle was. We’ve got all these kids gathered around and she said, “Okay, for the next 10 minutes we’re just gonna be with one another. We’re gonna be unified together. Go.” I’m not kidding, and so we entered into a 10-minute period of being unified with one another.

I still don’t know what that means. I had no idea what it meant at the time. I was like, “Do we sway in unison?” And it was clear that nobody really knew what was happening, nobody knew what was supposed to be taking place and so really what happened was, people just...like, for the first couple minutes they’re like, looking at each other. And then, three or four minutes in...I mean it was kids, middle school students actually, they started making faces at each other. I started it. I’ll be honest, okay? I didn’t know what else to do. You know, the counselor was clearly...she had her eyes closed and nobody else did. It was chaos, it was not unity. And then an interesting thing happened. Ten minutes in, she goes, “Okay, now...” and she called a kid out who had apparently been through some really difficult things lately, and she put the kid in the center of the circle. And she said, “Now we’re gonna affirm him.”

Middle school students, so she had to explain it, we’re gonna say things we appreciate about him. We’re gonna say things that we love about him. The kids went, “Oh, okay,” and it was awkward, poor kid in the middle. Have you ever been in something like that? Like, I hate those, I hate being in the center. I don’t mind being in the circle but I hate being in the center of it. But, one by one, the kids began to go, “Well, you know, I love this about you,” or, “You know, I’ve seen you in this way.” And pretty soon an interesting thing happened, the whole circle got unified. There was a lot of unity happening as they were focused on affirming this kid and the difficult thing he’d been through.

And I remember kind of watching this, going, “Here’s an interesting thing.” Unity is not...it’s not a thing that you can achieve when you’re trying to achieve unity. Unity is a byproduct of purpose, you hear me? Unity is a byproduct of purpose. It’s a byproduct, to use Paul’s language, of calling, that when we are seeking to live lives worthy of the calling, when we as a church are focused on our calling, our purpose, unity comes as a natural byproduct to that. I believe the biggest problem facing the church today is that we seem to have forgotten the very reason that we exist. So I thought, you know, I’m gonna encourage you to do something right now, if you’ve got a piece of paper. I’d love for you to just jot down really quickly, what is the purpose of the church? And you’re not gonna have to share it, but I’d love for you to think about it for just a moment, what is the purpose of the church? Why did God do this thing that we call church? What’s the point? What’s the reason?

I’ve done this around the country with different groups, and I’ve actually surveyed some of the results, and it’s interesting to me how little unity there is in terms of the answer. People have all kinds of different ideas about what the church is, and that’s the problem. We don’t seem to understand why God made this thing we call the church, and because we don’t know what it is, what that purpose is, the unity that he spends so much time talking about in Ephesians is always and forever out of our reach. Unity is very important to God. God wants us to have one mind. He goes on to say this, he says, “There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called with one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is overall and through all and in all.”

You see the oneness. I mean, Paul’s going out of his way there to say, “The church is supposed to be single-minded because unity, oneness is not just a facet of the church, it’s the very heart of it.” All those one things are just to say, “We don’t have two Gods, we don’t have two baptisms, we’re baptized into the death of Christ. We don’t have two spirits, we don’t have three Lords, we just have one.” And so the church, in the same way, should reflect that oneness. The church is to be one.

Here’s the thing, unity does not mean that we deny uniqueness. Unity does not mean that we deny uniqueness. In fact, true unity requires uniqueness, but it requires unique united in purpose. So he says this, he says, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned.” And he does two things here, he shifts from the big you, the big church, down to the individuals who make up that church. When he says, “Each one of us,” he’s talking about me. He’s talking about you. Not generic you, but you individually. To each one of us, grace is given. The second thing that’s important here is, you know, the word grace means undeserved kindness, generally speaking. But he’s not talking generally here, he’s talking specifically. It’s not usually translated but there’s actually a “The” in front of grace. What he literally says is, “To each one the grace is given.” And that signals that he’s not talking about just the general, undeserved kindness of the gospel, but rather he’s talking about a specific grace that’s given to each one of us. And most of us understand that what he’s really talking about here is what we call, spiritual gifts. How many of you heard that phrase before, spiritual gifts? How many of you feel like you got spiritual gifts all figured out? Yeah. How many of you have ever taken a spiritual gifts survey? There’s a lot of you. How many of you are still confused about what your spiritual gift is? Interesting.

That might suggest that surveys aren’t the best way to understand spiritual gifts. We probably need to spend a good amount of time pushing into this teaching, and probably sometime later this year we’re gonna do a series on spiritual gifts because they’re incredibly important. If the church is going to accomplish the purpose for which God has brought us into existence, it’s important that each piece of the church, each one of us understands our spiritual gifts. We don’t have time to do that today but let me give you a good working definition of spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is the normal way, the normal way that the Holy Spirit manifests his presence through an individual Christian, the normal way. Sometimes the Holy Spirit shows up in other ways, through you as an individual. But every single Christian has one way that is the most common way that the Holy Spirit says, “I’m here, I’m present, I’m at work.”

