The Kingdom and Culture (Transcription)

Transcription from Sunday, January 27th, 2019 at Forerunner Church in Kansas City, MO

Good morning, everyone. It’s good to be with you. We’re gonna be looking at Jeremiah 29 this morning. Just a minute of review from last week. We talked about the ecclesia, about how the meaning of the word ‘church’ in the New Testament is ecclesia. Jesus is the first One to use that term in the Bible. And that term relates to an assembly of people that are called out. And we know that as believers, as Christians, we’re called out of the world, out of the ways of the world, out of the value system of the world. There’s also a measure of authority that goes along with that term as well, because often the ecclesia was a term that was used for an assembly of people to get together to discuss and debate and to come to conclusions about what they ought to do next. The ecclesia was a gathering. It’s a Greek term for gathering together to discuss various topics, issues, and argue and work through things. And that’s what Jesus is actually contrasting when He talks about His church and the gates of hell. The gates of hell, when Jesus speaks of in Matthew 16, the gates of hell, that’s the place where leaders would gather together, also in ancient cities to scheme or plan together. So, what Jesus is doing is He’s contrasting. He’s saying, “You are My ecclesia, you are My gathering called out of the world to come together and to further My kingdom and My name in the world, and then the schemes of the devil, his gathering, will not prevail against you.”

And so, we see in Matthew 16, our identity as being called out of the world and also our authority that will prevail over the schemes or the plans of the evil one. We’re in a time now where our nation is becoming more and more influenced by the schemes of the evil one. We’re seeing it written into our legislation. We’re seeing it written into cultural norms and societal norms. Essentially, the way that the worldly culture will do money, sex, and power, will more and more in an increasing way, stand against the value of Christ Himself. And that puts us, the church, the ecclesia, into a dilemma. As more and more the culture around us is influenced in an anti-God way or an anti-Christ way, how do we, as the church, how do we respond in authority that Christ has given us in light of these increasing pressures around us? And that’s why today, we’re going to look at Jeremiah 29.

Jeremiah 29. You can look there in your Bible. I’m gonna read from verse four to nine, and then we’ll pray. “Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, to all of the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens. Eat their produce. Take wives. Become the fathers of sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands that they may bear sons and daughters and multiply there and not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf. For on its welfare, you will also have welfare. For thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel. Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream, for they prophesy falsely to you in My name. I have not sent them, declares the Lord.”

Let’s take a moment and pray. Father, we thank You for Your Word. And Father, we ask all the more that the understanding of the authority that You have given to us as Your people would increase. I ask You, Lord, for confidence to arise in the heart of this people of this family, that You would build us up in the holy faith. That as pressures mount and surround us and pressures face us both individually and corporately, Lord, that Your people would be filled with confident love, overcomers in that day. That we would not shrink back. That though we are hard pressed on every side, we would not despair, we would not give in. Lord, that we would walk confident in You, confident in Your leadership, confident in Your power, confident, Lord, in Your justice and in Your righteousness, knowing, Lord, that Your righteousness will prevail. You will prevail in every area. We love You, Lord. In Your name, amen.

So, what’s happening here in this passage is that Jeremiah, the prophet, is sending a letter to the exiles that have been taken into captivity in Babylon. The Babylonian empire came to Israel, and they destroyed the temple, and they carried off all of the temple riches and all the instruments of worship and those type things. And they carried many of the Hebrew people, the Israelite people, into exile, and made them captives in Babylon, where they would spend, we know from history and scripture, they would spend seventy years there. And what happened in the destruction of Jerusalem and the obliteration in many ways of the Jewish infrastructure that was there, really began to cut the legs out from the identity of the Jewish people, the Jewish society, and worship and government, and everything was centralized around the temple.

And so, for the temple to be destroyed, that was one of the centerpieces of the hinge pin of almost all of the Jewish life at that time. So, you can imagine the emotional, spiritual devastation that these people are now facing as they’re marched 600 miles from Jerusalem and Israel all the way into Babylon, modern day Iraq.

And here they found themselves in captivity. And the prevailing culture of Babylon was very very different than the prevailing culture that was in Israel. The prevailing culture in Babylon was a multi-deistic, pagan, idol-worshiping, immoral culture, and now these Israelites found themselves as captives surrounded by this culture. And when the Lord is telling Jeremiah to write this, the Lord had an intent and a plan in place in regards to the people of Babylon. And what I mean by that is, even though the Israelites were sent there because they were under judgement from God, there was a bigger storyline, actually a positive storyline that was also being written at the same time. Babylon was the world power. And if Babylon had within its communities, within it’s neighborhoods, and within its cities, a powerful witness and a people that knew their God, that witness would be exported across the known world at the time.

And so, here they are in this pagan culture, this profane culture, and if you’re like me, if I imagine myself in this story, which is very hard to do because I’m very not in this time of history, but if I had to imagine myself in this time of history, I would imagine that my response would be, undermine the leadership of the Babylonians at every turn. Try and escape from prison. Make them really, really regret making you a captive. I mean, just make their life miserable. Do everything you can. Dig holes under fences, burn things down, be stubborn and rebellious, and all these things. And when we read the message of what Jeremiah is writing to the people, we see something actually very different. And what we begin to see is we begin to see the Lord’s call that even though the people were living as exiles in a pagan, anti-God culture, they were called to prosper and to thrive and to be a witness as they interacted in Babylonian society. The Lord was saying, “I want you to actually interact with the culture, be in the culture because that’s where you are, but I don’t want you to absorb the cultural values that you’re surrounded by. I don’t want you to think the way that the Babylonians thing, but I do want you to understand the way they think. I don’t want you to do money and finances the way the Babylonians do, but I want you to understand the way they do money and finances. I don’t want you to do sexuality and your sexual express in the way this pagan culture does, but I want you to understand it so that when you open your mouth and you interact with the Babylonians, they don’t see you, people in captivity, they see Me, the God of Israel.”

And the Lord, in a similar way, has placed us, has placed you and I to various degrees inside of a culture and society that is very anti-God. And there are brothers and sisters all across the earth that are in extreme cases of this, where everything in the culture is working against the knowledge of God and the beauty of Jesus, and they find themselves in many of these similar situations. Notice that in verse seven, Jeremiah the prophet emphasizes that the people were sent to Babylon. They were sent there. And we know that there are circumstances relating to judgement that caused them to be sent there, but when we begin to look at these principles in the New Testament, in 1st Peter, that we will in just a minute, we begin to understand that God sends His people into the sphere that they’re in on purpose. You and I and the person next to you and those tuning in via the webstream have been sent by God into the area in which they now find themselves.

I would actually argue that most people, most Christians, wherever they are is where God has sent them. He’s a really good Leader. He knows what He’s doing. It doesn’t always make sense to us, and of course there are exceptions to this of oppression and injustice and that type of thing. But by enlarge wherever you are, as a believer, is where God has you. He has sent you there. And our role as Christians, as bearers of the image of God and the person of Christ is not to just live defensively, put up walls, close the blinds, and hide out in hope that Jesus comes back sometime soon. the Scripture refers to us as those who are sent by God. Jesus, in Matthew 10 says, “I have sent you out as sheep among wolves. I’m actually sending you on purpose, and where you are is where God has you.”

We sing the song all the time, “Put me anywhere, put Your glory in me. I’ll serve anywhere, just let me see Your beauty.” You know that chorus that we sing. Put me anywhere. Well, the truth is, by enlarge, the Lord has put you exactly where you’re supposed to be. It doesn’t look the way, often, that you want it to look. It doesn’t feel the way that you would like to, but our God is a sending God. He sent His son. He sent His apostles. He sends a witness and He’s sent you and I to our various spheres of influence.

Jeremiah’s message to the exiles, he tells them to build houses and plant gardens, and takes wives, and grow their families, and engage in the agricultural business system of the day. He uses this term ‘exiles’. It’s the same term that Peter uses in the New Testament to describe Christians. He says, “You’re exiles. You’re neither of this world and you’re not supposed to not engage with this world at all.” In other words, when a person is in exile or a resident alien, a stranger in the land, which is the term that Peter uses, a resident alien or an exile, it means that they retain their cultural distinctives and values even though they live in a different culture that has distinctive values. You’re on your way to another place. You’re a sojourner. You’re a pilgrim. You’re on your way to heaven. You’re on your way to the presence of the Lord, the New Jerusalem, actually heaven on earth forever. That’s who you are and where you’re going, but in the meantime, you are an exile. You find yourself in a different culture than the culture of heaven, the kingdom of God.

And Peter begins to strengthen and encourage us to understand that, to have that mindset. Because the struggle of many Christians is, “Do I open my heart and receive the values of the system and everything that’s going on around me? Do I open my heart and receive those? Or do I go over here somewhere, put up walls, and just live in my own little self-made monastery? No one’s allowed in or out, and we just kinda stay here, and we just kinda hold on.”

I remember this mindset gripping me as a young man. And I went through life not seeing myself as being sent of God, but rather just trying not to be influenced by all the negative things in the world. Many grow up with an experience and understanding of Christianity that Christianity is about no to everything. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t go here, don’t be friends with them, don’t drink this, don’t eat this, don’t watch this. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. And there’s a huge void that I see in regard to – what are we made for, then? Are we living a religion of omission? Where everything that we do is just about not doing certain things. I want to tell you, that message is burning young people out. That whole paradigm is burning people out. Now, I’m not saying we throw holiness out the window. I’m saying holiness has a purpose. Holiness has something that you’re moving towards. You’re not just stagnant. You’re not just trying to avert your eyes from everything wicked, and just kind of hold on to the end of your life. You have been sent by God into your sphere, into your school, into your home, into your job, into the ministry. You’ve been sent there by God. And you’re to do something. You have a purpose and there’s a reason. And God has sent you here to this room today. You’re here. You’re a part of the family or you’re joining the family, or whatever it is, but God has given you a purpose, and the body, the corporate body, we need you to walk in that purpose that God has in your life. Because you influence your sphere in a way that your friend can’t, in a way that your spouse can’t, in a way that your friendship group leader can’t, in a way that your pastor can’t, in a way your manager… you are the only one that can influence your sphere, your family etc, as you. No one else can do that for you. And God is saying, “I’ve sent you into that area. You’re sent, and you have a mission.” And we have to discover, “What is that mission, Lord?” And then get the resource. “I want to walk out that mission and then stay faithful in that mission,” etc etc.

He tells them in verse five of Jeremiah, tells them to build houses. What a strange idea to do in captivity. You’re living in a prison camp, in a foreign land. The prophet sends the letter. “Okay, guys. This is the next plan. This is what we’re gonna do. Your homes back in Israel have been destroyed. The temple is gone. The people are scattered. Alright, here’s the plan, go buy and build a house.” “What are you talking about?” “Yeah, go buy real estate. I want you to plant yourself in the land,” and part of the story was because they would be there for seventy years, God didn’t want them to burn out and die out in the midst of their correction. Because there was a day coming where they would be released, and they were to go with strength back to build the temple again and rebuild the national infrastructure of Israel again. He’s going, “I don’t want you to burn out and die out.”

But this begs the question for you and for me. In our sphere, are we going, “I’m going to build a house. I’m going to plant myself where I am.” We live in such a transient generation of people coming and going and here or there. And there’s part of that that’s good. I mean, we’re apart, you know, Forerunner Church is a part of IHOPKC, and we’re a mission’s base so there’s lots of coming and going. And there are many that come here, that the Lord has sent here but they don’t do this. They don’t go, “I’m going to build a house. I’m going to establish myself. I’m going to join my name to the name of this people. I’m gonna join families. I’m gonna be a person of strength and a family that’s planted here. I’m gonna go all the way in.” And some live on the fringes. They live on the cusp, and they’re just kind of waiting, “Am I a part of am I not?” I’m not talking about literally buying real estate. You know, let’s do that, sure, but I’m talking about a heart posture. Do you join yourself and see it as a home? Do you see it as a home?

