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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Live Different

Craig Smith - Live Different

Craig Smith - Live Different
TOPICS: Live Free, Lifestyle

Hey, let’s give it up to the Worship Team, Grassroots Weekend, right? Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Hey, for those of you who are new at Mission Hills, you may be wondering like, is this what worship normally looks like now? It’s Grassroots Weekend. We do this every year on the 4th of July. And for those of you watching online from another country, and we know we have some people do that every single week, 4th of July here in the United States is when we celebrate the founding of our nation. We do in a lot of different ways. We do a lot of stuff with flags. How many people did something with the flag? Yeah. A lot of flags. We blow things up. Fireworks, we do a lot of that and we do a lot around music, patriotic music. Maybe one of the favorite songs consistently for people around 4th of July is a song called “I’m Proud To Be An American.”

How many of you have listened to that song at least once? Yeah. Yep, great song. It’s interesting, though, I saw a news article come across my feed this week. It was the results of a survey that had been done recently that found that that line, I’m proud to be an American is less true of Americans now than at any point in our history. Actually, fewer people who are willing to say I’m proud to be an American, and actually, among certain age demographics, it is the minority opinion now that is more people are not proud to be an American than are proud to be an American. And you know, that’s a little painful in some ways. I grew up in a military family, and so I am proud to be an American, but after 27 years in vocational ministry, I’m not really surprised by it because I’ve heard that a lot. And as I lean into with people and ask, you know, “Why is that?” What I consistently hear from people is it’s just that America is so divided right now. There’s just so much division in the United States.

We have racial division, we have religious division, we have gender division, we have socioeconomic division, we have political division, and that’s deeply grieving to people. And it’s ironic if you think about it, though, because I don’t know about you, I grew up again in a military family and in schools where we said the Pledge of Allegiance every single day, and the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t say anything about division. In fact, it says the exact opposite is supposed to be true of our nation, right? Do you remember it? It says, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the public for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” There’s a pretty strong emphasis there on unity. Isn’t there? And yet, I think we all acknowledge if we’re being realistic, that we really are a nation that’s deeply divided. I was talking to a friend this week and he said, “Well, but I wonder if that’s because we get another part of the Pledge of Allegiance wrong, right? It says, ‘One nation under God.”

And in many ways, America has moved away from its historical roots of Christianity. And so, maybe that’s the reason we’re so divided as a nation because we’re no longer under God. And I thought, “Well, yeah, I mean, there’s probably some truth to that. But the problem with it is it’s not like the church is doing a whole lot better.” Right? As we said in this series, we’ve got 45,000 denominations of Christians around the world, 45,000 groups of people going, “Well, this is what Christianity looks like and I’m not really sure about you.” I’m not really sure part of the circle, I’m not really sure you’re part of the family. We have a tremendous amount of division in the church, and so the reality is how can we expect to be one nation under God if we can’t figure out how to be one church under God, right? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to lean into today in our journey, through the Book of Galatians. We come to a passage where that’s precisely the issue that Paul digs into, it’s division in the church. If you want to follow along, we’re going to be in Galatians chapter, 3 starting in verse 26.

And what we’re going to see today is basically three things. While you’re making your way there, I’ll give you a little sneak peek. We’re gonna see three things. We’re gonna see God’s goal for the church. We’re also gonna see why God’s goal is hard to get to. And then we’re going to see some practical things that will help us move forward a little bit in trying to realize God’s ultimate goal for the church when it comes to this division business. Paul, of course, is writing the Book of Galatians to a group of people who were followers of Jesus in the city of Galatia. And it’s interesting, in some ways, the Book of Galatians is a response to something that Paul was afraid of. Paul had had a deep and abiding fear, and his fear was that the church was going to split. That the church of the 1st century was going to divide into two factions. And the factions at that time would have been Jewish/Christianity, Jewish, followers of Jesus and Gentile, non-Jewish followers of Jesus. And Paul was deeply concerned that the church was gonna fracture into those two different sort of sides of Christianity.

