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The Church

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
February 15, 2023 9:00 am

The Church

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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February 15, 2023 9:00 am

As the church, we cannot insist that people bow to our preferences when it comes to worshiping a Savior who gave up all his rights to rescue us.


Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. When people ask me how much should I be involved in the church, my answer is always to whatever extent you want God to be at work in your life. You want to benefit from one person in the church, one gifting, then you're going to get just a tiny fraction of what God wants to do in your life.

You've got no right to ask for the help of God in prayer if you intentionally separate yourself from the means of that help. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. You know, as the church, we seem to revisit the same issue over and over again, and it's this. We insist that other people bow to our personal preferences when it comes to worshiping God.

But is that really how it should be working? After all, Jesus was a savior who gave up all his rights to rescue us. So why would we not be willing to do the same to lead others to Christ? Today, Pastor J.D. shows us that when we are defined by who we are in Christ and not our cultural differences, we are able to lay down our preferences in order for others to experience salvation. It's a very important distinction for those of us who love Christ.

Don't forget, you can reach out to us at or give us a call at 866-335-5220 anytime. Now let's join Pastor J.D. in a message he titled The Church. If you got your Bibles this weekend, I'd invite you to take them out to Ephesians chapter 2 and begin in verse 11. Paul has spent the last chapter and a half of the book of Ephesians bequeathing unto us the beauties of the gospel. And now in the middle of chapter 2, he begins to turn his attention to the body of people that the gospel creates, namely the church. The passage that we are going to look at today I think is extremely relevant to us for at least a couple of reasons. The first one, sociologists who study spirituality in the United States say that there are two seemingly contradictory things that are true in regards to American spiritual lives. The first is that spiritual interest is at an all-time high. People seem as religiously hungry as ever. But at the same time, the second truth is that there is a decided move away from institutional religion. 81% of Americans answered yes to this question. Do you believe you can be a very good Christian without ever attending a church?

81% of Americans said absolutely. Paul gets into that in these verses. The second reason that this passage is irrelevant for us, I think, is that in it, Paul gives us a prescription for racial and cultural unity in the church.

Racial strife in Paul's day and the churches that he planted was a real issue. Because you see, for the first couple thousand years that God had worked with human history, all of God's people had been Jews. And then Jesus showed up with this whole whosoever will may come program. And now all these Gentiles have begun to believe.

And so now there they are in these new churches that Paul has planted. And you've got Gentiles sitting right next to Jews. And Gentiles, as you know, had their own Gentile preferences and customs and fashions and music choices and their own Gentile political viewpoints. And so it was a mess.

Here we are 2,000 years later and it's still a mess. Many people in our day love the concept of a multicultural society. But achieving a truly multicultural society has proven to be quite difficult. I read an article not too long ago in the Atlantic Magazine and it was a study done on people who, only people who chose to live in multicultural neighborhoods because they preferred to live in multicultural neighborhoods. They did a study on them and found that almost invariably even those people who preferred to live in multicultural neighborhoods after they moved into those neighborhoods would gravitate toward the other people in the neighborhood that look like them. So even though the concept of it was attractive, actually living it out was different. It's the same study was talking about you got a group of guys going in to play basketball and you got a group of white guys on one end and a group of black guys on the other end. That almost invariably, even if you were the kind of person that liked to have diversity, you would almost always gravitate toward the group of guys that look most like you. Many people who love the idea of a multicultural church are fine with it. They're just fine with it until you start doing things that are culturally uncomfortable to them.

I will confess to you that I'm like this sometimes. I love the concept, but living in the reality can be quite difficult. And if I could just be real with you for just a minute, based on many of your Facebook feed, some of you are all about racial reconciliation, but you don't really do anything about it.

You're what one of our pastors calls a slacktivist, slacktivist, which means you champion things on Facebook you don't live out on real life. This passage not only shows us the importance of cultural and racial diversity in the church. It's also going to show us how to achieve it. It's going to show us how to move beyond virtue signaling and slacktivism to actual gospel community. Now I want you to hear this as we get into this this weekend. Please do not hear any of this as me saying that we are anywhere close to having this figured out. This passage that we're going to go through has a lot to say to us and a lot to say to me and a lot that we need to learn from, which is why I want to begin just doing my favorite thing to do with a passage like this.

I just want to walk through it line by line. And then at the end, after we do that, we're going to answer two questions. First, why should we be deeply committed to the local church?

You want to ask that. And then second, how unity can be achieved within the church. All right, so here we go. Verse 11, chapter two, Paul says, therefore, remember that at one time you were Gentiles. The people that he is writing to are Ephesian Gentiles. Gentiles simply meant they weren't ethnic Jews. And all these Ephesian Christians, almost all of them, have been Gentiles. You were separated from Christ, alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel.