You know, my wife and I, right after we got married, we moved to South Carolina, and we did a small house of prayer there for four years, and so the nearest large city, it’s like right on the boarder of North Carolina is Charlotte. And I remember just in that first year. You know, I had grown up here praying for Kansas City. I remember praying for Kansas City all the time. You go to the prayer room now, you can’t be there for very long without hearing someone pray for Kansas City. And I didn’t realize how ingrained that had become in me. And by praying for the city, it had become my home. And so, when we moved to Charlotte, suddenly we’re praying for a different city, and I remember feeling disrupted about that. I was like, “What? We’re praying for Charlotte?” It was like, I accidentally say Kansas City sometimes. “Yeah, Lord, bless them too.” But when we moved there, in our minds, we were like, “This is where the Lord has sent us. This is home now. And we began to pray for Charlotte, North Carolina, like I did with the same passion, the same desire, and the same longevity that we had for Kansas City. And I remember in that short amount of time, Charlotte felt like home. We built a house there. We said, “There is no plan B. And if plan B is out there, God is gonna direct us to plan B, but plan A, right now, is we’re responding to the Lord, build the house in Charlotte, give your life, build houses, have children, get married, da da da da. And that’s what we did. Myself and the community that was there. We saw it as our own.

And I want to encourage you if you’re in that place of feeling that on the fence of, “Am I here or not?” If the Lord has called you to be here, and He’s made it clear. Build a house. Build a house. Set your life into order. Set the infrastructure of your life into place and begin to give yourself wholeheartedly to whatever it is that God has called you to do and the way that you’re engage in this spiritual family. Do it. And go all the way. Because the Lord might call you somewhere else. But if He does, just like for my wife and I, in four years, He called us back here in a profound way, in a way that we could not ignore. And if the Lord calls you somewhere else in two years or three years or five years, great. Then go do that assignment with all your heart. But do it in the transition knowing that you gave your all. You built your house where the Lord had called you to build it.

Number two, he says to plant gardens, to plant gardens. At the time, the main economy in the earth is buying, selling, and trading in regard to agriculture. What he’s saying is, he’s going, “Engage in the economy. I actually want you to engage in the business transactions that are going on in Babylon. Plant gardens, take that produce, go sell it to the Babylonian family, buy what they have, and in the exchange, they see you, My ambassador, My exile, and when they see you, they should see Me.” And in a similar way, we’re go engage in the economy. And in the natural sense, to actually increase wealth and resources. There is not something more spiritually powerful or profound about not being able to pay our bills. Not being able to pay our bills does not earn a solute from the throne like, “Wow, you’re really doing it. You’re really suffering for Me.” The Lord has not called us to natural poverty. He’s called us to spiritual poverty. It’s very different. And so, when He’s going, “You’re in exile,” how do you engage in the culture? And you know, for us, it’s like, sometimes we think, “Well, everything’s just gonna burn anyway. It’s all gonna burn, and Jesus is gonna come back.” It’s like, yeah, that’s true, but if you’re established financially, if you’re established in your business or in your whatever it is that you’re doing, if you’re established, you can lead with strength. You can impact the lives of people around you. You can send missionaries to the mission field. You can fund projects for the poor. You can bless the needy and the homeless. You can bless friends and family members. You’re settled with strength. And He goes, “I don’t want you to see yourself just as a slave, just kind of bearing the burden and hobbling through life.” He goes, “Yes, you’re in exile, but plant a vineyard, engage in the economy, raise money and use it for My means.”

Those that are in the workplace and business owners, you’re at the tip of the spear of this. You’re at the point of the spear. Those that interact with you, that see you, they can come away going, “I think I just met Jesus. The way that the person did money and handled my finances and honored me and they could have da da da da da da, but they handled me in this way, da da da da da.” I mean, what a powerful witness. This body, this church body, we need you in your area. We need you in your sphere. We need you in your job. We need you not just in jobs, but we need you where God has called you to be. There are some in ministry that God is calling to the workplace because you’re to be that exile. You’re to be that one that engages in the economy and shines the light of Christ and tells people about Jesus and loves them. And there are some that are vice versa that are in the workplace that need to move into ministry, but it’s not one or the other. It’s where God has called us to be. You’re to be His ambassador. You’re to be the one that shows others what Christ is like.

The next point he says is to take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters. That means get married and have a whole bunch of babies. You know, as best you can. There is spiritual application to this, but the point is this, raise up sons and daughters. Bind together with people. Make deep friendships and relationships and go together after the purposes of God in your community and where God has put you, and maybe that’s apart of here, Forerunner Church. Be a part. Make deep relationships. Fall in love with each other. Go on dates. Say yes when people ask you to go on a date. It’s not a marriage vow. Don’t overthink it. Okay.

Have kids. You know, my wife and I, before we had kids, actually, before we got married, I remember being in the car. We’re driving down to the plaza to go on a date and she’s like, “How many kids do you want to have?” I was like, “I don’t know. Probably zero.” And she was like, “What?” And I was like, “I mean, I think I’d make a bad parent. Do you know me?” And then I was like, “It’s all gonna burn anyway, right? So, why even like have kids?” And she’s like, “I want five.” Guess how many we had? She’s been right again, but… But the point is, the Lord has called us to be fruitful in the natural, in the spirit. He’s called us to adopt. He’s called us to raise up those, to disciple others into the Kingdom and wherever God has called you to be. You’re to have and bear fruit. Bring it forth. Do your assignment to the fullest. You know, when we stand before the Lord at the end of our life, that we’d be just like these rung out rags going, “I gave every last drop before You. I don’t want to die with all the strength and passion still inside of me.” I mean, if the Lord wills it, then yay, but my aim, my vision for my life is, I want to be completely just rung out. I want to pray every prayer that I was to pray. I want to sing every song that was to be sung. I want to write every book. I want to preach every message. I want to love every person as deeply as possible to stand before the Lord and go, “I poured it all out.” That’s the Mary of Bethany. I wasted it all on You. I did it all to the fullness of my capacity, to the fullness of my strength. I pulled others with me. I called forth the broken. And beloved, we’re all called to this.

The next thing that He says is to seek the welfare, or some translations say the peace of the city. Seek the peace of the city that you’re in. Now, that word ‘peace’ is the word shalom, which many of you have heard before, shalom. It means peace. But peace, when I say it or often hear it, I understand it to mean just emotional peace. You know, somebody’s sick, one of the kids is sick, “Well, peace.” You know, the finances are tough right now or whatever it is, “Okay, peace.” So, it has to do with this emotional response to not be flustered. And that is true. We need the peace of Christ that Scripture tells us passes understanding in our circumstances, which is really powerful.

But the word ‘shalom’ is a more holistic peace, actually. The word ‘shalom’ means well-being, the Lord bringing well-being to all the different spheres in the earth. The shalom of God isn’t just emotional. It’s spiritual. It’s financial. It has social ramifications and cultural ramifications. In other words, wherever the shalom of God comes, the Kingdom of God is present there.

So, where do we want the Kingdom of God? We want the kingdom of God in our relationships and our marriages, yes. We want the Kingdom of God to touch our finances. We want it to touch the secular. We want it to touch the military and the government and the educational system. We want it to touch, the peace of God everywhere. And so, Jeremiah’s calling the people, “Seek the peace of everything that touches you or interacts with you. Don’t rest until there’s peace there.”

See, what He’s doing is, the Lord’s calling us to be peace-makers, not peace-keepers. There’s a difference between a peace-maker and a peace-keeper. A peace-maker actually carries a sword because they’re actually going into a battle to make peace, not to just keep a treaty, not to just keep the peace, but to go make peace. Jesus talks about in Matthew 5, He talks about the peace makers. He goes, “The storm is raging around you. The battle is raging around you. The conflict is raging around you. There’s conflict in your homes. There’s conflict in your workplace. There’s conflict, conflict, conflict.” He goes, “Pick up your sword, the Word of God, go into the conflict, bring the shalom of God to that conflict.” Is there conflict going on in the government? Is there conflict going on in society? Yes. The answer is yes. And the people of God that are exiles are not called to sit back with arms crossed, but they are sent ones. They are peace-makers. Go, make peace where there is confusion. Go, lift up your voice for injustice where the peace of God cannot rest upon a people. Go, make peace. Making peace is much different. It’s a sent-one. It’s a warrior.

You know, the Lord, He gave us in Ephesians 6, He goes, “I’m putting a sword in your hand, just so you know. I’m putting a sword in your hand.” What are you supposed to do with that sword? You’re supposed to go wage warfare and fight the good fight. You’re supposed to employ that sword through prayer and love and proclamation and witness and speaking to others, encouraging them. Make war against the storm. Make war against that which resists the Kingdom of God. Make war against it.

Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God. Do you feel mighty? Are you carrying mighty weapons? Mighty tools to wage warfare and bring things into subjection to the knowledge of God and the person of God. Go to your job going, “I’m here to pick a fight.” Take that with a grain of salt. But you’re not just here in a peaceful time. There is no peace until the Prince of Peace rules and reigns from Jerusalem. There is no peace. We’re in the war. Arrows are flying. Demons are being sent. I mean, we’re in the midst of the battle right now. Take up the sword. Go, make peace. Bring peace.

You know, Jesus, when He’s on the boat and the storm is raging, the seas are tossing. What did He do? He got up, He rebukes the storm. He brings peace. He makes it. He brings shalom. He is the God of shalom, and we are the ambassadors, the children of shalom to bring shalom to every place that we find ourselves. Don’t shrink back.

And also, this is just a side note, but something that’s been on my heart. You know, in the clothing that is described in Ephesians 6, the armor of God. There’s a breastplate, but there’s not a backplate. I just keep hearing that, just throughout the last couple of weeks. The Lord’s going, “I didn’t give you a backplate.” Which means that we have to go together. We have to get each other’s back. My backplate is you and your backplate is the person next to you. We don’t go to battle alone. No one goes to war alone. So, don’t go alone. Don’t go into the war alone. Go with someone and don’t just go fight your own wars and get people to fight your wars. Join other wars and battles to bring peace. Go together. Get each other’s back. Guard one another. Speak well of one another. Bring the peace of Christ to every sphere.

He says to pray to the Lord on its behalf. Verse seven, “Pray to the Lord on this city’s behalf.” He’s telling these exiles, these captives, to pray for Babylon. He’s not saying, “Pray and long for Jerusalem from where you’ve been taken.” He says, “Pray for Babylon. You’re in captivity, and you’re enslaved right now. Pray for that city and seek its shalom.” I mean, that is convicting to me. Because how many times am I looking at the problems of my city and my nation? I’m overwhelmed and I’m just like, “Lord, just do whatever You want. Just get it over with, whatever it is.” The Lord goes, “No, no, no, no, no.” He goes, “Come and seek me on behalf of your city.” He goes, “If there’s shalom in your city, you will have shalom.” The Lord wants the people of God to prosper, to come forth, to bear fruit in the spirit and in the natural, to rise up, to not be crushed by the current age, but to be more than conquerors in this life.

Let’s look at 1st Peter 2. 1st Peter 2. Peter begins to pick up on some of these things, and he begins to tell us how we ought to live and how we ought to engage in the culture. Because the big dilemma for many in the body is, do I even care about culture or is it just all gonna burn? So, should I just eject entirely and just do my own thing over here or should I go headlong into culture in the opposite way because I want to win the lost? And there’s this tension that’s wrestling back and forth. One group wants to build a fortress out in the wilderness somewhere. The other group wants to show up at everything and everywhere and everyone. And Peter gives us some really good insight here in this passage. I really want to encourage you if you’re in this time of life where you’re spending many of your hours throughout the week talking and engaging with those that don’t know Jesus. I mean, there is a fatigue and a weariness that comes with that, often. And these words are very pertinent for you. They’re pertinent for all of us, but especially those that spend a lot of time in environments that are not very ‘Christiany’.

