Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.
What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Conflict” and we’ve been going a little bit longer than we had originally anticipated by about three weeks. The feedback that I’ve got though is that you all have really enjoyed this series. So, please keep telling me that because the longer I go I need to keep hearing that it’s good stuff because I don’t want to keep going and y’all go, “This is terrible.”
So, anyway, those via the internet and mobile app, you can’t really say anything. I guess you could email. But, email good things. We like good things. I’m just kidding.
Anyway, we’re dealing with this area of conflict, and conflict’s real. It’s real in all of our lives. You know, we experience it in many different ways. We experience it in families, jobs, church and all kinds of places. The whole idea behind this series was to give us each maybe a few more tools in our toolbox so that we could handle this a little bit better. And we’ve dealt with a lot of different things. We’ve looked at biblical stuff. We’ve looked at what Jesus said about conflict and Paul said about conflict. And now we’re in that part where I call it sort of the real and raw, what do we do when it’s this particular stuff and these things in our lives.
Last week, we talked about marital conflict. That’s a real issue. This weekend, we are going to talk about issue related conflict. And, you know, let’s be honest here: Conflict is pretty much everywhere, and we know that. It reminds me of a story where there was a husband and wife that were celebrating their 30th anniversary. They had gone back to their house after they had celebrated their 30th anniversary and the wife said, “You know, honey, we’ve been so blessed. God’s been so good to us. I think we just ought to pray and thank God.”
And he said, “Oh, I think that’s a great idea.”
So, they got down on their knees next to their bed and they started praying. While they were praying, all of a sudden this real bright light appeared in the bedroom and they opened their eyes and it was an angel. The angel said, “The Lord has heard your prayers and He’s going to give you each a wish.”
They were like, “Whoa!”
The wife said, “This is awesome. What I wish for is that I could travel the world with my husband.”
She had no sooner got those words out then all of a sudden tickets on planes and cruises started appearing in the room. And she just started crying. She’s like, “I can’t believe this.”
And the angel looked at the guy and he sort of whispered, “I wish I had a wife that was 30 years younger than me.”
And, all of a sudden, poof, he was 90 years old. So, there you go. There was some conflict in that house that night, by the way.
That’s a little far-fetched. How about this one here? There was a lady that had invited some people over to her house sort of like a Grace Supper Club, you know? And it was time to pray and she wanted to impress the people that were over. And she said to her five-year-old daughter, “Why don’t you say the blessing?”
And the five-year-old daughter said, “I don’t know what to say.”
And she said, “Honey, just say what mommy says.”
And she says, “Okay.”
So, they bowed their heads.
She said, “Lord, we don’t know why we brought these people over for dinner tonight.”
So, there you go. There’s conflict there. So, now that you’re good and laughing and having a good time, let’s talk about some real issues and some stuff that goes on in our lives. And when I say issues, I think most of us understand that there’s a lot of issues floating around. But, let me try to get it as real as I can be so that we’re all on the same page. There’s causes. You see it all the time. Hashtag this or that or whatever. There’s marches. I mean, there’s marches all the time for different things. Let’s create awareness about stuff and everything. There’s agendas and movements and all of this stuff.
And I’d like to put all of this under the umbrella of what I call political issues. And this is a real serious problem right now in our country, and I can’t tell you sincerely whether it’s more today than it’s ever been, I just know that we get more information today than we’ve ever got. So, it feels for sure that this stuff just buzzes around and goes all over the place and everything else.
So, how do we deal with is? What do we do with all of these political issues? How are we Christians in the midst of all of this? And let me tell you something. A couple of things. Number one: This is a real serious issue, because there are a group of people called “the Nones.” They have grown from about 2% to about 12% when people are talked to about their religious experience. These are people that say we believe there’s a God. These are people that say we believe that Jesus is real. And these are people that say, “You know what? I believe the Bible has something to say to us.”
But, these are people that say, “I will not go into a church again.”
The reason they don’t want to go into a church is because they feel like the church in America, the evangelical church, has become politically affiliated in such a way that they no longer feel that they have a place at the table. They feel like their concerns for the poor and the disenfranchised and the people that are on the margins of society are no longer respected anymore in churches at all. So, they don’t feel like they can speak up. And when they speak up, they’re branded a certain way and oftentimes they’re told they’re not Christians.