Notice, by the way, how those two phrases are put kind of parallel like that. Because in the Old Testament, one meant the other. In the Old Testament, if you were separated from the Commonwealth of Israel, you were also separated from Christ. In order to belong to God, you had to belong to Israel. If you wanted to know God, you had to become a Jew. That's why stories in the Old Testament like Rahab or Ruth are essentially people that want to know God and become Jews in pursuit of him. And he says to these Gentiles, that's who you were. You were one of those separated people. Next verse, verse 13, foreigners, to the covenants of promise, that's what you were. You were without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought nearby the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the wall of hostility. Literally around the Jewish temple was a literal wall.

It was about 10 feet high. It was made of really thick stone and it had a sign on it that read, and I quote, any Gentile entering beyond this wall will have only himself to blame for his ensuing death. They clearly had not mastered the concept of the secret service yet, but this wall separated in the Jewish mind, the good from the bad, the clean from the unclean, the safe from the unsafe. Now let's just stop right here and acknowledge that we may be politically correct enough not to post signs like that anymore, but we still have walls in our minds, all of us, that separate for us the right kinds of people from the wrong ones, the good ones from the bad ones, the safe ones from the unsafe ones. Maybe those walls in our minds are racial, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, whatever, but they could also exist because of education levels.

Maybe you only feel comfortable being around people who have a similar education level to you or went to a school similar to the one that you went to, or maybe on the other side, you don't like people who are really highly educated because you think that they're untrustworthy and they're snobs. It could be a wall in your mind separating the successful from the unsuccessful. Maybe it's a wall between the good-looking popular people and the nerds or whatever, and so you kind of see people in two different categories.

Could be political walls. You think people from one political philosophy are almost all good and others in the other stream, they can't help but be bad. Maybe it's those from good families versus those with messed up families or maybe it's single or married or happily married and divorced, whatever. Who is it that you feel a natural kinship or bond with? And who is it that you think of as other? They're outsiders, they're foreign, they're unlike you, they're unsafe, they might even be potential enemies.

Just ask yourself it this way. What is it about somebody that when you meet them, if you don't know them, and immediately when you find this out about them immediately makes you kind of relax and say, oh, okay, okay, these are my people. What is your people? Who is your tribe? Is it primarily those who share the same skin color as you?

Is it those who make about as much money as you? Maybe it's those who share your core political leanings. You find out somebody is a Republican and you're like, oh, okay, okay, all right, we can talk, right?

Or you find out that they hate Republicans and you're like, okay, all right, I feel like we can be friends. There's nothing wrong with some of these natural affinities, of course, but they end up erecting walls that put divisions within the church. And Paul says Christ tore down all those dividing walls because in Christ, there's really only one category of people, sinners. When it came to God, we were all on the outside. There were no good people or bad people. There were no winners or losers, people who have it together or dysfunctional people. There was only bad, sick, dead, sin-sick, rebels, children of Satan, sons and daughters of disobedience without God and without hope in the world.

And Jesus' blood, Paul says, verse 14, has cleansed all of us alike. That tore down the wall. By the way, think of how revolutionary this was. At the very time that Paul is writing these words, that wall still existed. That 10-foot wall was still there in the temple. It had been constructed by the command of God. And Paul, who had spent more time in the temple than he had in his house, says that wall doesn't exist anymore.

Before God, that wall is gone, even if it remains physically. Before God, all of our distinctions in society are gone also, even if they still exist in society. Furthermore, verse 15, Paul says that Jesus' resurrection created a whole new race of humanity that every person who belongs to him now shares. See in verse 15, in his flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and express and regulations.

No effect means they had no power to save. All those Jewish regulations, all those customs, those dress styles, those foods, it had no ability to bring salvation and resurrection. So he made it of no effect so that he might create in himself one new man, one new race from the two distinct races, Jew and Gentile, and that would result in peace. Christ was not raised, Paul said, as a Jew or a Gentile. He was raised as a completely new man, a new man, a third race, so that he could create a whole new race of people. This creation of this new one kind of man, Paul says, it results in peace because, listen to this very closely, because in his death and resurrection, Christ has removed anything that would have made us feel superior to others because he's shown that it had no worth before God, and he made relatively insignificant everything that distinguishes us from one another, giving us something more glorious and common that far exceeds our differences. In Jesus, there's only one kind of sinner dead, only one type of believer alive in Christ, fully adopted into God's family, partakers of God's glorious inheritance, the end. Hallelujah.

