Monday, July 16, 2018

Where will people hear about these important things if not from Christians? Nowhere.

Ephesians 1:4-12 (NIV) 4  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5  he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves... 11  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12  in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

·    This Reading from Paul’s letter to the Jesus-followers living in Ephesus brings up a word that causes a lot of worry and debate: Predestination

Ephesians 1:5-11 (NIV) 5  He predestined us to be adopted…
11  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…

·         Some have asked: Does this mean only some people are invited to come to God and go to Heaven? That some people are created by God only for destruction?
o   Nope. God wants everyone to be saved:

1 Timothy 2:4 (NLT2) [God our Savior] wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

John 3:16 (NLT2) 16  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Romans 10:13 & Joel 2:32 (NLT2) “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

·         Talk about predestination makes us so concerned about who is in and who’s out we forget what we’re supposed to be doing!

·         I had a conversation this week with another pastor about the church in general, and he made an interesting comment that if he cannot communicate to others what makes the work of the church worthwhile, then he’s not doing his job.
o   It made me ask myself questions, such as…
§  What, besides gratefulness for the Gospel and a sense of obedience, would make someone want to give to the work of the church out of their time, talent, and treasure?
§  What would make an “outsider” (someone who doesn’t go to a church) consider going? What is unique and beneficial enough to catch their attention?
§  There are perhaps thousands of answers, but I have a few below as examples and reminders to our mostly Christian congregation (we always have a few visitors among us that may not yet have that relationship with Jesus).

·         The church (meaning the group of people who follow Jesus – past, present, and future) is a really big deal with a really important job.
o   There is no other group of people on the planet that can do what we can do. The most important of which is we can introduce people to their Father in Heaven through the Good News of Jesus. But there's more - including insight on how to live.

People can learn things from the church that they cannot learn anywhere else.

Besides hearing of the Good News of God’s love and salvation, where else but from the church do people learn ___?

·         …We are all meant to be valued just because we are human
o   We are all made in the image of God, and therefore everyone has inherent value and purpose – not just the prettiest, strongest, or smartest
o   “All [people] are created equal” is not an American idea, but a Christian one
o   You don’t have to be a Christian to believe it, Jews do, too.
o   As do some atheists (though only in the “equal” part, not in the “created” part).
§  but atheists don’t have reason for it to be true – it’s just an opinion that is ultimately no more valid or less valid than any other opinion. After all, if we are only here because of random chance and evolution, there is no Ultimate Authority.
o   Christians can believe it because Jesus did – he said so
§  And since he was the one who predicted and pulled off his own death and resurrection, we have reason to believe it is more than opinion
§  It is the truth that goes beyond opinion. There is (and He is) Ultimate Authority.
§  He referred to the following in the Jewish scriptures:

Genesis 1:27 (NLT2) So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

·         We bear the image of the God who created all of us. All human beings are made in this image, and have inherent value out of honor to the one in whose image we were made.
·         Nobody else on the planet teaches this with the Authority the church (the people who follow Jesus) does.

·         Another question: Where else will people learn what tolerance is really all about?
o   Some people who loudly trumpet tolerance are the same people who get vicious when you disagree with what they are tolerant of.
·         What is real tolerance that every Christian should know and show?
o   Not to condone all behavior and ideas
o   But to love and value all people even before they learn better behavior and ideas

·         Yes – we are supposed to teach all people better ways and ideas, just as Jesus taught his disciples. He commanded them (and it’s passed on to all Christians as a commandment):
Matthew 28:19-20 (CEV) Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples… 20  and teach them to do everything I have told you.
·         When it comes to those who don’t think and act like we do (or as we are supposed to), we aren’t supposed to get mad and belittle them – or worse. Paul wrote Christians in the city of Corinth:
1 Corinthians 5:12a (TLB) 12  It isn’t our job to judge [those outside the church].

·         In fact, we are supposed to intentionally treat them with love – even if they are against us. Jesus said,
Matthew 5:43-45a (NLT2) “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

·         Too often today, tolerance only extends to those who adhere to a standard, and when behavior or ideas don’t match, people are devalued and thought lesser
·         Let’s recognize something:
o   There are lesser and greater thoughts. Some are valuable and some detrimental, some wise and some foolish.
o   There are lesser and greater behaviors. Some are valuable and some detrimental.
o   But all people, all image-bearers, are valuable, even if they hold lesser, detrimental thoughts and do lesser, detrimental actions.
·         Tolerance is about loving the person, and correcting the ideas and actions. Intolerance considers other people to be lesser because of their ideas and actions.
·         Who else will teach this if not the followers of Jesus? He is the reason we can and do!

