Well we're in a Series that we've entitled "Chase the Light" and it's all about the light of God, come to earth through Jesus. And the goal of this series is to go back to the basics of what the gospel really is, with our focus not just on Jesus's death, but his whole life. And that all begins with the incarnation.
The incarnation is a theological word for God coming to earth in Jesus. Fully God, and fully man.
So when we talk about "the Gospel" - we're talking about the Good News of Jesus.
Many of you know my MUCH older sister Holly. When we were growing up, I had a room, and Holly had a room. Well my room was closer to the bathroom, and since she was a teenage girl who spent literally all day in the bathroom getting ready, she wanted to switch rooms. Now I didn't have a problem with that. But because I knew it was what SHE wanted, I was adamantly opposed. I believe this was the first time I ever used to the phrase "Over my dead body." So my parents thought about it, and decided that it made the most sense for Holly to get the room by the bathroom, but they don't know how to deliver the news to me. So here's what happened. That summer I went to summer camp. And after the week, I got home "I'm BAAAACCCCKKK!" and I go into my room, throw my backpack towards what used to be the location of my bed, and as my backpack fell to the floor, I realized with horror that my parents had switched our rooms when I was at camp!
I wasn't happy with the news, but I couldn't help but respect the way they delivered the news. That was awesome.
And so God, when he comes to deliver his good news message, he doesn't use a newspaper, or a blog post, and he doesn't do it sneakily when we're at summer camp. He delivers the good news to us in person, the person Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus
And not just his death, but his whole life was the gospel.
The Gospel is the news, not of an event, but of a person.
The Bible is all about Jesus. Even the Old Testament serves as a shadow of Jesus, and a finger pointing to Jesus. The NT begins with 4 "Gospels" which is to say biographies of Jesus.
The Gospel of Mark which is likely the first written of the 4 gospels starts like this:
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1)
So Mark just comes right out and says it, that this gospel that he's referring to is the story of Jesus.
Later in Mark 14 - Jesus is at the home of Simon the Leper and a woman comes and pours perfume on Jesus's head. The religious people of course took issue with this and Jesus defended her saying :
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)
That's amazing. Jesus said that the gospel includes this woman's story. So if we just think the gospel is "We're sinners, God's mad, but if you ask Jesus to help, God will chill out." - That doesn't include this story. And Jesus says the gospel includes this story. But if the gospel is the story of Jesus, well than this woman is absolutely part of it. B/C she's a part of his story.
So the gospel in 1 word: Jesus
But if we wanted to expand on that a little, we could say something like:
THE GOSPEL is the Good news of Jesus who has come to:
So this week we're talking about Jesus who has come to bring us peace.
This is a prophecy given by a prophet named Isaiah.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, (Isaiah 9:6a)
Who's he talking about here? It never comes out and says who this is.
Well our non-messianic jewish friends would say potentially Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a good king for Israel. Got Israel back on track in their relationship with God.
So why do we think this is talking about Jesus and not Hezekiah? Well to us, the language in this prophecy goes beyond human. It's my belief that to say these things about a human, I believe would cross the line into blasphemy.
And we believe that he's referring to Jesus. Even though is was written hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus. But now, in retrospect we can see that it's Jesus we're talking about.
And that's really how most prophesy works. A lot of prophecy can't be understood forward, it just sounds like nonsense. But it's plants a seed of understanding, so that when these things start to happen, that we can look BACK to the prophesy and say "Ahh yes. This is what the prophet was talking about."
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called… (Isaiah 9:6b)
4 "Names" here. The 1st and the last could possibly be talking about a human, but the middle 2? No way. Look:
He's the one you go to for counsel. He will give you wisdom
So the child being born is The Mighty God
Whoa wait… I thought we were talking about Jesus here. You can't call Jesus 'Everlasting Father'. Can you?
Jesus said "To see me IS to see the father." So Jesus is not the father, but he is the only perfect picture of the father. Jesus shows us the father.