So, it’s imperative, if we’re going to reach the people that are outside of the four walls of this church, that we don’t get involved to where the church becomes a political entity. And I want to thank you all at Grace Community Church because I can tell you this: Since we’ve been here in Lakewood Ranch, we’ve never deviated from the fact of what we do. We’ve never become a politically motived and issue-driven church. We’ve always talked about Jesus, reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ, and we’re making a difference and you should be proud of yourselves for not getting bogged down. And we’re attracting people from all kinds of different groups because we’re putting Jesus first.
And we want to continue to do that. But, the reality is that many people struggle with this.
“What do I do? I get frustrated. I see stuff. Sometimes I initiate the conflict around people. Sometimes people initiate the conflict with me. What do I do with all of these political things?”
So, what I want to do is I want to talk to you in a real and raw way to give you some help to deal with this stuff and hopefully help to keep our church keeping the main thing the main thing. And I’m hoping that we can sort of save this message and pass it on to many people that come over the years to keep them focused so that we continue to do the main thing which is to life Jesus Christ up above all things, because he’s the only one that can ultimately change a life anyway.
So, what I want to do is I want to talk to you about what I sort of – when I wrote this message and put it together, some things I’ve learned along the way. And this is just stuff that Chip Bennett can share with you. I do have biblical references. But, it’s things that I have just sort of learned as I’ve lived through life. Because, I can tell you at one point in my life, back in my early 20’s, I was a very, very, very involved, political young man. I realized over the years that I had put a lot of time and energy into things that didn’t matter as much as being a Christian that was focused upon the Lord Jesus.
So, if you have a sheet of paper or if you take notes or if you have a phone that you type stuff into or an iPad, I would ask you to take some notes here. And I want to say upfront that you are more than welcome to disagree with me on the things that I say. That’s fine. You’ll come to realize that I’m telling you the truth in about a week or two, but that’s okay. I’m just kidding.
But, I say that to say that, look, these are real issues and I want to be able to speak into it. We’re talking about conflict. There’s a lot of conflict. People don’t know how to handle these issues. What do we do? And I just want to share, from my heart, and be open and honest with you all about some things I’ve learned along the way. And I think they’ll be things that help us all out.
The first thing that I’ve learned is to not mistake political action for Christian mission. This is big time. Because, it’s so easy, right? You know? You’ve got Jesus and baseball and apple pie and all of that stuff. It goes into a blender and it sort of all gets blended up and, all of a sudden, everything sort of gets blurry and we forget what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. All of a sudden, we get thinking that if we’re dealing with this political thing we’re doing the Jesus thing and all of that stuff. I guess the way I would say it to make it easier to understand is don’t hitch your identity to a political entity.
Our identity as Christians should be known for Jesus, not for issues. When people know us for issues, we’re polarizing many people. If we’re going to offend and we’re going to push people away, it should be because we proclaim the Gospel, not because we try to shove political things down people’s throats.
Let’s go with what Jesus says. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
This is what He asked us to do. He says, “Hey, guys. Come together. We’re going to get on the mountain. This is sort of what I want the Church to be doing. I want you to go make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded you. Make some disciples, baptize them, and then tell them what it is that they signed up to do. Go do that.”
We need to be people that are out making disciples, not promoting political issues. Because, what happens is, when we promote all that political stuff, what we do is we sort of push away a third or a quarter or half of a group of people that don’t agree with us on that issue. If we’re going to tell them something, let’s make sure that we tell them about Jesus. Because, here’s the deal. Is our goal to change their minds or to see Jesus change their life? That’s huge. And, sometimes, we need that focus. Sometimes we need somebody to stand up and say, “Hey, let’s keep the main thing the main thing.”
“I know there’s all the stuff going on out there. What do I do? How do I handle it?”
Well, the first thing is don’t confuse the political stuff with the Christian mission. The Christian mission is for you and me to go make disciples, and disciples aren’t made by telling them to vote a certain way or to act a certain way. Disciples are made by being confronted with the claims of who Jesus is. If they meet Jesus, their lives will be different. If they agree with us on a political issue, their lives will be different in terms of what they think. But, their lives will not be eternally settled. And I want to make sure that it is difficult as can be to go to hell in Lakewood Ranch because I want to lift up Jesus in everything that we do so that people know how their lives could be changed by Jesus Christ. Amen?
Second thing: It’s okay to have disagreements within the body over how we deal with these issues. And this is really tough for Christians. Really tough. Because, everybody wants a black and white. Everybody wants an absolute on something. They don’t like grey areas. We don’t like it when people disagree. We want to tell them the way it is and so on and so forth. Let’s take an issue. We’ll use alcohol. I think everybody in here would agree that it’s probably not good to be drunk in a ditch.
