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Us and Them – Ephesians 2:11-13

This sermon was preached on Sunday, October 31, 2010.

 

Please stand with me as we give honor to God’s Word. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 

[Prayer] Father, thank You that You gave Your Son and through the blood of Jesus, we have been brought near to You. Lord, the prophetic word that was given this morning, that we need not fear, because you are with us–we are near You–we thank you for that. We were estranged but you brought us to You. I pray today that You will speak to every heart here. You will anoint Your servant to speak, our ears to hear, and our hearts to receive. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ Name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.

There’s a saying that there’s two kinds of people in the world. There are those who divide the world into two kinds of people and there are those who don’t. [some in the congregation laugh and he says] Think about it. A lot of people do it: men-women; or east and west; or now global North-global South; rich-poor; some say educated-uneducated; or people of color and those of us who are melanin-challenged. I divide the world into redheads and earth-toners [congregation laughs]. How ‘bout that, Jordy? [And he high-fives a fellow redhead in the congregation as everyone laughs.] I feel bad for the rest of you. [in a whiny voice] Just an earth-toner. I went to church, I want to be uplifted, and I came home; I’m just an earth-toner [everyone laughs again].

You know, satan uses divide-and-conquer strategy so often, does it in the home, does it in society. Think about the elections, you know, divide, and usually he is working both sides of the fence. This tendency to put people in two categories, often, is used by the enemy to unite. Back in the 50’s, Eric Hoffer, who was a longshoreman in San Francisco–he was well read but he wasn’t an academic–he wrote a book called The True Believer [The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, first published 1951]. And it became popular because President Dwight Eisenhower recommended that people read it. And in that book Eric Hoffer argued that, actually, hatred unites people closer than love does. It’s really a sad thesis, isn’t it? He said if you can get people focused on a common enemy—give them an enemy, you can take a real enemy or an exaggerated enemy or whatever—but if you can get people focused on the same enemy, they will unite together and that’s what you want. Well, that is kind of sad, because there are a whole lot of people out there who are really upset at someone that they don’t necessarily have to be upset about, or it’s exaggerated. It’s Us versus Them, for them.

Well, this text here, in Ephesians 2, talks about Us versus Them. In fact, there are words of exclusion here. Notice in verse 12, you have the words: you are separate from Christ, you are excluded, you are foreigners, you are without hope, without God. Verse 13: you are far away, and then you’ve been brought near through the blood of Christ. Well, what is the distinction in this text? The distinction is in verse 11, about the circumcised and the uncircumcised. The distinction here, starting out and before we go to part two and the verses later, is Jew and Gentile. The Jews divide the world into two groups: Jews and Gentiles. It was that simple. And some Jews still today make that distinction very, very strong. They look at the rest of the world, the non-Jewish world, as less than. You know, when you think Us versus Them, Us is always better than Them, right? Us is always better than Them. Them is bad. Us is good.

Well, you know, in the Old Testament, God said to Israel: You’ve been chosen. I love you. But God made a point in Deuteronomy 7:7 and in chapter 9, verse 5, of saying: I love you, you are chosen, you are special to Me, but remember you’re not all that. It’s not because you are all that great, you’re all that wonderful or you’re all that numerous, that I chose you. I just chose you. Actually, He was fulfilling His covenant to Abraham. [Please read all of Deuteronomy 9:1-6.]

Now, there are some, a minority I think, of Jewish people today, who have forgotten that. Recently I came across an article, October 18, from JTA [Jewish Telegraphic Agency], one of the most respected Jewish–like the Jerusalem Post, one of the Jewish–journalistic outlets. And this is about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who is the leading Sephardic Jewish rabbi in Jerusalem. He was actually born in Bagdad, Iraq. And he said some shocking things here recently. Listen to this. [He is quoting from an article written by Marcy Oster. His aside comments are in italics, separated by dashes. The entire article is available here: http://www.jta.org/2010/10/18/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/sephardi-leader-yosef-non-jews-exist-to-serve-jews#ixzz2ZK65HtoR.

 

Israeli Sephardic leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his weekly Saturday night sermon said that non-Jews exist to serve Jews.

