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February 19, 2023

Foundations Week 7: Local Construction

Well, what I want to do is I want to ask you a question. Have you ever been driving down the road — maybe you're on the interstate somewhere in town — and, all of a sudden, traffic just comes to the screeching halt? It comes to a stop. I know you're all just good, Christian people, and the first thing that you do is you pray, wondering if there's an accident, and you're just praying for them because you're good, Christian people. Right? But then, as you inch up a little bit closer, you see this sign, and all the Christianity you had a second ago is gone. Am I right? Or maybe it's not even that you're driving your car, but maybe you're walking, riding your bike, or pushing your baby in a stroller, and then you come across a sign like this. The sidewalk's closed, and now you’ve got to walk in the street, walk around in the mud.

These things are inconveniences. There's this construction going on, and it's like, “Oh, come on. I’ve got places to be. I’ve got things to do.”

Or maybe it's not the road or the sidewalk. Maybe you're just here, and you see this guy holding up a sign, and he's giving you a hand signal to stop or to go, and you want to give him a little hand signal of your own. Am I right? Come on. We can be honest, this weekend. I think we can all relate to being inconvenienced or interrupted by work zones or by local construction.

In fact, one of my favorite bands has a song called “Local Construction,” where the tagline goes, “Work on it, work at it, work, but it's never done.”

Here in Sarasota, I think that should be the tagline for us because construction here is never done. But you probably can recall some sort of construction, local construction story or experience. We can laugh about it now, but in the moment it's frustrating because it takes long, and we just wish it was done. We wish it was over with. I think in our spiritual lives, the same thing could be said in the way that we live our life for Jesus, but in a way that might be different than you would naturally think. I want to talk about that, this weekend. So, what I want to ask you to do is to tuck whatever story or experience you can think of when we talk about these things into your back pocket, and we're going to revisit it at the end.

Before we continue any further, I want to say welcome, everybody, to Grace. My name is Chris Pedro, AKA Chris with the Skinny Jeans. I made a joke about that last time, and now people call me Chris with the Skinny Jeans, or Pastor Skinny Jeans. I even just get called, “Hey, you, skinny jeans,” so I'll take all of it. That’s great. But I'm one of the campus pastors here at Grace, and it's just a blessing to be with you, this weekend. We’re in this series, right now, called “Foundations,” and what we're talking about, the big idea, is this: We're talking about the structural systems that anchor and support the vision and the ministries here at Grace. We do this at the beginning of every year. We're talking about those foundational pillars. Who are we, as a church, why do we do the things that we do, and how do we do the things that God has called us to do?

So, when Pastor Chip asked the other Campus Pastor, Chris Absher, and myself to be a part of the conversation of what the vision is for this church for this year, and what are these things that we're talking about, this idea came to this is something I've been studying for the last little while, and I think it's something — I'm going to put it up on the screen. A lot of, you're probably going to be like, “What on earth is this guy talking about? Why is he even on the platform, this weekend?”

But I think it's okay because I think we come here to learn and to get equipped, so I'm going to put this up. This is the word “oikos.” You look at that, and you say, “That doesn't look like it says ‘oikos.’ I just see a bunch of squiggly lines.”

But what we're talking about is oikos, and what this is — if you know, the Bible was not originally written in English. It was written thousands of years ago, and it is written primarily in Hebrew and in Greek. So, this word is the Greek word “oikos.” When you come across scripture, you'll find that, sometimes, the New Testament writers are talking about a house, and that's what this word oikos is. They're talking about a house, or it might be translated into household, family, God's house, the temple, or maybe it's community. If you remember in week two of the sermon series, when Pastor Chip was talking about the wise man building his house on the firm foundation, that's that word “oikos.” He built his house. Or even the word “built” is a form of that word.

So, I've been wrestling with this idea because the New Testament writers, they use this idea of a house, oikos, of community to make a point. They use it as imagery. So, what does it look like for us, for Grace Community Church, to be in the house of God? What does it look like for us to be in community with one another? Because this is a large-sized church. There are a lot of you that come in here with different backgrounds, different perspectives, and different family dynamics, so what does it look like for us to be a church family? I've been going to this church for a long time, and I've heard a lot of different things in this idea of a church family and community. I want to put some of them up on the screen because this is what we're going to deal with, this weekend.