Peter says this in verse 9, he says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession.” That’s how he describes you. Now, if we took those four elements, chosen, holy, priesthood, special treasure, what would you do? You’d go and build a temple with a lockbox somewhere and put yourself in it. That’s how you would respond because I’m holy. I can’t be around that which is unholy. I’m chosen. I can’t be around that which is not chosen. I’m a priest. I don’t do the civilian things of life. I can’t do that. I’m a priest. And for many centuries and many different religions, those that feel that they’re called at the deepest level, they go, “Okay, we’re gonna go hide up on the temple somewhere on the mountain top. We’re just gonna stay there and do our thing. And the Lord begins to, through Peter, begins to give us insight, look at this, in verse eleven. He says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers,” meaning, as exiles in the hostile culture, he goes, “I’m writing to an audience.” It’s assumed you’re in a hostile culture. He goes, “I’m writing you as strangers and aliens.” He goes, “Abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.” Do you know what that means? That means, when you look out at the prevailing culture, don’t adopt that mentality. Don’t do money the way the world does money. Don’t do sexuality the way that the world does sexuality. Don’t do power the way that the world does power. He goes, “You’re of Me. Do those things the way I do them. Let your heart overflow with joy and thanksgiving and praise. That though you’re in the world, you don’t become of the world.” He says, “I want you to abstain from the fleshly lusts,” in other words, the broken value system of Babylon. Don’t do what they do and say what they say and think what they think.

Verse 12, he says, “Keep your behavior excellent among the gentiles.” And gentiles is a term that’s often used. It simply means those that do not know Christ. But I want to highlight the word ‘among’. Look at that word. Among. You’re called to be among. You are among. You are among them. Your neighborhoods, your workplace, your schools. You are among those that do not know Christ. And Peter’s urging us, going, “You’re going somewhere else. You’re of another place. Don’t adopt the culture. Be among those that do not know Him.” Why? Because being among them and keeping your behavior excellent, not your words, not your intentions. Keeping your behavior excellent among them, what will happen? The thing, look at this in verse 12. This is so powerful. “The thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may, because of your deeds as they see them, glorify God.” Let’s just look at that one more time. “The thing that they slander you as evil.” You know one of the main things the church gets slandered at from the world is that they’re hypocrites. Is that we are hypocrites. We say one thing about the grace of God and the love of God and yet we relate to people not in the grace of God and not in the love of God.

See, he goes, “I want you, when you’re among them, keep your behavior excellent. Not just your speech, but the way you conduct business, the way you do life, the way you exert your authority as overseers and managers and bosses and parents. Keep your behavior excellent. Why? Because when the unbeliever, when they see you, when they come into your house or they come into your board meeting or they come into your whatever, that they would see you and go, “Who are you? You’re different. You’re not like me. You don’t say the things that I say. You’re showing me something different by your behavior, not just by your speech.” And then when they begin to observe them. See that? The key to them glorifying God is the observation of what you do, not just hearing what you say. What you do speaks more volumes about who you are than what you say.

So, what is it you do? How do you carry yourself? How do you engage? How do you lead?  How do you shepherd? How do you parent? How do you do finances? All of that is so that the unbeliever, when they come in contact with you, they go, “Woah, you’re not from here. You’re from Israel. You’re one of those Israel guys, aren’t you?” And you go, “Yeah.” You know, Jesus said they will know, the world will know you’re disciples by your love, by your love. A lot of people struggle with witnessing and evangelism. They say, “I’m afraid of doing the right thing or saying the right thing. And I’m not good at apologetics. And people could just run circles around me if they’re, you know, whatever.” Be Christ. Yes, preach the Gospel. Yes, give witness. I’m not trying to minimize that at all. I’m saying, the way that they will know you’re Christ’s disciple is by the way you love. The things that you do, your behavior among them.

We’ll invite the worship team out. I want to invite you to stand. Just as we close, I’m gonna read this passage from John 17, just over this family, and then I want to invite those that would like to respond to the Lord to do it, and something just specific in that regard.

John 17:15-18. This is Jesus prior to the cross, praying this high priestly prayer in John 17. So powerful. And in verse 15, He says this. Listen to these words. He says, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from the evil one.” What’s implied there is Jesus is going, “If the whole Christian experience were just to get away and go away to heaven, then why wouldn’t you just go there as soon as you became a believer? He goes, “My prayer isn’t that You take them out of the world. My prayer is that You keep them while they’re in the world from the evil one. That the evil one’s value system would not become their value system,” but that we would live with the value system of Christ.

And verse 16, He says, “They are not of the world.” That means you and I, we, you, you are not of the world. Because Jesus was not of the world. If we said, “Well, is Jesus of the world?” We’d say no. But now say the same thing of yourself. Are you of the world? The answer is no. I’m not of the world. I’m of Him. His blood has transformed me. He’s given a new Spirit inside of me. He’s forgiven my sins. He’s given me a new purpose. I have an eternal destiny in Him. I’m not of this world.

Verse 17, “Sanctify them in Your truth. Your Word is truth.” And verse 18, listen to this. Jesus says, “As You, the Father, sent Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world.” Them is you. That’s who “them” is. Them is you. it’s you and your children and your spouse or your grandmother. Whoever it is who calls on the name of the Lord. You have been sent into the world. You have a purpose and a mission to go into the world as holy, to go in as a priest, to go in as a special treasure, to go in as chosen of God so that the Gentiles see the excellencies of Christ. This isn’t for the teachers or the pastors or just the leaders. Beloved, He goes, “I sent you into the world.” And the world’s trying to snuff you out, and it’s trying to afflict you and oppress you and discourage you. You’re getting hit in the back because you don’t feel like there are comrades you can link arms with. And there is such an assignment of oppression against the people of God in their assignments. The enemy wants nothing more than to keep you out of prayer and out of your assignment before God. But we have to remember, I am sent by God. I’m on a mission. You can wake up in the morning, and on your way to work, you know, drinking your coffee, driving to work and say aloud, “I am sent by God into my job.” Moms wake up, “I am sent by God to disciple my children and raise them up.” You’re sent. You’re sent of Him. It’s not an accident. It’s not just a victim of circumstance that we stumble into the Kingdom like, “Well, this is gonna be really hard until, you know, we go to be with the Lord.” No. No, you’re a priesthood. You’re holy.

Let’s pray. Father, I ask You for this community, Father, that You would give us a vision of our authority that we carry in You, the church, the sent ones. You’re a sent one. You have a purpose and a truth burning inside of you.

The Church is the Family (Transcription)

Transcription from Sunday, January 20th, 2019 at Forerunner Church in Kansas City, MO

“Glad we could make it here this morning. The ice was not nearly as bad as we had anticipated. How many of you were without power just this last week? Raise your hand up. Raise it high, You deserve this. This is your moment. Put your fist up in the air. You made it. Okay. Well, glad to see you all. You’ve survived. Many of you, I love, you know, we’ve been talking about family, and so, just many people getting to host one another in their homes and keep each other warm and bring each other food and all of that was happening in our community, and I’m just so grateful to the Lord for family like this who had people reaching out to us and, you know, asking if they needed a generator or whatever, and anyways. I’m just really grateful for our family.

Turn to Matthew 16. This morning we’re gonna be talking about the glory of the church and looking at some different things in regard to what Jesus intends for this entity called the church. We’re gonna read from Matthew 16, and then I’ll pray. Beginning in verse 15. Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who’s in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loose in heaven.”

Father, we come before You and we come before the authority of Your Word. We ask that Your Spirit would come, that You would give, this morning, living understanding to us in regard to Your Word, in regard to Your people, us, the church, the ecclesia of God, the family of God. We ask, Father, that You would strengthen us, that You would give us what flesh and blood, what mere mortal men cannot give. Lord, would you release the revelation from the Father and of the Father in our midst. Lord, we glory in You, and we love You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Well, we’re gonna look at some things this morning in regard to the church. Who is she? Why is she? What does Jesus say about her? You know the great glory and mission of the church, I believe, is to elevate and exalt the Person of God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. We stand as witnesses, ambassadors, and messengers to tell the world what God is like. And more than just tell Him, but to show the world what God is like. There is no greater glory than exalting the Person of Christ, higher and higher and higher in our own hearts and within the hearts of others. It is a glorious endeavor.

A.W. Tozer said something about this once. I’m gonna paraphrase it. But he said, the reason there’s so much trouble in the church is because she has low thoughts of God. And so, therefore, there’s a great need to exalt the person of God and the worth of God and the majesty of God higher and higher until He’s rightly seen and esteemed by all the peoples in the whole earth.
There’s a great glory and mission that we have. Not only to raise the esteem of Christ in the earth, but to raise the esteem of Christ within our own hearts, within our own families, within our own fellowships and communities together. That we would constantly, daily, and weekly, and yearly be going on this journey together of exalting the Person of Christ because there’s no way to exalt Him too highly. He’s the only Person that you can’t exalt too highly. You’ll never stand before Him and have to be confronted with the reality that you exalted Him too highly. You lived with too much abandon. You worshiped too deeply and desperately, and in your own soul, you sought Him too fiercely. I want to assure you, He’ll never rebuke you for that. That will be not something that you hear at the judgement seat.

And so, we stand as the people of God, seeking to know Him and grow in our understanding of Him because our understanding enflames our emotions and the passion of our soul, but we want to be turned to Him. See, this is called the first commandment, that we would love Him with everything that we are. To know is to love. To know God is to love God, and the more deeply that we know Him, the more passionately we will love Him and enjoy Him as He enjoys us.

But there’s a second mission and glory that we have. It’s not just to lift and esteem God, but rightly to lift and esteem His people, the church, us. Now, that’s not always the message that you hear or expect to hear on a Sunday morning. “Well, of course the pastor wants us to love the church,” but there are truths in the Word of God that are revealed about the deep passion and longing and glory that Christ both has and expresses towards His people. And the question is, can we see what it is that God sees? Can we look around at the church both locally and nationally and internationally, can we see the people of God and rightly see them in the way that God sees them?

And so, Jesus, in this verse, verse 16, He tells Peter. He says, “On this rock, Peter,” He’s making a play on words. Peter’s name in Greek is Petro, which means Rock. He says, “On this rock,” He says, “I will build My church.” Now, just pause there for a moment. Consider the words of God Himself, Yahweh in the flesh. That’s who Christ is. Yahweh, the Word became flesh. He’s saying, “I’m gonna tell you what I’m building. I’m gonna tell you what I’m about right now.” Verse 18. He says, “I will build My church. I am building My church.” It’s the thing that Jesus is building right now, today, tomorrow, yesterday, a hundred years ago. And a hundred years from now, the thing that Christ is building is the church. He’s building the church. He’s about building the church.

Beloved, as the church, ask yourself, “Am I about building the church? Am I building what Jesus is doing?” When Jesus came to the earth to manifest the Father, He said, “I only say what the Father says. I only do what the Father does. I’m about what the Father is about,” and we as the disciples of Christ are to be about what the Son is about.

Well, what is the Son about? He’s building His church. And I think that we’re at a cross roads a little in regard to the body of Christ, of the church. And there’s so much pain and angst and dissension and disagreement within the body that maybe some are asking, “Is Jesus done with the church? Is He done? Is there a new thing that we should be doing? Is there a new method? Is there a new wineskin? Is there a new model that we should be taking up?” Because when we, from our perspective, sit back and observe the church, I mean, the thing that is shouting to us is not glorious bride, holy, blameless, spotless without wrinkle.