“Goyim–this is us–were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel,” he said during a public discussion of what kind of work non-Jews are allowed to perform on Shabbat–the Sabbath.

“Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi–and that’s an elite Moslem, by the way–and eat,” he said to some laughter.

Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas Party and the former chief Sephardi rabbi of Israel, also said that the lives of non-Jews are protected in order to prevent financial loss to Jews.

“With gentiles, it will be like any person: They need to die, but God will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one’s donkey would die, they’d lose their money. This is his servant. That’s why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew,” said the rabbi.

 

The American Jewish Committee condemned the rabbi’s remarks in a statement issued Monday. Well, you can see why they condemned them. I mean, that’s Us versus Them taken to the nth degree. And yet, some people think that way. They think that one group is better than another group, based on whatever. Well, the Bible tells us that God loves everybody equally, amen? He does. So the question is, for us as believers, is there an Us and Them? And the answer is yes and no. I am going to cover both, in this brief, non-steroid message, non-steroid  enhanced. [The congregation laughs at his reference to the medication he was taking the past few weeks, and the much longer sermons he delivered at that time; see October 17 and October 24.] Yes and no.

Let me cover the “yes”. As believers, it’s clear that we are in the world but not of the world. I John, the whole epistle of I John, is about loving the brothers. You are distinct from the world, you’re not supposed to love the world or the things that are in the world. You are distinct unto God; you are special, you’re like Israel was. It’s not in us that we are all that worthy, but God loved us by His grace. We are special to Him. Paul, in II Corinthians, chapter 6 [verses 14-18], talks about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. And he says: What fellowship does light have with darkness? So clearly, there is a distinction. There should be a difference, and our life should be different. You know, other than going to church on Sunday morning, how is your lifestyle different than the people around you, that you work with, or in your neighborhood? How is your lifestyle different? How do we as believers live differently than the world around us? So there is a “yes” to that in the New Testament, that the distinction has changed. It is no longer Jew and Gentile; it is now believer and unbeliever in Jesus. It’s becomes about Jesus, not about race. It’s all about Jesus, amen? It’s all about Him. There are those who follow Him, and there are those who don’t.

Now let me tell you about the “no” side. In the sense of identity, the answer is “yes”. In the sense of who we are and where we stand spiritually, the answer is “yes”, but in a sense of loving, the answer is “no”. So identity, the answer is “yes”; loving, the answer is “no”. Why? Well, we are called to love everybody. We’re called to love everybody, but sometimes we struggle with that. You know, I’ve struggled with that sometimes. Outwardly, I’m not the most loving, expressive person but inwardly, I have loved almost everybody through most of my Christian life, but there are times that I have felt such overwhelming love for people, that, I mean, I just love everybody in the world, no matter what, regardless, unconditionally. And I will tell you that I have felt that overwhelming love for people two times. Once was when I came back from Pensacola in 1996 [Pastor had gone to Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, where revival had broken out the year before], and I had just had a profound spiritual experience there. One of the effects of that was I just loved everybody. I loved everybody more. I loved my wife more, I loved my family more, I loved you more, I loved everybody. Well, I will tell you this last month, that is back, that feeling that I just love everybody. I mean, more than ever, with no exceptions! It’s a wonderful feeling, it really is!

This last month, I’ve been on a spiritual high. A couple of days ago—I hope Ireida [his daughter-in-love, a term he prefers over daughter-in-law] doesn’t mind, I was excited about something at home. For me, when I’m excited, I move my hands actually [and the congregations laughs]. I was excited about something and she mentioned, “Are you still on the steroids?” I said, “Actually, I’m off the steroids.” [Congregation laughs.] I said, “Ireida, I told you, hon, I’m on a spiritual high. You know?” And I said, “Do you believe me?” And she said, “I believe you, Dad. I believe you.” I’m not sure what God is up to, but I’ll tell you, I’m loving it.

