Oct 3 2021 The Way to Win at Unity

Thank You, Lord, for Your goodness. Our hope is to be found in Jesus – help us to find out lives in You – because that is where they are.

Thank you –

2 weeks ago – John and Kay and Henry and Suzanne shared how division has affected their personal unity. You CAN be united with those who hold different perspectives – that CAN happen – it IS possible!

The Book of Ephesians talks about those divisions between the Jewish and Gentile Christians – and you might be sick of me sharing about that – and next week we’ll get to chapters 4-6 where it gets much more practical.

I’ll give you one word to sum up chapters 1-3: IDENTITY

The problem (and the solution) to the Jewish/Gentile divide is IDENTITY. Ethnic/National/Religious identity – those were the three issues for them.

Our world is divided much like theirs. And the Church today – it is not Jew and Gentile – we have all these things that divide us in so many ways – and you could look at that and be discouraged – but I will share my heart here a little bit – Now might be the opportunity – in the 45 years of me being a Christian – I believe this may be the greatest opportunity.

Ephesians 2

19 So now you Gentiles

are no longer strangers and foreigners.

You are citizens along with all of God's holy people.

You are members of God's family.

20 Together, we are his house,

built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.

And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

We have allowed ourselves to be drawn into the divide and are engaging in it like everyone else, but God wants us to engage differently.

Identity is about taking sides (from our perspective).

For them - there were two sides. Today - there are probably 3000 sides we can take!

Each side sees the others as the enemy - sadly, even within the Church.

As Christians, we have joined one side or the other side or the other side - but not all Christians have joined the same side - and there are some on all sides of the issue and we are making each other the enemy and not seeing things from God's perspective.

We need a correction to this in the Church. We think ours is the right side! You wouldn't take a side if you didn't think it was the right one.

We end up being like Joshua - before he conquered the land - this angel appeared with a flaming sword.

Joshua asked - are you for us or against us? The answer was NO! God is not on any of those sides. God is doing something in the world, and our job is not to get Him on our side, but how to get behind Him - not behind a side.

Each side is trying to sin the argument and impose the will to the platform. In that kind of environment -the table is set to engage the world NOT LIKE THAT! But we are not doing it. We try to impose our will, win the debate, and get our platform passed in this world.

No matter what, my opinion - we are not going to change or win our culture or world.

We are not going to win the morality battle - the ideology battle, nor the cultural battle.

The world is responding to the god of this world - which is Satan - and when we recognize that, it frees us to be an alternative people, to show people an alternative way of living that looks nothing like everything else - and we must begin living that alternative life as soon as we can.

If identity is the problem, what is the solution?

Ephesians 2:19

19 So now you Gentiles (Identity) (Stranger/foreigners)

are no longer strangers and foreigners.

You are citizens along with all of God's holy people.

You are members of God's family.

See - what is needed is a new identity - and that new identity - this solution can only be found in Christ.

That phrase, In Christ, comes up over and over again in Ephesians - and that is where our identity is found.

20 Together, we are his house,

built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.

And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

So, not only the Gentiles have a new identity - but we also in Christ have a new identity - in Christ!

The problem - we all have natural identities - I am white, another person is black. This is a reality. It is not wrong, but often, those natural identities will often compete with Christ for our loyalty

When we allow those identities to take priority over our in Christ identity, we divide and have a problem.

Other identities have taken priority.

There are two primary sources of identity. First - family - one of the most powerful and influential.

This would affect your religious identity. If you were in Ephesus, you would have worshiped Artemis of the Ephesians.

100 years ago, if your family was Catholic, you were Catholic - Presbyterians became Presbyterians.



Second - Ethnic identity. Color didn't matter - Roman citizen or not. Jewish or not. Greek - more like, your tribe or clan - we would think of it as nationality or citizenship.

Today we have an identity crisis - race is front and center - various theological identity - and various forms of identity within Christendom.

Then Political party - left-wing, right wing. Sexual and gender identities. City vs rural.

Sometimes identities tell us who we are - and sometimes who we are NOT! We think THEY are the evil - and we are the good.

These natural identities are real, and they compete with Christ for our loyalty.

Let me give an example of how this works. We take one or more of these identities and blend them with our identity in Christ.

And this is no different from when they would blend their worship of Yahweh on the altar of Baal.

Let me give an example. There are all kinds of Christian identities - but we have one 'in Christ' identity. That is fixed. It is hidden in God, in Christ.

Our identity is seated in God.

God tells us this in Chapters 1-3

Austria - where Cindy and I were - have a strong Christian identity. It is a lot different from ours.

On Sunday - everything is closed!

If you are in Salzburg on a Sunday night - good luck finding dinner! The only grocery store that is open is in the train station - and they will only sell staples - everything else is roped off!

Don't look down on them! Those who self-identify as evangelicals - 50% go to church once/month or LESS.

We tend to say - REAL Christians believe THIS about things. Or REAL Christians vote THIS way - or prioritize THIS social issue.

If any of that comes into our mind, we have blended natural identity with our identity in Christ.

If we cannot understand how thoughtful Christians can have different opinions about these issues, we are in danger of losing our identity in Christ - and maybe already have! I challenge you with that!

Ephesians 2:21

The only way we can have the impact we would want is with the Spirit of God. We need to rely much more heavily on God's spirit through this time.

Ephesians 3:4-6

In reading the previous...

No one else has ever known this mystery - and you are going to hear it now!

This mystery is

It is kind of like playing poker and you get to the last guy - read em and weep!

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.

The mystery of the secret of Christ - is that Jews and Gentiles are one!

The Jews knew this - but what was new - This was God's plan for the world - no identity better than the other.

Our challenge is to live the in Christ life different from any world we have ever known. We may never get back to what it WAS - that is a reality - but God is doing something in this world as it is! Don't miss it!

Ephesians 3:16

Christ may dwell in ALL OF OUR HEARTS - united - by the strengthening of our inner being by the Spirit.

Only God's spirit can bring about this transformation.

Ephesians 3:18

What we need - to know as deeply as possible how much God loves us - all of humanity - the world! And wants the entire world to experience His love.

The Church- should be filled with the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:20

What an incredible promise - We use this when we pray sometimes - God can do MORE! And that is true - but in context, he is talking about the divide between Jew and Gentile - and he is saying that only God can bring this about with His abundant power.

Eph 3:21

When that happens - when the church is united in this world today - loving one another - not taking sides with the world - whatever side - then as Jesus said - by this all will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another - and God will be glorified -

There will be plenty who hate us - but there are those who will say - that is different - different from anything I have ever seen.

And that will win!

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