Sermon October 21, 2006 : Ephesians 3:1-13

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Gregory Bishop
  • Date: October 21, 2006
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

The Book of Ephesians. We’re working through this Letter of Paul to the Christians in Ephesus which is a city in, what is it? Greece, Asia Minor, somewhere around there. A city where there were some of the first Christians, one of the early, early churches and the Apostle Paul wrote to them

We’re going through this letter and I believe God guided pastor Roberto to choose this letter to be the first sort of scripture as a whole that we worked through; because it’s a book that talks in many ways about what it means to be a church, what it means to be a Christian community. And so he’s touched on issues of Jesus’ death for us, of bringing people together, of us being made alive in Christ, being one in Christ. You’ll find in it so many topics are addressed in this letter that are part of the foundation of what it means to be a church.

And so that’s why God guided our pastor to talk about this and my turn today is in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 3, verse 1 to 13 and again, this is a letter, right. It’s a letter that was written and I don’t know if it happens to you, when you’re writing a letter or you’re talking to someone, you say something that reminds you of something else. And you go, wait, wait a minute, wait a minute, let me, you know, and you go on sort of at tangent, but it’s not at tangent, it’s something important but that just as you were going along you thought of it, and you stuck it in.

Well, we’re going to read one of the Apostle Paul’s tangents. Now, when you’re the Apostle Paul and you’re inspired by the Holy Spirit, even your tangents are discussed thousands of years later in church because they’re anointed and they’re powerful. They have something to say to us tonight. So, that’s what we’re going to look at, the Book of Ephesians 3:1 to 13

He says: “….For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you, gentiles, -and then he stops.

When he was about to go into something…. For this reason I, Paul,…. And he’s about to go into something really important and Stephen’s going to talk about that next week. But then he says, wait a minute, wait a minute, surely you’ve heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you. Ok, he’s starting to do his aside here, he says:

“…. That is, the mystery made known to me by revelation as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the spirit to God’s holy Apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace, given me through the work of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people. This grace was given to me to preach to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery which for ages past was kept hidden in God who created all things. His intent was that now through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authority in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”

Father I thank you for this inspired tangent in this letter which is really not at tangent at all. And God I thank you for the message that’s encapsulated in it. And Father, I pray for your Holy Spirit to speak to me and through me and to us tonight. Lord, I pray that it would be you opening up each heart and that together we would hear from you tonight. God, I want to hear your voice. I want your manna today, your fresh bread, that you have for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, the Apostle Paul goes on a tangent. You know, why he does it? Because he starts saying, for this reason, I, Paul, and he identifies himself, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you gentiles.

Now, he’s writing to gentiles, non Jewish people and he starts by saying, I’m writing to you. Now, remember I’m a prisoner for you. Now, that can be kind of a heavy trip. You’ve ever had someone remind you of how much they’ve suffered for you?

I’m Italian so, I know what Italian mothers and grandmothers can do when they want to lay it on thick, you know. It’s ok, you know, ‘all these years of suffering, but that’s all right’. And so, the Apostle Paul is afraid that they’re going to feel, it’s a guilt trick. He says ‘I am a prisoner for you, I’m in jail for you’. And he’s going to think, ‘gosh, they’re going to think I’m kind of saying, ‘I hope you appreciate what I’m doing for you’. It’s like, that’s not what I’m trying to do here and so he…. You know, I need to step back and I need to explain to them why I’m in jail.

The Apostle Paul is writing this letter from jail most likely. That’s a heavy things. A lot of the best literature throughout the history of the world has been written from jail. Isn’t that amazing? You know, I remember there was a gentleman here in church who helped me lead a Bible study, who was just an amazing teacher and I asked him, you know, what seminar, what Bible institute did you go to? I studied when I was in jail. And he was amazing. I blow Gordon Connell away, again I went to Gordon Connell.

But he was good. He spent time in jail doing important things, great leaders, Martin Luther King, all kinds of great leaders have written some of their best stuff from jail. The Apostle Paul is in jail and he wants them to know why he is in jail. Because it’s for them, it’s for the people he’s writing to. And he wants them to understand because it’s possible to think, you come to me and you talk about God’s mercy and God’s grace and salvation and fulfillment and here you’re writing away in jail. What’s going on with this?