I have a confession to share with you, because I think throughout much of my ministry there has been a tinge—and I am going to coin a term here that I’ve never seen written and those of you who have a psychological background, you’ll understand this term—I’m going to call it religious schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is a German word; it is a really nasty word. It means when you get enjoyment out of somebody else’s pain. Now let me tell you what religious schadenfreude is. Religious schadenfreude is you don’t want to see people suffer, unless it’s for the glory of God. It’s part of a religious spirit, and I rarely would think in those terms but there are times—it’s in the Bible in Luke 9, where the Samaritans refused Jesus, and the disciples say, “Jesus, do you want us to call fire down from Heaven right now, to consume them? It’s for the glory of God, of course. The fact that we hate the Samaritans is just a minor point here but we want to glorify God. Can we call fire down from Heaven right now?” And Jesus rebuked them. In the King James, it says that Jesus said: You don’t know what spirit you are of. [Verse 55: But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.] I’ve got to confess to you there have been a few moments where I thought something negative happening to them might bring good.

And I remember some years ago, someone sitting in my office, and they—I knew, I just knew, I knew factually, I knew it in my spirit, I just knew it 100%, that they were telling me bald-faced lies. I’m sitting there, and I’m thinking–and by the way, what’s the point of lying to a pastor? I don’t understand why you would do that. You know, it’s like going to a doctor when your stomach hurts and you tell him your toe hurts. Why would you do that? Isn’t the point to take care of the stomach? Or why would you go to the doctor and say, “I’m fine. I don’t even know why I’m here.” Anyhow, this person was lying to me and, you know, Ananias and Sapphira crossed my mind. [See Acts 5:1-11.] I thought, “You know, Lord, in the book of Acts–I want to see the book of Acts. In the book of Acts, when Ananias and Sapphira were struck down for lying, Revival came. So Lord, if lightning comes through that ceiling right now, just make it laser, pinpoint.” [Congregation laughs.] You know? There’s been a few moments. I’ve got to tell you, that little bit of religious schadenfreude, that I think is in a lot of religious people, it’s gone right now, It’s just gone. I don’t know if all the coughing of done in the last three months, if it came up [and he laughs]. One of those coughs, I don’t know! But all I can tell you is it’s gone. And even if it brought glory to God, I don’t want anything bad to happen to anybody.

You know, there are people who express this in more earthly terms, like “nuke them back to the stone age” and that kind of stuff that people say. But we can put a religious spin on it sometimes, and unfortunately, at times–I’ve not been involved in this when there are church squabbles and you wish ill. I know a church that split and the new church that came from that split–and Dave [to a gentleman in the congregation], we are going to introduce Dave in a little bit, you know the church I’m talking about. The split happened and they built a building, and there was a wind storm and it broke all their windows in the new church that was built. The old church had their best service in years that Sunday. That’s religious schadenfreude. You with me?

Actually, with love, in the sense of love, there should not be a distinction. We love everybody. But when we love everybody, we speak the truth. And here’s the problem. Sometimes we think love and niceness are the same thing. They are not the same thing. We speak the truth in love. We are going to see that later, here in Ephesians, how we do that. We speak the truth in love. The problem is, in life we think, when we love someone, we are nice. We are not always honest. You know when people get honest? When they get really angry. Then they start to say what they’re really thinking. But the problem is the delivery system, the emotion of anger that is delivering that truth, means that it’s not received. And the person often shoots back, with some truth in anger of their part, and it becomes a downward spiral, doesn’t it? The time to speak truth is not in anger; the time to speak truth is in the best of times. Don’t repair a leaky roof when it’s raining. You repair a leaky roof when the sun is out, okay? And when we love people, we can speak truth in a loving way, like Jesus did, and they won’t feel the distinction.

There are a lot of unreached people in the world today, and we are going to be talking about Rajastan, India this morning. And they need someone to love them. They need someone to care for them. And it’s [up to] us; it’s our responsibility to reach them. So, here, I want you to remember this from this message. Yes, there is an Us and Them, but it’s not Us versus Them. That’s what happens in the political sphere. It’s not Us versus Them; it’s Us for Them, you with me? It’s Us for Them, and when someone knows that you are for them, they can receive a whole lot of truth. But when they think you are against them, the wall goes up. And that’s what a lot of Christians in America have done. We’ve made it Us versus Them rather than Us for Them.