When we get to know Jesus, we're getting to know who God really is.
Prince of Peace.
The word here for peace is the Hebrew word "Shalom". This word is usually translated 'peace'. But it's much deeper than that.
‘Shalom’. Hebrew word - usually translated into ‘peace’ but it’s much deeper than that. Love / joy / peace / health / vitality / flourishing / long life / unity.
Shalom is what love looks like in the flesh. The embodiment of love in the context of a broken creation, shalom is a hint at what was, what should be, and what will one day be again. Where sin disintegrates and isolates, shalom brings together and restores.
And it's bi-directional.
Peace with God & Peace with Each Other
Salvation (we talked about last week) and Unity (with each other)
Imagine that you have an earthly kingdom. So centered around a King.
Now for that Kingdom to thrive and flourish, what's required?
And if you don't have one, you won't have the other either.
You lose one, and they both collapse.
Peace with the King, and peace with each other. And so I want to spend just a quick minute on peace with God, but since we've really already covered that in this series, we're gonna go quick through it, then get to my main point, which is 'Peace with Each Other'.
Peace with God is not something you earn, or something you achieve. Peace with God is something you receive.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you. (Colossians 1:21)
There may be some people here who need to rethink who God is for them. In your mind, He's your enemy. But not in his mind.
My two year old daughter Grace doesn't hit A LOT, but she does hit some. When she's really mad, especially at mommy or daddy, sometimes she resorts to hitting. She thinks we're her problem, even though we're not.
And I think that's a pretty decent picture of some of us and God. We think God is our problem, even though he isn't. So we try to fight with God, and God still responds in kindness and still pursues us.
Some of us rage against God. But God is never your problem. But he is your solution. And he always offers a hand of kindness, and reconciliation.
It has everything to do with who God is.
Love is God's essence. It's who he is, always has been and always will be.
Love is not just how he relates to us, God was love before we existed. It's not something he DOES it's who he is.
So for example, I can love you. But that doesn't mean I AM love. God, though, is different. God's ESSENCE, who he is at the deepest reality, is love.
How do we know that? Through Jesus.
Let's say I was to go to a fellow theist, which means someone who believes in God, but not necessarily a Christian. Now let's say that I say 'God is Love' to them. Almost all theists, almost all people of all religions would agree with that statement.
The difference is: Only the Christian has evidence that that's true. There's something in the human heart that wants to WISH God is love. We feel like God SHOULD BE love, but only in Jesus can we SEE that it's true.
For he himself is our peace, (Ephesians 2:14a)
Notice it doesn't say "He brings us peace. Or "He makes peace possible". Or "He facilitates peace." No, he IS our peace.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one (Ephesians 2:14a)
What are the two groups? Well in this case, it's jews and gentiles.
But it could be any group that has been separated through race, nationality, gender.
God wants to bring unity where there has been division.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. (Ephesians 2:14-15a)
He broke down the religious rules in this case that were keeping people groups apart.
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, (Ephesians 2:15b)
So now, because of Jesus, all these different lines of division become utterly unimportant.
and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:16)
He killed their hostility.
Usually when we think of what died on the cross, we'd say "Jesus". Here Paul says that one thing that died on the cross that day was our hostility towards each other.
Now listen to this. This is such beautiful scripture.
He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:17)
So whether you're near to God or far from God. The message of Jesus is the same: Peace.
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, (Ephesians 2:19)
This is a kingdom concept. That we're citizens in God's kingdom. And at the same time, members of God's family.
We're all brothers and sisters.
So while it's true that we are not likely to encounter "jews v s gentiles" as a place of division, that same spirit is very much alive to create an 'us' vs 'them' even amongst our brothers and sister in Christ.
Jew and Gentile isn't much of an issue anymore, at least in our circles.
But we still have factions warring with each other, creating lines of division. Political lines, theological lines, racial lines.
You can see through Scripture, a tremendous theme is unity between believers.
