Line or Hand?
How should Christians interact with those of different denominations? What about those who don’t even know Christ yet?
(Transform church slide)
Real quickly, before we get started…
I just want to acknowledge that there are a few people here today from our future church plant in the Andover/Ham Lake area, Transform Church…
Observing and learning some of our systems today.
And, in case you were interested, we did indeed get 20 people to sign-up to go for 9 months or more to help Transform Church get started.
So thank you to the 20 of you who have bravely taken on this endeavor to help us extend God’s kingdom in yet another church plant.
(Lost & Found series slide)
We are jumping back into the Book of Luke this morning, which is one of 4 books about the life of Jesus in the Bible.
We’ve been going verse by verse through this book since March of 2018…although, we’ve taken A LOT of breaks to do other series.
Because so many of you are new, and we’ve taken a lot of breaks, I want to bring you up to speed on what’s happened so far in the book.
The first two chapters focus on the births of John the Baptist and Jesus…and for chapters 3 – 9 (which we’re currently at the end of)…I want to show you a 5-minute recap video.
This is from the Read Scripture App (you can also find these online at TheBibleProject.com)
But here’s a recap from chapters 3-9
(Play Luke 3-9 summary video)
All right…so on to the 2nd section of the Book of Luke…you ready? J
In our last two messages on Luke, back in March, after Jesus had come down from the mountain…
We saw how the disciples couldn’t save an oppressed boy…
And right after that, the disciples inexplicably started arguing about which one of them was the greatest.
Today, you’re going to see the disciples get it wrong YET again (twice actually) …and in the Bible, it’s all still the same DAY as the mistakes of the last few messages.
So, one moral of the story is…
Don’t be so hard on yourself…
The disciples made massive mistakes, in the presence of Jesus, multiple times a day.
And He still loved them & used them
DRAWING LINES AMONGST BELIEVERS
We’ll start w/ just 2 verses
(Luke 9:49-50) – NIV
49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” 50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
So John and the disciples see someone else doing ministry in the name of Jesus.
And they’re not having it.
Why? What’s the problem here?
Because he’s not ONE of THEM.
“The chosen ones”…the 12 disciples.
Jesus corrects them by saying, “whoever is not against you is for you.”
He’s saying, “Is that man doing God’s work really against us?”
No, he’s on the same team.
This is a “good word” for much of the protestant world and its thousands of denominations.
There are plenty of churches, in our city, and in MN…
And they’re not against us.
Here’s the main challenge of our broader passage today
Where we want to draw lines, Jesus extends a hand
So often we want to draw lines to differentiate between US, God’s true, and right people…and those other “Christians”
It’s like that old illustration as told by a man walking across a bridge. He said:
I was walking across a bridge one day and I saw a man standing on a ledge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.
"Well, there's so much to live for." "Like what?"
"Well, are you religious?" He said yes. I said, "Me too!"
"Are you Christian or Buddhist?" "Christian." "Me too!"
"Are you Catholic or Protestant?" "Protestant." "Me too!"
"Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" "Baptist." "Wow, me too!
"Are you Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" "Reformed Baptist Church of God." "Hey, me too!"
"Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1789 or Reformed Baptist Church of God, 1915?"
"He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915." "Me too."
"Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915, Western Congregation, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915, Eastern Congregation?"
"He said: "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915, Eastern Congregation."
"I said, "Die, heretic scum!!" And pushed him off the bridge
We’re prone to want to draw lines all over the body of Christ…and say who’s in and who’s out.
Now, of course, we have to draw the line somewhere.
If someone doesn’t believe in the resurrection, or they don’t believe in Jesus for their salvation, I assure you they are not a Christian, and let’s not pretend that they are.
I’ve been around all different types of Christians in my life.
I grew up, before I knew Christ, kind of attending a mainline protestant church with my family.
And I assure you, although it certainly wasn’t the norm, there were definitely people who were on fire for Christ within that church.
The college that I went to….85% of the students were Catholic
While again, a passionate relationship with Jesus was not the norm there, I met many Catholics who had an incredibly strong relationship with Christ, and they trusted in Jesus by faith for their salvation.
When I was in college, I attended a very charismatic church…because the pastor there was BY FAR the best Bible teacher in town.
Some of you would be freaked out attending there.
Some of their women wore wedding dresses to worship…because they were the bride in Christ.
You felt funny if you weren’t raising your hands.
And I tell you what, certainly there were a ton of people there that followed Jesus.