And when we reach people who don’t know Jesus with the Gospel, it’s Us for Them. When we reach girls who are sold into sexual slavery, it’s Us for Them. When we heal the hurting, it’s Us for Them. When there’s schools and hospitals built around the world to care for people, it’s Us for Them. And you know what, when Us is for Them, they don’t even notice that there’s an Us and Them! You with me? When it’s Us for Them, it’s like, even though there is a distinction, the love comes over, overwhelms the distinction, and they don’t even feel the distinction. They just know that we care. They know that we care, and isn’t that what happened with Jesus? Jesus came. He was holy. We were in our sins. He was from Heaven, He was perfect, He was everything righteous. We were not, but He came for us.  And because He came, even though we were sinful, through the blood of Jesus, here we see in verse 13. We were brought near through the blood of Jesus, He was for us, not against us. If God be–what?–for us, who—what?–can be against us? [quoting Paul in Romans 8:31] Let’s say it again. If God be for us, who can be against us? Do you remember that when someone’s against you? If God is for you, so what? So what? [in a whiny voice] Well, they don’t like me. [regular voice] Do you think you are going to go through life, that everybody likes you? Think again. Become a pastor [congregation laughs].

Today is Miracle Missions Sunday. It’s the one time of the year that we strongly encourage you to give sacrificially to missions, sacrificially. We believe in tithing. We believe that in the New Testament you have freedom to give to the work of God, anywhere between 10% to 100% of your income. In that 90% range, you have total freedom to give whatever God leads you to give. And when we give to missions, some people who have a passion for missions say people ought to give their time. It’s so easy to write a check, some people say. It’s so easy to write a check. It depends how big that check is, of how easy it is, because when you really get to sacrifice, like the widow with the two mites [Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4], it’s not so easy. And actually, when you give of your finances, you are giving your time, aren’t you? You spent time earning that; you converted it into a currency and you’re giving that currency. You are giving your time.

I want to share with you a little bit about how much Americans give to missions. And [it’s] not as much as you think. The question is, how much is Us for Them? How much are we for them? Let me say, first of all, before I say this, before I share some statistics, you may say when you hear this, “Pastor, are you trying to make us feel guilty for how God has blessed us?” Absolutely not. It’s just the opposite. My wish for you is what is in III John, verse 2, that you would be in good health, and God would prosper you, even as your soul prospers. How does your soul prosper? Well, there’s lots of ways, but one of the ways is being generous, being generous. My goal is that God will bless you abundantly so that you can be generous in all things. So it’s not—I don’t want anybody to be poor. And my goal for you on earth is that when people say, “Who is the most generous person you know?”, that your name would come to their mind. If someone asks, “Who do you know that’s selfish?”, your name would never even cross their mind. Who is the most generous person you know? And you know what, I know a lot of generous people, and with a few exceptions, most of them aren’t real wealthy, they are just generous. So I want you to be known as a generous person. In Heaven, my goal is that you will lay treasures up in Heaven. Like Jesus said, lay up treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust does not corrupt. Thieves can’t break in and steal it. [See Matthew 6:18-21.] So that’s my desire for you.