We’d go, “Okay. I agree with that.”
Okay. That’s pretty good. We all agree on that. Okay. But, how we handle that issue, we’re going to disagree. Because, some of you are going to go, “I’m a teetotaler. I’m absolutely not drinking at all. I’m not going to create anybody to stumble. I’m not going to do that at all. I’m a teetotaler and that’s what the Bible says.”
Somebody else is going to come along and go, “Hey, Jesus drank wine. So, what was wrong with Him and why did Paul tell Timothy to use a little wine for his stomach?”
I love that. Paul’s like, “You can’t quit ministry. You can drink a little bit of wine for your stomach, but you can’t quit ministry because you’re called.”
Isn’t that great? That’s just great advice, isn’t it? Drink some wine, but you can’t give up. You’ve got to keep going for Jesus. But, we’re going to disagree on that. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay. Jesus provided wine for a wedding. You ought to go home and read John 2. They were drunk and Jesus provided them more wine. We should think through those issues. You know, we’ve got all these people and then all of a sudden you’re confronted with Scripture and you start going, “Why? Why would He do that?”
Maybe there’s a time where celebration is okay. Maybe there’s times where it’s okay to cut loose a little bit and have a good time. But, maybe we’re not supposed to be doing that all the time. Maybe there’s times and places. But, here’s the thing: It’s okay. We’re going to disagree. And if we can’t create a culture where people can come in with a little bit different opinions, then all we’re going to do is create a cookie cutter church that looks just like the way we want it to look. And that way we’re going to push away about 50% of the people that could come to Jesus.
And let me tell you this: I want every Republican, every Democrat, every Libertarian, every person that hates politics. I want everybody in this town and in this church lifting up Jesus Christ in every way possible. So, it’s okay.
This might blow your mind here. This might be a real mind blower for you. In the first century, Paul wrote to a church at Rome, and they had some issues going on. One of the issues was some of the people were Jewish that had become Christians and they were like, “Hey, we worship on the Sabbath, man. I mean, that’s Moses. Do we need to take you back to the first five books? It’s the Sabbath. We worship this day.”
The Gentiles were like, “Seriously? We’re going to worship Jesus every day. That’s what we’re going to do.”
And there was a fight. And then there was a fight over meat sacrificed to idols. You know?
“I’m not going to eat the Satan sirloin and I’m not going to eat the Beelzebub filet. I’m not going to do that because I just feel like I shouldn’t do that.”
Other people were like, “Who cares, man? Those people. God’s God. Chow down. Ponderosa in Jesus’ name, baby.”
You know? And they fought about it. Paul said, “Some are weak and some are strong. The strong are the ones that can worship any day. The strong are the ones that ate the meat.”
But, here’s what he says to the strong. Listen to what he says, because this is huge. Because, if you were the one reading Scripture going, “The Bible says worship on the Sabbath,” this is what Paul says into that world.
He says, “Accept the one who’s weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.”
Did you hear what he just said the person that was saying, “Let me tell you what the Bible says here about the day?”
He says, “That’s just an opinion, man. Stop it. It’s okay to have some disagreement. Let’s not get all bent out of shape about the way we’re handling the issue. The issue is that we worship God. That’s the issue. How we handle that issue is an opinion.”
And so many people get bogged down in this. And I told you I was going to get real and raw. I mean, it was great last night. I had some Bayside students that I teach. They were like, “Man, when you started talking about this, I put my fingernails in my mouth and started going, ‘How’s he going to handle this one? This is going to be good.’”
So, get your popcorn out and get ready for a rodeo here, because we’re probably going to lose about 12 people here today. But, anyway, I’m just joking. But, I asked you all. I said you could send in some emails and questions about things, and this is what I got.
A person wrote in and said, “Hey, Chip. I’d like to get some advice. I have a family member who is gay and they’re having a wedding with their partner and they have invited me to come. What should I do? How should I handle this? Because, I feel if I go that I’m condoning it. But, can you give me some help?”
Some of y’all are going, “Man, this is going to get good right now. Right?”
People are like, “Man, alright. Chip’s going to run off about half the people right now.”
No. I want to give you the answer here. This is the answer. I’ll get to the answer here, but this is the answer. Jesus told you and me, “Here’s the commandment I give to you: That you love one another even as I have loved you.”
The overarching thing that we do is we love people like Jesus loved people, that you also love one another. And listen to what He says here:
“By this, by the way you love people, all men will know that you’re my disciples if you have loved on another.”
You say, “Well, what’s the answer? Should he go or should he not go?”