And his concern was that if that happens, the work of the Gospel is going to be undermined because the work of the Gospel depends upon the people of God being able to move forward together and sharing God’s love for the lost. And so, he was deeply worried about this possibility of fracturing. And he writes this Galatians 3:26, he says, “So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith.” He says, you are all, meaning it doesn’t matter if you came from a Jewish family or a Gentile family, you are all. In more modern terms, we look at any other kinds of family of origin and go, “It doesn’t matter if you came from a Christian family or a Buddhist family or a Muslim family or an atheist family. It doesn’t matter if you were a Methodist Christian or a Baptist Christian or Lutheran Christian.” It doesn’t really matter what your family of origin was, he says, “We are all now children of God. We are all brought into one family.” And how does that happen? It happens by faith in Jesus. We’re all children of God by faith in Jesus.

In other words, what he says is one faith creates one family. One faith creates one family. Now, in the ancient world, it’s important that we understand that in the ancient world, a person’s family was their primary source of identity. The family you came from or the family you belonged to ultimately was the primary source of your identity as a human being. It defined who you were and what you were about. And so, by telling all these people from all these different kinds of families, you know, you’re now one family by one faith, what he’s really doing is he’s calling them to embrace a completely new identity. He’s saying your new identity as a follower of Jesus, really it kind of takes over all these others. And he’s calling all of us, I think, on some level to grab all of a principle that’s simple, but it’s surprisingly difficult to do. And the principle’s just this, my identity as a child of God overshadows any other identity I’m tempted to cling to. That’s what he’s calling us to do. To recognize as my identity as a follower of Jesus, my identity as a child of God, it overshadows any other identity I’m tempted to cling to.

Now, that’s great news or bad news depending on what kind of identities you’re tempted to cling to. It’s great news if you’re attempted to cling to identities that are harmful. It’s great news if you’re tempted to cling to identities that are painful, maybe even shameful. And many people listening to this, I know you grew up in families where that family gave you an identity that you would love to be free of, but it’s hard to let go. Maybe you grew up in a family where you never felt loved. Maybe you grew up in a family where you felt like you were an inconvenience, that you were unworthy of care and connection. And this was great news to know that that family you grew up, that doesn’t define you, that is not who you are. That your identity as a child of God overshadows that identity. It’s great news if you’re tempted to cling to a difficult, painful identity. It’s harder new if you’re tempted to cling to an identity that was meaningful and significant, maybe even good in several ways for you. And I think a lot of us have those identities.

Maybe you grew up in a family or you grew up in a church that you identify as we said, maybe you identify as being Methodist or Baptist, or maybe Muslim or Buddhist or whatever. And maybe in those identities, you found significance, you found a sense of belonging, connection and they were positive things. And then it becomes a little bit more difficult to recognize that it doesn’t really matter whether they were positive or negatives, my new identity as a child of God overshadows every other identity. And we have to somehow learn to embrace that and if we don’t, we’re always going to have problem of division.

He says, for all of you were baptized into Christ, all of you were baptized into Christ, and you have clothed yourselves with Christ. He’s writing to a group of followers. He says I know what you did, you all got baptized. And by the way, if you’re kind of new to church, baptism is a public demonstration of personal faith. It’s a public demonstration of personal faith. Last week here at Mission Hills, we had 40 people get baptized and it was awesome.

They did their public demonstration and they went into the water to symbolize dying to their old selves, their old identity, their sin. And then they were brought up out of the water to symbolize rising again to new life and a new identity as a child of God. That was their public demonstration of their personal faith. If you’ve, by the way, never been baptized, then I encourage you to think about doing it. We do those every couple of months. Maybe you’re a new follower of Jesus, maybe you’ve just recently said yes to faith in Christ, or maybe you never have gone public with it even though you made the decision a long time ago. But if you want to be baptized at our next service, just go to, let us know you’d like to be part of it. We would love to be part of that journey with you. It’s a powerful thing.

And what Paul says is like a bunch of the people in Galatia, you’ve done this, you’ve gone public. And what he says is here’s what you need to understand, when you went public with your faith in Jesus, you clothed yourself with Christ and that’s weird language, right, because it kind of treats Jesus like a piece of clothing, right? And literally, he says, you put Jesus on like a shirt or like a coat or maybe a better analogy would be you put Jesus on like a uniform. You put on the uniform as a follower of Jesus.