There’s an inconsistency there. And the Apostle Paul wants them to see, no, no, there’s no inconsistency. I’m suffering, but I know what I’m doing. It’s interesting, there’s a verse here where he says: “…I’ve become a servant of the gospel”. The difference between a servant and a slave is that a servant gives himself or herself willingly. A slave is forced to do it.

The Apostle Paul wants them to know, look, I am a servant and I’m in jail not because I’ve forced to be, but because I’ve chosen this and because it’s worth it. And I want you to know why it’s worth it. Because I’m part of something amazing, part of something exciting, part of something absolutely new in the history of the world and it’s worth going to jail for it. And that’s why I want to take a little time to explain to you why I’m sitting here in a jail cell in…. wherever he was at that time, I don’t even know.

And so, that’s what he does. And that’s important for us because what he’s going to talk about is something that we’re part of too, and it’s something that can be deceiving. Believe me, when someone is suffering in jail it’s easy to think that he’s not winning, it’s easy to think that his life isn’t in victory, and he wants them to know. It may look like I’m in chains, but in another letter he says “… the word of God is not chains”. And it may look like I’m losing but guess what? I’m not losing, my God is on the throne and he’s using me, he’s got a purpose for me and it may look like I’m down, but I am not out. And it’s like for us too.

We are part of something amazing here. We’re part of something cosmic. I’m not trying to be weird with you but something, I use that word intentionally, something that powers and principalities in the cosmos are watching and you and I are players in this amazing drama. And you think, ‘I’m just trying to get through the week, and you’re talking to me about cosmic drama, that I’m a player…’. That’s exactly that I’m saying. And I’m saying that you are called to have a part to play in history that God sees and even angels themselves long to watch.

And the Apostle Paul talking about his purpose and why he suffered is also part of our purpose and why we go through certain things as we seek to serve the Lord.

So, lets go through this, ok? He says: “…surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.”

So, he’s saying, surely you’ve heard that God has administered, it’s a very formal word. It almost sounds like a business word. An administration of grace that God has given to me, almost as if God is a CEO who knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s written as a line item, I’m going to administer some very specific grace or spiritual power or favor from me to this particular person.

And look at why. He says, “…surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.”

God gives us gifts, not so that we can have them, but so that we can give them to others. That’s why God gives gifts. The whole idea, if you have a gift or a special ability, or a special grace that God has given you, most likely I in some way am a recipient of that grace, not you. If you have a gift of healing, who’s the one who received the benefit of that gift? It’s not you, it’s the sick person you pray for that gets healed. If you have a God of prophesy and God speaks to you, the person that receives the benefit is the person you speak the prophetic message to.

So the Apostle Paul says, I have been a given a very special grace that was given to me for you. That’s a principle throughout scripture, that God blesses and he takes care of you and he saves you and he forgives you, not just for you, but the people you’re going to touch. That’s a very important concept.

I talked to some people who were in situations where they know that God has a purpose for their lives, but they’re choosing not to live for God. And they figure, well, the only one I’m hurting is myself. You know, that’s how some guys who are living on the streets, rather than serving God the way they know they’re called to do, and they think, ‘well, I’m only hurting myself by doing this so, what’s the big deal’. I said, ‘you’re not just hurting yourself. You are hurting all of the people you would have touched if you were doing what you’re supposed to be doing’.

You’ve seen that…. That can also be positive, that’s the negative spin on it. You’ve seen the movie ‘It’s a wonderful life’, right? You know, this man who needed to have an angel showing the movie of what his life, what the world would have been like if he had never lived. You’re serving the Lord, you’re being blessed, you’re letting God heal you and let you know he loves you, it’s going to touch the people that are around you. You’ve got a purpose here.

And our discipleship classes one of the key questions is, who are the ministers of congregation Lion of Judah? Anyone from the discipulado classes. ¿Quiénes son los ministros de congregación León de Judá? Who are they? Come on, I know, we must have some discipulado people here. She’s hiding behind the chair, there must be someone else. It’s not Roberto, it’s not me. The ministers are all of us. We are all called to do ministry and the person who does ministry by visiting a sick person and nobody ever knows about it, that’s every bit as much ministry as someone preaching from here. The person who set up bungee courts from one side to another, and lined up these chairs perfectly is doing ministry for God every bit as much as the people who lead worship.

God gives you grace for others. And God gave the Apostle Paul a special grace for the gentiles. Ok? So we’re going to find out what that means, ok? Going to stick with me here, going have to … you have to be active readers.