A couple years ago, I was reading through the Bible, and it came to Ephesians 5 verse 27. It says this, “That Jesus would present her to Himself as a glorious church, as a glorious church.” He says, “That she would not have spot or wrinkle or any such thing. That she would be holy and blameless before Him.” And when I read that, it was like reading it for the very first time. I read Ephesians 5 many times. I’ve been to many weddings like many of you have. You hear Ephesians 5 at weddings, and yet, this verse, for some reason, had never connected with my heart. And when I read it, it was like this arrow of conviction suddenly pierced me and just brought me to my knees. And the Lord just began to gently whisper to me. He said, “Isaac, Isaac, I’m building a glorious church. Do you see My church as glorious? Do you see My church? Do you want for My church what I want? Are you building what I’m building or are you building something else?” And in that moment, it was if all of these years of my life, of the way that I had thought about church, my own experiences, the experiences of friends and family and pain and woundedness and all of these negative feelings and negative thoughts, they were suddenly just brought to bear in this moment before the Lord, and I had to not just stuff down the emotions and stuff down my analysis and critique of the church, but I had to be confronted by it. I had to deal with it. It came up in front of me, and Jesus just, this simple phrase, “Will you see My church as glorious?” And if I were honest, and if I were raw, and often it takes an encounter with the Holy Spirit, you know, in more or less ways to kind of get us to this place of realness with our own soul, right? I had to ask myself, do I see the church as glorious? Do I even care if the church is glorious? Does it bother me that she’s not? Does it bother me? Am I a critique standing on the outside maligning another man’s bride? And my own experiences and my own woundedness had changed my perception, and had built up this idea of what the church was like and what was wrong with her, and all this stuff. And then the Lord was like, “You’re the church.” Because sometimes when I talk about the church or I think about the church in a negative way, I disassociate myself from that. I go, “Well, that’s the institution over there that causes so much pain and is messed up and a hypocrite, but it’s just over there, so I disassociate. So, I disassociate, and I go, “Man, the church is just really messed up.”

That’s like the family gathering at the house and the kids come together and they go, “Man, the family is really messed up.” It’s like, “Yeah, buster, you’re in it.” My kids have no problem in identifying quickly the issues within our family and talking about them and bringing them up. And, Lord, help us. The oldest are only 10 and 11. What happens when they’re like, in their teen years? I’m just gonna be like, “Oh, Lord.”

And so, we accidentally disassociate ourselves from the church. Why? And what that does is it shows us that we’ve seen the church as an organization. We’ve seen it as an institution. We’ve seen it as something that we attend or that we join or that we go to on a Wednesday night or a Sunday morning. It’s a place we go. it’s a building with a sound system and a staff and a cleaning team and a parking lot. It’s a place we go. It’s something that we do. And Jesus thinks of His church as something that we are. He says, “This is My family. The church is My family. They’re a people. It’s not a place. It’s not an institution. It’s not an organization. It’s a people.” You don’t go to church. You are the church. You’re the church tomorrow morning at 7am. You’re the church picking up the kids from soccer practice. You’re the church dropping off a meal for someone. You are the church. The church is not an institution. And when we speak of the church or when we malign her or critique her, it’s maligning ourselves and critiquing ourselves. And the Lord wants to change our understanding of the church.

There was a word that was given back in 1982 in Cairo Egypt to Mike Bickle, and he said, the Lord said to him that He was going to change, the Lord was going to change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the whole earth in one generation. That’s what the Lord was up to. He was gonna change the understanding and the expression of Christianity in the whole earth. In one generation there would be this radical process, this transformation, and the change and the understanding mostly had to do, and Mike has said this publicly many times, mostly had to do with the way that the world sees the church. The world looks at the church and they, I would guess from what I’ve read and heard, mostly just kind of distain the church, like, “What? It’s outdated. It’s archaic. It’s irrelevant. It’s has no bearing. It’s not a threat. It’s not a help. It’s just there stagnant, and there’s a bunch of weird people that go there.” And the Lord said, “I’m gonna change the way that the world sees Christians by the way that they love God and begin to love one another.” I’m adding that part in.

The way that the world knows that we’re the disciples of Christ is by our love for one another. And so, when an unbeliever comes into your presence, they will know you’re a disciple of Christ by the way that you love the church, the person next to you. That’s how they will know it. And Jesus goes, this is what I’m building, but here’s my question, if the Lord is gonna change the way the world sees and relates to Christianity, wouldn’t He change the way we see and relate to ourselves? Wouldn’t He begin with us? Wouldn’t He release a revelation across the earth that would exalt Christ and then lift the view of the church out of the ashes of history? All of her issues, all of her problems, can it stand before the presence and the power and the declaration of Jesus that says, “I will have a glorious church,”? Can it stand before that? If God said it, it will happen. If God has declared it, it will come to pass. And sometimes we’re the last ones to find out. Can we see and observe the way that God sees and observes?

It’s interesting to know that the first mention of the church in the New Testament, the actual word of it is in Matthew 16:18, that we just read. In the whole of the Word of God, the church is first mentioned on the lips of the Son of God. It is no invention of man. Man has imposed his traditions on it. Man has tainted it. He’s made it wrong. He’s twisted it around. He’s made it for his own gain. Why? Because he’s man. At the end of the day, man is man, but Jesus says, “This is what I’m building. This is what I’m doing, and I want you to do it with Me.” It’s interesting that the word “church”. This word that’s used is the word ecclesia. It’s a Greek word. It’s ecclesia. It has three parts to it. It basically means an assembly called out from and called to all in one word. An assembly called out from and called to. We just kind of use one word for it, ‘church’. It means the building down the road. This word is charged and loaded with understanding and with purpose from God Himself. Ecclesia.

Number one, three parts to the ecclesia is that He has called His people. The Father. The Father has called a family. He’s called to them. Out of His own initiative, out of His own prerogative, the Father has decided He wants a really big family. He wants sons and daughters and mothers and fathers. He wants a family. That’s why He calls Himself Father. If He didn’t want a family, He would just go by a different name. But He’s chosen the name ‘Father’ because He wants a family. So, the first thing of the ecclesia of Christ building His church is that the Father had a desire and He called to humanity. He called to them. He sent His own Son. He manifests the Word, Yahweh became flesh. He walked on the earth. He called to us, and He came, and He demonstrated His heart and His purpose as a Father to the world.

The second part is that He’s called out from. He’s called out from. When the Father invites us as sons and daughters into His family, we leave the other family. We leave, and you don’t look back. And there’s a legal moment, even when you adopt a child where, the child doesn’t go back to its previous guardianship. It’s sealed. There’s a court order. It’s legal before heaven. They’re called out, now they become this family. They’re this family, not this family any longer.

You can’t mention this without thinking of the picture in your mind of the Hebrews in slavery in Egypt. And the Father raise up a messenger named Moses who goes, and He goes, “Let My people go that they would worship Me. He was planning an encounter with them on Mount Sinai just across the Red Sea in the wilderness. He was planning to reveal Himself to a whole nation, but He didn’t do it in Egypt. It’s interesting. He called them out of Egypt. And they had to leave everything behind. And the old way and the old lifestyle, and the old paradigm was called out.

This is what it means to be ecclesia. You’ve left one thing to join another thing. You’ve joined the family of God. And so, as the slaves were leaving from Egypt and crossing through the Red Sea, they were leaving that previous life. They were leaving that previous lifestyle and mindset and emotion construct and the way that they did family and the way that they did money and the way that they did sexuality and the way that they did power. All of that had to go through the baptism of the Red Sea so that they could go and meet their Father in the wilderness.

God has brought you through a Red Sea. He’s brought you, many of you, through the work of the cross, and you’ve been baptized, and you’ve been called out of the world. You’re no longer apart of the world. Don’t go back. Don’t go back. Don’t let the world lie to you and cheat you and steal you and say, “Hey, come do money the way that we used to. Hey, come do sexuality the way we used to. Hey, come do family the way we used to.” Don’t go back because that was the turmoil inside the heart of the Israelites in the wilderness as they faced the hardships and they’re going, “Ah, I don’t know if I want to be obedient to this God. Let’s go back to Egypt.” Because to join the family of heaven means there’s different rules and different lifestyle, and you’ve got a new father, and you relate to one another differently. Don’t go back to the old way. Why? Because it’s bondage. And it’s slavery. It’s the ecclesia. You’ve been called out of Egypt, out of bondage, out of slavery, out of sin, out of the old way, out of your own broken sexuality, out of your broken relationship, out of your abuses, out of your addictions. The Lord has called you out. You’re the ecclesia, the people of God, called to Him.

The third part is this, you’ve been called to something. Christianity is not the religion of omission. Christianity is not the religion that just says no to everything because well, we’ve just got to be holy. So, just no to culture, no to movies, and no to cigarettes, and why can’t we go there? No, just because I said. The answer’s no, no, no, no, no. Christianity is not a ‘no religion’ primarily. It’s a ‘yes religion’ to the Father as a part of the family. You’ve now joined a family. Now we look up. We see the Father, and we see one another, and we relate differently, and we act differently, and we behave differently. Why? Because now we’ve joined a new family. There are things to do. Being a Christian is not just, here’s the no-no list. Work really hard and make sure that you don’t do anything on this list.

For years, I mean for years, especially as a kid. As a kid, you grow up imagining that many do, Christianity is just about the things that you can’t do. There’s no understanding of the things you get to do, of the people you get to know, of the God that you get to experience, of the power that you get to walk in, of the freedom that you get to walk in, of a joy that surpasses every circumstance, trial, and affliction before you. You get that joy in Christ. You disciple others. You make them. You make disciples. You see the change in people’s lives. You testify of the goodness of God. You shatter the power of culture by declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You get to. You get to gather together. You get to be brothers and sisters in Christ. You get to strengthen and encourage one another. You get to call out each other’s gifts. You get to see them walk in those gifts, prayer and healing and deliverance and hospitality and words of wisdom and words of knowledge. You get to see the fruit of the Spirit and enjoy it. You’ve been called to something.

God called them out of Egypt so that they would worship Him. He brought them to the foot of the mountain because He wanted them to know Him. He wanted the people to be where He was. These three components, they constitute this word, ecclesia. It is a charged and powerful word. You’ve been called, you’ve been called out of, and you’ve been called into. You have a glorious destiny. And the person next to you, if they are a believer in Jesus Christ, they have a glorious destiny too. Can you see it? Can you see it? Can you see the gift and the calling and the purpose of God, of the church here, the church of the person next to you, the church down the road, the church where your in-laws live? Can you see the church as glorious and as a people called out and for Christ alone? See them that way. And we must relate to them in that way. That needs to be the primary way in which we relate to the body of Christ, as being a part of it. And also, believing God’s purposes and calling for it.

Jesus says in verse 18, second part of the verse. He says that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church. This is, this is uttered by no just mere man. This is God telling us something really important. He says, “This ecclesia that I’ve pulled out of Egypt, these men and women and sons and daughters that the Lord has delivered out of the bondage of slavery and unbelief, they are the force in the earth that is going to declare and manifest the glory of God.” And so, you better believe that all the gates and schemes of hell are coming with all its fury to try and resist, distort, minimize, accuse, and disqualify and discredit this church, this ecclesia. The gates of hell are the gates of a city, an ancient city, rather, is where the leaders would gather together to make their judicial decisions, their executive decisions. They make decisions concerning war. They make decisions concerning peace, concerning economics, family, social structure, da, da, da, da, da. It’s where they gather together to make their plans and then execute them.

And so, some people have read this verse as, the gates of hell will not prevail, therefore because I’m a Christian, I will go to the gates of hell, pull and kick them down and take out the dead. They’re not in hell yet, just so you know. Like, unbelievers. They’re not in hell. No, the gates of hell prevailing means that there are schemes of the devil where they conspire together. The devils and the demons and the principalities, they scheme together, and they want to come and resist. What do you think they want to resist the most? The ecclesia, the church. The devil has hatched plans and schemes for your life, for your marriage, for your finances, for your future, and the future of the person sitting next to you right now. And he’s trying to get those schemes to prevail, and one of the ways he will prevail in those schemes is if the church doesn’t see herself as the church. If it’s kind of this self-help group, if it’s this kind of club that I join in a building that I go to, if it’s not flesh and blood and walked out and ecclesia, called out of something and into something else, the gates of hell begin to prevail. And the Lord says, “No. Don’t let the gates of hell prevail. I’ll give you authority.” The next verse He says, “I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom,” why? So that the gates of hell do not prevail.