And the interesting thing about uniforms if you think about it is that we don’t typically put new uniforms on top of old ones, right? We don’t wear multiple uniforms and we don’t mix and match, right? I had a friend who was an officer in the Army for many years and at a certain point, he left the Army and he joined the Air Force, became an officer in the Air Force. And at that point, when he joined the Air Force, he didn’t continue to wear Army pants and an Air Force jacket. No, he put off the old uniform, he put on the new one, that’s kind of what Paul’s getting at here. He says you put on the uniform of Christ. You announced to the world you’re a follower of Jesus. And at that point, that identity really became your primary identity.

Really what he says is, he says, deciding to follow Jesus means choosing our new identity over all other identities. That’s a choice when we started just following Jesus, but it’s also a choice we have to make on a daily basis because we all have different identities good and bad that vie for our attention, they vie for our loyalty. And what Paul says is listen, that’s not who we are. Deciding to follow Jesus means choosing our new identity over all other identities. It’s a deliberate choice we have to make.

The problem is, I think, for too many Christians, we suffer from identity crisis because we’re trying to still mix and match, where we’re trying to add Christianity to a bunch of other things. If I can use a really geeky “Lord of the Rings” analogy. It’s like we treat our identity as followers of Jesus like one of the rings of power instead of the one ring. The one ring to rule them all, the one ring to find them, the one ring to bring them all and end the darkness behind them, right? Sorry, I’m geeking out on you there. If you don’t like “The Lord of the Rings,” then just go back to the uniform. That the thing is it’s one uniform, okay? It’s not a mix and match. It’s not layering it on top of.

And so Paul says, listen, deciding to follow Jesus means choosing our new identity over all other identities. But that’s a very different difficult thing to do because those old identities continue to clamor for our attention. So, he says this, he says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Your faith in Jesus makes you one. He says all those other divisions, all those other identities, which he’s really talking about there, that they don’t matter in same way. Now, I think it’s probably important to recognize that he’s not saying that there’s no differences, okay? He’s not saying that there’s no difference between these things. He’s not saying there’s no difference between a Jewish person and a Gentile person. Of course, there’s differences. He’s not saying there’s no differences between slaves and masters or in more modern language, we might say between employers and employees, there’s definitely differences. He’s not saying there’s no differences between men and women, there’s differences.

What he is saying is that our differences no longer define us, so we can’t keep letting them divide us. Does that make sense? That’s his point. As followers of Jesus, that new identity, that’s what defines us. All the other ones, those differences, they’re real and they’re definitely part of the landscape of our interactions, but our differences no longer define us, so we can’t keep letting them divide us. But we do, don’t we? Those identities continue to divide us. But he’s leaning hard into a call really to begin thinking about who we are and whose we are very, very differently. He says if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Couple of weeks ago we were talking about Abraham, Paul’s used that argument before. Abraham was the very first man that God called to belong to him by believing in him And God gave incredible promises to Abraham. He said, “I’m going to bless you and I’m gonna bless the whole world through you.” And all of these promises, Paul said, they came to fulfillment in the person of Jesus.

Jesus was the ultimate Seed or the offspring of Abraham and all the promises of God to Abraham coalesce around the person of Jesus. And so, when we have faith in Jesus, we become recipients of those. And it’s interesting here, he uses the language he says, “You are Abraham’s seed.” He says, “In Christ, you become the very person that God was envisioning the moment that he gave those blessings and those promises to Abraham.” Again, not only promises that I’m going to be good to you, but also that through you I’m going to be good to the whole world. He says, when we follow Jesus, we become the descendant of Abraham that all those promises are going towards. And he has using other language, similar idea though, we become heirs. We become the ones who are standing to inherit all of these good things that God has promised us. And really, what he’s saying is if you’ve kind of put it all together, he says, in Christ, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Gentile or any other identity. In Christ, our differences don’t define us, shouldn’t divide us, and they don’t disqualify us from any blessing of God.

Maybe you came from a family where you didn’t think you were qualified to receive anything good. Maybe they made you feel like that. Or maybe you’ve lived life in a particular way that you know is far from God. Maybe sin has characterized your life to such a degree to this point that you feel like there’s no possible way that God would be willing to bless me. Thinking that God could love me, that’s hard enough to go beyond love to pouring good things into my life. No, not if you know what I’ve done, not if you know what my life’s been like. Maybe you feel like that, but you need to understand that by faith in Jesus, all of those things that we think disqualify us, they go away. In Christ, our differences don’t divide us from each other. Why? Because they’re no longer who we are. They no longer define us nor can they disqualify us. He says, what I’m saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he’s no different from a slave although he owns the whole estate.