The answer is there isn’t a perfect answer. And this is where I say that we have to learn to understand that how we handle issues is going to be different. Because, we’re supposed to love people. And here’s the reality with love: Love can say, “I think this is a bad decision that you’re making, but I love you and I’m willing to tell you in a tough way that this is something that shouldn’t be done.”
Many of you all feel that way about issues. There’s other people that say, “Man, I’m not letting that get in the way of me loving that person and I’m going to go because I’m not condoning anything. I’m showing them that I love them in the love of Christ.”
So, see, you could go or not go and be okay. But, you really want to have a mind trip? Both of those could be wrong at the same time as well. Because, if you’re the person that goes, “Well, I’m going to love them because I don’t want anybody to get mad at me for anything. I just want everybody like me and I don’t want to create any problems with the Gospel or anything like that,” then you’ve gone for the wrong reasons because you’re not loving them, you’ve got an issue with people liking you.
Well, hold on, now, for some of you all on the other side. Y’all like to judge things and say, “That’s wrong.” And there ain’t no love in that. You’re just passing judgment and you would be wrong if you didn’t go for that reason as well. So, the answer is we can agree to disagree on how we handle issues, and let’s be okay with it. Because, in the church, if we’re going to grow, it’s not about getting a check mark according to all the things that we like. The Philippians Jailer, when he came to Paul and said, “Hey, I want to get saved, man,” Paul didn’t say, “Okay, well. You’ve got to go to this church down the street, you’ve got to vote this way, and you can’t go to that wedding, and you can’t do this and you’ll be in.”
He didn’t say that. He said, “Believe on Jesus and you’ll be saved.”
And we want to add everything else to it, don’t we? Jesus plus. Jesus plus. Jesus plus. Let me tell you something: Jesus Christ and belief in Him that He rose from the grave on the third day is what gets you in to the Kingdom of God, and let’s not add a bunch of junk to it.
Third: We’re called to unity in Christ, not uniformity on issues. And, man, that’s what we want. We want our pastors to tow the line that we want towed. When, in reality, it’s really about unity. This is something I think nobody reads this stuff. It’s funny because I said this last night and people were like, “Man, I knew that but I didn’t know that.”
Jesus called one of His disciples whose name was Levi. He was a tax collector. He called another disciple named Simon who was a zealot. Let me tell you you could not have been further on the political spectrum than a tax collector and a zealot. A tax collector collected for the country of Rome and the citizenry of Rome. Zealots wanted to kill Romans. What brought them together? Their issues? No. What brought them together was Jesus. They found their unity in Jesus, not their uniformity on their issues.
Listen to what Jesus prayed for you and me. This is His high-priestly prayer in John 17 that He prayed for you and me. All of us. Everybody who would ever believe.
He says, “I don’t ask on behalf of these alone, but for those, also, who believe in me through their word.”
He prayed a prayer for you and me. Do you know that? Is this the prayer He prayed? That they’ll vote right in the Galilean elections? That they’ll march on Washington once a year? Slay the wicked? Read the King James Version, baby and then people will know they are in? Right? No, no, no. That’s not what He said. If you’re thinking, “Is that in the Bible,” it’s not in the Bible. It’s not in the Bible. It might be in the Tom Jones Version, but it’s not in my Bible. Okay?
Here’s what He said. He said, “That they may all be one. Even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they may be in us so that the world may believe.”
Who doesn’t want the world to believe in Jesus? Jesus says, “The secret for the world believing in me is not that you all sit around and debate issues. It’s when the Church gets the main thing the main thing.”
When Jesus is the one that we lift up, when Jesus is the one that we preach, when people know that we’re associated with Jesus and we all do it together, watch out Lakewood Ranch, watch out Sarasota because revival will hit this place.
Here’s another one. This is huge. Every one of us is called to be a priest. Only some of us are called to be prophets.
“I’m going to tell them how it is in Washington.”
Okay. Well, maybe you’re called to be a prophet. But, I know one thing. We’re all called to be priests because Peter says we’re a chosen race, all of us. We’re a royal priesthood. That’s who we are. We’re a royal priesthood. We proclaim the excellencies of Him who’s called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We’re bringing people back to God. Priests offer sacrifices for people so that they can come back to God in the Old Testament. What we do is we proclaim the excellencies of Him who brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We’re priests.
Now, listen. If you’re called to be a prophet, you confront the powers that be. And if God’s called you to do that, then go do it. Go do what Amos did. Amos was a tender of the Nageeb sheep in the Tekoa wilderness. The Word of God came to him and said, “I want you to go into Israel and I want you to tell them how the cow eats the cabbage.”