Quickly take your through Pauls letters and show you:
To the church in : Rome :
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
We are members of one body. And one part of his body can't say to another "We don't need you."
There is Neither jew nor greek, neither slave nor free, not male not female.
Maintain the spirit of unity and the bond of peace.
Be of the same mind, having the same love."
Put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
"Be at peace among yourselves, and work to build up each other."
To his protege - the young timothy
"Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies on Facebook, b/c they bring contentiousness and quarrels."
"Avoid quarreling, but be gentle, and show courtesy to all people."
Did those churches and the people in those church have differences? Yes of course. Were some of those people more progressive and others more conservative? Yes of course.
But the Gospel says that despite our differences, we have unity through Jesus.
And that's so different than the way of the world.
The way of the world is competition.
This is Cain jealous of his brother Abel.
Or the older son in the parable of the prodigal son jealous of his fathers love towards his brother.
My company vs your company.
Teeter Totter - Push others down to go up
You remember the 'teeter totter'? Push the person on the other side back down to the ground, where do I go? - UP!
That's not the way of Jesus.
With Jesus, competition is replaced with unity. - Brotherhood.
We are not the only church in Albuquerque. Did you notice that?
And almost all churches have theological differences. Where we think we're right, and they think they're right.
And in Albuquerque, there are a certain number of church attenders. People who go to church. I'm sure that number changes by the second, so it's not constant. But a certain number of people are going to church today. So if the church were like the world, if a church were to close it's doors and "go out of business" so to speak, well that would be a good thing for the other churches. That's if the church was like the world.
But the church is not like the world.
We don't play by those rules. Because of Jesus, we have peace with each other. We're united together, serving the same God, being filled with the same spirit, chasing the same goal.
So that's why I want to say - Calvary Church, Sagebrush Church, Legacy Church, Citizen Church, Hoffmantown Church, North Church, New Life City Church, Hope Church, Desert Springs Church - We bless you!!
We declare God's blessing on your ministry. You are our brothers and sisters, and we love you.
"How can you say that pastor David? Aren't they the competition?!" Nope. They are our teammates. You know the competition is? The devil! We're not trying to steal people from other churches, we're trying to steal people from the devil.
So what's the principle at work here?
Unity despite diversity
Can we do some real talk here?
4 years ago, in the year leading up to the 2016 Presidential election, I saw something that grieved my heart.
I saw that people were becoming so politically motivated that it was eroding the unity that we're supposed to be sharing in the family of Christ.
People weren't even wanting to be in the same room with people from a different political party.
And it was happening equally on both sides.
And so I did a series called 'Politics and the Church' and my goal was really simple. To wake up to the fact that in God’s kingdom - our differences are dwarfed by what we have in common.
And what I've been advocating ever since is that we become a Christian community that participates in what I'm gonna call 'The Ministry of Cool'. And by that I don't mean that everyone will start wearing skinny jeans and scarves, and that everyone just get so hip. I mean 'Cool' as in unrattled.
And when everyone else is losing their mind and stabbing each other on facebook, for us to be the people that bring peace into a situation. - "I don't need to be the person who's right, I'm gonna be the person who's sane."
A minister of reconciliation.
When talking over the year about being a peacemaker, one thing people ask me about that can be a real challenge is to live at peace with people who are naturally combative. Because just because you want to live at peace with others, doesn't mean they want the same thing. Here's what I believe is the key:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, (notice the word choice - empathize) but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
So Jesus empathizes with our weakness. To empathize is to say "I get it." "I understand what you're feeling."
So just like we talked about last week: "God gets us" Even when we make the wrong choices, Jesus says "I know what it's like to be tempted to make that wrong choice. I understand that pull."
He never sinned. He makes better choices than we do. But he sees us with empathy even when we make the wrong choice.
So this past week, I was thinking about this and how I need to grow in my ability to empathize with other people's weaknesses. That I would be able to empathize not just with people who I agree with. But even people I think are being weak, and being foolish. To not agree, but to say "I understand where you're coming from."