I can do church on my own. Is that true? I mean, the veil was torn, and we have this personal, intimate relationship with Jesus now, but is this true that we should be able just to do church or have a relationship with God on our own? Or how about this? This church is just too small, or this church is just too big. It’s kind of funny because I remember when we were a lot smaller, I remember people saying, “Ooo, the band's not that great,” and I was on the band, so it was really nice.

“The band's not that great. The building's really small. The preaching's great, but no offense to anybody, there were no young adults. It was all old people. So, the church is just too small.”

Now I hear the opposite: “This church is just too big. We've got four services. I can't keep up with everything. There are too many people, and I can't get connected into community.”

So, is that a reason for us to leave? Is that a reason for us to abandon community? Or how about this?

“I just come in for the preaching.”

On one hand, that's great. I mean, Pastor Chip, every weekend, is preaching a great message. Many of you have told me, out in the lobby, about how the preaching here, at this church, has changed your life. I think that's wonderful, but is that all that there is to this whole church thing? Is that all that there is? Is there more? Is there some part of a communal aspect to church?”

Or maybe this one: “I already have my own friends.”

Okay. That’s a good thing, but is there a difference between having close friends and acquaintances versus being in Christian community or being a part of the body of Christ? In fact, what even is the body of Christ? What do we mean when we say body? Are we talking about a body or an assembly? Are we talking about a literal body? What do we mean? We're going to talk about that. This last one, I put, “I'm an introvert.”

If you ever come shake my hand, my eyes look like I'm just glazed over, and I'm ready to just pass out, it's probably because I am an introvert.

I love people, but sometimes, at the end of the last service, I need to go recharge and be by myself. But maybe you're an introvert. Maybe you're shy. Maybe you struggle with social anxiety. If you do struggle with social anxiety, I don't mean to diminish that. I mean, I know that's a serious thing, but are these reasons for us to not be in Christian community or to abandon the body of Christ? So, that's what I want to talk about this weekend. I want to talk about, “What does it mean, what does it look like for us to be a church family?”

So, if you remember last weekend, Pastor Chip preached an amazing message from Ephesians 6. What I want to do is I want to stay in the book of Ephesians. I want to go back, just a little bit, to Ephesians 2, and I want to just focus on a couple verses. But I can't just start there because Paul is working something out. He’s making a point. You’ve got to hear all that he has to say, which is leading up to this amazing point, having to do with community, and having to do with oikos. When the New Testament writers write, we can't just take these things out and just make them say whatever we want because these New Testament writers, they're addressing something. So, in Ephesians 2, Paul is dealing with something that was really prevalent in the first century. See, if you read through the book of Acts, you can see that after Jesus ascended into heaven, He told the disciples to go out, make disciples of all nations, and they went and they did it. But now, for the first time, Christianity is spreading through Asia Minor, and it's a great thing, but now Christianity is turning into this multiethnic mix, whereas, before, it was really just for the Jewish people. That's a great thing, but now we've got some difficulties.

What is the church? How are they going to deal with this? What does it mean for these non-Jewish people to be a part of this Christian movement? These non-Jewish people, when you're reading your Bible, you're going to come across the term “Gentiles.” All that simply means is Gentiles could be translated into nations. These are the people groups of the other nations that were not Jewish. The difficulty here — and this is something we have to understand when we read through Ephesians 2 or other passages where they’re dealing with the Jews and the Gentiles — is that the Jews and the Gentiles, they did not get along. In fact, it looks nothing like what our modern world has seen. There is this mutual hostility against each other, and it goes back to the Old Testament because the nation of Israel was called to be separated and to have limited relations with the other peoples. So, over time, this separation has turned into this strictness and this hostility. So, this hostility exists even though they're this multiethnic mix of Christians, and Paul is dealing with this in Ephesians 2.

So, he starts off in Ephesians 2:1, and he says, “Hey, look, you Gentiles, you might have been physically alive, but you are spiritually dead. You’re not kind of dead, you’re not sort of dead. No, you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”

But in Ephesians 2:4: “But God…”

It's not anything that you did.