And Paul says, “Every single one of us has this.” Every single one of us has at least one way that the Holy Spirit says, “I’m here.” By the way, that definition comes from 1 Corinthians 12:7. And again, we’ll unpack it sometime in the near future. But you understand that what Paul’s saying is this, the church as a whole is made up of individual people. And each individual person in the church has a way that the Holy Spirit says, “I’m here.” What Paul is really doing is he’s saying this, “The church is like a puzzle.” The church is like a puzzle. And it’s only when we put all the pieces together that the whole picture emerges. It’s only when all the pieces get joined together, get unified, that we see what God’s doing, that we see the fullness of who God is, this one who fills the all and all that Paul keeps using that language.

The church is like the puzzle, and the individual people are the pieces the puzzle that, when fit together, give us a window into who God is. Everyone has one of these, and those gifts are important to Jesus. He goes on to say this, “This is why it says when he ascended on high he took many captives and gave gifts to his people. What does he ascended mean, except that he also descended to the lower earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” There’s a lot going on there but the central teaching is just this, that Jesus ascended into heaven in order to give you a spiritual gift. Jesus ascended into heaven to give each of us a spiritual gift. Why did he have to go to heaven to do that? I have no idea.

But he’s pretty clear about it in John, Chapter 16. Jesus said this, he said, “Very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the advocate will not come to you.” The advocate was one of his names for the Holy Spirit. “But unless I go away, the advocate, the Holy Spirit will not come to you. But if I go I will send him to you. And when he comes...” And he goes on to talk about what the Holy Spirit will do, but what the Holy Spirit will do through us. Jesus ascended into heaven in order to make room for the Holy Spirit to come, to give gifts. He goes on and he talks about this descending business. And that teaching, I think, has been misunderstood. That passage has often been used when he says that he descended into the lower earthly realms.

People have used that as an opportunity to say, “Well, I think this is the biblical proof that Jesus went to hell after he died, that he went into hell to preach the good news to those who were there.” I don’t think that’s true, I don’t think that’s a good interpretation of this. What Paul is really saying here is just this, he’s saying, “I want you to understand what it cost Jesus to give you your gift.” He descended first, which means he came out of heaven here. He set aside his glory, he set aside the right to be worshiped, and he became one of us. He was born in a barn, and he lived life as one of us. That’s his first descent. When he says the lower earthly realms, that’s probably a reference to the grave, the tomb. Jesus went to the cross, he took our sin upon himself and he died for us. That’s what it cost Jesus. He went from heaven down into the tomb itself. Why? So that he could give you a spiritual gift. So that he could give you a way that the Holy Spirit’s gonna show up through you.

And he goes on, and he begins to describe a subset of these gifts as a way of sort of illustrating. So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, the teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God, and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” These five gifts he mentions, they’re just examples. I mean, it’s important that we understand what they are, apostles or people who are gifted to establish the church where it hadn’t been before. They were people that went and they shared the gospel in places that it didn’t exist yet, that’s where the apostles were. In addition to apostles, he talks about prophets. Prophets are people who are gifted to receive, understand and communicate new revelation.

He talks about evangelists, people who are gifted to share the gospel effectively. We’re all called to share the gospel. There are some people, when they share the gospel, like, people just respond. Like, I had a kid that I led to Christ once and he had the gift of evangelism. I know that because I taught him to share his faith, and I watched him share his faith and he was terrible at it. Like, the first few times he shared his faith and I was kind of watching I was like, “Dude, I don’t even know what the good news is anymore.” Like, that was so muddled and messy, and you left out so many things. And then he would go, “So do you wanna come to Jesus?” And I’m like, “They did. What just happened? Wait a minute they don’t even know what the gospel is yet.” And I saw this happen consistently, he would share the gospel, people would come to Christ. And he got better, and these weren’t passing things. I mean, a lot of these people he led to the Lord are in ministry today. This guy was a gifted evangelist. I’m called to do evangelism but I don’t have that particular gift, but I’m still called to speak the truth, but evangelists are the ones who are gifted at it. The Holy Spirit shows up in a powerful way when they do evangelism. Pastors and teachers, kind of one concept together there.

Pastors and teachers are people who are gifted to understand and apply God’s word. But what I want you to notice here is not these specific gifts, but that Paul is using them as an example of why he gives gifts in the first place. These are foundational gifts. They’re gifts that enable the people of God to exercise their gifts. And that’s what he goes on to say. He says, “They’re supposed to do that. They’re supposed to exercise their gifts in order to equip his people for works of service.” To equip his people for works of service. Do you understand what he’s saying? Service is, by the way, the same word used for ministry. So what he really says is, “All those people, the apostles, pastors, teachers, their job is to equip the people, all the people for ministry.”

