Jun 20 2021Engaging without Conforming pt. 2

We are continuing a series.

After July 4 – we will start some Team Sermon weeks – 4-5 weeks – fun and exciting to hear from several people each Sunday in the gospels.

How do we engage in our world, for the purpose of bringing people to faith in Jesus, without being conformed to the world?

This has been our theme – I’d like to look at how to do this PRACTICALLY in our current context – where we currently live.

Paul shares how HE did this:

1 Cor. 9:19

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

Paul starts with a universal concept: Christian freedom is all about giving up our rights and freedoms -and even our lives – to win people to Christ.

Everyone can do this – no matter the situation or context.

First, we have to identify OUR everyone. Who are the specific people God wants you to win to Christ? Do you know their names? It could be neighbors – coworkers – etc. Anyone can mean no one, unless we realize God has people God wants us to reach. People God wants us to become slaves to in order to win them.

It may be people groups – immigrants- homeless – foster children – people God is calling you to bring to Him…

Next, discover how to identify with and engage in their specific culture without being conformed to that culture. This is where it gets more difficult. Paul describes how he did this.

Last week I talked about St. Patrick – who went to the Irish, and engaged in their culture in significant ways without being conformed to the pagan practices.

The Roman church believed they had to first change the people – civilize them – but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. So rather than identifying – they tried to change their culture.

20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.

What is odd about Paul saying that?

He WAS a Jew! Something changed radically in Paul’s mind when he came to Jesus. Paul sees himself as a citizen of another kingdom. His identity has changed.

He was a Hebrew of Hebrews – as Jewish as one could get – and now he says – to the Jews, I became like a Jew.

If we want to bring people to Jesus, we must first understand that we belong to another world – citizens of another world.

Phil. 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven– and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Our citizenship is in heaven. For the Philippians, this was a significant challenge. In Philippi, there had been a civil war – between Marc Antony and Brutus, took place outside of Philippi – but what Augustus Caesar did – he took the soldiers of Marc Antony and allowed them to become citizens and occupy Philippi – Roman citizenship was prized – they won it at great cost. They were extremely patriotic! And Paul speaks into thses people – and Paul says – you are no longer citizens of Rome – but citizens of heaven.

This compares much to today – we have much to be grateful – but Paul would say – your citizenship has been switched! Your citizenship is in heaven. To engage in this context, we must understand that we are not of this world! We are IN this world though. We live here, in the US of A. This is where God has called us –

To the Americans, I became LIKE an American – so that I might reach the Americans.

That sounds weird – but that is how we should view it.

That would be a challenge for many of us.

Peter would say to us – Live as aliens – strangers – immigrants – in the land of your birth. That is what Peter tells the people he is writing to in his letter in the NT

We need to learn to live that way.

Immigrants to this world!

Not because we are from another earthly country – but a heavenly one.

A couple practical things with this – New ways of thinking – if we are to engage our world for the purpose of bringing people to Jesus, we need to learn to do it togegher. It needs to be a corporate thing. This does not mean we need to have more all-church meetings – what is important is learning to team with other Christians – that we can engage together with people.

The number one way we demonstrate our witness is by our love for one another – and unless we are working together in our witness, the world will not know our love for one another. It is a desperate need for the world to see.

I would guess that most outsiders don’t say – My, how those Christians love each other! But that is what people wrote about the early Christians – they thought they were weird! The Roman Empire began adopting some of their practice – because so many were going to Jesus – because they were feeding and caring for one another. It is a desperate need today.

I can’t give you the how-to’s – but I can say TRY! Experiment! We can’t say – we are doing this program to show love to the world.

Second – a new way of thinking – our country has become a diverse, multi-faceted country – and if you grew up in the 50s, 60s or 70s – you grew up in a uniform culture – watching the same 3 stations – the same news – you had the same narrative as those you lived around. We no longer share a common narrative. There are many narratives in this country and that is not going to change. We could think that is terrible, OR – we could see it for what it is – maybe one of the greatest opportunities for the gospel. We can present ONE narrative that anyone from any culture can say – I can be a part of that.

It is the narrative of Jesus.

That is the narrative we want to bring people to – what Christ has done for us.

20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

Law=Torah – Deuteronomy/Leviticus/exodus – These would be devout Jews – those who live according to Torah – Become like those who live like that – even though you are not under that – so as to win those under Torah.

Paul went back – as he was reaching those devoted to Torah – he would keep all of it that he could, yet refusing to rely on that for his standing before God – just in order to win those under the Law – under Torah.

On the other hand – one of the biggest issues in Paul’s ministry were so-called Jewish Christians who were trying to force Gentile Christians to live under the Law – under Torah – Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians – is a constant theme – this wall of separation being obliterated – and one new humanity in Christ – we are all ONE Paul says in Galatians. There is no longer Jew/Gentile, Slave/Free, Male/Female – we are all one.

Paul would be appalled at how divided Christians are today – in many ways.

Dave Brunelle told this story yesterday – and I have to tell it – it might be the only thing you remember.

We were discussing racism – and Dave was sharing his heart – they have worked so hard at this – Dave and Carole have 8 children – they have adopted 5, 4 of which are of color. When our family comes together – do you know what it would do to me if they sat at tables based on color? It would break my heart. And yet, that is what takes place for our Father in heaven.

Francis Chan – our small group will be reading a book of his. He has a book on unity – he talks about his own life – very humbled - and acknowledges being an arrogant individual as a Christian leader – and spends time confessing – the seminary, Bible schools he went to – he mentions all of them – he was taught to not trust and not be around charismatics. As he left and got involved in ministry – and started running into these leaders he was told not to trust – he was humbled as he saw the humility and commitment to Jesus. You can find interviews of him on that… it is fascinating.

As Paul talks about the Law – Tim Keller does a good job with this – the Prodigal God –

The story of the Prodigal son gives us two types of lost people – those who are lost because of their badness. Those are the ones we tend to focus on. Then there are the older sons – lost because of his goodness – his self-righteousness. And the story tells us that the ones who are lost because of their goodness have the hardest time coming to Jesus – because they want to do it all themselves.

When I was ministering on campus in the 70s – there were many we reached who were ‘Christian’ – but did not know Jesus. At the time, 90% of people would call themselves Christians. That has changed – people who call themselves Christians have dropped to 50%. And within all of this, there are those who are lost because of their badness – and their goodness. They recycle. They volunteer – they have all these good qualities, but they don’t have Jesus. And our job – how do we identify to the good person who has no interest in Chrisitanity? They may be spiritiaul. How do we identify with that person today – their culture – without conforming – so that we can win them to Christ?

Let’s pray.

21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.

22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

2 Cor. 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich.

2 Cor. 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

1 Cor 9:23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

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