“But God, being rich in love and mercy, presented Christ as a sacrifice.”

So, because of that, Ephesians 2:8-9, now it's not anything that you did, it’s not your good works so that anyone can boast, but now you have this free gift of salvation so that, Ephesians 2:10, you can go out and do good works. He's now given them a purpose, but it's all because they've been brought into this family, this multiethnic family, this multiethnic oikos. So, in Ephesians 2:11-12, he said, “So, before, formerly, at one time, you were these Gentiles. You were separated.”

We’re going to pick up right here in Ephesians 2:13.

He says, “But now…”

That “but now” is drastic. You had this old way of life, but now this new change.

“But now in Christ Jesus you…”

And he's talking to the Gentiles here.

“He says, “…you who once were far off have been brought near…”

Not because of what you've done. Why?

“…by the blood of Christ.”

You've been brought near. You were separated, but now you have access to God. He’s going to expound on this. He's going to take a little bit of a detour because this is profound. He's going to make a really good point here. He's going to undress this a little bit.

He says, “For he himself is our peace,”

He's talking about peace for a reason, but notice that he doesn't say He made peace or that He wanted peace or that He had this idea of peace. No. He is our peace. It's not some sort of philosophical system or some sort of theoretical idea. No, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Because He's this embodiment of peace, He has made us both one. It’s there in this oneness that as you read through the book of Ephesians — I would argue that Ephesians might be one of the most beautiful letters in the New Testament because, as you read through it, you can find, circle, and underline how many times Paul talks about peace, and talks about oneness. That oneness is the theme of what he's dealing with here. He's peace, He’s made us one, and He’s broken down, in His flesh, the dividing wall of hostility.

You might go, “What on earth, Paul, are you talking about?”

Well, keep in mind the context of what we're dealing with here. We've got these Jewish Christians, we've got these Gentile Christians, and there's this hostility between them. Why? Because the Sinai Covenant had created somewhat of a barrier, a dividing wall, a fence that kept the Jewish people out. This fence was supposed to be a good thing, it was supposed to protect Israel from the impurity of the Gentiles, but the law became such a sign of Jewish particularism that it also alienated the Gentiles, and it became this hostility. So, the laws that were meant to keep the Jews pure turned into contempt, and allowed them to see the Gentiles as less than human.

You and I, we don't do that, right? Because we're good, Christian people. We don't open up the Bible and try to find the passages, oftentimes out of context, and try to shoot them at people with the Bible bullets that we do because, you know, “You don't believe the same doctrine as I do, or you don't believe the same theological position that I have, or you don't believe this interpretation that I do.”

Right? We don't do that. We don't see people as less than human because that's what Paul is dealing with here. He's addressing this because these are the issues that were prominent in the first century. He’s saying that here, in Jesus, the laws of the Torah have been fulfilled, the barrier has been removed, and it's making peace. It’s not just that the Jews and the Gentiles have been brought into mutual relationships, but that they've been made into one, in unity, where both are no longer who they previously were. How did He do this?

He continues on by saying, “…by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances,”

Now, this word “abolishing” is kind of tough to translate. What Paul is not saying is, “Well, we should just throw away the Old Testament, throw away the old ways of doing things, and throw away the old law because it doesn't matter anymore.”

No, the law itself is holy, just, and good, but he talks about this in Romans 7: The sinful nature that you and I have, we use the law, on occasion, for hatred. That's what the Jews were doing. Because the law actually did set up Israel as God's chosen people, many Jews became arrogant and they treated the Gentiles with contempt. So, what he's saying here is that all those laws that served to separate Israel from the other nations, and caused this dividing wall, this is what Christ died for. He rendered them powerless, and removed the laws condemnation.

So, Jesus is this agent of peace, He's broken down the dividing wall, and He’s abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances. Why?

“…that he might create in himself one new human in place of the two,”

One new man. In Jesus, you're a new creation. We like to talk about that all the time, but we talk about that more from an individual standpoint. See, what Paul's talking about here is that you're a new creation. The two have become one. It's not that the Jew has become the Gentile. It's not that the Gentile becomes the Jew. It's that now, in Christ, the Church represents this new humanity, this new race, by removing the hostility through abolishing the law. Now, something new has been created, and this new creation has led to what? Making peace.