The church is founded upon two realities. I didn’t mention this in the first service, but it’s that Jesus is the Christ, which means the Savior, the Anointed One, and He is the Son of God, the Son of God. If I were to surmise where many are at, it’s that they’ve related to Jesus as the Savior, the Christ, who forgives our sins, and helps our finances, and restores things, and heals us, but they have not surrendered to Him as the Son of God, their Lord. And here’s why. You can be the center of your kingdom, and a Messiah can come along and help your kingdom get bigger with you remaining at the center. But if you’re the center of your kingdom like we all are, and that’s our natural bent, and the Son of God shows up and He says, “Come, join My kingdom,” that means we’re not the center anymore. That means there’s a complete reorientation that takes place. That means that everything that we are, goes, see, we leave ecclesia, and we join something else. We join a new family.

He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, yes. He saves us from our sins. He washes us in His eternal blood. He suffered the wrath of God. He died our death, but He didn’t just leave us there. He displayed Himself as God. And He’s not just an addition to our life and the next God that we bring in to the pantheon of idols within our own souls of money and our self and then when we add Jesus to that. Because He’s Messiah, so we’ve got to have Him to help us. He says, “When I’m the Son of God, all the other idols go. They must yield. The idols of self, the idols of self-preservation, self-reliance, self-strength, self, self, self, self. All those other idols, the idols of this world and of this age, they go, and now I am at the center.” Christ is at the center. He goes, “That’s what I’m building My church on.” That’s the ecclesia. You leave all the idols. You leave all of the things. And Moses, He’s delivering you out of idolatry and out of bondage, and now, who’s at the center? God. God is at the center. There’s a reorientation.

And then Moses cries out to the Lord in Exodus 33 and 34. He goes, “I want You to go with us,” and He goes, “I’ll go, and I’ll be at the center,” and so, they build an ark where the presence of God would rest, and the people would all encamp. And who was at the center? It wasn’t a king or a governor or Moses. It was God. God was at the center. And the whole nation from that time forward was constructed to have God at the center because He is God.

The schemes of the devil will not prevail. The schemes of the devil seek to disrupt and ridicule and undermine the glory and the revelation of the church. These schemes of accusation prevail when the church accuses herself, when we accuse one another. Do you know how Jesus dealt with the accusation in John chapter 8 of the woman caught in adultery? He is the Law. He is the Truth. He is righteousness. And their accusers come and they say, “This woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. What do You say we should do? Moses says we should stone her.” See, the schemes of the devil are not about righteousness and restoration. They’re about destruction and death and hypocrisy. They’re trying to tempt God into killing His own creation there, to exacting the law without grace, to being truth without grace, to being truth without love. The schemes of the devil bring this woman to Christ. He doesn’t even answer them. He doesn’t even answer them. He asks them a question. He says, “Which one of you has no sin? Whoever has no sin, let him cast the first stone.” And they’re all ashamed, and they all walk away, and when what does He say to the woman? He says, “Where are your accusers?”

See, these are the schemes of the devil that get into our midst, and we accuse one another. We malign one another. Not just here. I’m talking about out there. We are critical of this denomination or that denomination, and we’re critical of the old way. And we accuse the old way. “Wow, they’re so off.” What we’re saying is, “They should be like me.” Really? We really want to go there? We really want everyone to act just like us? The schemes of the devil are perpetuated through the mouth of His servants. They’re seeking residence. Now, in this actual context that Jesus is talking here, the schemes of the devil were not this kind of charismatic binding and loosing of demons. Let’s get the anointing oil out and splash it around on a holy sword, whip it around during worship. I mean, that’s what it’s been reduced to. Partially because simply our religious freedom. But when Jesus is talking about the schemes of the devil, He’s going, “No, evil men, called the Roman Empire that are oppressing the earth and other empires, these powers and schemes are manifesting through their laws, through their legislation, through their action and they’re bringing oppression to the people of God.”

The earth is being oppressed, and they can’t find the Father. They can’t find God, and God, in His justice, wants to remove those schemes of the enemy. It’s true justice. It’s true justice. True justice is when the earth can rightly see and behold God. That’s what true justice is. To rightly see and behold God. And Jesus says, here He goes, “My church is going to be the agent through which this power is released in the earth. The schemes of Hades will not prevail against My ecclesia.” Jesus has a very high vision for the church.

In Ephesians chapter 5 in verse 25, he begins part way through. It says that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. If we are His disciples, are we not to do the same? He loved her and therefore because He loved her, He did not love her in word alone. He loved her in deed so He gave His own life. He laid down His own glory. He set aside His own splendor, became a man, suffered death wrongly because He loved her. He spoke tenderly to the broken, to those that came to Him, to the humble. He spoke tenderly. He drew them in. He was building a family. He was calling them out of the world and out of the ways of their father, the devil, and into the Kingdom, and into the glorious family of God.

He will sanctify her. He will cleanse her. She will be glorious, holy, and without blemish. That is your portion. That is what God says about you. That’s what He wants for you. That’s where He’s bringing you. Will you bring others in that? Can we go together in this? Can we say, “Jesus, if this is Your plan then I want to be a part of Your plan and what you’re doing, and so I want to love. I want to lay down. I want to sacrifice. I want to get in the way of the confusion and the pain of life and go, I’m gonna walk with others in this. Can we do that together? Can we see the purposes of God that He’s building, this glorious church that’s gonna have His glory?”

There’s a verse in the Song of Solomon in chapter 6 verse 4, if we could put that verse up. How does Jesus see His church? Song of Solomon 6 verse 4, He says, “Oh, My love, you are as beautiful as Tirzah. You are lovely as Jerusalem and awesome as an army with banners.” First, He calls her His love. Jesus calls His church, His people, His love. He goes, “Of all the things I could love, of all the things I could set my affection upon as God,” He’s got a lot of affection and a huge capacity to love. Of all the things, He goes, “I’m putting it on My people. I’m putting it on My church. That’s where I’ve given My emotions. They’re not just good workers for Me. They’re not just serviceable. They’re not just servants. They’re not just slaves.” He goes, “They are My love. All of My affection, all My heart, I’ve put it on this church.” Think about that. I mean, let that mess with you a little bit. When you think about the church, do you go, “Oh, all of my affection and all my love, I’m gonna stretch it out. I’m gonna put it on this people because that’s what Jesus is doing. I’m gonna put my love there. I’m gonna put my affection there, not just in word, but in deed. I’m gonna act upon it. I’m gonna stretch out my heart.”

He declares over her and over you that you are beautiful and lovely. Beautiful and lovely. You know, there’s such power in beauty because beauty doesn’t often serve a functional purpose, but when we think in terms of the church and service and the kingdom, it’s like, ra ra ra! it’s all functional. It’s, you’ve got to make disciples, and you’ve got to go to this Bible study, and you’ve got to drop off a meal at this person’s house, and function, function. And it is that. That’s an overflow of something, but Jesus says, “Woah, woah, wait. Let’s just put that on pause for a second. Put on pause everything My people can do for Me, and just set that aside, and when I look at them, I just see them as beautiful and lovely. I enjoy them. I want them. I delight in them. When I look at them,” when you look at something that’s beautiful, what does it do? It moves your heart. You move the heart of God. The church in the earth today with all of her dysfunction and all of the wrongs that are going on, He looks at the church and goes, “You move My heart. You move the heart of God. You’re beautiful.”

A couple weeks ago, I was going to a meeting and the other individual was running a little bit behind, and we were meeting up at the IHOPU campus. It was right around sundown, and there was just this unbelievable sunset that evening. And so, I just decide, I’m not gonna… I hadn’t done this in years. This isn’t something I habitually do, but I was like, “I’m just gonna stop in my car. I’m gonna put away my phone. I’m not gonna have the radio on, whatever, and I’m just gonna sit here and just look at this sunset.” And so, I pulled my car over and I prop my feet up on my dashboard like any person from Missouri should, and I looked out over the scenescape of downtown, beautiful Grandview, Waffle House was twinkling off in the distance. The ‘W’ was kind of flickering in and out, and I’m looking at this sunset. I’m just thinking, “Why did You do this? You didn’t have to do this.” We don’t have to have a blue sky or sunsets. We don’t have to have mountains. We don’t have to have beauty. It’s not functional. It’s not practical. That’s why, I’m gonna get in trouble with this. Somebody’s gonna freak out, but that’s why evolution can’t be real. If it’s all about just the survival of the fittest and pragmatically how do I get my next meal and avoid being the meal of the other animal. Like, there would be no beauty or even acknowledgement of it. And yet, here’s this God that paints this sky of just beauty and splendor, and I’m sitting there with my feet propped up on my dusty dashboard. I didn’t realize how dusty it was until I took my feet off. And I’m looking at this, you know, scene, and I’m just thinking like, “You’re beautiful.” And He goes, “When I look at My people, they don’t always just serve this functional purpose. They’re not just this cog in this machine, this organization, they’re not the CEO of Jesus Christ and the corporate kind of ladder just making the machine go.” He goes, “They’re beautiful to Me. They move my heart. They’re lovely. When I look at them, I just want to keep looking. I’m doting upon them. When you’re in love, you just dote upon the person. It doesn’t matter always what they’re doing. When your heart’s really in love, it’s not all pragmatic and practical like, you just want to behold and want to linger and want to see. The Lord looks at His church in that way.

The final point, and we’ll have the team come out. Brenton, you can come out. The final point is this, she’s seen as awesome as an army with banners. And the word ‘awesome’ here is interesting because it doesn’t mean just awesome like in the way that we use awesome. Well, actually, the way we use awesome doesn’t mean anything. Everything’s awesome. This carpet is awesome. No, it’s not. This burrito is awesome. Yeah… The word ‘awesome’ here actually means terrifying and dreadful. Strange. It means terrifying and dreadful. And she’s seen, depicted as this army with banners.

Now, I was just really intrigued by this kind of banners thing. When you’re an army with banners, you’re declaring who your king is and where your allegiance lies. So that whenever you see someone from another army, you know that you’re distinct, and they know you’re distinct, you serve a different king. You’re a part of a different family. You’re an ecclesia. Your allegiances don’t lie where this army does or where this army does or where this kingdom does. They lie somewhere else in the heart of the Father. But it’s not just a hidden allegiance under cover, secret service, it is a declaration, loud.

So, that from a distance, people would see the church and go, “Wow. Something is different about them. They’re apart of another army. They’re marching to a different tune. They have a different king. I’m interested in knowing who that King is. Like, who are these people? They’re different.” There’s such a pool within churches to be like this group over here and like this group over here and like this kingdom and like this army. And the answer is no. Raise the flag and be who we are, who God has called us to be, made us to be, filled us with power to be His people in the earth. Strangers and aliens are what Peter calls us, strangers and aliens. We’re passing through. We’re on a journey towards eternity.

Do you see yourself in that way? Do other people see you in that way or do you look just like the world, act just like the world, speak just like the world? Are you an army with banners? She is dreadful and terrible. Again, that word ‘awesome’ because her enemies cannot overcome her. It’s the one force in the earth. It’s the one family that will not be overcome. Every other family and kingdom will be overcome. Christ will overcome them or they will overcome each other. But there’s only one family. There’s only one ecclesia in the earth that will not be overcome by the schemes of the devil, and it says in Revelation 12 verse 11, it says that they, meaning the saints, the believers, overcame him, the devil, the dragon, by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives unto death. And so, when the powers and principalities, when they see the church, they’re more afraid of us than we realize.

In Ephesians 3, Paul said that God has chosen that the manifold wisdom of God would be revealed through whom? Through the church to principalities and powers. God is going to shame principalities and powers through your worship, through your weak love, through your discipleship, through your reach for God, through your family, through your marriage, because even though we’re in the pressure and the fires of the wilderness, we are of a different Kingdom. We’re of a different family. The ecclesia of God. Let’s stand.”

