Unity in the Community
Paul and the Jerusalem leaders put their unity in the Gospel before their differences in method. Are you putting method before the Gospel?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
I’m so pumped you’re here this morning as we worship God and learn his Word…so we can learn more about him and apply it to our lives.
Can I just say that I love pastoring this church. J
God has done some amazing things here in the last year. In fact, in the last 12 months over 50 people have given their lives to Christ at Renovation!
And many people walk through those doors every week, seeking God.
But the ministry that happens here, whether it’s the 50 people who accepted Christ, or the hundreds of other people who grow deeper with God every single week…
That doesn’t just “happen.”
It happens because a team of amazing volunteers serves you every single week.
In fact,it takes over 60 volunteers a WEEK to put on our services
And this morning…if you’re a regular attender at Renovation, I want to challenge you to get off the sidelines and serve here at Renovation.
For one, because God is doing a movement here…and I don’t want you to just watch it…but to be a part of it.
And secondly, because disciples serve. Disciples serve.
Many of us have somehow lost that as the gospel gets washed out through our American consumerism.
Can you possibly imagine the 12 disciples coming to one of our American churches every week and sitting in a chair while everyone served them…and then coming back the next week and doing the same thing?
That’s an impossible imagination.
No. Disciples of Jesus serve Him and His people...AND the people trying to find Him.
Service is an integral part of discipleship
And if you’re a regular attender, and you’re a believer in Jesus…let me encourage you this morning…if you want to grow in your faith…one of the ways we do that is NOT just to SIT and learn…but to MOVE and serve.
So a little while later…we’re going to give you a chance to respond…and I pray that today is the day you turn from Christian consumer to Christian mover.
We are continuing this morning in our “Gift Vs. Reward” series on the book of Galatians.
Galatians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul, in the early years of Christianity, to one of the early churches in Galatia (which is in modern-day South-Central Turkey).
And Paul is writing to them because he has found out that a group of Jewish-Christians, called the Judaizers, has infiltrated their Galatian churches…
and are now telling people that to be saved (forgiven), that people need to believe in Jesus AND observe Jewish Laws (like circumcision, eating Kosher foods, following Jewish Holidays, etc.)
Paul’s not happy about this at all…because Jesus has explicitly told him that people are saved by faith ALONE.
So he writes to the Galatians to remind them of the truth of the Gospel.
And “The Gospel” is the GOOD NEWS that Jesus died for our sins, and if we repent and believe in Him we will be saved!
When we last studied Galatians, Paul had just proved to the Galatians in chapter 1 that his Gospel (message about Jesus) was not something he got from anyone else.
He had got it directly from Jesus…not from the Jerusalem leaders or even the 12 disciples.
But for a moment, put yourself in the place of the Galatian believers.
Paul has just made a powerful case and has reestablished his credibility.
But here’s the question that’s going to arise for the Galatians, “So does that mean that Paul is in contraction with the 12 disciples? The leaders in Jerusalem??”
Or are they on the same page??
And Paul’s going to answer that question for us today:
You can follow along with your Bible, there’s 1 under every chair.
We’ll be on Page 943
Or you can click Live on your Bible App and follow along there as well.
(Galatians 2:1-5) – NIV
Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Ok…so what’s happening here?
Paul, and his friends Barnabas and Titus, have gone to Jerusalem to meet with leaders of Christianity there.
And they are going to confirm once and for all that what Paul is preaching to the Gentiles, and what the others in Jerusalem are preaching to the Jews…is 1 and the same…
Because remember…these Judaizers are saying to the Galatians that if you really want to be a Christian, you have to also be a Jew.
But if the disciples in Jerusalem agree w/ Paul, and say that’s NOT true, then Paul has been approved by Jesus…AND by the Christian leaders in Jerusalem!
“We don’t see the answer of the Jerusalem leaders in the 1st 5 verses, but Paul does mention to us that they didn’t ask Titus to get circumcised.
Well, what’s THAT all about?!? What does that even mean?
Well, Titus…Paul’s friend…is a Greek. He’s a gentile. Not a Jew, and thus not circumcised, which all Jews were supposed to be.
And Paul is simply telling the Galatian readers this: “Listen, we just hung out with the leaders of the church at Jerusalem…if they felt like you had to be circumcised to be saved, don’t you think they would have asked one of the major Gentile leaders of the church be circumcised?!?
I mean think about who Titus is. Titus is a model Gentile Christian (that’s why Paul brought him)
I mean, he has a book of the Bible named after him for goodness sakes.
Just a general rule, if you get a book of the Bible named after you, you’re probably a good Christian.
And yet they didn’t think Titus needed to be circumcised! And therefore, it’s obvious the leaders of the church did not think circumcision was necessary for salvation OR that you had to convert to be a Jew first to be saved.
Gentiles could simply turn to Jesus and be saved!
And so again, just like we saw in chapter 1, Paul has successfully argued that his Gospel is independent from anyone else (he got it directly from Jesus), and yet, it’s still endorsed by the leaders in Jerusalem.
But he’s also telling the Galatians that he’s willing to fight for the truth of the Gospel.