You understand that? He’s not saying these people do ministry. He’s saying they enable ministry, ministry that you do. Ministry that you engage in. That’s my job, my ministry is to create context, and clarity, and direction and application that’s to set the stage for you to do the work of God. I don’t do ministry, we do ministry. My ministry is to enable you to do ministry, that’s our job. And it’s only when we embrace that, when we all accept that we all have this calling, that the church begins to be what it was intended to be. It says, “Then and only then,” Verse 14, “We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, blown here and there by every wind of teaching.”

And I’m not sure if those metaphors are supposed to go together. I’m not sure if he’s saying, “We’ll no longer be infants tossed back and forth by waves,” because I’m like, “Why are the infants in the waves?” That’s weird, right? I suspect they’re different metaphors. We’ll no longer be infants, people who are incapable of doing. ‘We’ll no longer be tossed back and forth, blown here and there, by every wind of teaching and by every cunning and craftiness of people, their deceitful scheming. Instead, they will be ones who are speaking the truth in love. And we will grow to become, in every respect, the mature body of him who is the head that is Christ. From him the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” Don’t miss that last phrase, “As each part does its work.”

Paul understands that God has a calling upon his church, but it is a calling that can only be exercised as a body when it is being exercised by all the members that make up that body. Really, what Paul is saying is just this, that Jesus is building his church up in order to show us what God is doing. And what God is doing, which has been unpacked up to this point in the book of Ephesians, is this. He’s showing the world that he’s in the business of reconciliation, that he’s in the business of fixing what’s broken, that he’s in the business of bringing together what’s been separated. So really, this, what Paul says here is this, “Jesus is building up the church in order to demonstrate the reality of God’s reconciling work.” Sit on that for a second. This is what the church is, this is the purpose that we seem to forget so easily. Jesus is building the church up in order to demonstrate the reality of God’s reconciling work to the world. That sounds a little churchy, doesn’t it? But we gotta be accurate first. And that’s what Paul’s saying, that the church is the demonstration of the reality of God’s work of bringing together what had been separated.

I also want it to be portable, so I’m gonna boil it down so you can take it with you and I’m gonna say it this way, the church is God’s campaign billboard. I know you’re like, “We just got out of the political season.” Right? Here was my first hint that something weird was going on in politics in the U.S. It was about two years ago, I was in Nebraska. I was driving back from something and I saw a billboard, and it said, “Trump for president.” That was my first announcement that Trump was running for president, and I thought it was a joke. And please understand, I don’t mean that disrespectfully. He’s our president and so I’m praying for him and I’m supporting him. I think he’s doing some things that are good, okay? So this is in no way a negative. But the thought, two years ago, that Donald Trump, the “Celebrity Apprentice” guy, the Trump Tower guy was running for president was inconceivable to me. And I saw this billboard and that was my first announcement that something was going on, something unexpected, something surprising, and that’s the church. The church is God’s billboard. It’s God’s announcement to the world, “I’m up to something. I’m up to something.”

You know what he’s up to? That he’s been really clear about in Ephesians up to this point, is reconciliation. He’s bringing together what was separated. That’s who we are, that’s our purpose. We are God’s campaign billboard announcing to the world that God is bringing together what has been separated. So I just have two questions for you. Question number one, where am I part of God’s billboard? Where am I demonstrating to the world that this is what God is doing? How am I an agent of reconciliation? How am I showing the world that this is what God is about? Or what does God want me to be? Maybe it’s in your marriage, maybe it’s in a family, maybe it’s sharing the gospel, maybe it’s inviting somebody to church. But where are you demonstrating that you’re part of God’s announcement to the world, that he’s bringing together what was torn apart? And the second question is just this. Where are my graffiti obscuring God’s billboard? Where do I live my life in such a way that, when people look at me, they don’t see reconciliation, they don’t see coming together, they see dividing, they see breaking apart. Unity cannot be achieved on its own. It is a byproduct of purpose. The purpose of the church is to announce to the world that God is at work, that he’s bringing together all the things that try so hard to go the other direction. And we’re called to be part of that. Would you pray with me?

Jesus, thanks for helping me get through this today. Thanks for preserving my voice enough to be able to speak this truth from your word, because it’s an important truth. And I confess that I’m frustrated because I don’t feel like I have the energy, I don’t feel like I have the vigor or whatever it is, to be able to declare this truth with...I don’t know, the pizzazz, or whatever it is, that it deserves. But I also know that it’s not my job to drive this home, it’s just my job to make it clear. And your word will do its work. Jesus, we acknowledge that as a church we didn’t always provide a very good picture of what you’re doing in the world. We’re not always demonstrating that we’re all about reconciliation because you’re all about reconciliation. So speak to us right now, and show us those places where you’re calling us to demonstrate the reality of your reconciling work. And show us those places where we’re graffiti on the billboard, keeping people from seeing what you’re doing. Lord, would you shine through us clearly? And in that shining, would you draw our community to you, our nation to you, our families to you, our world to you? We acknowledge that you’ve called us together for a purpose. Please show us, as individuals, what it looks like to participate in that purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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