So, but “…..that is the mystery made known to me by revelation as I’ve already written briefly earlier in this letter. In reading this, then you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.”

Ok, so there’s something about Jesus, something about Christ that is mysterious, there’s something that’s kind of hidden, that couldn’t be known otherwise. And the Apostle Paul is going to take us to what that is.

He says, “… which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the spirit to God’s holy Apostles and prophets…”

I’m going to stop right there a second. I believe that the Holy Spirit reveals things. How many people believe that? How many people experienced that? Some people think, well, what does that mean? Some people really experience that. The Holy Spirit does speak, he is not silent, he reveals…. Jesus said, ‘the Holy Spirit will take that which is mine and he’s going to reveal it to you’.

So, when you’re in God’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s touching you, he’s revealing who God is to you, he’s revealing who Jesus is. He’s revealing who you are… what’s going on in the world. It’s like your eyes are open, it’s amazing. That’s why people get addicted to this. That’s why people come and do what we’re doing here. It’s because this is real, this isn’t just coming to church, it’s a real living encounter with the spirit of the living God and he reveals things to us. He’s active in this.

So, the Apostle Paul is going to talk about what he revealed to him. Ok? The mystery.

Verse 6, “….the mystery is that through the gospel the gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”

Ok. Now, I don’t want to hear people going, guau, for us it’s like, ok, gentiles, Jews, what’s a gentile? You know, I mean it’s kind of…. That seems very far away to most of us. Now, for someone who’s maybe raised in orthodox Judaism that it’s a different ball game, most of us weren’t.

So, the Apostle Paul is sharing something amazing, some revelation that’s exciting, that’s scandalous to people. And I want us to climb into that a little because it does connect to us here. But you’re going to have to come with me, ok. I’m going to have to think about this a little bit.

You see, for them the history of Israel; Israel was the people of God. God chose a nation, and he says ‘I’m going to channel myself through this nation to invade planet earth. I’m going to reveal myself to the world through these people.’ So, they had a very conscious sense of being the people of God, being the chosen people of God. Salvation, knowing God was mediated through Israel, it was mediated through the Jews, through the scriptures, through the prophets, through the temple.

Now, this isn’t just a religion, again. We’re talking about something, I mean, something that’s like from a science fiction movie. They had a temple, and in the holy of holies in that temple, the presence of God dwelt in visible form, it was called the …… glory of God. It was a glowing, visible, fiery presence of God that if you came into that presence in an inappropriate way, you’re fried, literally and that happened a few times in the Bible. It was a scary thing. It’s as if something from a star wars movie, it was a…. they were aware, the holy, visible, manifest presence of God dwells among Israel, and you worship him through the temple and through the sacrifices. And the messages of God come through the scriptures and the prophets. They were aware that we are a nation of like priests. They called themselves a royal priesthood.

What does a priest do? A priest mediates between God and people and so they knew, we are a holy priesthood, God mediates, or we mediate the presence of God in the world. Ok?

Now, Israel always saw themselves as a special, particular people. In the King James translation it’s ‘a peculiar people’. They would make fun of themselves for that. The idea is that they were chosen, they were special, they were different.

Now, it was always an open nation. Israel at no point was meant to keep God from the world. Ok? Anybody could come. It was a radical concept, anybody could come and could worship the God of Israel, and so you could…. In fact, some real important people in the Bible were not Jewish: Moses married a lady who wasn’t Jewish. In fact her dad was a pagan priest, talk about rowdy family gatherings, you know? What did they talk about over dinner? I don’t know. She came in and became a worshipper of the God of Israel.

Ruth, you’ve ever read of the Book of Ruth, I don’t know if you’ve ever read that book. She wasn’t Jewish, she was a mohabita, Moabites. She was from Moab, I don’t know how to say that in English any more, isn’t that pathetic? She is a Moabite lady. Yes, that’s was she was. She wasn’t Jewish and yet she was Ruth. She got a hole book of the Bible named after her. That’s pretty good. She got a …. And in fact, she was the whatever it was, grandmother, great grandmother of King David and the great, great, great, great, great grandmother of the Lord Jesus himself. She wasn’t Jewish. Ok?