And what he’s getting at here is that, we used to live a very different way. We were like children who didn’t understand the fullness of what God was leading us to. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. And so also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. He says, before we kind of grow up, we’re often held under the control of a guardian. Now last week, we were talking about the fact that for the Jewish people, the guardian was the Law, it was the Old Testament rules and regulations and he said that protected the Jewish people. And now, he’s kind of shifting over and he’s talking more to the Gentile people who didn’t grow up with the Law. And he says, “You were held under a guardian too.” In fact, really all of us were held under another guardian we need to talk to or talk about, and that guardian was an elemental spiritual force. And what does that mean?

Well, two things we need to understand. Number one, we need to understand that it’s a bad thing. That the particular word that Paul is using here in the original Greek, Paul always uses in a negative way. So, this is a bad thing. Whatever this elemental spiritual force is, it’s a bad thing. The second thing we need to understand is that it’s a foundational thing. It’s a basic thing, it’s something that’s often under the surface. We’re not always aware of it, but it’s the foundation of which every human relationship is built up. Again, we may not know that that’s the foundation we’re building on, but it’s always there and it always impacts the way those relationships go. So, really, what he’s saying is before faith in Jesus, our relationships were founded on a bad principle. Apart from faith in Jesus, all human relationships are founded on a bad principle. Okay, what’s that a bad principle?

Well, to understand that, we probably need to go back to what he said in 3:28. He said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female.” Those are the kinds of divisions that he’s talking about, and what he’s telling us now is the reality is that, that apart from faith in Jesus, our tendency is to pay attention to those differences, allow them to define us, and then use them divide us from each other. That’s the way human relationships work. That’s the foundation on which it’s built. I mean, essentially, what he says is ever since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, because of sin, human relationships are governed by the tendency to turn differences into divisions. And we see it all the time, don’t we? It’s impossible to avoid. He’s saying it’s an elemental spiritual force. It’s a foundational bad, but foundational principle in which all human relationships are built. We turn differences into divisions. It’s been going that way ever since Adam and Eve brought sin to the world and we are not just enslaved to it, we’re propagators of it. We do it ourselves.

And it’s interesting if you think about it, that list of divisions that he gave us. Jew and Gentile, that’s race and religion. Two pretty big areas we continue to divide over, right? Slave nor free, that’s socioeconomics. Politics fits into that category too. Male and female, that’s gender. He hits all the major categories that we still divide over today, right? Race, religion, socioeconomics, politics, gender. That the reality is that we sort of look around and go, you know, we’ve never been more divided and Paul would go,” Yeah, I beg to differ.” Because the reality is this is what human beings do. We’ve been doing it ever since Adam and Eve rebelled and walked away from God, where we came into a place where all of our relationships are built on this foundational principle of turning differences into divisions. But the good news is that was never God’s plan and God’s never okay with our version of relationships.

And so, he says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law as a Jewish person to redeem those under the Law, to redeem the Jewish people, that we might receive adoption as sons.” So, he says, the Jewish people by faith in Jesus get adopted into the family of God. But then he says this, “Because you are his sons,” and he’s speaking to Gentiles, to non-Jewish people, he says, “You’re sons, in the same way, the Gentiles were because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” So, now he uses inclusive language. Paul is a Jewish person. But now he’s talking about Gentiles, his brothers and sisters in Christ with other Jewish followers of Jesus. And now, he says here’s where we are, he sent the Spirit of God into our hearts. The Spirit who he calls out Abba, Father, it’s an Aramaic word for father that implies relationship, it implies this sort of an intimate quality relationship.

It’s a way of thinking about God not just as a distant lawmaker, but as a very present loving Father. He says the Spirit cries out Abba, Father, allowing us to see God as our Father. He says, so you are no longer a slave, but you are God’s child. And since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Bottom line this whole section, what he says is pretty simple. It’s simple to understand, he says, our faith makes as family, so don’t let differences define or divide us. It’s pretty straightforward, right? Our faith makes us family, so don’t let our differences define or divide us. I think the difficult thing becomes how do we put that into practice, especially given that this tendency to turn differences into divisions is so basic to human culture since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. Because that’s the foundational principle on which human relationships are built, how do we grab ahold of that? How we put it into practice? How do we get out of that rut and move towards God’s intention for us as a church first?