See, this hostility that existed between the Jew and the Gentile, it's gone. He's broken that barrier, and now the two have become one so that Jesus might reconcile us both to God in one body, through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. It's not only just that the Jew and the Gentiles should be brought together and reconciled to each other, but they're reconciled what? In one body. To whom? To God. So, Paul's working this out. He’s saying that He preached to you who are far off, He preached to you who are near. He’s going to summarize this here. He preached to you, the Gentiles, He preached to you, the Jews, and then he says: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

So, again, he took a little detour here to explain all of this to us, to help us to understand this Jew and Gentile situation, and now this is really the main point. If you missed everything else that Paul was saying, don't miss this because he's working to make a point. We're talking about oikos here, so listen to what Paul has to say.

“So then…”

After all that being said.

“…you are no longer strangers and aliens,”

This word “strangers” is the opposite of oikos. It's paroikos. It's the idea of being far away from home. He says, “You’re no longer away from home, but do you know what? You're something new.”

He says this: “…but you are fellow citizens with the saints…”

He says you're not Jew anymore, you’re not Gentile anymore, but you’re a new creation. Do you know what that means? It's not about your nationality, it's that you have a new nationality. You're a fellow citizen of heaven. As believers, we've now gained this new citizenship, not just in a private or individual manner, but as a corporate experience. Do you know what? You're not just fellow citizens with the saints. You're also members of what? Of the household of God. And there is our oikos word. You are now, not only just in this political imagery, citizens, but now he moves into a more intimate implication. You’re a part of God's family. You once were far off, you once were paroikos, you were strangers, but now you've been brought in and grafted into this family of God.

And now Paul's going to have some fun. We might miss this in our English translation of the Bible, but he's going to talk about oikos, he's going to play around with that word a little bit here, and he's going to do some cool stuff. So, let's see what he says.

He says, “…[you and I were] built on the foundation…”

Now, I didn't know that we were being built into something. Paul's really throwing out a whole new imagery here. In fact, that word “built” is another word oikos. It’s oikodomeō. It means “to build,” “to build a house.” So, Paul's saying that we're built. There’s this construction site that's happening, and it's turning the inhabitants of God's household into the constituent parts of God's house. And remember that idea of local construction that we talked about in the beginning? We’re not only works-in-progress individually, in our own spiritual lives, but now we're these works-in-progress collectively because we're part of something that's being built. So, let's see what we're being built into.

He says, “…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,”

That would've been the early church leaders, the ones that laid down the foundation by teaching, evangelizing, and spreading the Gospel.

“…Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”

That piece that without him, all of it would collapse.

He says, “…in whom the whole structure,”

Some of your translations might say, “The whole building.”

That's another oikos word.

“…[the whole building], being joined together, grows into…” — what? — “…a holy temple in the Lord.“

At first glance, you might be like, “Well, cool. That’s great. We're built into a holy temple.”

No, that's big. We’re going to really touch on this in just a second, but, in essence, what he's saying is the temple, which was the most important and the biggest part of Jerusalem back in the Old Testament, this was this visible symbol, the presence of God, where heaven and earth would meet. Now he's saying that in this new spiritual kingdom, Christian community constitutes God's temple, and we’re being built into this thing. In fact, he says, “It's not that it's grown and it's already done, but it's this idea of continuing to be grown. It's still a work in progress.”

That song I said, “Work on it, work at it, work, but it's never done,” — see, it might take long, but we're still a part of this construction site, and it's important because we're not just a part of His family, but we're a part of the temple of God.

He concludes by saying this: “In him you also are being built together...”

That's another oikos word.