So Israel was always open to whoever…. In fact, they had a whole particular of the temple called ‘the court of the gentiles’ where if you were not Jewish, you were from some other country, and you’re not Jewish, you could come and you could pray and worship God in that court. It’s an amazing thing. Anybody could worship the God of Israel.

But in order to really become a follower of God what you had to do was, become Jewish and you could come in: get circumcised, come in. Like Ruth said, ‘your people will be my people and your God will be my God’, she had to become Jewish, right. And so that was the idea. In fact, they would have ceremonial washing and cleansings which is ……our baptism comes from that to mark that you’ve changed and you’ve repented and now you’re one of us, you’re Jewish, you can worship God too. Ok? So it was an open country.

So, it was never closed but it was exclusive. You could only have a relationship with God through Israel. But look at the mystery that was revealed in verse 6:

“The mystery is that now the gentiles –gentiles are non Jews- are heirs together with Israel, they’re members together, -look at the repetition- they’re sharers together in the promises”

Therein, and guess what? They don’t even need to become Jewish. They can just stay Greek, or Turkish, or Ethiopian, which were all different nationalities that were coming in. Do we have some Ethiopians here? But, that was… there was a country, or Sudan or Egyptian. These were countries that were being evangelized, and so guess what? They don’t have to become Jewish. They can just accept Jesus and worship God and they’re in. It’s now the doors are open to everyone and we’re all in this together. Ok?

That was a radical concept. In fact it was so radical that Apostles themselves, Peter and Paul got into a fight about this. It was a radical, different concept that gentiles could worship God without having to become Jewish.

Now, how does that speak to us. The concept that the gospel is now not a specific thing, but it’s a universal thing that it’s a special mystery that the Apostle Paul administered. Look at what he says:

“I became a servant of this gospel”, and he talks about how he is part of the administration of this mystery. Let me see where that is, verse 9, ok? You’re with me? I know it’s Saturday night, but you’ve got to think a little bit, ok. That’s what this is, you’ve got to think. Ephesians 3 verse 9. Good question hermano, 3 verse 9. So he knows, my job is to preach the riches of Christ even though I am nothing, you know, I’m the worst of…. Verse 9

“….and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery which for all ages past was kept hidden by God who created all things”.

In other words, this is a mystery, this is a concept that needs to be administered on earth. Anyone here work in a business or something or administration of some sort of an organization or of a business or of a school? You know that administration means you take something and you make it happen and you organize, you plan and you lead it, and you supervise it. It’s a very active work. The Apostle Paul knows that he has been called to help this reality coming to being on earth.

Now, he knows he’s not the one who makes it happen because look at what he says in verse 9, he says:

“… mystery that was hidden by God who created all things”. This a creation of God but I’m called to facilitate it happening. Ok? And that’s not a passive thing, it’s such an active thing, he’s preaching about Jesus not just to Jews, but he’s going everywhere. He’s talking to everybody, he’s talking to Greeks who don’t know anything about the Bible and he’s talking to them about God, the creator and his son who died for them.

I don’t know if we have any people here who’ve done missions before. But the concept of going to a new country where perhaps Christianity isn’t as widespread as it is in the West and you preach and it’s a new thing, and people are discovering it. That’s what the Apostle Paul did. He was administering this on earth and it didn’t happen automatically. It took an Apostle and it took preachers and ministers, and Christians to help this new community of Jews and gentiles come into being.

And guess what? God is still doing and he’s doing it right here, right now, tonight. God still wants to bring this amazing reality of breaking down the dividers between people and bringing them together as part of a spiritual community God is still about doing that. The church is not an institution, ok? It’s not a club, it’s not a business, …. You’d wonder sometimes at some of the corruption that happens out there. The church is not an organization. The church is an organism. It’s a living, breathing organism that lives and is connected and it’s real and that comes into being by God’s spiritual life. And it’s an organism that brings together people from radically different backgrounds.

We talked about this last week. In the Book of Revelations it says that in the last day there will be a multitude before the throne of God that no one can count. They will be from every nation, every tribe, every people and every language and they’ll be standing before the throne of God and before the lamb. God is going to save people before Jesus comes back, there will be worshipers of God from every different ethnic group on the face of the earth according to that verse. There will be people who know God and worship him in their own identity as who they are. It’s a beautiful thing.

I don’t know if you’ve had the experience. I think most of us have had the experience by the nature of the city we live in, to experience worship in a different cultural context. What this says is that God will be glorified by every different type of person and nation that he has created on the face of the earth. That means… I mean…. And there’s a lot of variety in the world, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.