Years ago, I lived in Colorado Springs with my friend Luke. We were both attending bible college and we had an apartment together. And attached to the apartment was a laundromat where we would go to do our laundry.
Well one night, after we both got off work. I think maybe 11pm-ish. We walked to the laundromat to do some laundry.
When we arrived there was just one slightly older lady in there waiting for her laundry. For the rest of this story, we'll refer to her as Mrs Grumpy Pants.
The laundromat had these carts that were essentially grocery carts that you could use to put your clothes in. So we grabbed a cart and headed to the washing machines.
Now I'm sure many of you know, that waiting at the laundromat can be one of the most boring things on planet earth.
Now there was a sign that said this (pic) ("Do not allow children to sit in laundry carts.")
Now I've never really been a "Letter of the Law" guy, but when I see that sign, I think 'Kids can't play in the laundry carts.' But adults, that's fine.
It's late, we're bored, and it's only us and Mrs Grumpy Pants in there, so I hopped in the cart and had Luke roll me up and down the isles of the empty Laundromat while I give him these boating commands that I didn't completely understand "All across the port bow!" "Stem to stern!"
We weren't damaging the cart, we weren't running into anything, we were just going up and down the isles as something to do.
Well the lady looked at us and yelled "GET OUT OF THE CART! READ THE SIGN."
Now I'm thinking "I think YOU need to read the sign. It says "Children" I'm a 200 pound man with a beard. But I do get out of the cart, and we go back to sitting there watching our clothes tumble.
Now I'm sure you can imagine what I was doing while I was sitting there. I was replaying the situation in my head, and thinking of all these great comebacks. "You're telling ME to read the sign?! You need to learn how to read period!" - Or: "Just because we're not as ancient as you doesn't mean we're children."
But as I sit there, I start to think about Jesus, and what he would do and what he would want me to do. Disciple means 'apprentice'. And so I've made the decision that I am going to allow Jesus to mentor me.
And I start thinking of all things, the incarnation and how Jesus comes and empathizes with us. Even though we make horrible decisions, Jesus comes and says "I know what it's like to be in your shoes."
And so I start thinking of this woman, she's older, she's probably been coming to this laundromat for years. Who knows what her life has been to bring her to this laundromat at 11pm. I mean, me and Luke, we're young and dumb and in college, so makes perfect sense that we'd be in a Laundromat at 11pm.
And I started to think "This lady, more than likely, has had more than her share of struggles in this life. And maybe for her, coming to this laundromat late at night is a chance for her to relax, and unwind, and maybe find a little peace. And then here you have these 2 little punks who come in and start being a disturbance.
I started thinking 2 things:
I believe she was wrong in the way she interpreted the sign, and I believe she was wrong to care that much in the first place.
And by the end of my tumble dry, I felt like God had mentored me.
And so I had one thing to say to her, and that's "I'm sorry."
I as we were leaving, I went up to her and I said "I just want to apologize to you. We were goofing off and we didn't consider your feelings." And she says "Just read the sign next time." … And I want to say "You might need glasses." But instead I say "I will. And again I'm sorry. I hope you have a great rest of your night."
And I walked away thinking "Thank you Jesus for not allowing division to have the final say." - Because that could have gone very differently don't you think? I could have texted all my friends "You'll never believe what Mrs Grumpy Pants did" And I could get all kinds of advocates about how I was wronged. But instead I was able to say "Thank you Jesus for that lesson in being a peacemaker."
Who is the person that is your enemy right now?
What do I need to change in my thinking and my actions to become a peacemaker towards them?
Maybe it's reconciling with someone you believe hurt you. And they don't think they need to apologize, so what needs to happen is for you to forgive them without an apology.
Maybe it's inviting Jesus back into your thought life, and let him mentor you on the art of empathy. Seeing things from someone else's point of view.
Whatever the case, the motivation is the same. To see the peace that is offered to us through Christ and offer that same peace to others.