“…into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

The whole point of all of this, the entire process, is that the church will become God's dwelling. Before, it used to be the Jerusalem temple, but now, you and I, when we gather together, we make up that temple. So, the chapter that began with the description of the Gentiles, it really was describing you and I. We were dead, depraved, and disobedient. That chapter now closes with those same Gentiles being cleansed from all guilt and defilement, and joining with the saints in unified Christian community to form the body of Christ, to form this new community, this new humanity, and a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

It's a beautiful, beautiful chapter. Again, I wish we could just read the whole book of Ephesians, but I'd keep you here until the next time we’ve got to eat, and you all will be mad at me. So, we're not going to do that. But what are some take-homes? There's a lot of teaching. What are the practical take-homes that you and I can take away? Remember, we're talking about oikos. What does it look like for us to be a church family? Well, the first thing is this: In God's oikos, God’s family, there is no Jew or Gentile. I mean, that point couldn't be any clearer. He says, kind of summing everything up in Ephesians 1:19, “You are no longer Gentiles. You're no longer strangers and aliens anymore. Instead, you are fellow citizens with the saints, members of the oikos, the household, of God.”

That has two big implications because we're talking about that the Jew and the Gentile are now equal members and you share this common access. So, I want to talk to two different people. If you're here and you're new, if you're feeling this whole Christian thing out, if you're still trying to decide what you really believe, listen, I think the Church — not necessarily Grace, but just the church in America — maybe we've done a bad job at this because, here at Grace, we believe that everybody is welcome. That’s sort of what Paul is saying here. You can belong before you believe. You can be a part of God's house. Because guess what? It wasn't that you had to do anything, right? You were far off, you were doing your own thing, but it wasn't what you did. It was because of the blood of Jesus Christ. He brought you near. So, there's no special condition that needs to be satisfied, but it's already been fulfilled through what Christ has done for you and for me.

On top of that, we are a new creation. The two have become one. So, here at Grace, we want to let you know that we love you and accept you for who you are. Now, does that mean that sin should abound, and that you can just keep on doing what you're doing? No. We want to point you towards Jesus, but we want to do that alongside of you because the two have become one and we're a new creation. The second thing is for my Christian brothers and sisters who are here. If you typically go to Grace, or you're watching online, and maybe you'd normally go to another church, I want to say this to you: Paul, this whole time, is trying to make these points about community, but he can't even get there. He takes this detour because he has to keep talking about unity. I think what we have to realize is you can't have community without unity. Unity essentially leads to community. Unity does not necessarily mean uniformity. It's not that we all have to be these like-minded robots where we have no sense of individualism or individuality, but if we can't get this right, if we can't — we're going to have tension and conflict with one another, but if we can't get past that, and be the unified body of Christ that Paul is talking about, then we disregard what Christ has died for.

He died and removed that barrier, but yet, sometimes, we get so focused on our enmity with one another that we miss it. In fact, every single month that we do communion, we come here and we recite 1 Corinthians 11. That’s our thing that we do here at Grace. But Paul's not really dealing with communion or the Lord's table when we read that passage. It’s just what he's kind of going through because what's really going on in 1 Corinthians 11 is that the church of Corinth has an issue. They're divided. They have dissension. They're dealing with these class systems. So, Paul is saying that when you come to the Lord's table, it's not for the better, it's for the worse. This is what he has to say about the way that they're doing communion. He said, “For anyone who eats and drinks,” — that's communion. Anyone who eats the bread and drinks the cup — “without discerning the body…”

Now, when you and I read that, we typically read that individually. He's not talking about our body individually. He’s talking about the body. When you and I come together and we don't discern the body, you're eating and drinking judgment on yourself. Why? We're coming together for what? We’re coming together as the saints of God, as brothers and sisters who are worshiping Him together. Listen to what he says.

“That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have even died.”

That ought to be a wake-up call that. When you don't discern the body, Paul says that it leads to weakness, sickness, and even death. What if the reason that some of us are struggling in our lives here — whether that be physically, emotionally, or spiritually, what if that's because we're trying to do it on our own, or because we're harboring some sort of enmity against our brothers and our sisters? So what I want to ask you is to ask yourself this question, do I build bridges with others or do I create barriers with others?

Examine your attitude towards other Christians. Look at the way you look at how they might have a different belief or background or ethnicity. How do you treat them? How do you view them? Because there is no Jew or Gentile. We have been brought into one humanity.