Amen, somebody. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer and a message titled The Church. To learn more about this ministry, visit today. Throughout the scriptures, before God built something great in the spirit, he tore down the efforts of the flesh. Our hearts prayer should be your kingdom come, Lord, not my kingdom come. We are to love Jesus's kingdom and his church. And I'd like to encourage anyone who has questions about their local church to study the book of Ephesians. Ephesians is a book that will excite us about all that we have in Christ, transform our view of the church and show us our part in God's amazing plan and challenge us about how we live our day to day lives. This month, we are offering you an eight session study guide that will take you or a group through the whole book of Ephesians, explaining and applying it for your gift of $35 for your gift of $35 or more this month. We'll send you this Bible study guide called Your Place in God's Plan.

Give us a call at 866-335-5220 or go online to to reserve this resource today. Verse 18, for through him, we both have access in one spirit to the father, one spirit of the father, spirit, notice the father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, you're now fellow citizens with all the other saints. You're members, each of you in God's household built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Verse 21, in him, the whole building being put together grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him, you are also being built together for God's dwelling in the spirit. Did you notice by the way that the entire Trinity was involved in that process?

You have the father who is the architect of the building, it's his building. You have the son who is the foundation and you have the spirit who is the one that is doing all the building. The whole Trinity is involved. What Paul then goes on from that verse into chapter three, we won't read it together, but he goes on to talk about how pointing toward this unified multicultural body of people was one of Paul's specific life callings. And then Paul ends those 10 verses there in chapter three with this, I mean, absolutely amazing statement.

Amazing statement. Chapter three, verse 10. This unified church, that's what this refers to in context. This is so that God's multifaceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavens. How is it that God's multifaceted wisdom is going to be displayed to the church?

How is it? Is it by brilliant sermons that I lay out? Is it because of the way that I show how all the scripture ties together? No, according to that verse, the way that they'll see God's multifaceted wisdom is when they see a group of people who have very little in common, but have deep unity and love for Jesus Christ that brings them together and puts them together in a context they wouldn't be in in any other place in the world. That's what demonstrates the unity. That's what demonstrates the multifaceted wisdom of God.

There is a way that we can do things that says, here's the kind of person I'm trying to reach. There's another way that picks up the New Testament and says, this is what God's trying to do. And we want to be aligned with what God is trying to do. And Paul said, that's where God gets glory. And by the way, where God gets glory, people start coming to faith in Christ. So let me give you a couple of things that I think are action items for us out of this passage. Here is number one.

Number one, it's pretty obvious. You should be very involved in the church. The church Paul tells us in these verses is what God is building on earth. And like I showed you, literally every member of the Trinity is involved in it.

If every member of the Trinity is involved, do you really feel like it's optional for you? Each member of the church, Paul says, is a key part of the building. Each one, he says, is a precious stone.

I love that. Precious stone, not a brick. Bricks all look the same. Precious stones are all unique. Everybody is a precious stone that God has put part of his spirit into you. A gifting of the spirit that you were supposed to demonstrate the beauty of God and exercise the gifts of God in ways that others of us cannot. God places his gifts and his spirit into each of us so that we can do his work on earth. This is a concept that if you understood it would forever change how you relate to the church. The place where the spirit of God has chosen to reside is in the church.

He didn't just come through my mouth. It's not that you're hearing wisdom dispensed every week and that's what God's got for you. What he's done is he's taken his spirit and he's put him into all the different members of this church. So if you separate yourself from the church, you are separating yourself from his power. In another place, Paul uses the analogy of the body, which is one of my favorites because of just how clear it is.

He says the church is like a body and Jesus is the head. Now think about how your body takes care of itself. I've got a brain that represents Jesus. If my left elbow decides that it itches, it sends up a message so the brain says I itch. What does my brain do? My brain has not yet figured out how to send down magic brain juice power to take care of the itch. So instead what it does is it signals something over here in my right hand to these fingers and it says, hey, right fingers. Brother left elbow has an itch.

Go take care of that. And so we all go over there and that's how the body works. Well in the same way when God has something that you are praying to him about doing in your life, he usually, I would say almost always, he doesn't send down some kind of magic power from heaven to fix it. What he does is he connects you to another person in the body of his church and that becomes the instrument through which he works in your life. That means if you disconnect yourself from the church, you are disconnecting yourself from the power of God. And when people ask me, how much should I be involved in the church? My answer is always to whatever extent you want God to be at work in your life. You want to benefit from one person in the church, one gifting, then you're going to get just a tiny fraction of what God wants to do in your life. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that you got no right to ask for the help of God in prayer if you intentionally separate yourself from the means of that help. You're like, God, I need direction in my life. And God says, ah, that wisdom that you're looking for is in the spirit and my spirit resides in the church.

You want to know how to get direction there? Go to church. God, I need help in my marriage. God, I don't know what to do with my kids. Go to church. God, I'm lonely. Go to church.