And there’s a couple of things that I wanna suggest that you might want to wrestle with. The first one is this. I believe and I’m really more and more coming to understand that God’s calling me to deal with this that we have to actively resist the temptation to allow differences among Christians to become divisions in the church. We have to actively resist because if we don’t actively resist it, we’ll fall back into the old patterns. How do we do that? Because here’s the thing, there are differences. And sometimes those differences become really significant. And so, there are times that I do believe Christians do have to divide from one another because they differ on some of the foundational things that make us family. So, I’m not saying that there are never differences and that the differences never matter, I mean, anybody who knows me knows that I love theology. I love good theology. I’m committed to good theology. And sometimes, the theological differences become substantial in a way that it becomes difficult to work with each other. I know that happens. What I’m more and more believing and seeing even in my own life is that we’re often tempted to turn differences into divisions when the differences really aren’t all that important. We turn differences into divisions far too often far too easily, and we have to actively resist that?

How do we do that? There’s a couple of things that I’m learning about my own life. First one is this, focus on what we have in common before what we have in conflict. When you find yourself in conflict with somebody who claims to be a follower of Jesus like you claim to be a follower of Jesus, but there’s a point of contention, there’s a point of conflict, you know, you’re charismatical or I’m not charismatic, you’re Calvinist, well, I’m an Arminian or I have no idea what you’re talking about, right? Or, you know, I’m pre-tribulation, you’re post-tribulation. Again, maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about, but it’s okay, right? I’m Lutheran, I’m Methodist, I’m Baptist, I’m Catholic or whatever it is, okay? What you want to start with is not the differences, not the place that we have in things in conflict, we’re gonna start with what we have in common. Okay.

What do we have in common? And so, I’m trying to find myself like going, “Okay, well, hang on a second, do we believe that Jesus is the only Son of God who died for our sins and rose from the dead three days later? Oh, we do?” All right. That’s a significant point of commonality. Okay, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God, it’s inspired and it’s reliable. Do you believe that? Oh, you do?” Okay. “Do you believe that the church exists to share the good news of God’s love with the lost? Oh, you do?” That’s a lot of commonality. And what’s interesting is when we focus on what we have in common before what we have in conflict, it changes the perspective on the things that we have in conflict. And we often find that they’re not nearly as big a deal as we thought they were. And that they don’t necessarily lead to as quick a division. So, that’s one thing we can do, focus on what we have in common before what we have in conflict.

Second thing that I’m discovering is really powerful for me at least, maybe you’ll find it as useful for you as well is that we can ask ourselves this question, is this belief something I would die for, defend, or discuss? I’m finding this enormously useful. I got this from a friend of mine in Minnesota. I was like, “That’s gold.” Yeah. So, okay, we find a point of conflict with somebody. Okay, that belief that we’re talking about where we’re in conflict, is this something I would die for, defend, or discuss? Die for meaning like, I’m sorry, like that’s Gospel truth. I can’t move away from that. Defend meaning I’m gonna argue with you because I think you’re wrong, and I think I’m right. And I think I can go to the Bible and demonstrate that I’m right. And I think it matters in some significant ways. So, I’ll defend it, but I’m not going to die for it if you differ from me on that one. And then there’s the discuss. Our elders are actually going through this exercise right now here at the church. By the way, if you’re not familiar with elders at Mission Hills, the elders is a group of wise men who discern, direct, and protect the future of the church. They make sure the church is going in the right direction to accomplish God’s vision for the church. And they protect the church from significant deviations from that of Mission Hills or from doctrinal errors, those kinds of things.

One of the things that we believe God’s laid in our hearts is what we call the Front Range Vision. Some of you have heard us talk about it before. Front Range Vision is that we believe God’s called us to reach every lost person in the Front Range. Now, there’s two ways we can do that. One way is we’re going to continue reaching people as Mission Hills Church. We’re going to do campuses, online ministry, all kinds of things to reach people in the Front Range as Mission Hills. But we don’t believe for a second that the Mission Hills is capable of reaching every lost one of the Front Range. But God has raised up all kinds of other churches, sister churches that are capable of reaching the lost with the love of God. And we want to come alongside them and help them do that.