And that’s what he did. Not literally “the cow eats the cabbage.” That’s a Kentucky phrase for “get after it.” Okay? Like, “Go shuck the corn.” It’s like, “Go tell them how it is.”
So, he goes in and he blasts everybody. He tells everybody what it is and everything. Some of you may be going, “Man, did God tell somebody how to cow eats the cabbage? That’s crazy.”
But, he goes in and, like Ezekiel, “Lay on your side for a while and put a frying pan next to you. Go be like John the Baptist. Get in the desert. Confront Harod. Be like Isaiah. Walk around naked.”
He did. If you’re called to be a prophet, then go do it. Nobody’s going to hold you back. But, make sure that you’re not trying to walk in an office that you’ve not been called to do. Because, we’ve been called to be priests and priests are different. Priests call prodigals home. The mission of the church is to tell people that God’s not mad at them. He wants them to come home. We want people to come to Jesus. If you’re called to be a prophet, go be it. But, if not, realize that all of us are called to be priests.
The fifth thing I would say is make sure we don’t confuse roles. This is something that’s easy to do. The Church and the individual have different roles. See, some of you all are going to be short order cooks or mechanics or dance instructors or lawyers or doctors or whatever it is that you are. And, as an individual, you are to let your light shine in such a way that people see your good works and glorify your Father who’s in heaven. And that may mean that around the workplace there may be something that comes up where you have to talk about an issue or deal with something or whatever. Okay? That’s on you.
But, listen to me. This is so huge. The Church is the pillar of truth. When I or anybody like me goes into an issue and we preach on that issue, there will be 40, 50, 60% of the church that goes, “Amen. That’s right. You get ‘em, pastor.”
But, there’ll be people in the church that don’t necessarily see that issue exactly the way you see it. What I’ve done at that point is I’ve excluded them. The Word of God is to be preached in the church. Not issues. And I know people want to hear issues. But, what needs to be preached in the church is the Word of God. We need to preach the Word of God.
What’s interesting is like the book of Colossians. Paul talks to slaves and masters and so many Christians go, “Well, why didn’t he do something about it? Why’d he tell the slaves to honor the masters and the masters to love the slaves?” – which was radical for that day. Because, that was the Word of God for the church. That was enough for God to start moving in their hearts to start changing people to start seeing things differently. Paul didn’t need to get into the issue and start creating problems for people. He just preached the Word of God. But, what’s interesting is, as an individual, when he wrote to Philemon, he said, “Hey, why don’t you let Onesimus go?”
The difference between the Church and individuals. I’m going to tell you this right now. I know some of you all wish that I would preach on political issues. I know some of you all wish that I would take on some of that stuff. I want you to know that as long as I’m the pastor of Grace Community Church, we’re going to preach the Word of God. We’re not going to go down bunny trails of issues and we’re going to lift up Jesus. Because, when Jesus is lifted up, all men get drawn unto Him. When issues get preached, people get excluded. And I’m not for excluding anybody. I want everybody at the table. I want to drag as many people in my life, as long as I’ve got breath in my lungs, to bring people into the Kingdom of God so that they can settle their eternity and that we can all gather around Jesus on that day and realize, “Man, we drug a lot of people into the Kingdom of God because we lifted up Jesus.”
I know some of you are going to say, “Well, give me some more. Give me some more. Give me some more.”
Alright. Here’s some thoughts I have. Paul told the church at Corinth, “Hey, now. This isn’t God. This is me.”
This isn’t God. This is Chip. These are some things that I would tell you, and I think they’re really good things for all of us. First of all, I would reserve my best attempts at dealing with issues to those that I have community with. In other words, talk about the issues that are really big to you to the people that will love you on Wednesday morning no matter how much of a fool you made of yourself on Tuesday night. Those are your friends, those people that you have community with. Those are people that love God and they know that you love God and they know your heart. If you’re going to get into this, I would do it with people that I have community with. The second thing I would tell you is is I would remind myself that creating awareness is not as valuable as providing real solutions. Jesus didn’t go about creating awareness. Jesus went about fixing things. I get asked all the time. They’re like, “Chip, are you ever going to talk about abortion? Are you ever going to talk about abortion?”