·         Another question: Where will people learn what real love is if not from us?
o   That it’s not a feeling. It’s a choice as to how to treat others, to prefer them. Paul also wrote to the Jesus-followers in Corinth about what real love looks like:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT2) 4  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 

·         Real love is not an ooey-gooey feeling. It is showing preference to others by…
o   Being patient and kind
o   By not letting yourself be jealous
§  Or proud and boastful
§  Or rude
§  Or selfish
o   It means you don’t get irritated with others
§  Or keep score

·         Paul continues:
 6  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

o   Seek justice – even if it costs you
o   Prioritize the truth over your own perspective
o   Persevere in loving them
o   And always give the benefit of the doubt
·         Where do people learn this if not through the people of God?

·         Another question: Where else can people learn what leadership and power are supposed to be leveraged for?

John 13:3-5 (NLT2) 3  Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.

·         In that room, on that night, Jesus was the most powerful person on the planet. And He knew it. He had all authority. He could do anything he wanted. And he’d still be able to return to Heaven. No matter what he did.
o   What have you heard taught that you should do when you leverage your power and influence? When you’re the most powerful person in the room? If there’s no consequence when you leverage it?
·         Jesus’ answer is almost unimaginable in today’s world:

4  So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5  and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
·         He used his power and influence – get this – to serve those who didn’t have power and influence.
·         And then he told his disciples, those that he just served by doing something that it was illegal to ask a fellow Jew to do, that it is not only possible, but preferable to serve rather than be served. To go and serve others who don’t deserve it.
John 13:15 (NLT2) I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”

·         If the church (the people who follow Jesus) don’t teach this, who out there will?
o   Christians – you know a secret that must be shared!

·         Another question: Where else will people learn there’s a purpose to freedom?
o    People in our culture are more often saying, “It’s a free country, so I can do what I want.”
·         But Christians know that’s not what freedom is for.

1 Corinthians 10:23-31 (NLT2) You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.
31  …Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

·         We’re free not so we can do whatever we want. That ends in anarchy.
o   We are free so we can do what’s right!
·         An example: most of our roads have traffic going in opposite directions with nothing but a painted line separating them.
Image result for 2 land road traffic
o   If you use your “freedom” to drive on whichever side you wish, at whatever speed you want, you’ll create chaos and people might die.
o   If you use your freedom to do what’s right, everyone gets where they want to go safely and efficiently.
·         Who else can teach our culture, our neighbors, our children, that (in things much more important than traffic), our freedom is meant to be leveraged for more than our appetites? That it is meant to be an opportunity to do what is right and good and honorable and things that would bring a smile to God’s face?

·         Another question: Where else will people learn that it’s possible and even preferable to choose to be joyful even when going through hard times and tragedies?
·         James, Jesus’ brother, wrote:

James 1:2-4 (NLT2) 2  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

·         This doesn’t mean we won’t grieve, or be sad, or struggle
o   But it does mean that God can meet us there and redeem the pain for something better
o   Struggles mean we can grow to be more whole and mature
·         And God will use even the tragedies we experience for our benefit:
Romans 8:28 (NLT2)  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

o   And because we have them and know God’s comfort and help, we can use that to help others:
2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT2) 4  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

·         Here’s another example: Did you know the world is being divided into opposing groups?
o   I read Facebook; I figured it out all on my own.
·         People are dividing according to
o   Ethnic differences
o   Economic classes
o   Social classes
o   Racial divisions
o   Political differences
o   Religious conflicts
·         Where else but from those who know Jesus will people hear that there is a way to overcome the divides even if neither side “gets their way”?
o   Jesus breaks the walls that otherwise divide us!!

Galatians 3:26-28 (NLT2) 26  For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

·         Where else will divided people be able to come together if not in Jesus?
o   The only other option is for one side of the division to “win” and beat the other side. Which breeds resentment. It really doesn’t settle anything.

·         Here’s another question: Where else but from Christians will people learn we do not earn God’s favor by what we DO?

Ephesians 2:9 (NLT2) Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

·         Salvation (a real, life-changing relationship with God our Creator) is offered to everyone.
o   Nobody else can bring to the table what Jesus-followers can bring
§  We know the secret that will turn the world upside down!
o   Everybody is invited
o   Everybody is welcome to come in by trusting Jesus
o   Everybody gets the same benefits
§  Many of which can be found NOWHERE else

·         Christians, You know the secrets. You have something worth sharing. Now share it. People need Jesus.