I was a youth pastor in an evangelical free church.
I’m now a pastor in a Converge church, which is what we call ourselves because we’re afraid to use the word Baptist.
And in all expressions of Christianity, you can find people who follow Jesus by faith.
And we miss this, when we instead just stereotype…and draw lines.
Don’t interpret me…we take our theology incredibly seriously here.
That’s why we offer FIVE Bible & Theology classes in the summer…
So yes, I believe you should land on some Biblical CONCLUSIONS
BUT when we get to heaven, realize that Jesus is going to say to EVERY ONE of us, “Seriously, you thought THAT about me? Sorry to tell you, but you were wrong.”
And if that’s true, that ought to foster some humility in us…some hesitancy to draw lines all over the body of Christ
Jesus is teaching the disciples to extend a hand to other people who are out doing ministry too
Whoever is not against you is for you.
If they’re not against a Biblical Jesus…let’s work together.
There’s a helpful passage n Philippians where Paul says that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry (ry-vuhl-ree)…others out of selfish ambition.
That makes us want to get our sharpies out and start drawing lines, right?
Surely we can’t be seen as “united with those who would preach Christ out of selfish ambition?!?”
But what does Paul say?
I think it’s a rather shocking conclusion to many of us as evangelicals:
(Philippians 1:18) – NIV
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
He’s saying that even here…we should extend a hand before we draw a line.
So how do you know where to draw lines and where to extend a hand?
I think ONE of the things we can use to help guide us in that question is the presence of fruit.
Is there fruit from their church? From their ministry?
Are people getting saved?
Are we seeing people grow as disciples with the fruit of the Spirit (More love & joy & self-control?)
In other words, can we tangibly see God moving in their ministry.
It’s not like John came to Jesus and said, “Hey! Other people are saying you’re not God and just a man…and we told them to stop it”
Jesus would have said, “Good!”
Because there is no fruit in heresy.
But what did John say?
He said, “Jesus, someone else is driving out demons…they’re setting people free from darkness and turning them to God
What is that??
We need to stop speaking negatively about other churches…just because they look different than ours.
If they believe the Scriptures, and they’re preaching the Gospel, and there’s fruit…who cares how they do it.
I sometimes wonder if there’s not a hint of jealously amongst the disciples.
If you go back just 9 verses in Luke, we see earlier that same day, that the disciples were unable to cast a demon out of a boy.
And along comes someone, who ISN’T them, and doesn’t belong to THEIR group…and they’re having all sorts of success with the exact same thing they were unable to do.
And the disciples tells them to stop doing it because they’re not in the “True Jesus Club”
And I think American Christians are absolutely notorious for falling into this exact trap.
“Oh did you hear about, this large church (because again, usually its coming from jealously), well, let me tell you why they’re not TOTALLY doing it right…like we are…”
What are we doing when we say that?
We’re drawing lines!
We’re missing out on celebrating what the church is doing as a whole…as ONE TEAM…because we can’t stop drawing lines!
If they’re not against us, they’re for us.
Personally, I LOVE when people use different methods and strategies to reach people for Christ.
It’s one of the reasons we PLANT churches.
Our area doesn’t need 25 Renovation Churches.
We’re not going to reach everyone in the way we do ministry.
We need churches to do it differently!
So personally, I love when people are starting…
Churches at their work place
Churches with hymns, churches w/ rap music
Churches aimed at young adults, seniors, addicts, you name it.
If they’re out doing it…I LOVE IT!
Some of you know that one of my favorite quotes of all time comes from when a woman critiqued DL Moody about his method of evangelism, and he said:
“I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it” – D.L. Moody
DRAWING LINES AGAINST NON-BELIEVERS
As we keep reading, we see an example of a different kind of line-drawing, so let’s keep reading:
(Luke 9:51-56) – NIV
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
Okay, a little Biblical background on this passage helps it make a lot more sense.
(Samaria Map) - KEEP UP UNTIL NEXT SLIDE
Jesus is up in Galilee, and he’s going to head south to Jerusalem for the Passover…where he’s going to be crucified.
However, in between Galilee and Jerusalem is a region called Samaria.
And the Samaritans and Jews did NOT like each other.
The Samaritans were a mixed group of people.
In the Old Testament, when the Assyrians exiled the Northern people, the Israelites, a new group of people moved into this region and intermarried with those who were left in it.
And eventually they became the Samaritans.
They were kind of Jewish, but kind of not.