The second thing is this: God’s house is not a physical house, but it's made up of you and me. He uses two analogies that we looked at. One was that we're growing to this holy temple, and the second one is this: We are now this new humanity, THIS new body.

So, what do these things mean for us? Because we can easily overlook them if we kind of just read past and we're just flipping through the pages of scripture. What does this really mean for us? I want to focus on the temple for now, and I'll come back to the body in just a second. But here's what this new temple means. I wish I had more time because there's so much beauty in scripture. But in the Old Testament, the temple was the most important part of Jerusalem. But the first temple, if you're reading scripture from a literary standpoint, actually goes back to creation. It was the garden. The way that the creation account is written, it puts the garden as this beautiful temple.

The language that's used here in my notes is not working, so I have to find where it went. There it is.

The temple was the place where God's presence reside. So, there was a strong connection between creation and the temple. The garden was, effectively, the first temple. The creation narrative used priestly language. When you look at who God put in the garden, He put His image. Who’s His image? You and I. Back in the Ancient Near East, when there was a god and there was a temple, the image of the God was placed in the temple. Or when God says, “Hey, this is your task, as humanity,” what does He say? Your task is to go be fruitful and multiply, and He says to go and fill the earth. This is priestly language. So, what happened in the garden? What happened in that first temple? Well, man decided to do their own thing, we see sin enter into the world, and we see them cast out of the garden. Well, later in Israel's history, what happens? Israel has a temple. Man decided to do its own thing, so what happens? The Babylonians come in, we have the Babylonian exile, and what happens? We see man trying to do their own thing, and because of that they're exiled.

So, this pattern keeps on happening. We see the Israelites just can't get it right so, the prophets, what do they do? They prophesy, and they say that, at some point, there's going to be a new temple, and this new temple is going to be where God’s presence would finally fill all of creation. It's going to be how it was originally intended to be. We come to the end of the Old Testament, and they're waiting for that temple. Then we come across Jesus. Jesus shows up, and He says He's a new kind of priest, saying that God's presence is going to come in a new way, and His final commandment after He resurrects is for the disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. He’s going to fill them with Himself, His Spirit.

The point is this: Now it's not a place anymore, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, and the fact that He lives in you and me, we've now become that temple. It's no longer a place, but it's in people. This is how Peter puts it. He says this: “You yourselves are like living stones. You're being built up.”

That’s that “oikos” word. Oikodomeō. You’re being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. The point that I'm making here is that this place, this building, this campus — whether we're talking about Lakewood Ranch, whether we're talking about Bee Ridge, or whether we're talking about some future campus — isn't holy ground just because we put a cross up on the wall. This isn't holy ground just because we colloquially call this place a church. God's presence is here because we are being built into God's temple. Can you fathom that? Think about that for a second. When we gather, it's as if we are the new Garden of Eden. It's as if we are the new temple in Jerusalem. I'm excited that we're going to be doing some awesome, cool things, and renovating this building, but I'm more excited that you and I are being built into becoming the place where God's presence can reside.

Third: In God's oikodomeō, in God’s building project, everything doesn't always go smoothly. Some of you may know Jaren Bennett. He’s a good friend of mine. He's been going to this church for a long time. I was asking him, “What are some things about just construction that I may not know,” or whatever, and he shared this. I thought it was perfect. When a building project is complete, people really have absolutely no idea all the headaches, the difficulties, and the problems that go into the building project because there's human error. That’s part of the thing. But what we don't see are all the headaches, the sleepless nights, and the time that's spent away from family. All we typically do is complain about the things that took a little longer than we wanted it to, or it finished later than we planned it or was supposed to, or we didn't like a part of the way it was built.

The same is true for this temple that's being built.

The church can be messy. Look, I wish I could just take a little bit of time to look at each and every one of you in the eyes, because I know that there are some of you here, right now, and you've experienced some sort of church hurt. I'm nobody. I'm just a campus pastor in a local church, but can I just take a moment to say to you that I'm sorry? I'm sorry that you experienced that church hurt. I've experienced church hurt. I'm sorry that pastor hurt you. I'm sorry that Christian brother or sister hurt you. I'm sorry that that denomination or organization hurt you. I know that hurt is real. It doesn't always go smoothly. It's not always easy, but — I know you're not supposed to say “but” when you're apologizing, because that totally diminishes the apology, but I have to say this. It doesn't change the fact that what Jesus said is true. He Himself is our peace, and He has made us both one. We are unified. We are one through what Jesus did on the cross. According to Paul, to not live in that unity, you’re dismissing Christ's work on the cross. That's why unity has to be a part of community.

