At The Cross Community Church we are in the middle of a sermon series I am teaching on The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. Right at the beginning of the letter we read that we are “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing” from adoption, to the forgiveness of sins, to the gift of eternal life. In addition to every spiritual blessing, we have the great blessings of the gift of the church. When we are saved we are indeed saved individually. But we are saved to community and that community is the church made up of every tongue, tribe, and nation. To have Jesus as the head of your faith is to also have the church as His body.
God in Christ has not only reconciled us to Himself, He has transformed us to live in community with His family. We are indeed a blessed bunch of believers called out by God to live in relationship with each other in such a way that God is glorified and His Kingdom is advanced. Because God is on a mission, we are to be on a mission which means self-protection is exchanged for self-sacrifice. Just like Jesus laid down His life for us, we too are to lay down our lives for others, starting with our family of faith. We are to lay down our purposes for His purposes even when His purposes are not in line with ours.
When Jesus saves us to community He not only makes us one with Him, He makes us one with each other. That means we are one with those who don’t look like us, think like us, act like us, talk like us, dress like us, or even worship like us. The power of the Gospel gathers us together in spite of the barriers of separation that are still erected in our surrounding society. A blessed bunch of believers are gathered together inside of the church in such a way that they would never be gathered together outside of the church. Jesus has removed the distinction between the Jew and the Greek, the uncircumcised and the circumcised, the slave and the free (Colossians 3:11). And He did it at the cost of His precious blood and that should be reason enough for us to go out of our way to build bridges within the body of Christ instead of barriers.
The power of the gospel breaks down every barrier between believers including the generational appeal to certain worship styles. One God…many members…and through the power of the gospel, God joins back together what man has intentionally separated. In chapter 4 of Ephesians Paul tells us we are to maintain the unity of the Spirit, not try to create it. The gospel has already given to us unity. We simply need to strive to maintain it, regardless of the cost or circumstance. To be sure we are distinct in countless different ways. But we are not to be divided in our distinctness. An irreconcilable difference is an oxymoron in the body of Christ.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. J(ohn 13:34-35).
As a blessed bunch of believers we are to witness with both our words and our walk. If we say one thing and live contrary to what we say, we water down our witness and weaken the impact God has called us to have in the world around us. The power of the gospel is to propel us in the direction of others…all others…with a sacrificial love that reflects Christ’s sacrificial love to us. To be sure, the commandment to love is not new. In Leviticus 19:18 we read, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” What makes this commandment new is found in the fact that we are now instructed to elevate our love for others to the height, depth, and breadth of the love our Lord has lavished on us. We are not to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to love them as we have been loved and that means we are to love sacrificially and unconditionally. As we have been loved by Jesus we are to love others, all others, and it begins within our family of faith.
Our hearts should beat as one in thanksgiving for the gift God has given to us in giving us the church just as long as we remember the church is not the building. It is the people who God has called out of darkness and into His marvelous light to make a difference in this world by being different from this world. Regardless of the number of different denominations (and non-denominations) expressed in every local congregation and particular church, there is only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. As a blessed bunch of believers may we be a blessing to everyone we come in contact with. May the confession of our lives be one that makes God attractive because the truths of the Gospel mark our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let’s close this month’s message and marinate for a while in these profound words of St. Augustine,
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity!” This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AME Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. This is a daughter church of Coral Ridge and a new church plant. The church website is www.thecrosscc.org . We will be holding our large group bible studies on Saturday evenings, at 747 N. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach. Email me to find out more info!