That it’s about the Gospel first. Not about traditions. Or culture. Or circumcision, or what you eat.
It doesn’t matter if you’re circumcised or not, if you eat Kosher Hot dogs or Oscar Mayer, if you use the liturgy or don’t know what a liturgy is, if you wear robes or shorts, if you use wafers for communion of Cub Foods white bread, if you have drums in church or play the Ukulele.
What matters is: Are you true to the Gospel: That Jesus died for our sins and if we repent and believe in Him, we will be saved.
See, the Gospel must always come first.
And things like: Culture, tradition, the music you worship to, if you baptize people in a lake or hot tub…have to come second.
But so often, we put TRADITION and METHOD above the Gospel.
That’s exactly what the Judaizers were doing in Galatia!
They were putting their Jewish culture and tradition ABOVE the most important thing: That salvation is from faith alone.
And it’s really common for us to get this order turned upside down.
Let me give you an example. It’s happened more than you’d think, but every once in a while we have people walk out of a service here.
And it always happens the same way…and it’s always by Christians. Often by people of an older generation, but not always.
They come in…with their big Bibles in hand. And then the music starts, the look at each other, roll their eyes, and then walk out.
I guess because we’re playing the devil’s music here or something w/ our crazy drums. J
And while I always let them go, in my heart, I want to run after them, and say, “Are you kidding me? God is doing an amazing work here. People are growing in their faith and getting saved all over the place! & you’re going to cast it off as wrong because the music isn’t your style.”
Well, what is that?? It’s putting METHOD over the Gospel
And that’s exactly what Paul was fighting against.
There’s a few people (much older and wiser than me) who go to this church who have told me, “The music isn’t my favorite genre BY ANY MEANS…but I love what God’s doing here, so this is MY church!“
Now that’s maturity. That’s putting GOSPEL before METHOD.
And that’s what Paul and the leaders of the Jerusalem church are about to do.
Let’s read on.
(Galatians 2:6-10) - NIV
6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message (explain). 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (explain) when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
So now, Paul has the checkmate in his argument against the Judaizers in Galatia.
Not only did he get his Gospel directly from Jesus, but even the leaders in Jerusalem endorse what he’s teaching (even Peter, the leader of the 12 disciples endorses him!!)
And these men, all together in this room (what a meeting by the way…some of the greatest men of history all together in 1 room)…they are able to avoid what would have been a MAJOR split in early Christianity…MAJOR split.
But it’s avoided because they recognize that both of them, although they’re reaching very different people, are putting the Gospel first.
AND…that their interpretation of the Gospel (we are saved through faith alone) is correct.
And they also point out that Peter and Paul had separate callings. They didn’t have a separate gospel, but they each had a different target group for ministry. And that’s ok.
“One of the things that I think gets lost as we try and understand this passage 2,000 years later, half-way around the world is what exactly the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were actually endorsing.
They were endorsing Paul to go out and plant churches, in different countries, with entirely different cultures.
And these churches were going to look NOTHING like their churches in Jerusalem and Judea.
The language would be different. The music would be WAY different. They wouldn’t celebrate the same holidays as they did. They wouldn’t circumcise their boys on the 8th day.
They wouldn’t eat the same type of food together…or uphold many of the traditions that the original disciples had done since their youth.
They would look like TOTALLY different churches…except that they would still be teaching the same Gospel about Jesus.
And the leaders were wise enough to say: That’s ok.
This is what the Judaizers in Galatia could not understand.
And we shake our heads at the Judaizers…but let us first prop up a mirror because we might find ourselves shaking our heads at ourselves
Now…we tend to as modern-day Christians clearly understand the contextualization of the Gospel into a different culture when it comes to the world missions. It’s probably why you’re shaking your head at the Judaizers.
We get that…if you and I go on a missions trip to Ghana…the music we sing…the length of the worship service…how we dress…everything is going to be completely different.
And you would say. “Duh, of course it has to be. Engage the culture. Just keep the gospel the same.”
We get it with world missions, but we tend to be absolutely worthless at understanding this principle when it comes to reaching people in our own area.
I struggled with this a lot when I first became a Christian.
I finally made peace with this my first year of being a Youth Pastor.
I had taken my students on a missions trip to Mexico, and we were at a church service where they were singing kind of a corny song about “queiro Jesus!”
I don’t remember much about it besides there was a lot of mariachi stuff going on with a lot of Saxophone solos.
And just as I was about to laugh in my immaturity…I started looking at the people…and they were just worshipping Jesus like crazy!
And it hit me… METHOD is basically irrelevant if the GOSPEL is first.
Just reach people for jesus in your culture; however you need to reach them.
That same year, Lindsey and I were sitting in a service at our old church, and they were doing an incredibly cheesy creative element where they were singing this Casting Crowns song.
And they would sing, “I will choose to listen and believe…the voice of truth.”
And then an actor would say, “God, I want to listen and believe! “
And as Lindsey and I turned to each other to mutually roll our eyes…I looked past Lindsey and saw this 45 year old woman just weeping because the song touched her so much
And I felt so convicted it hurt.