They had their own version of the Old Testament…their own version of a temple (which used to be on Mt Gerazim), and they celebrated Passover in their own way.
So when the Samaritans hear that Jesus is going to be passing through their region on the way to celebrate “the Jewish version” of the Passover…in Jerusalem…
They don’t want anything to do with him.
They reject him…because He’s not embracing what they’re doing.
Don’t miss this: Many people in modern day reject Jesus for the exact same reason…
They reject Jesus because He’s not embracing the lifestyle they want to live
Jesus is extending a hand, but to draw you to Himself…
His hand is not there for you to draw Him in to fit into your worldview.
His hand is there to draw you to truth.
So James and John are upset that the Samaritans are rejecting the Son of God, and they say, “Jesus, you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy these guys?”
That sounds a bit intense, but it’s a reference to Elijah in the Old Testament.
Keep in mind that James and John were just WITH Elijah literally the day before on the mountain during the Transfiguration.
But if you go back to the Old Testament, in 2 Kings chapter 1, there’s a story where Ahaziah, the Israelite King who lived in Samaria (which is same region the disciples are now in), was seriously injured…
So King Ahaziah decides to send messengers to go consult Baal, a false god (an idol) to see if he would recover.
However, Elijah the Prophet meets those same messengers on the road and says: “Is it because there’s no God in Israel that you’re going to consult this fake god? Your king is going to die”
So, the king is angry about this, so he decides to send an army captain with 50 men to capture Elijah and kill him.
They find Elijah and say, “Man of God, come down here!”
And Elijah says, “If I’m a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you.”
And bam, fire comes down and destroys all 50 of them.
So it’s that exact same story (from that exact same region) that James and John have in mind when they say “Jesus, do you want us to call fire down from heaven on these Samaritans?”
(Back to LINE OR HAND slide)
But Jesus rebukes them for thinking this way.
The main theme of Luke…is Lost & Found
Jesus’s first offer is to rescue the lost…not just to bring the fire.
And so his ministry looks very different from Elijah’s, and so should ours.
But many of his followers are still thinking in the old ways…and they want to draw lines all over the place.
They’re saying, “NO, these are the bad people…
Let’s stop them…
Let’s fight them…
Let’s call down fire on them…
And see, the Gospel doesn’t draw lines like that.
Because we were once the bad people… were we not?
We didn’t save ourselves.
We didn’t earn our way to Jesus…so we can’t draw a line…build a fence on it…and say, “At least we’re not ‘those people.’”
No, Jesus extended his hand to us…to us sinners…
And I fear that although this is a pretty basic principle, that SO few of us live like Jesus in this way.
Most of us either A) completely avoid those who don’t know him (we’re like the Jews who used to completely walk around Samaria to get to Jerusalem)…
Maybe that’s you…you don’t associate with any non-Christians in your life.
OR, B) you’re ready to call down fire on those who are sinning.
“But in neither of those strategies do we imitate Jesus.
We must be so careful that those across the line of faith…see us extending a hand to them, not building a fence so we can say that we’re better than them…
Or worse yet, throw stones at them.
Some of you, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, need to get off social media until you can master this Biblical principle from Luke 9.
Because instead of extending the hand of grace to the unsaved, you’re drawing lines and building fences
You’re always posting about how the Democrats or Republicans are foolish and nonsensical (except you use different words)
You’re always posting about whoever believes a certain position or follows this idea is a moron…
And your loose tongue is damaging your witness.
You’re drawing lines and putting most of your non-Christian friends on the other side of a line you call stupid.
And then, 30 days later, asking them if they want to come to church w/ you.
And unless you master this “hand/line” principle, they’ll never say yes.
Because they see you as a condemning line-drawer
What does Jesus say right after John 3:16?
(John 3:17) – NIV
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
He didn’t come into the world to condemn people for not knowing the truth or for how to live.
Goodness, I wish you could have seen my life before I knew him.
I would be that exact person you’d be condemning at the office…or on social media.
You’d be saying, “I can’t believe those idiots believe this about the world”
“I can’t believe those idiots are making moral choices like this…”
That was me! That was me!”
It was you!
But that’s not how Jesus came to us…is it??
He didn’t come with a marker so he could make us feel alienated and pushed away…
He came with an outstretched hand.
And as our passage said today…he “resolutely set out for Jerusalem”…for the cross…to die.
And in his death…for sinners like us…he extends a hand.
An invitation…into his grace…into a new life.
May we imitate Him
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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