The Word Must Become Flesh (Transcription)

Transcription from Sunday, January 13th, 2019 at Forerunner Church in Kansas City, MO

“Alright, go ahead and turn in your Bibles to John chapter one. Let’s read together from verse 14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Holy Spirit, I am asking for help this morning. I’m asking You, Lord, that You would come and meet us, that You would help us, You would strengthen us, Lord, to see You, to behold Your glory, to be the people of God, to be the church, to be Your bride, to be a family. Lord, we ask that Your Spirit would come in this room. Come to living rooms and where people are tuning in via the webstream. Lord, we ask that Your presence would come. We want You. We need You. We love You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Well, I’m really encouraged by what the Lord has been stirring in our midst over the last few months. Many of you have been following the story of what’s been happening in regard to the family and the homecoming and all of these things that the Lord is initiating in our midst, and today I want to look at this verse and look at some things from the life of Christ, and then actually begin to look at how we take the word that’s been given to us that the Lord has put in our midst, and then how we actually begin to make it flesh. That’s the main point of the message today. Also, if you would like to follow along, if you go to our website, forerunnerchurch.com, you can find the notes there that I’m going off of right here, the live link. But the main point of the message today is that the word has been given to us and entrusted to us. The Lord has told us that we’re to be a family together, and now the word must become flesh. It must take root. It must take hold. It must operate through the people of God through us towards one another and towards the lost.
That’s what I want to talk about this morning. The Lord is highlighting the subject of spiritual family to us in a unique way and in an increased way. Now, the subject of spiritual family is not a new subject to God or even to the body of Christ. That is not a new theme at all. It might be touching us in a new way as the Lord is bringing it to the surface and highlighting it, but at the end of the day, the truth is this. Whether we feel it, see it, experience it or not, God has always seen us as a family – His family. Regardless of your experience, regardless of again, how you’ve felt, how you’ve interacted with it, how you’ve perceived it, where you’ve perceived yourself to be. Simply because of the fact that His name is Father means that we are sons and daughters, His children, and we comprise part of the family of heaven. It’s who we are. It’s not just this congregation here. It’s the churches that gather all throughout this city and throughout the nation and to the ends of the earth. They are the family of God. The Father wanted a family in a very deep and profound way, and that’s one of the reasons, I believe, that Christ came to the earth. The Word became flesh because what God desired, what He wanted, what He pictured, He knew the end from the beginning, and He knew that the family of God was headed on this trajectory to be gathered to Him, the Father, forever.
And so, He began to lay out His plan, and He didn’t just lay out a plan, and He didn’t just tell us, “Be a family,” but He actually manifested that plan when His own Son took on flesh to show us what He was like. He came, and He showed us. He didn’t just write messages on tablets of stone and send them down the mountain with His messenger, Moses, so that we would have tablets of stone and know what it is that God’s – here’s the top ten things on God’s wish list. Do these things and things will go well with you. But He wrote on the back of His own Son, flesh. He took on the message. He took on the word. He took on His own desire and left the glory of heaven and left the right hand of the Father to come and become flesh in front of us. So that when we talk about Father, we would see someone who is the exact representation of the Father. And when we talk about family, we would see Someone who is the representation of family. And when we talk about brother and sister, that we would have before us, a template. We would have before us flesh and blood, a model to walk after a Man, not just a God somewhere far away in a heavenly temple.
So, when God begins to tell us, “You’re a family. You’re a family. You’re a family,” we need to begin to ask, “What part do I play in the family? Who is my father? Who is my brother? What does it mean to be a spiritual family?” Because when the Lord releases a word, it comes forth through His people. Let me say that again. When the Lord releases a word, it has to come through a person, it comes through people. The love of God is just the love of God if we don’t see it demonstrated on the cross. The graciousness of God is just the graciousness of God unless we see it manifest in the life of Christ. The Word is just the Word until it puts on flesh and bones, flesh and blood, and begins to walk and talk and speak and interact and relate and convey a message, the word, that God wants to convey.
It says here that the Word became flesh, and in this context, it’s talking about Christ, the Word, His name was the Word, the second person of the trinity, and He put on flesh. But I think that if I can speak prophetically here now for a minute, the word that has been given needs flesh so that we can see it and know what it’s like. And guess who that flesh is? It’s you. It’s you. That’s the word of family and the Father and the Son and community and all of these things that are converging in our midst. It’s looking to show up and to break out and to manifest, and it wants you to do it through. That means, don’t wait for the person next to you to get their act together. Don’t wait for your leader. Don’t wait for your whoever. Don’t wait. Ask Holy Spirit, “Lord, how do You want me to manifest what You’re doing in our midst? How do we do it? How do we do family together? How do we manifest that which God has put into our midst?” Don’t just spectate. If you’re part of the family. You don’t just spectate, you participate. You enter in. You engage at the heart level. So, there’s a process involved in regards to the word becoming flesh. It’s not just instant, and then the story’s done.
In John 1:14 here, when he’s talking about the Word became flesh, He’s talking about that glorious truth, the incarnation of our Lord, where God in His glory and power and majesty and might, I mean, immortal, immutable, omnipotent, decided to come down so low, humble Himself, become poor, become like a slave, take on your flesh and blood and sweat and trial and pain, and in the fragility of what it means to be human, where your life isn’t always in your hands. He came as this babe in the hands of this young, this young girl named Mary. And such this fragile and vulnerable state.
See, the incarnation wasn’t the end of the story, and the Word becoming flesh, the Word becoming flesh. There is a massive challenge in order for that flesh to rightly and fully express what it is that God wants to express. God wants to communicate something through flesh, and He did it through His own Son. And that statement is powerful, and we consider it, and we tremble, or at least we should. And we think on the power and the glory of God taking on the form of a slave for our sakes. But now begin to ask yourself, “What is it that God wants me to embody and to manifest towards others? What part of His heart is He highlighting to us individually and corporately right now that I need to show to the people around me so that they can be enriched by the knowledge of God, so that they can be enriched by God?”
God doesn’t just want us to enjoy the benefits of the family, sitting back with our arms crossed. But He wants us to get in the fight and get in the fray. “What’s going on? What’s happening? What part am I supposed to play in this so that those that are around me would see God working in me, my gift would be brought to the table?” Because we can’t be the family of God, we can’t be the church of God if all the gifts aren’t coming to the table. We’re incomplete. We’re incomplete. If you’re waiting on the liver and the heart and the lung, but you’re the spleen, you’ve got to play an important part in the body. And the hand can’t be the eye, and the eye can’t be the foot. And so, to manifest Christ, to show internally, and to the lost and to the world what Christ is like and what the Father’s like, you have to participate in the family of God.
One of the things I love about our family is we get together for family dinner with my parents and sisters and their spouses and my wife and our children, and all the grandkids are there. There’s something special about everyone being in the room together. You can’t replicate it. It’s not the same. Like, if my sister and brother in law aren’t there, if they’re out of town or sick or something, it’s just not the same. Because when we’re together as a family, they bring things out of me and I bring things out of them, and the kids bring things out in each other, and there’s this sense of life and joy and purpose together when we’re together as a family. Each person playing their part, each gift, each distinct personality coming, and when one of them is gone or one of them is having a difficult time or struggling or something, it’s not the same. There’s this picture of wholeness and beauty and this corporate sense that we can’t enjoy and experience if everyone in the family isn’t at the table.
And the same thing is true here. You’re part of the family, and you play a part in the family. And so, don’t just come to the family meeting and you know, just kind of sit back and, “Well, I hope it feels like family for me.” Make it feel like family for someone else. Give way. Turn to the person next to you and say, think to yourself, “How can I make this person feel like family? How can I really love them?” Guys, we’re a big community. We’re a big family. We’ve got a lot of leaders. We’ve got a really great team of people and pastoral team and friendship group leaders, zone pastors, and pastoral support. We have so many incredible people, but here’s the thing. Even with all of those incredible people, we can’t be family, even if they’re full on and give all their time to it. Why? Because if only mom and dad in the household family, if only mom and dad do family, but the kids don’t do family together, something is missing. Something is lacking.
You know, sometimes with my kids, I just want family to mean just tolerate each other, just get along, stop fighting, stop screaming, stop arguing, just stop, everybody please stop! Please! Those of you with lots of little kids know what that’s like. But I don’t just want my kids to just tolerate one another. Even if they just stopped fighting, that would be nice, right? I mean, that would be really nice. Let it happen. But even if they just tolerated one another and stopped fighting, it still wouldn’t be the same because I want them to enjoy each other. You know, silence, if they were just like, stopped fighting and just stopped, that would be nice. That would be a miracle, yes, thank you, Klondo. Yeah. That would be a miracle. It would be nice for a couple hours or a couple days, but then it would be like, Uh, there’s this void. Because families weren’t meant to live in silence. Their mouths aren’t supposed to be closed towards one another. There’s something that’s meant to fill the void, and to fill the silence. Hey, guess what it is? That individual bringing to the family who God has made them to be. It’s their gifts, it’s their calling, it’s their personality, it’s me seeing my kids individually and enjoying their personality, and then one across the table, they’re seeing them, and they’re playing off one another. Did you ever spend time with families that are like really close knit together? But you’re kind of on the outside, and it’s like, “Where are we going here?” In some ways, make it a joke, and then someone’s talking about their childhood, and it’s like, “Where do I jump into the story here?” There’s just an understanding. There’s a unity that’s forged and built together when the family operates in their distinct gifts, callings, personality, and all those things.
The word became flesh. A family is something that you are not something that you do. A church is something that we are. It’s not something that we do. Church isn’t about something that we do and just checking it off a list. There was this old song. When we were moving out here, my parents got us all these Christian hip hop cassettes. In the shining year of 1991. And one of the songs, I still remember it. “You can’t go to church cause the church is you.” Powerful truth. Horribly written song, but it stuck with me. But I remember even as a kid, thinking about those words, “I can’t go to church cause the church is me.” And me being like, “What?” Because as a kid, I’m like, “No, church is on Sunday, like, that’s where we go,” but no, the Scripture describes the church as who we are.
You know, the number one metaphor that it uses in the New Testament to describe the church is family. You just do a little Bible search, it’s over 250 times. It’s like way more than that, but I’ll just say it’s 250 times. You look up “Father,” “Son,” “Daughter,” “Family,” “Inheritance,” all these different terms that are familiar terms, those are the terms that the Bible uses to describe who we are because God is a Father. He’s not just a, you know, a pastor or a teacher, or a preacher, or a leader, or a president, or a king. He’s not just that. He wanted to know Him. He wanted us to know Him as Father. Therefore, because He is Father, we are family. We are. Legally, it is true about you in heaven. That is the legal truth about you as a Christian is that you are a part of a family and you have a part to play in the family. And you know, we have to learn how to do that together. We’re not great at it. When you adopt a child, you go to a court date and you, you know, sign on the piece of paper and the guardianship of that child passes to you, and you know that it’s true. I am now this child’s parent. I am their mother or I am their father. And legally, it’s true. Legally, you know and the judge knows, and the courtroom knows, and maybe some of your family knows, and whoever gets your newsletter, it’s all legal, but it’s all legal until it become flesh. It’s just legally true but that child isn’t always connecting with the fact that you’re now their mother or you’re now their father. Simply because you show a child a piece of paper that says, “I have legally adopted you” does not convince them, shape their understanding or whatever until you go home and what? You begin to walk out life together day after day, meal after meal, homeschool after homeschool, or child pickup at the, you know, at school, day after day, meals together, holidays together, church gatherings together, family life together, game nights together, game nights gone awry together.
And then what happens is in that process, the legal truth becomes real. It begins to manifest. And then the child begins to understand, “Oh, this is how I relate to you. Oh, this is how I relate to my siblings. I’ll know how Dad is gonna react to this situation because I’ve walked with Dad now. I know how my sibling is gonna react to this situation because I’ve walked with them now, and we’ve been through some stuff, and I know exactly what buttons to push in their heart to psychologically destroy them.” I mean, kids, they’re expert phycological warfare artists. They know exactly what buttons to push. They know exactly what tone to hit with their voice when they come in and you’re there, just doing the dishes or something, they want something. They know the frequency to hit with their voice to make you stop and look at them. And they hit that exact frequency and you’re like, “Ah!” Why are they doing that? They’re doing that because they want your attention. They know exactly the frequencies to hit to get your attention. Why? Because they’ve walked with you. They’ve walked as a family. They’ve experienced life. They’ve done the family vacations. They’ve seen you happy. They’ve seen you angry. They’ve seen you whatever, and they begin to relate. See, this is what we’re in right now. The word to be a spiritual family now has to become flesh. You’re that flesh. I’m that flesh. The person next to you, they’re that flesh, and now we begin the journey of walking together to know how to relate to one another, to bring in the lonely, to turn to the person next to us, to introduce ourselves and then invite them over for dinner, to spend time with one another.
A family is different than a business. Because in a family, you can’t fire people. Can you imagine the way that we so many times, I’ll just use myself, I’ve thought of the church as a business and organization? The way that we leverage one another for our own personal gain, our own happiness, to fill our own sense of unfulfillment, to make our life better, to make our life more rich. We turn to the person next to us, and we leverage those relationships, what can you give me? And we do it all in the name of, “Well, this is in the Bible, and I’m supposed to feel apart, and I don’t.” So, we like, slap this religious jargon onto it, and we begin using the people around us like it’s a business transaction. We have people over for dinner, “Well, did you like that?” “Well… I mean, I don’t really know… How’s this person going to enrich my life and make it better?” You know what that’s called? It’s called being a sociopath. We’re all a bunch of sociopaths. We’re all leveraging one another, and the Father is looking at us, and He’s going, “This is antithetical to the Gospel. This is not what we’re to be about as a family.”
One of the most challenging things as a father is seeing my children leveraging one another for their own gain. It’s really hard to… It makes me mad sometimes, most of the time. When they leverage one another, when they, you know, the older ones get the younger ones together, you know, after the harvest festival, Halloween candy shebang, and they get it out. They set up a little money changer table, and they start buying. There’s this whole black market of candy happening under the facade of my home, and I’m like, “What’s going on? What’s happening? There’s a weird spirit in here.” Next thing I know, I’m eating a tootsie roll, and the 5-year-old’s driving away in my car. Like, they know how to wheel and deal. And you know, the older ones, they’ve been wheeling and dealing longer than the younger ones have, so the younger ones come, and they come skipping in, and you know, they’re so happy. They’re like, “Look what I got! I got this piece of candy. It’s so good. Oh, my gosh, it’s so good.” I’m like, “What did you give them?” “Four Reese’s cups and five lollipops, and half a pound of skittles.” Time for a family meeting.