It’s not about the method.
It’s about the Gospel.
And this is a church that preached the Gospel, and the fact that they had a different method or tradition was just fine.
And we need to realize this in more than just international missions.
Even in MN people are going to contextualize method very differently
If you are start a church in uptown, or in Phillips neighborhood, or in Brainerd, or in Cambridge…it’s going to look different than starting in Blaine
And it SHOULD look different
But they should still teach the gospel.
Even Renovation’s own church plants do things differently than we do.
One of them does a 5-minute greeting time in the middle of the service every week. Another one is going to hand everyone glo-sticks for worship on easter.
Are we going to do either of those things? Probably not. Does it really matter as long as we all teach the Gospel? No.
And yet, we as American Christians have been embarrassingly bad at applying this text from Galatians to our modern lives….especially over the last 25 years.
I GUARANTEE you that the difference between Peter’s church in Jerusalem vs. the church Paul started in Galatia was SIGNIFIcANTLY greater than the difference we complain about when it comes to how we worship today.
Thousands of churches in America have split or closed their doors over the style of worship…and yet, even though Peter and Paul were planting UNBELIEVABLY different style churches, they gave each other the right hand of fellowship.
But we fight over things like the organ. Because it’s apparently really holy.
Even though it started out in a bar…and Christians hundreds of years ago thought… “Huh, this seems go well with the drunkards…what if we contextualize it, and bring it into the church and pick up the pace in this out of touch dump.”
And somehow…over hundreds of years, people forgot their history and now the organ is somehow HOLY.
Again, this is reason number 212 why it’s just stupid to put METHOD in front of the GOSPEL.
The Gospel comes first.
And in reality, the culture is going to keep changing.
If 15 years from now, the only music people listen to is rap music, you better believe we will be rapping the Gospel up here.
And I’m going to love every minute of it.
“And sadly, to the dilemma of different methods, we often respond with arrogance and immaturity, but Peter and Paul responded with humility and maturity
They said, “Hey, we’re teaching the same thing here. We’re going to different people. And it’s going to look different, but we’re teaching the same thing. And that’s what matters!”
So we should be UNIFIED.
But we’ve lost a lot of unity over different methods. And it’s sad.
Churches are NOT unified.
We’ve got 1,000’s of denominations.
People leave churches every week for silly reasons.
And 9 times out of 10, when people leave churches, it’s because of METHOD and not because the Gospel is being taught incorrectly.
But Paul and the disciples show us…that we do not split over method.
In fact, we should be unified by the Gospel despite our different methods.
If we are united on what we call the “hills to die on”…things like: The Bible is completely true, Jesus is God, faith is the only way to salvation…than we CAN NOT let our different methods to reach people divide us.
Thus, we’ve got to move beyond eye-rolling, gossiping, and judging other churches simply because they do it differently than we do.
They’re most likely just reaching a different group of people, and that’s awesome!
There are great churches even in this very city that are doing great things to reach people for Christ…admittedly through different methods…but they’re teaching the Gospel.
And to those churches…we should not roll our eyes, but extend the right hand of fellowship.
Churches like Cornerstone Church of Blaine, where my college friend Jeremy Lind (who spoke here this summer) just got hired
Churches like Eagle Brook Church (who happens to be in the very same denomination as us…in Converge Worldwide)
Churches like Kingswood Church…whose pastor was here not too long ago and saw all of our growth and said, “Hey if you ever need to use our facility for a baptism or something, you’re welcome to”
Well, that’s awesome. That’s extending the right hand of fellowship.
Do we do things differently? Sure! But are we on the same page w/ the Gospel? You bet.
And there are plenty of other great churches just in this city!
And this is Jesus’ prayer for us:
(John 17:11) – NIV
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of our name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
Later on in that same chapter, look at what else Jesus says about unity:
(John 17:23) – NIV
I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Because the reality is, if we can’t get on the same page with other churches teaching the Gospel, we’re in trouble.
Paul knows this in Galatians! He knows that if he and the leaders in Jerusalem can’t get on the same page, it has serious implications for Christianity.
And we need to realize that for ourselves.
Look at what Jesus said! He wants us to be in complete unity…WHY???....to LET THE WORLD KNOW THAT JESUS IS FROM GOD…and is God.
And right now, in 2013, and our hyper-critical culture…we’ve got to absolutely put a stop to over-criticizing our brothers in sisters in Christ like we’re critiquing some sort of local restaurant or movie.
These are our family members in Jesus!
And they’re trying to reach people for Jesus.
We’ve got to grow up! Grow-up, and be like Peter and Paul…willing to set METHOD aside…and offer the right-hand of fellowship to people who are reaching people for Christ.
The world is watching us.
And right now, they’re mostly watching us critique and yell at each other…and quite frankly…it’s embarrassing.
So I urge you…and I plead with you…let’s put our method-criticisms aside for churches that are honoring the Gospel…
& may the world see our unity for once…rather than just our divisions.
And in our unity, and in our single-minded purpose to make disciples of Jesus Christ, may they see the love of God.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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