You can get someone like Bach, who wrote, all that stuff, all the beautiful… he was a Christian and at the bottom of his music he would write the letters SDG –solely Deus Glory, solamente a Dios sea la Gloria, Only to God be the glory-. He wrote this beautiful baroque , just other worldly music that we still listen to, hundreds of years later. He did it for God. He’s saying, this is my music, this is my culture, it’s coming out of my heart and I’m doing it for the God who made me.

You know, I love that saying, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie, ‘The Chariots of fire’, it’s gone dating myself, this is an old movie, you know, ok, seventies, eighties, I don’t know. It’s about a Christian athlete who ran in the Olympics and it scandalized some of his family who thought, ‘why would you participate in such worldly things like running in races and things like that, and athletics’, and he said, ‘but mom, God made me and he made me fast and when I ran I feel this pleasure’. And he would ran and he… when I’m running…. And you watch the movie running, you know, that, that goofy song…. He’s running and he’s looking up and you know, he’s running for God because it’s him, it’s his personality, it’s his style, it’s who he is and he does it for God. Oh, that’s great! He doesn’t have to be someone else, it’s just who he’s made to be.

Becoming a Christian is going to change you, but it’s going to change you into being more and more yourself, more and more the person that God has created you to be. Oh, but are yourself for God and that’s beautiful, because Satan has tried to twist our nature, our personality. And it’s like that with our ethnicities. I love it when people worship God with different ethnic styles, you know.

Juan Luis Guerra, he’s a Christian now and he does his baladas for the Lord because God made him and that’s his song. And he sings it for the Lord. There’s others you know, I heard someone today who just brought Christian ‘ballenato’, a music from Colombia. A guy named Christopher Parkening who’s a classical guitarists for whatever orange county, you know, and he plays beautiful, classical guitar for God. It’s his style, it’s his culture and guau… that’s beautiful, God’s glorified in that.

Here in Boston it’s a multi ethnic community and there are a lot of ethnic specific churches, ok? And that’s a good things. That’s leaving out this…. it’s a mystery that God’s saving people from every country now. Guau!!! And so you can go to some churches and you can hear African American gospel, a good stuff. You to new covenant, just down the street that Baptist church, ….. Baptist, the Bullock Brothers, they come and do concerts here sometimes and these guys …. Old timers, some guys who were getting up there you know, eighties, nineties, they’re still singing and they’ve got their little great grandchildren playing drums, and it’s amazing. Oh, and they do it for God, it’s them, it’s their culture, their families, who they are. There’s a church just down the street called Boston Chinese Evangelical BCEC. It’s great Chinese church and they serve the Lord, it’s a big bursting, alive church and they have English service and they have Cantonese, and they have Mandarin and it’s an expression of first generation and second generation of Chinese American. I know of a really good speaking church in the neighborhood too. Right here, tomorrow, you know, it’s in Spanish.

Now, we’re going to get there. It’s not mono cultural, we’re going to get into that a little bit, but it’s a really good Spanish church, people worship God in Spanish. It’s my language…. If that’s your first language, oh it’s good to be… just worship God in your own language, you know, and I know some people who even….they may have been born here and raised here but for the Spanish family it’s like they still have to pray in Spanish. Great, just don’t make me pray in English. I just can’t. I’ve got to pray in Spanish. It comes from my guts, you know, and it’s hard and….

So, it’s good, these culturally specific churches help to fulfill the mystery that Paul administered, because they’re people from different cultures, different types of people getting to know the God who created them, who’s not just the God of Israel, he’s the creator God and they’re worshiping him as God made them to be. Ok?

But then, there’s other churches that are not mono cultural, there are multi ethnic churches. You know, you’ve heard of the teenage mutant injured turtle, kind of a teenage mutant injured church. Your bring together all kinds of different cultures and you just throw them in.

Now, sometimes you’ll hear people talk about the United States as a melting pot, where people come in and all the cultures are melted down to a common denominator. Come on! That’s not God’s will. God said he wants people from every tribe and nation, and language, he wants people to be who they are.