Jesus said it this way. In His last moments before He goes and gets arrested to then be crucified, He prays this high priestly prayer. He first prays for Himself, the work that's about to be done on the cross, and then He prays for His disciples. But then He prays for you and me. He says this to the Lord. He says, “I do not ask for these things only, but also for those who will believe..” — that's you and me, the future believers — “…in me through the disciples word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.”


“So that the world may believe that they have sent me.”

He’s praying for us to be one, and that that would be our witness to the world. Not our preaching, not our doctrine, not any of those things. It's that we would be one. Andy Stanley summarizes it this way, and I couldn't say it any better myself.

“Do you know what Jesus's greatest concern for the future church was? It's not our theology or how we baptize. His greatest concern was our unity.”

In other words, the number one enemy of the church is disunity. You can clap for that. Listen, local construction is not always going to be easy. It can be inconvenient, it can be difficult, it can be hard, and it can hurt. But don't abandon the work. Don't dismiss the collective calling that the Lord has given you and I, but recognize that He is our peace, and He has brought us together to accomplish the mission.

The last point that I have for us, this weekend: In God's oikos, in God's family, the body of Christ isn't complete without you. You can't really read Ephesians 2 without reading Ephesians 4. They're just linked so well together because Paul's going to come back to that imagery of the body. Listen to what he says. He says He gave the apostles, He gave the prophets, He gave the evangelists, the shepherds, and the teachers — these are all the church leaders. He’s talking about them as gifts that He gave them to what? To equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

And love to stop right there. Yeah, the saints are supposed to be equipped, and they're called to serve and do ministry, but we miss what it's all for. It's for the building up. There's that oikodomeō again, that oikos word. It's building up the body of Christ until we all attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We are this body that's maturing, we're growing. Skipping ahead just a little bit, he says we are to grow up, in every way, into Him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped. Listen, when each part is working properly, it makes the whole body grow so that it builds itself up and love. That means that every member, each and every one of us, are exactly designed for what? For a specific place and function. We all have a role to play in this body. It's not just Pastor Chip up here preaching. If you think that you can come in and just let him do his thing, you're robbing the body. If you think that it's just when the worship team comes up here and sings, or when the outreach team goes out there to reach people, you're missing and abandoning the body.

All of us have a role to play. It's not just the leaders, but the leaders of the church are called to equip the saints to go and serve one another so that we can be the body of Christ. That’s why we have that Get Involved desk out there. I don't have time to go through each and every one of these things, but join a Grace Group. We had, a little while ago, things that we were passing out for you to join a group. Maybe you forgot. Maybe you threw it out. Join a crew. Join a Discover Class. Those things are both designed so that you can grow with your church family. We're about to start a men's ministry. We're about to start a women's ministry, a little later down the line. Consider being a part of it. If you're a man, if you're a woman, find out how you can get plugged into those ministries. Serve on a team. If you're here, you're a parent, and you come in and drop your kids off for free babysitting, come in, and then you pick them up and leave, I mean, that's great. But did you know if we had every single parent who checks their kids into ministry serve one time a month, we wouldn't have any needs in our children's ministry?

That’s just one example. I'm not saying that so you can fill or plug in a hole to just help us out in what we're doing. I'm saying be a part of the body. Use your gifts and your skills to be a part of this thing. There are so many different ministry teams here at this church for you to be plugged into. Help out with our community partners. We have nonprofit organizations that we partner with for you to get outside of the four walls of the church to help out in some sort of philanthropic way.