God’s taught us something. He’s given us some resources, so we want to empower other churches to reach the lost. And then the question becomes like, well, which kind of churches can we work with? Who can you come alongside and so we can profitably work together to extend the Gospel? And what we’ve kind of realized as elders is what we kind of need to go through our beliefs and go which ones we’d die for. Like, if people don’t agree with us on the die for, yeah, we probably can’t work together. On the other hand, then there’s some of the defend things. Like, we can argue with each other about it. We’ll try to convince you that we’re right because we think we are. By the way, I had somebody tell me once, “Your problem is you think all your opinions are right.” And I was like, “Why would I hold opinions that I didn’t think were right?” Show me somebody who has an opinion…it’s okay. So, you know, right. So, there’s defend, I’m pretty sure I’m right about this and we think it matters. And then there’s the we’ll just discuss it. Like, I’ll just tell you from me, okay? This is just me.

The elders are in this process right now, I’m not speaking for the whole elder team. But I’ll tell you for me, like, I’ll die for the idea that Jesus is the only sacrifice for our sins and we need personal faith in him saved. I’m going to die for that one. I’m gonna defend pretty strongly what I believe is the biblical teaching on baptism. We talked about that earlier. It’s a good example. I think the Bible teaches the baptism is a public demonstration of personal faith. And so, we do what’s called believer’s baptism here. We baptize people who have made the decision for themselves to follow Jesus. We don’t do infant baptism. And if you were baptized as an infant, I want you to know I’m not I’m not trying to undermine the value or significance of that, I know that that can be very meaningful in that context. I certainly don’t mean to be insulting.

I would argue that where some churches do an infant baptism is not what baptism is. It’s parents committing to raise the children within the family of God and that’s a wonderful thing. It’s a powerful thing, but it’s just not what baptism is as I understand Scripture. And so, I’m gonna argue with people who go, “Oh, we do infant baptism.” I’m gonna try to convince you on that, but I’m not going to die for that one, okay? Now, I’ll die for the sufficiency of Christ. I’ll defend my view of baptism. But when we talk about the end times, that’s just a discussion. All right. You wanna talk about the specific sequence of events in the end times, like, we’ll talk about it, but not for very long, honestly, because we got other things to get onto. I mean, we know that we’re here to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission, and getting caught up in all those discussions and certainly dividing from other churches on those discussion areas, that’s not profitable.

Listen, the church is here, right, you know why God has a church in the world? Because he loves us and he wants us to tell the lost that he loves them. We’re here to help people do that. Help them become more like Jesus and to join him on that mission. So, we’re not gonna spend too much time worrying about those discussion areas. And I think this is very useful as a church, but I also think it’s very useful for individuals. When you find yourself in conflict with somebody who claims to be a follower of Jesus like you, ask yourself on this belief that we’re in conflict, is this a die for, a defend, or a discussion issue? And I’m finding personally that helps me to avoid the temptation to turn differences into divisions that don’t need to be there. Again, sometimes there are divisions that become necessary. I understand that, I’m not naive. My concern is that we divide too quickly and too often, and it hurts the work of the Gospel.

Second thing we can do, we need to model the God-given work of combating division in human society. We need to model that work. The first application really had to do with what we do inside the church, but this is a little bit more outward-facing. As we look out into the world, we see all the divisions there, which we know are natural. It’s the elemental spiritual force in which human relationships are built. We need to model to the world the God-given, the God-ordained work of combating that division. Now, understand this, I don’t believe for one moment that apart from faith in Christ, you can have real unity in the world. We cannot be one nation unless we are one nation under God. What I’m saying is we can never expect to be one nation under God if we can’t figure out how to be one church under God. And if we don’t model to the world what it looks like to step over lines of division and go, “I’m not going to let those define us. And I’m certainly not going to let those be a barrier to me expressing the love of God to people who differ from me on other things.”