So, it’s not a melting pot, but what happens when people mix together? Well, it’s kind of like, there’s a food in Colombia, and in Dominican Republic called the sancocho, it’s a stew. It’s good, it’s really good but you’ve still got your different… you’ve got your potatoes, and you’ve got your, what’s in it? Plátanos, you’ve got your yucca, it’s still in there. You don’t want to just mush it all up and make baby food out of it. The different parts are still different parts. That’s good. That’s a beautiful things, but they’re all together in one pot and boy, it’s really good, on a cold night, oh, there’s nothing better than a good sancocho.

Well, multiethnic churches are kind of a spiritual sancocho and they live a prophetic reality that the Apostle Paul went to jail for. Ok?

So, now, let’s take the second look at this here. A multiethnic church expresses the fact, it makes a statement and I want you to look at a certain verse, that is one of my favorite verses, it’s verse 10. It talks about God’s intention and it says:

“….His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms”.

The church that’s me, that’s you, by our very existence, we are revealing the wisdom of God to who?, to whom? It doesn’t say to our neighbors here, although it certainly does that. It says to the… who? You can go ahead and help me with that, verse 10 “….made known to the rulers and the authorities,- where?-…. in the heavenly realms”.

You know, I don’t know any other way to read that than to read it as angels and demons that move in the spiritual realm that are around us, that are invisible, that we don’t see, but they’re all around us that are watching this incredible and here’s where we get to what I said at first, this cosmic drama play out.

It’s like, wait a minute, they’re all going to go to the same place on a Saturday night? What’s up with this? Why would people… and then why would people who are from different countries and who have all kinds of differences between them come together? Is it for a political cause? No, no, no. There’s something different. There’s a new identity.

The pastor read last week that there’s a verse that says ‘in Christ there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor slave, nor free, nor male, nor female, but rather all are in Christ’. When you become a Christian, more important than your ethnic identity is your new spiritual identity.

I often call myself a gringo in the Spanish services because I don’t know… if I say… I can’t find another term that I like and I say, I may be a gringo, but I’m a Christian before I’m a gringo. God’s people are my people first. Now, does that mean it’s bad my cultural identity, my ethnic background? We need to be proud of who we are and thankful for who God has made us to be, for where we were born, for what we look like… that’s a good thing. But before my ethnic identity is my Christian… I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and also you’ve got slave or free. Radically different socio economic standings and I believe that on Sunday morning, you come here with the Spanish service, you’ll find some people who are you know, who have… they’re rolling in money, you know. They’ve got a lot of money, they’re successful, but not too many of them.. but there’s a couple who are successful, business people, you’ve got some people who are PhDs and doctors and seminary professors, and you’ve also got some people who are just scrape and buy and who just maybe just got off the boat and maybe don’t even speak…. You know, have trouble even reading and writing. And they’re all in the same church.

I am not going to be defined by my socio economic background. God’s people are my people. No matter how much money they have or don’t have or how much education they have or don’t have, I am part of them and they are part of me. We are one in Christ.

Then beyond that it says, not just that, but male or female. We live in a society that wants to divide the genders and there’s that sense of conflict. In Christ we are one, we come together. Now, that is a miracle and that is something that make angels be amazed and it makes demons shutter. Because when we come together we’re not just declaring that we have a new identity, we’re declaring that there’s a new country. If there’s a people group, it is even more important to me than my ethnic people group, that my national or political people group, that means that we’ve got a new country, we’ve got a new kingdom on earth.

That means when we come together, we say there’s a new kingdom invading planet earth and we’re part of it. And guess what? If there’s a new kingdom, there’s a new king. And when we come together from different groups and different socio economic backgrounds, and different styles and we worship the same God, we’re saying the Kingdom of God is coming on earth and I’m part of it. We’re declaring a new king and that is what this is… that’s why it’s such a powerful thing.

It was so powerful that the Apostle Paul said ‘this is worth going to jail for’. Look at what he says at the end, he says in verse 13 “… I ask you therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are for your glory.”

He said, this is worth going to jail for. And believe me, a multi ethnic Christian community is a spiritual reality, but it doesn’t come easy. There is a cost, it cost the Apostle Paul his liberty, it cost him his freedom. Those of you who come on Sunday morning know that we have people from many different countries, and many different styles there, right? and they come together and there’s all kinds of conflicts that happen, there’s all kinds of discomfort that happens.