Then lastly, we have fellowship. This lobby out here was designed for you to be able to meet people and to connect with people. If you go to the 10 o'clock service, you probably shouldn't hang out too long because the parking lot gets full, and the Guest Experience Team is going to get mad at me. But can I be honest with you? I'd rather have a parking lot issue than a community issue here. Broaden your circle and deepen your relationships and fellowship with your church family. Establish some accountability relationships within your community, and let’s serve one another. That’s why one of our culture points here at Grace is “Our Father.” We believe it's not “My Father who art in heaven,” but it's “Our Father who art in heaven.”

We do us, not I. We do life together, and we do ministry in teams. If you can't tell, I'm really passionate about this. Let me tell you why. Some of a little bit of my story. You know a little bit of my family's story, but I grew up in Philadelphia, right outside of the city, and I'm the oldest of three siblings. When I turned nine years old — and the anniversary of this is actually close to today. When I was nine years old, my dad had decided to leave my mom, and effectively leave our family. Not just that, but he decided to leave the church. I have a great relationship with my dad. I love my dad. I talk with him all the time. In fact, he even tunes in to Grace, sometimes, online. But for a nine-year-old, I didn't really know what to do with that. I didn't even know you could leave the church. I didn't know you could walk out on a family.

So, I was this happy-go-lucky kid. This was before I had my skinny jeans. But I was angry. I wasn't angry at anyone in particular. I was just angry. For all intents and purposes, we should have been another statistic, our family. We were another broken African-American family with a single mom and three kids, but God had other plans for us. God had other plans for me, but do you know what? God didn't just use a message. He didn't just use a sermon or a Bible study. He didn't use a song. Do you know what God used in my life? He used Christian community. My church that I grew up in, CareView Community church, our lead pastor was Pastor Paul James. There was a bible study at our house, and Pastor James would walk through our kitchen to make sure we had food in the cabinet and in the fridge. When I was acting like a rebellious fool and needed some correction, and my little brother, Jeff, was acting like a crazy little kid, the men in our church rallied around us and made sure that we were growing up into godly young men. When we had a need, and there was something that we needed, we knew we could turn to our Christian brothers and sisters. In fact, I'm still in this group text with my friends, the guys that I grew up with in church. Our group text is full of a bunch of nonsense, but there's also accountability as iron sharpens iron. I could tell you, without a shadow of doubt, that I would not be here on this platform today if it wasn't for that Christian community, if it wasn't for my church family. I wouldn't be. I wouldn't be.

You might say, “That’s great for you, pastor. I didn't have that experience because I had a church hurt in my life.”

I hear you, but do you know what? I can think through the last 11 to 12 years that I've been at this church, and there are some people here, who still go here, who experienced something very similar. Whether it was some sort of tragic situation in their family — they may have gone through some sort of divorce. They may have gone through some sort of relational issue. They may have lost a job. They may have even lost a loved one, a spouse, or a child. I've seen this church rally around those people in love to let them know that they are not alone, that they are surrounded by their church family. And do you know what? I don't care how big this church is. We can't lose sight of that because it's not just about this platform and a message. It's not just about plugging in a hole and serving on a ministry team. It's not just about some vanilla message or a kumbaya moment. This is where real life happens. It's in this community.

So, what I'm asking you to do, as we talk about oikos, is realize that we are being built into something in this holy temple where God is here, He works, and He moves. And we need each other. That’s what this is all about. Amen?

I'm way over time, and I'm going to get in trouble, so let’s get ourselves out of here. I want to sing one final song. This final song is Christ, Be Magnified In Me. As you sing, “Christ, be magnified in me,” realize that as you sing it, the neighbor next to you is singing it, and realize that the entire row is singing it, and realize that everybody in the room is singing, “Christ, be magnified in me.”

Those of you online, everyone, collectively, is singing, “Christ, be magnified in me.”

All four services, as a church family, are singing, “Christ, be magnified in me.”

We’re saying, “Christ, really be magnified in us.”

And can you imagine that as we sing that, it leaks outside of these four walls? Can you imagine this entire community, this entire town, singing, “Christ, be magnified in me?”

Can you imagine the entire state of Florida singing it, the entire country singing, “Christ, be magnified in me?”

The entire world, all of creation, singing, “Christ, be magnified in me.”

Why? Because we are the family of God. We are this oikos.

Keep learning

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