(excerpt from the sermon)
Sermon Series: Pumped
There is no better passage than that of Matthew 15 to so clearly demonstrate what we at ONE&ALL church are really about. This passage communicates what it is that God has communicated to us as far as what our vision and mission for our church really is. God has given us, I wouldn’t say a unique vision, but a vision to reach those who are far from God, and to do it with great passion and fervor. God showed me years ago in discovering the meaning of this text, that He had something very special for ONE&ALL church, and this particular passage from Matthew 15 is a great one to illustrate to those who are new to ONE&ALL what it is that we are trying to accomplish, and what our vision is.
So, what do we find in Matthew 15? In Matthew 15 we find the story of the Canaanite woman. In this passage, the Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and begs him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Initially, Jesus ignores her and tells his disciples that he was sent only to help the lost sheep of Israel. The woman persists and continues to plead with Jesus, even when he tells her that it's not right to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs. The woman responds with great faith, saying that even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table. Jesus is moved by her faith and grants her request, healing her daughter instantly.
Let’s examine the passage closely. In verse 23, Jesus behaves in a way that appears out of character. In His response to the Canaanite woman, He did not answer a word, and following this, the disciples begged Jesus to send her away. What you need to understand is the disciples were here for r and r; a vacation, and the last thing they wanted was to deal with a gentile woman. In response to the disciples, we see in verse 24, Jesus answers, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” So first we have Jesus ignoring this woman, and now He directly insults her in front of the disciples, by essentially saying He does not sit with her kind. Following this, in verse 26, He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” So now, Jesus employs the greatest insult in first century Israel, and calls this woman a dog. We later see in the story that the woman responds in great faith, and Jesus is so moved by her faith that out of compassion He heals her daughter.
What was Jesus doing here? Jesus was using a teaching method known as deliberately induced frustration. Deliberately induced frustration was employed to put the disciples in a situation whereby they were going to be forced to open up within their own assumptions, and ask significant questions. It was a test. It was tension, which is a great method of learning as it forces you to think about why you're feeling the way you're feeling. Jesus puts the disciples in a situation whereby they would finally realize, He had not only come for them, He wanted to come to the entire world so that all who are lost might be saved. He didn't come just for the healthy, He came for the sick. He came for those who were believed to be so far from God, they couldn’t be reached. Jesus would take drastic measures to reach these people and to teach his followers; his disciples, that they should be just as passionate about those who are far from God as he was and is.
The movie Jesus Revolution paints a wonderful picture of this. In the movie, you have all these young people (hippies) that are seeking an experience with a transcendent, but God is not something they've considered. In fact, they're casting God out of the public domain. So they turn to drugs and psychedelic experiences. Suddenly, one preacher, Chuck Smith, starting right here in southern California, decided he would invite these hippies into his church because he recognized that what they were really looking for can be found in a transformational relationship with Jesus Christ. He invites them in, and as a result, it launches perhaps the greatest Jesus revolution of the past one hundred years, and people far from God came near to God.
So, how does this story, and in turn, Matthew 15, relate to our time? Who are the hippies of our day? Who do we believe to be so far from God, they cannot be reached, and what would Jesus have to do? What experience would he have to give us to open our eyes to the reality that he came to seek and save the lost? The question of ‘who’ can be answered in a quote from the character Lonnie in Jesus Revolution:
“You will see a bunch of kids who are searching for all the right things just in all the wrong places. They are sheep without a shepherd chasing hard after the lies.”
These people are the broken, the imprisoned, the torn apart, people who embody a sexual revolution; crossing boundaries in ways we have never done before, and Chuck Smith, just like Jesus, desperately sought to bring them in. However his congregation, just like the disciples, wanted to keep them out. It's a repeat of Matthew chapter 15.
So, how may we go about being invitational and opening our church doors to the hippies of our day? I’ll tell you what we will not do:
1. We will not water down the gospel to make sure we offend no one. We're not going to do that because the gospel is offensive. It's going to contradict everyone at some point, but when you approach the gospel from a ‘we’ perspective rather than a ‘you’ perspective, the power of grace comes shining through when there's no self-righteousness, and everybody recognizes that we're all sinners.
2. We will not refuse to teach what is appropriate in the house of the Lord. Everything has something that is appropriate and inappropriate, but you teach these things from a position of love. We put our arms around people and we teach them with patience and grace.
3. We will not cater to the lowest common denominator. At this church we will always, every week, make a beeline for the gospel so that the gospel is clearly communicated in simple terms in order that those far from God might come near.
Matthew 15 clearly communicates that our vision at ONE&ALL is to bring those far from God near, and this vision is demonstrated by example in Jesus Revolution. We're not to live in seclusion; we're supposed to go out into the highways and byways and bring the hippies of our day in, and welcome them in. Even the people we think are so far gone, because the transformational power of the Spirit of God and the good news of the gospel changes lives, rescues families, and heals community. We should not only continue to stand on truth, but do so with compassion and do exactly what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples to do in Matthew 15. Never think that someone is so far that God cannot reach them.
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