I don’t know, I assume that maybe a Central American and a Caribbean and a Chilean and a gringo, maybe we all are not exactly the same. I know one of my first weeks here, I was talking to a lady and she was talking to me right like this, very close and I took a step back and guess what she did? She took a step forward and then we did it again, and then…. And I started to get a little uncomfortable here and I like… I don’t even really know this person and …. I kept getting back, back, but she got me against the wall, man. And it was completely innocent. There was nothing, believe me, there was nothing fishy about it, but she got against the wall, because why? Because for her, normal space is a certain number of inches and for me it was apparently a certain more number of inches. There is discomfort.

Being part of a multi ethnic community involves moving out of your comfort zone a little bit. It means being uncomfortable. It means being willing to be different. It means willing also to deal with all the inevitable misunderstandings that will happen. The assumptions that people make about other people, the assumptions that we make about life, about what it means to be a Christian, about how to express my worship, about how to express love, about even gender, about leadership, all of these things are culturally influenced and in a multi ethnic church you get to have all kinds of messes. It’s just going to be…. It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be sancocho’s messy, it’s not a neatly divided food. And that’s what a multi ethnic church is going to be like.

But guess what? The Apostle Paul is telling us in this text the mess is worth it. He’s saying, I’m in jail but I’m in jail for a good reason. I’m in jail because I am part of preaching the gospel and helping to administer a new community on earth, a multi ethnic, anointed, Christian community. And you know, sometimes people may have asked, Paul, do you really think it’s worth it? And I think there may have been certain moments when Paul may have said, you know, I don’t know if it’s worth it, but I know that he is worth it, because I am called to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ and he is the most beautiful thing in this universe. And when people who are different come together to worship him, he is present on earth in a special way.

Now, it was worth it to go to jail for this. And there is a cost for us to pay, if we are going to participate with the Holy Spirit in building a multi ethnic, anointed, Christian community on earth. There’s a price to pay, but it’s worth it. And he’s worth it and you are part of it.

God has given you grace so that you can give, you can be part of this, each one of us is part of this drama, each one of us, here tonight, in a very unique and special way. And so we need to hear what the Apostle Paul says and say, yes, Lord I’m willing to follow his example, willing to go against the grain, willing to put you first and be part of building the Kingdom of God on earth.

So, why don’t we stand up and we’re going to entrust this to the Lord. Amen, Father, we come into your presence tonight and Lord I thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have a very creative heart. You are the creator of all things and you have created people on this planet gloriously and spectacularly different. We thank you for that, Lord God. I want each of us, many times we are in some ways ashamed of who we are, of our background, of what we look like, with your eyes closed and in a spirit of prayer, just want you to receive deeply that awareness that you are who God made you to be, and it’s to reflect God’s glory, the way stained glass with all its different colors reflects God’s glory in different ways, when it comes together as a mosaic. God has made you and you are a part of that mosaic, you are a part of that design.

Trust in the Lord means becoming more and more yourself, who God has created you to be. And Father, together Lord, now as a community we recognize that the Apostle Paul went to jail so that Jews and gentiles could worship together. And Father, the cost for us is so much less right now at least, but Father, I pray God that we as a group, Lord Jesus, would be willing to pay the price, Lord God, oh Father that we pay the price, and that you raise up a new thing here, Lord God, in Boston.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the other multi ethnic churches that you’ve raised up and I pray that this will be another expression of your creativity, Lord God. I pray, Lord Jesus, that we were are planting and sowing here would grow and thrive Lord Jesus, and years from now it will be strong and bearing fruit, Lord God.

And that there would be all kinds of different people, that the door would be open to everyone, Lord Jesus, people from different socio economic backgrounds, Lord, people from different countries, different styles and personalities and that we would worship the one true God, Lord Jesus, and that we would proclaim together that there’s a new kingdom, Lord God, there is a new king in Boston and that he is coming, he is coming soon when every nation, tribe, people and language would worship him before this throne, Lord God.

That we would be a prophetic community, Lord God, a prophetic community together. Lord, we are the pioneers in this, we sow this before you tonight. I pray you would hear the prayer we’re offering to you today and God that even years from now, with many different people in this place worshiping you in this service, Lord God, Father that they would receive the benefits of prayer and the commitment that we’re making before you tonight, Lord God. We thank you and we worship you and we praise you tonight, in the holy name of Jesus and your unsearchable riches. Amen.


Sermon delivered by Gregory Bishop taped October 21, 2006 at Congregation Lion of Judah Listen | View (100K) | View (400K)

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