Okay, here we go. I’ve said this before. Almost all of us are in the top 5% of the world’s income earners, top 5%. For a lot of us, that’s not good enough. You know what, if you are in the top 1%, it’s still not good enough. It’s never good enough. It’s never good enough. We consume so much. Since the 1960’s our family sizes have been cut in half but our house size has doubled. They say, and I’m not able to verify this, but someone gave me this fact. They say that in the 1960’s, even though there were warehouses for industrial and commercial purposes, that the storage bins, you know, that people can rent out, that industry did not exist in the 1960’s. [According to Wikipedia, the first self-storage space opened for business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1958, but self-storage chains did not develop until the late 1960’s. The business grew slowly but in the late 1990’s demand was greater than supply, causing a huge increase in self-storage businesses.] Today, all that U-Rent space for people around the country, there are two billion square feet of storage space, that people can’t get the stuff into their house or attic. How big is two billion square feet? That would be like this church building, which is 50,000 square feet—the children’s wing, every part of this building–times 40,000. 40,000 State College Assembly of Gods for storage for excess stuff that we have in America. Evangelical Christians in America give about a third of one percent, so 0.3% of their income for missions. Most of the money is spent domestically, and very little for unreached people. 80% of the world Christian finances are in the hands of American Christians, 80%. Americans annually spend as much on chewing gum as they give to missions. Americans pay as much for pet food in 52 days as they spend in a year on missions. I would ask you this, simply. Add up the cost of the coffee you drink in a year and compare it to how much you give to missions. How do those two compare? To reach people over the airwaves, of the three billion spent annually to sponsor television and radio programs—Christian radio and TV, 99.9% is used in the Christian world, 0.09 percent in the evangelized, non-Christian world—they’ve already heard the Gospel, and only 0.01% in the unevangelized world. We sponsor 308,000 missionaries outside the US, from the American church as a whole. Only 1.1% of those, 3400, are working to reach the 1.19 billion in the unevangelized world. As sorry a statistic as that is, they say in the Lausanne World Congress here recently, we are within two decades of completing the Great Commission. [The Lausanne Movement grew out of the 1974 Inter-national Congress on World Evangelization, a meeting of 2,700 evangelical pastors and leaders from around the world which happened in Lausanne, Switzerland. A second congress occurred in Manila in 1989 and a third, the one to which he referred, was held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010.] We should have done it hundreds of years ago, but we’re getting close. Jesus said, in the book of Matthew, [he says 25:13 but he actually means 24:14]: reach the whole world with the Gospel and then the end will come. Now, I don’t know when He considers the whole world reached. We will not know that, but we’re getting close, so let’s get the job done and go home. Don’t you do that with any work you do? Let’s get it done. [Then he uses comedian Larry, the Cable Guy’s popular catch phrase] Git ‘er done! And go home. That’s what we’re called to do. That’s what we’re called to do.

Some Christians in America, as prosperous as we are, struggle with tithing.  I think the issue is, either we have too little faith that God will take care of us, like Christians around the world believe, or too much greed, or both. What’s God saying to you? Over the years, we’ve done a whole lot of things with our Miracle Missions offering. We’ve planted churches, sponsored a hospital in Calcutta, water wells in Africa, Bible colleges, Gospel compilations for school children–tens of thousands of them different places in the world, study Bibles for pastors in Africa. We’ve done a lot of different things, and it was only logical this year, only logical, that one of our own, that we would help them in the call that God has placed on their life to go to an unreached people group in Northern India. We showed a video to you in the spring, about the district project in Rajastan, India, the district being Pennsylvania-Delaware Assemblies of God. We’re going to show that video again to you this morning, and then Rob and Ireida will come to share.

[This concluded Pastor’s sermon for the day. The remainder of the service was devoted to presentations from Rob and Ireida Grabill about the work they will do in Rajastan, India. Rob and Ireida are Pastor’s son and daughter-in-love as he is fond of calling her. Pastor Dave Crosby, the Head of Missions for the Pennsylvania-Delaware District of Assemblies of God, also spoke about the logistical aspects of how finances are used to further the Kingdom. He is the Dave to whom Pastor referred earlier. The service closed with this prayer from Pastor. I have included it, even though it pertains more to the missions giving that to the sermon content, and it includes a reference to a man spoken of by Pastor Crosby who was called to give the money he had saved for purchasing a new hunting rifle to Rob and Ireida. It’s a powerful prayer over anyone who gives sacrificially.]

[Prayer] Father, in this short time that we have taken today, we thank You that there are miracles in store, not just for Rob and Ireida, to get them to where you have called them to go, but Lord, I thank you for the miracles in peoples’ lives as they step out in sacrificial, generous giving. I thank you for this man, that I probably won’t meet until eternity, in York, that You spoke to his heart. Lord, I pray you will multiply it back to him. Lord, I pray that he will get a better rifle than he imagined that he would buy. Lord, that’s the way you work. Lord, You are so good. And Lord, as our soul prospers, as we give in faith, Lord, I pray for each one here today, as they give beyond their tithes, as they give sacrificially, they give to a point where they wonder, “God, will you provide, because this kind of hurts?” Lord, I pray that You will show Yourself for who You are as You’ve done to us so many times, and You will bless them more than we can imagine, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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