Let me tell you something: The day I will talk about abortion is when we have moved into a new church and we have a lot more people and we have a lot more money coming in and we can go build a place where unwed mothers and people that got pregnant that don’t want to have children can come and can get help and we can birth those kids and we can take them home and we can help them because now we can fix it rather than just talk about it. Because, I’m tired of talking about it. Let’s fix it. And if I can’t fix it, I’m going to zip it.
Come on. We get on Facebook: “I’m going to create awareness.”
You didn’t create awareness. All you did is irritate all the people that don’t agree with you. Nobody ever went, “Oh, that was a great video, Chip. I think I’m going to get down on my knees right now and change my mind.”
People take notice when you provide solutions, not by creating awareness. Peaceful and constructive discussion is better than angry, heated or violent confrontation. Let’s be honest. A lot of times in the church, we get all angry and heated about this stuff. Go back to Dr. Martin Luther King. Why did he have such a voice? Why was there change? Because, he was peaceful and he was constructive in the way that he did it. Or Rosa Parks on the bus. She didn’t get all mad and upset and yell and scream. She just did what she did.
Maybe sometimes we need to go back and learn to be peaceful. Maybe we need to learn to be wise. Maybe we need to learn to speak with grace into areas rather than getting all bent out of shape.
How about this one? On ethical, political and human dignity issues, a life well-lived is better than 100,000 words. Wherever you go, preach Christ. And, if necessary, use words. Live it. Demonstrate it. People will see what you do. They don’t care what you say. They care what you do. And let’s be honest. The Church has often said things with their mouth that they didn’t do with their actions, and that’s cost us out there in the world. The issues that we want to see changed don’t come out but by prayer and fasting.
This is what I say to everybody: Go back and all the time you spent of Facebook, all the time you spent on social media, all the time you’re sitting around telling everybody the things that you think are important to you, I want to ask you a question: Have you spent as much time or more time on your face before God begging Him and taking hold of the horns of the alter saying, “God, change our world. God, move in our lives. God, move in my life. Change my life. Change the people that I live around.”
We don’t do that. We talk about it. It’s like the disciples. They went, “Man, we hit the guy on the head like You did, but the demon didn’t come out.”
Jesus is like, “Fools! You just don’t go do what I did. You need to be praying and fasting before you go do that.”
Not coming out until we get ahold of God. Lastly, the only thing that’s going to change lives is the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
I spent the last couple of days with Dr. Warren Gage in Tampa recording the introductory classes to Plato’s Republic. The ancients understood something. The ancients understood that the city was ill. There was an ill in the city. The way that they were going to solve that ill was what they called “politics.” Politics were putting people in positions that could help the citizenry become virtuous. And to do that, they needed a rhetoric because they needed to pursued them with words. And they did poetry so that they had the categories that people could follow. And you can read that in Aristotle. He had ethics, politics, rhetoric and poetry. Four books. That’s how they did it.
The problem is when they got all that together and thought they had solved everything, they realized something: It didn’t solve anything because there was still a problem in the city. The city was looking for a hero. Our cities are looking for heroes. And let me tell you something: If I believed I could elect a president, a senator or a house of representatives’ person, or if we could put a law that would make people change, I would be all in. But, I’m here to tell you it’s not going to do it. The only thing that’s going to change the hearts of people is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the power of God unto salvation.
When we get off track and we get sidetracked with all the other stuff, we miss the greatest message in the world. The greatest message in the world is that God loves people. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life and would never parish. Yes, Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so. That’s our message. Let’s stay focused.
I believe, with all of my heart, that we are here for this moment. I believe Grace Community Church exists for this moment. We may not be able to change Washington, we may not be able to change Phoenix, Arizona. But, man, I believe by the power of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit we can change Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota with lifting up Jesus because when He’s lifted up, all men will come to Him. Amen? Let’s do it.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You with a humble heart because, God, I am no different than anybody else here. It is so easy to get distracted from the main thing. God, it is my role as pastor of this church to keep the vision clear and where we need to go. Lord, I know there’s conflict and I know there’s conflict with political issues. But, Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that You would help us to be identified with the lowly Galilean that hung on a cross between heaven and earth to save humanity.
Lord, I hitch up to You. You are the way, the truth and the life. You are the one that can change hearts. Help us, Lord, to be a church that always and forever does that; keeping the main thing the main thing.
So, Lord, I pray that as we leave today that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again and, Lord, I pray that You would just continue to stir and move in our midst to lift up Your Son. Because, God, I believe the days that are ahead are going to be incredibly ripe for people coming into the Church and coming to know You as Savior. And, Lord, we want to be the ones that are standing on the hill shouting “Jesus” so that people can come. We love You for it. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great Fourth of July.