In a family, we serve one another. We celebrate each other’s victories and we mourn each other’s losses. Being a family is sometimes just as simple as when somebody does something awesome. You come along side with them and just, “Good job! We did it!” Come along side of the person that’s hurting and mourning and just cry with them. Sometimes we’re so afraid of people in pain because we feel like we have to fix their pain. We don’t have to fix their pain. Jesus will fix their pain. We just need to feel their pain with them. You don’t have to have the words. Don’t shy away from your friends that are in pain. I remember when my wife and I went through a really painful season of our lives several years ago. We had friends that called us up and said, “Hey, can we just come sit with you?” It meant the world. That’s family. They didn’t come and give us perspective and preach the Bible at us and tell us how God’s gonna wipe away all our tears and give us all the theological reasons why there’s delay and pain and anguish and loss of life. They didn’t do that. They just sat in our living room, and we cried, and then they cried. That’s it. That’s family. When we’re hurting. When you’re hurting, I’m hurting, and when I’m hurting, you’re hurting. When the person next to you is hurting, first, find out that they’re hurting, and then go and hurt with them. Feel what they feel. Just feel it. Don’t give an answer, just feel it. People that go through trama and crisis, more times than not, they come out with this testimony. We so appreciate people around that didn’t feel like they had to talk the entire time, and they just came to our hospital room, or they came to our home, and they just sat with us, and they just told us that it’s just okay to grieve, and to go through the pain of what was happening. They just wanted to experience that with us. That’s powerful. You don’t need a whole sermon prepared to go visit your friend in the hospital or visit the friend whose marriage is going through a challenging time. You don’t have to have all the answers. God has great answers. The Holy Spirit has great answers. He’s really good at saying the right thing in the right time, and He’ll want to use you, but sometimes He just wants to use you just to be there and put your arms around that individual, and just love them and suffer with them, long for them. Because families rejoice together, and they also suffer together. The point of the family is just that you’re not alone in your suffering. It’s not that you don’t suffer. It’s not that you won’t have pain. It’s not that you won’t go through crisis or loss or disappointment. It’s that you won’t have to do it alone. But be that for someone else first. Go find someone, and be that to them.
The Word became and He came and dwelt among us. The Word becoming flesh, who’s more than just this last-ditch mercy mission of the Father to try and, you know, redeem Adam. There was more at stake. There was more that was in His heart. It wasn’t just, “I’m here to fix all your problem, so whoosh. Jesus, the Carpenter, come forth,” you know? It wasn’t just a last-ditch effort. There was something burning in the heart of God that humanity did not know about Him, and He longed to show them. He longed to show them. He called to them from the mountain in Exodus 19. He said, “Come up here,” but only Moses went up. and so, what did God do? It’s the glory of Christianity. It’s the glory of the gospel. it’s what sets apart Christianity from every other religion. God doesn’t stay in His temple up on a mountain expecting you to get with the program so that you hopefully end up there too. But He comes down the mountain. He walks into your life. He walks into your job. He walks into the pain of loss and suffering that you’ve been through. He shows up. He doesn’t blink. He doesn’t turn away. He’s not ashamed of you and your plight. He’s not ashamed of us. He longs to reveal the Father because He wants a family.
The difficulty of the word becoming flesh doesn’t end there. It only begins. When the Word is given and the Word now has to become flesh, it’s given. You know the fragility in which Christ came to the earth. Here’s this young maiden girl, Mary. She’s not even married yet. And all the sudden she’s with child. There was legal grounds to stone her. The Lord knew that. He knew that the Word becoming flesh, there would be this precarious position that His beautiful Son, His only begotten Son would be the crux of. You know, He’s not born in the time of modern medicine and ibuprofen. He’s not born in that time. He came at a time when it was not uncommon to die before you were forty. Death was normal. There was war. There were famines. There were plagues. There was disease. There was no cure for it in the natural sense. And He comes in this precarious time of history, and then Herod, after He’s born, rises up and murders all of the young boys two years old and younger all around Bethlehem. It’s precarious, and then they have to escape to a foreign land, and as they’re escaping, there are robbers and there’s danger to go all the way from Israel to Egypt. People didn’t do that. They didn’t have a commuter train. They didn’t just travel to Egypt. You don’t go to Egypt. They stayed in their hometowns. The majority of them, all of their life, they never left. There’s not a reason. it was too hard. It’s too dangerous. It’s too precarious. It’s too expensive. And Jesus comes at such a precarious time, and even during His ministry, He’s hidden, and then He can’t show His power, because when He shows His power, He knows that His hour will come, the hour of the cross where He would die for the sins of the world, and yet even during His ministry in John 8 and other places, there are people that are trying to kill Him. They’re trying to stone Him. They’re trying to throw Him off of a cliff. See, when the Word becomes flesh, there are very precarious scenarios that begin to occur. Because it’s trying to steal away the intent of God. It’s trying to cut short the revelation of the Father. It’s trying to cut short the Word that God longs to reveal about Himself.
See, this thing about spiritual family that’s happening in our midst, this isn’t mostly about us. It’s mostly about Him. He will be more glorified as Father when we begin to relate to one another as a healthy family. He will be more glorified. People will interact with you, and there will be something different about you. They will say, “I think I just met Jesus.” You will manifest to them the glory of God in the same way that Christ manifest the glory of God to us. See, it’s all about Him. It’s all about His worth. So, when you get discouraged, when family isn’t working, just remember this. It’s all about Him. It’s His plan. It’s His way. And I’m just obeying what He’s asked me to do. I’m responding and then obeying. I’m beholding, and then walking it out. I hear the word and I make it flesh. I hear the word, and I make it flesh. Make flesh the word. Make it flesh. Don’t hide it. Don’t put it under a lamp. Don’t hide it underneath of a basket. Make it flesh in your homes. Make it flesh in our workplaces. Make it flesh in school. Make it flesh in our community. Make it flesh. Let the world see the light of Christ. Let them see you and then see Him. Do you know why? Because He’s standing at the right hand of the Father. He’s hidden from human and natural eye right now, but He’s coming again in power, and He’s looking at you to make Him flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:6, “It is God who commanded light to shine out of the darkness, and He has shown in our hearts the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Jesus shines and radiates exactly who the Father is. He says, “My will is do to the will of the One who sent Me. They’re not My words. They’re His words. It’s not My miracles. They’re His miracles.” The Father wanted that water turned to wine so the Son manifest the Word. When we see Christ, when we behold the light of His face, who do we see? We see the exact representation of the Father. One of the challenges is that we think the Father and the Son are different. The Father is angry, the Son came and rescued us. The Father is distant, but the Son came near, so we like the Son. We like Jesus. We read the Gospels. We revel in who Jesus is. We’re like, “Oh, You healed the sick, and You raised the dead, and You spoke with such gracious words. I just want to be around You. I just want to touch the hem of Your garment. Oh, if You would just brush past me, that’s all that I need.” And Jesus said, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. When You see Me, you see Him. When you behold Me, you behold Him. When you hear My words, you hear His words. I don’t speak on My own authority.”
Colossians 1:15, Paul says that He, meaning Christ, is the image. He’s the image of the invisible God. The word “image” here implies more than a shadow or a type, but a representation because that image is directly derived from the source. It’s not just like a picture that someone drew. What’s the Father like? Okay, let’s sketch a carpenter from Galilee. He’s derived. He’s begotten, that’s what that means. He’s begotten of the Father. Everything that Christ is is who the Father is. And when He shows up on the earth, we don’t have to ask the question, what is the Father like? All we must do is look at the Son. You look at Him, and you know what the Father is like.
The writer of Hebrews continues in Hebrews 1:3. He’s speaking of Christ. He says, “Who being the brightness of His glory,” meaning the Father’s glory, Hebrews 1:3. “And the express image of His person.” The express image. That word is that word we derive “character” from. Character. And it was actually a tool that was used to engrave in that day. It was a specific tool that would engrave the exact intent of the author. When Christ came, He showed us the exact intent of what He wanted us to know about Him. Contained in 89 chapters, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, He showed us what the Father is like. And we have to believe that He believed that it was sufficient that giving us just that little resource and the New Testament and the whole word of God would point us in the direction to see the light of the Father as we behold the stories in the word of God.
The Christian doesn’t have to see Jesus in order to experience the Father because He’s not here with us right now. And some people are so longing for an encounter. They just say, “Oh, if I could only see Jesus. Oh, if I could only see Jesus.” Do you know you rob yourself of the blessing of John 20:29 when Jesus said, “Blessed are they who have not seem and yet still have believed”? Blessed are they who have not seen. You might come here and say, “Well, I’ve never had a dream. I’ve never had a vision. I’ve never had an encounter. I’ve never been taken to heaven,” and you live in conflict in your soul and you’re thinking, “I’m not a part of this family.” You are. You’re blessed. Blessed are those that have not seen that radiance face to face and yet still believe. You know what blessing? That means there’s a reward that is for you in the age to come from Him. You get a greater blessing. You still believe. You still endure. You still moved your family. You still sign up again. You still sign up to volunteer. You still show up in your quiet time and say, “God, here I am!” You’ve endured less money and less influence and all these things, and you’re wondering, “Where’s the angel? Where is Christ? Why isn’t He showing up?” Blessed are you who have not seen and yet still believe.
The glory of Jesus and the knowledge of the Father are experienced when you hear the stories recorded in the Word of God. That’s how we behold Him. That’s how we behold His glory. John, in John 1, got to see the Word manifest, and He got to handle Him and be with Him, and yet, even they abandoned Him and doubted Him and had to put their finger into the scar in His side to believe. See, that’s why there’s a blessing for you. Because you still believe and you don’t need to put your hand inside of the scar. Like, what would be cool, but I bet the blessing He’s gonna give is gonna be really cool.
These stories are filled with power. The word of God is unlike any other book. I love what Smith Wigglesworth. He said, “I don’t read this Word. I don’t read this story. It reads me.” This is dangerous stuff! There’s so many testimonies of unbelievers opening up this Word. Even John 1, I was reading one of a 17th century author who opened up to John chapter 1, had never read it in his life. Read it and suddenly was converted by the power of God. It’s sharper than a two-edged sword. You don’t mess with the Word of God. It messes with you. You open that thing, it’s not just words on a page. It’s the logos. It is the declaration, the revelation of who Christ is and who the Father is, and you behold that Word and you read it, and you pray it, and you act on it, and you obey it, and that Word begins to manifest. It begins to show up in your speech and in your dreams, and in your thoughts. The word begins to transform you, and then it begins to impact those around you. The Word is living and active.
We’ll end with this. This last phrase. Christ came full of grace and truth. He was full. He was filled with grace and truth. That word full is actually the word that sometimes it can mean maturity. Maturity. Christ in maturity showed us the grace and the truth of the Father. Do you know what’s implied? If He was revealed to us and sent among us, it means we don’t understand the grace and the truth of the Father. We have wrong ideas about God. Do you know that you could be a Christian and have wildly wrong ideas about God and act consistently upon that? He came to show us the grace of God. Why? Because the Father was filled with grace and truth. So, as the Father manifest the Son that we would know the grace and truth of the Father, so we are to manifest Christ so that the world knows the grace and the truth of the Father. Do people know the grace and truth of God when they interact with you? When they hear you speak? When they read what you type? When they hear the tone of your voice, do they experience the grace and the truth of the Father? Are you manifesting the Word to them? Are you showing it as a family? Grace is unmerited favor. Unmerited favor. It is acceptance in the face of accusation. Grace clothes the dirty and disqualified with new garments. It lifts the head and says to the accuser, he that is without sin may cast the first stone. Even though we have not earned it, even though we do not deserve it, reckless love, we are recipients of the acceptance and delight of God. He came to show us that acceptance and delight. He came to model it. All through the stories in the Scripture and culminating on the cross. Why did He die if He was innocent? The grace of God. He longed to bestow favor, the free gift of righteousness upon sons and daughters and pull a family to Himself, and it was appointed that He must suffer many things at the hands of sinners. Truth is more than a moral compass or rules written on a page. Truth is a Man. Truth is a Man, and when you, as a believer, as I, when we manifest truth, when we speak truth, it means that we are to communicate who Christ is. So that person comes away going, “I think I just had an encounter with Jesus.” Remember that on the internet. Remember that on Facebook. We must have grace and truth. If we have only truth, then we set boundaries with no love and acceptance. If we only have truth, we set boundaries with no love and acceptance. If we only have grace, that means that there are no boundaries, and everyone is loved and accepted. Christ was mature in both, and we are called to be mature in both, to be gracious towards one another and to manifest Christ.
Jesus said in John 14:6, He said, “I am the way and the truth…” I am the truth. That means that truth, if it were to be evaluated toward me, I’m so weighty, I’m so glorious, I’m so powerful that truth cannot bear the weight of who I am. I would crush it. But if truth or if a law or a moral or a standard is applied to me, I can bear the weight of it. He says, “I am the truth. I am the standard by which you’re to measure that which is right and wrong, that which is noble, that which is pure, that which is holy. You measure it by Me, a Man.” When you speak the truth, do you manifest the Man? When we talk to our kids, do we manifest the Man? I’m gonna tell you the truth. You know we walk about speak the truth in love and what that means is give people a compliment sandwich. “Thank you so much for meeting me, taking the time. I so appreciate you. Here’s all your problems. Here’s all your deficiencies. Here’s everything wrong with you. But, to wrap up the sandwich, the lower piece of the bread. I think you’re gonna make it. I really appreciate you.” What if we approach speaking the truth in love as not being critical and identifying with the accusation of the enemy? You know, it takes no discernment to be a critic. Discernment and criticism are not the same thing. Because you don’t have to be filled with the Holy Spirit to be a critic. But you have to be filled with the Holy Spirit to be discerning. Why? Because discernment means that you see what God sees. The prophet in Zechariah 3, he saw Joshua in dirty garments. He saw what man saw. He’s disqualified as a priest. He’s disqualified. He’s really messed up. Here’s all of Josh’s deficiencies. Zechariah could have sat him down and laid it open. That’s not what the voice of the Lord said. That wasn’t discernment. The Holy Spirit wants to write another story as we relate to one another. What if speaking the truth in love meant we manifest the truth in love to them. We tell them what Christ sees about them from the Word of God, and we relate to one another in the way that we want to be related to? What if we turn to the person next to us, we got to know them, and understand what they were like and who God made them to be, and then we begin to champion that and we begin to say, “Man, I didn’t know that about you. I want to help you be what God has called you be. I want to help you do what God has called you to do. Your battles are gonna be my battles. Your victories are gonna be my victories. I get to claim those too. I get to say we. I get to say we did it.”
The family of God. This is our last point. We’ll just invite people to stand. Brenton, if you’re around. Brenton and team, go ahead and come out. Let’s stand. The family of God, we’ve been given the Word. We’ve been entrusted with a word, and now we begin the fragile and tenuous journey of making it flesh, of walking it out. It doesn’t happen in a week or a day or a service. It’s nice to hear from a platform. I can say that cause I’ve said it from the platform. It’s nice to hear from the platform, but once you start making it flesh, you realize there’s all sorts of challenges. But if it didn’t stop Christ, then it shouldn’t stop us, and we can ask the Lord to help us and give us fresh eyes and a heart filled with love and abounding love toward one another.
Holy Spirit, I ask You that we would be a family, that we would know the Father, and that Your Son would release His power in our midst, Lord, to help us, to really help us. To really help us get our eyes off of ourselves and onto the person that’s next to us right now, to really fight for each other, to really get each other’s back, to not quit on one another, to not revile one another, to not accuse one another, to not let envy drive us and jealousy drive us and motivate our conversations, to not leverage one another, Lord, to enjoy one another, to celebrate together, to mourn together. Holy Spirit, we ask that You would come all across this room. We ask for a fresh revelation of the grace and the truth of God that would transform us, that we’d be able to manifest Your grace and Your truth towards one another. Help us, Lord. Help us, Lord.”