I think there’s a place as God calls us to be socially active, to be active in dealing with racial divisions and gender divisions and political divisions and socioeconomic divisions. To look at those lines that have been drawn and go, “I don’t care about that line. I’m stepping over that line to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” We’re called to do that. And ultimately, what happens is we end up stepping closer to people so that we can speak to them the truth that God loves them and has done everything necessary for them to be part of our one family. One family, one faith. One faith that makes one family, in which our differences don’t define us and they certainly don’t divide us. Let me give you a couple of questions to wrestle with.

Question number one, with whom do I share a faith that I struggled to acknowledge as family? Who do you know that claims to be a Christian like you, but you struggle to see them as a Christian like you? Maybe that’s an individual, maybe that’s somebody in your community, your work and your neighborhood, or maybe it’s a church or a movement of churches. Who do you struggle to acknowledge as family even though there’s at least a claim to share the same faith?

Second question to wrestle with is what other identities do I need to let be overshadowed by my identity as a child of God? The reality is that far too many of us are mixing and matching our uniforms. We’re mixing and matching our discipleship, our decision to follow Jesus with our politics, with our race, with our gender, with our socioeconomics, whatever they are. We’re mixing and matching. So, what other identities do you struggle to let go of in of your one identity as a follower of Jesus? And again, it may be that there’s good things to some of those identities and our identity as followers of Jesus allows us to bring those good things from them. What our identity as followers of Jesus doesn’t allow us to do is to put those other things on par with our identity as children of God. So, which ones do you struggle to subsume underneath that new identity as a child of God?

Third question I encourage you to wrestle with is where is God calling me to model the work of combating division? And even right now, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you that there’s a place of division and it’s time for you to step over it, to speak the truth about a God who loves everyone equally, regardless of where they come from, regardless of their past, regardless of their family, regardless of their present beliefs, He loves them all and he wants you to speak that love to them. Where is he calling you to do that? Would you pray with me?

God, we thank you for this word from your servant, Paul. We acknowledge it’s a challenging word. It’s not hard to understand, it is very hard to implement. We ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we, as your children have drawn lines of division and created barriers of relationship, both inside the church and also out. We ask for your forgiveness and are grateful knowing that what Jesus did on the cross to bring us into this new family is more than enough to eliminate sin of the damage that we’ve done by allowing differences to be divisions. We confess those sins and we receive your forgiveness. Thankful for a fresh start and pray that your Holy Spirit now would speak to us about what it looks like to move forward grabbing hold of these truths that you’ve given us in your Word. Lord, you’ve given us an incredible purpose. We’re here because you love us. And you want us to let the lost know that you love them. It’s an incredible purpose. It’s an incredible privilege to be part of that. And Lord, we ask that you teach us to move forward in ways that make progress. We no longer spend our energy turning differences into divisions, we spend our energy on our mission. Speaking of that mission, Lord, as followers of Jesus, we pray right now for all those that are listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus yet.

And while the people of God pray, if that’s you, if you’re not a follower of Jesus and you’re listening to this, here’s what I want you to hear, more than anything else, here’s the one thing you need to come away today understanding. God loves you. We’ve all sinned, and our sin separates us from God. Our sin creates an actual division between us and God. It’s the only division that really matters in the end. But God loves us so much that he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price of our sin. And having paid the price of our sin, three days later, he rose from the dead and he gives every one of us, no matter what our past is, no matter what our background is, no matter what our history is, he gives every one of us the chance to say yes to faith in him.

And when we say yes to faith, and when we say yes to following Jesus, when we put our trust in him, that dividing line is removed. We are adopted into the family of God. We’re forgiven of our sins. We receive the blessings of God not only of a relationship with God but of being used by God to make a difference in the world. It’s all available by faith in what Jesus did for us. And if you’ve never put your faith in what Jesus did for you, today’s the day. There’s no reason to leave that dividing line up between you and God anymore. Your Father wants to embrace you. Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have a conversation with God right now. In your heart, say something like this to God:

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. And I’m sorry. I know my sin separates me from you. Thank you for sending Jesus to die in my place, to pay for my sin. To remove that barrier. I believe Jesus rose from the dead, and Jesus, I’m saying yes to following you. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you and what you did for me. I accept your forgiveness, I accept a new relationship with God. It begins now and goes on forever. Amen.

Are you Human?:*