Andy Faulkner | 14 June 2020 | Sunday Celebration
“Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.
But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself is our peace. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations.
He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from Him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
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. Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.”
We have all been affected by the events of recent weeks following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent outpouring of public anger around the world demanding racial justice. We as a church were profoundly affected by Siji’s testimony and sharing last weekend on this topic. I have felt God draw me to this passage during the last few days and I want to share some specific thoughts from it with you. I am troubled as to what I, a white, middle-class man, can do to speak into this situation. What do I have to contribute to this conversation when I have never faced discrimination simply because of my skin colour or sex?
My only answer is to share with you the gift that God has given me of expounding His word to speak into this present age. As an eldership, we believe that God’s call to us as His people is to demonstrate a different lifestyle that shines like a light in these dark times. The church, as we will see, is the jewel in God’s crown; the apple of His eye. She is meant to shine with a brighter light and speak of a different way of living, the way of love enabled by the power of the cross.
The beauty of the church lies in her diversity. She is the manifold (variegated, multicoloured, polupoikilos) wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10). She is the statement, above all of the statements that men could make, of God’s abhorrence of division and hatred, of racism, sexism and discrimination. On that great and final day, when we are gathered around His throne, a great cry will go up:
“Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10
I want to say to every one of my brothers and sisters this morning who is from a different tribe or language or people or nation to me, “We stand with you. We celebrate all that is positive and delightful about your culture and your heritage. We love the colour that you bring to us. We love the variety of God’s brilliance that you reflect. We are thrilled and proud to have so many nations represented in Jubilee and we hunger for more.”
I want to use these verses from this passage to inspire us to live differently and reflect the beauty of the diversity with which God has blessed us and to root out every form of injustice that does not measure up to God’s standard of love as reflected in these words.
No longer foreigners and aliens
- Once you were foreigners and aliens; without hope and without God in the world
- “Christ-less, stateless, friendless, hopeless, and Godless” Hendriksen
- Excluded/separated from God, and excluded/separated from others (N.B. contrast love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself);
- Individualism was our creed and our lifestyle.
Fellow Citizens with God’s People
- Now we are included; now we are in fellowship with others.
- We are not just individuals; we are a community of God’s people. Consumerism is the shaping influence behind much modern expression of Christianity: me, my, mine… (e.g. songs, books, sermons).
- We are no longer defined by reference to our individual styles, tastes, or preferences.
- We are part of a one another community. The “you” most often used in the N.T. is plural, not singular; e.g. in French: “vous”, not “tu”.
- No Christian bubbles of me and Jesus! It’s all about us.
- No division based on race, or education, or wealth, or intelligence – we are one new community
Members of God’s Household
- We are also not separated from Him. Once were excluded from Him but now we are members – we’re a living, active, organically joined part of His work and His way. His Spirit is in us; we are spiritually joined to God.
- His Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are His children.
Built on the foundation of Apostles and Prophets
- We have a foundation. That foundation is doctrine, but it is not documentation.
- What we are founded on is a living ministry of the Spirit, not a set of words on paper. The word of God is alive; one of the ways in which it lives is in the hands of those who preach and teach and disciple it into others.
- We welcome apostolic and prophetic ministry in the form of people such as Dave Cape and Tony Fitzgerald. The preaching and teaching of God’s word like this.
Christ Himself as Cornerstone
- Underpinning everything and supporting everything is Christ Himself. But note that He is supporting the church, not individuals! He is supporting the collective structure and not simply individual needs, wants, preferences and desires.
- Christ is the beginning and the end; the keystone and capstone; He is the one in whom “all things now hold together” (Col. 1:17).
In Him the Building Rises
- Christ’s intention is not simply individual salvation or personal holiness. Of course, a personal relationship with Christ is the entry point, but what we are discipling and building people into is a corporate structure – the church of Jesus Christ. All the wonders of the truth of individual salvation serve to underpin the greater purpose: a people for His own possession (Eph. 1:14).
- Christ is the common ground; the glue that binds us together; the energy that causes growth and life.
- The expectation of what we’re doing should be growth: the building rises to become a temple (literally a dwelling place) of God.
A Dwelling of God by the Spirit
- The means by which all this is made real in our lives and experience is the Spirit.
- We are committed to building a Spirit-filled church: not a modern church; not a contemporary church; not a lively church.
- The centrality in work, worship, guidance, preaching, salvation, teaching, training, planning, strategising, and discipling is always the Spirit. We must be men and women who are full of the Spirit, and who live Spirit-filled lives.
- A key qualification for leadership is the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3-5). We should be able to see in our own lives and the lives of those we lead the evidence of Spirit-baptism. Ask the question…
- We are looking to see a dwelling of God (God’s manifest presence) by the Spirit (the dynamic, in breaking, empowering, experience of God).
- God has smashed forever the dividing walls between us and Him, and us and one another.
- The church is the multicoloured wisdom of God revealed.
- We are committed to seeing that community of the Spirit in all her beauty built here at Jubilee.
- It’s about community in diversity not individual Christianity.
- We’re going to celebrate our diversity in coming weeks.
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