The New Birth

The gospel is mostly a declaration of things that have happened to us. Events and happenings transpired around the shores of Galilee and near Jerusalem (now some years ago) and have had a shocking affect upon your life. You will never be the same. The important part is that they happened, and that they happened to us. Birth is like that.

A birth is something that happens to a baby, certainly not something the baby does. No one looks at the newborn and says, “Fantastic work! You did it.”

Through the turmoil, and agony, and blood of the mother a beautiful child is brought forth. The cross is like that.

We must look at the glorious suffering Christ and joyfully declare, “Fantastic work! You did it!”

A Letter to Myself

Dear young leader,

The anointing of the Lord to lead is selected by an invisible hand. God raises up leaders and tears them down.

You will face the praise and scorn of others simply because you will be in their eye. The person at the front receives the most criticism because he will also receive the most praise. These two facets: criticism and praise are the wisdom of God at work. One cannot happen without the other. If a man is only praised he will become prideful; if a man is only scorned he will become discouraged. Learn from both.

Learning from the praise of men is as critical as learning from their criticism. Their praise will tell you what they want. He will find that if he leverages the praise of others he can increase his standing in their eyes and yield greater comfort for himself. And if he can avoid their criticism it will have the same result. Yet, he will find that he is not leading them, they are leading him.

Mere leaders will always derive their sense of value from the criticism and praise of men; while heaven leaders will derive theirs from God. The praise of man is candy to the soul, their criticism, his poison. And yet, neither the praise of man nor his criticism persuades the heart of God. Leaders may be praised or scorned, yeDouglas_Fairbanks_at_third_Liberty_Loan_rally_HD-SN-99-02174.JPEGt the heart of God remains unmoved by their chatter.

When a young man finds himself in leadership he may begin to think of himself as something special. He may think that his gifts or charisma that have lent to this position are an endorsement from heaven. Yet, the endorsement from heaven comes not in the gift given but how the gift is utilized. A young man may use his gifts to promote himself to fame and glory; avoid this. Ask, who am I promoting through my gifting?

12 Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Sam. 5:12)

God anoints leaders for others. He anoints them for Himself.

 

The Church: a vision for present and future

A ship is built for two reasons: to weather the conditions of travel and to carry passengers to a destination. Both are necessary for a proper vessel.

One may build a church to weather cultural/social conditions with little regard for the destination. One may also envision and build a church for the destination with little regard for the tumultuous journey.

A vision for the future equips for the present. And an engagement in the present sets the course for the future.

You Must Renew Your Mind

At the new birth, God gives us a new spirit. It is a glorious truth worth exploration and meditation. He does not however, give us an entirely new mind. The seat of the mind is where our thoughts and perceptions are concentrated. It’s though the mind that we perceive life as it plays out in front of our eyes.

There is a necessary distinction that must be made as we process the dramatic change of the believer’s salvation. Think of a slave who is suddenly freed, or an orphan that is newly adopted. Legally their status has changed; for the slave is now free and has access and rights they did not before. The orphan now enjoys the love and privilege that comes through nurturing parents in a family. Now here is the distinction that we are going to look at; in both cases, their thoughts are still mostly the same as when they were slave or orphan. To be more specific, their memories weren’t erased, their self-perception wasn’t immediately changed, and their life experiences weren’t blotted out. They are beginning a new life and awaiting the new experiences that will enfold through it. In many ways, they are the same person they were before; the only difference is that they hold a new legal status.

Consider this testimony –

It’s a different universe…there is no human word to describe what it’s like; miserable, oppression…there is no love. I couldn’t tell my mother that I loved her because the only love I could express was love for the Regime. There was no love that I could express. It is the darkest place on the earth; there is no place like North Korea on the earth. It’s hard after you went through that hatred, that injustice. You fear that there is no compassion inside of you and no love…I experienced it, I hated everything. I couldn’t love people when they said, “Life is beautiful.” – Yeomi Park (North Korean defector)

In her testimony, she describes these feelings of fear, lack of compassion and love after her defection. She had not been trained in these things. They were completely foreign to her experiences and way of thinking. Those there were privilege of freedom to be had, and new experiences of love and relationship to encounter, the framework of thinking was mostly still the same.

Similarly, for new believers, they may experience thoughts and emotions more closely resembling their pre-salvation way of thinking than that of a follower of Jesus. Why is this important? If we don’t have a biblical understanding of the change that must take place after salvation, we may wake up discouraged in 15 years thinking this thing is sham. Certainly we wouldn’t be critical of Ms. Park, if after her defection, she exhibited patterns of thought or behavior that hearkened to her past experiences. We would be compassionate and patient. Why then do we hold ourselves to a demanding standard related to the new birth?

God’s part is to justify us through the cross of Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there. We have a real part too. Paul said it like this-

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

Our mind is clouded with the world. The world’s ways, fears, ideas, solutions, wisdom has established roots deep in the minds of humanity. This is our starting point: thinking like the world. Until that mind is renewed it will operate out of the mindset of the world. The glorious truth is that we don’t have to live there, under the world’s mindset, we can be transformed.

Here are some practical ways our mind is transformed:

  1. Fill our mind with the Word. The old adage, “What goes in must come out,” is quite true here. If we pour in the opinion of others, we will pour out the same. When we immerse our minds in the Word of God, the truths of God’s Word begin to show up in our lives. We will begin thinking differently, then feeling differently which leads to acting differently.
  2. Paul refers to the Word as that which “washes.” The bible has a trans-formative power that upends lies and wrong ideas about God, establishing new ones. We engage the word not stoically but through relationship. In other words, we talk to the Holy Spirit as we read.

The transformed mind sees the God differently. It sees people differently, including self. When it looks in the mirror, bible verses come to mind. Rather than seeing what the world sees, values and criticizes, we see what God sees and values. This is the fruit of the transformed mind. Looking at others, we view them through the lens of God’s word. This liberates us from relating others on the basis