God, I don't understand you. Go to church. My spirit can do all those things for you, but you got to put yourself in the place where my spirit resides. If you want God to work in your life, you got to be a part of the church. You see, sitting on the sidelines of the church, even if you were hearing the greatest sermons in the world, which you are not, but even if you were, that means you'd only be experiencing a small fraction of what God wants you to know. You got to be involved.

You got to be very involved. This church has a bad problem with what we call ninja Christians. Ninja Christians means you slip in and out unnoticed. You kind of sit on the aisles.

When I bow for prayer at the end of the service, you kind of get up and you sort of slip out the back. You never get to know anybody. You're not really involved in anything. You know, ninjas are cool.

Ninjas are cool, but they make really bad church members. Okay. That's number one. Join.

Get involved. No sideline Christians. Number two. Number two, the summit should be known for its unity and diversity. And so what I want to re-emphasize today is that one of the best ways that we can demonstrate the wisdom and the power of God is by being known for our unity in diversity. Again, Ephesians 3 10. It's how we display the multifaceted wisdom of God to our community. I think I've told you a group of people all share in one culture getting together is not miraculous.

That happens at any football game, any rock concert, any political rally. But when you got a group of people who have little in common, except for a common experience of grace, that points to the magnitude of the gospel. It points to the power of the new man created in the resurrection. They ought to look at us from the outside and just genuinely bewildered say, why do these people love each other?

Why do they get along? I've often used the example with you of two of Jesus's disciples. When it lists Jesus's disciples, it usually just puts their name. But for a couple of them, it includes another detail.

And the details are not just random. One of them is called Simon the Zealot. Zealot was a particular political party back in the days of Jesus. They had political issues back then, just like we do today.

They were different ones, but they were just as strident about theirs. And there was a group of Jews that believed that they should work together to throw off Roman oppression, that Rome were occupiers, and it was their duty to get rid of Rome. On the other side, you had a group of Jews that said, you know what? God has appointed this for this time. We should work with them.

We should be peaceable with them. And so they worked with the Romans. Simon the Zealot would have been on one side of that discussion. Matthew the tax collector collected taxes for the Romans.

He would have been on the other side. And Jesus chose both of them to be part of the 12. Now I've told you, you cannot convince me they did not have some spicy conversations around the campfire. But what you find is that in these disciples, even though they had these differences in how things ought to be done, they came together, united around something larger, and that was their love for Jesus. And eventually that circle was going to include people like Nicodemus. Nicodemus, the Pharisee ruler, and seated right beside him would be John 4, the woman at the well caught in adultery, Samaritan, who's had five husbands. And right next to her, John 8, the woman caught in adultery at the well. And you've got a group of people that don't look anything alike, don't share anything in common, but what they have is a love for Jesus.

That is what shows the world that the resurrection is real and that the gospel is deep and it's powerful. They look at us and they say, why, why would you love each other so much? Now I'm just going to tell you, that kind of unity is fun to talk about and it is hard to achieve and it takes commitment.

Let me give you a handful of reasons I think it's so hard. First of all, Satan hates this kind of unity, especially in the church. This is how God gets his best glory so you can better believe Satan wants to do everything he can to obscure it.

He will pull out every weapon in the book to try to confuse and try to distort and try to make you angry because at its core, this is a spiritual battle because it's about the glory of Jesus and you should always be aware that he is working in us to try and undo the good things the Spirit wants to do. Do you have a church to call home? At Summit Life, we believe the local church is God's primary avenue for saving the world.

We pray that our daily messages are wonderful supplements to a local community you can call home. Now Pastor JD, I feel like many of us have the same underlying questions about our lives. Am I more than what I do? Am I more than my occupation? Am I more than mom or dad?

Who exactly am I? Yeah, Molly, I know for me, a lot of these questions, they're just kind of right below the surface. I mean, a lot of times we stay so busy, we don't ask these kinds of questions, but they're there just saying like, is this worth it? Is this what life is about?

Am I going to get to the end of my life and feel like I wasted it or am I going to get to the end and feel like this is the life that I was supposed to live? God's purpose for you is to fill you with the sense of his closeness, to fill you with the fullness of his love, and to show you how to respond in a way that brings joy to you, glory to God, and life to others. This eight-part study called Your Place in God's Plan will help you connect some of these eternal gospel truths to your day-to-day pressures and the decisions that you're having to make. So go check it out at Yes, be sure to get in touch today so we can get you a copy of this Bible study book from our friends at The Good Book Company.

It comes as our way of saying thanks when you donate to support this ministry. Just call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give and request the study online at I'm Molly Vitovich inviting you to join us again tomorrow when Pastor JD continues to give us the reasons that unity in our churches can be so difficult. See you Thursday on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-21 21:53:34 / 2023-02-21 22:04:23 / 11

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