(This is the first of a sermon series I am currently doing. Next week I’ll share the second. I pray this will speak something hopeful into your heart and life!)
A new series begins today that I’m calling Everybody. The Theme Verse of this series is Galatians 3:28—“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” A couple of weeks ago I was already thinking about what to preach about after Communion Sunday. Almost immediately this word invaded my mind and my heart. And I can see why.
We live in a culture that divides people into groups. Us and them. We and they. Those people! These have become the iconic words of our culture. Black Lives Matter. White Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. Red States. Blue States. Republicans. Democrats. Socialists. Such are the words that describe this Fractious And Fractured culture called the United States.
This spirit of division is fueling fear and hate—and it’s leading us deeper and deeper into chaos. The recent hearings for a new supreme court justice isn’t the problem. It’s just a sign of this Fractious And Fractured Culture. But it’s not always been so. In the beginning, it was an “Everybody”.
In Genesis 1:26-28 we read: 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.”
This is God’s design. He designed for life to be lived, experienced and celebrated TOGETHER! Together with Him. Together with the world. Together with each other. That’s how the Image, His Image looked in the beginning. Look at the words our culture has forgotten—even the church many times has forgotten: Let US make. . . in OUR image. . . to be like US. . .
Who is US? Who is OUR? God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit living TOGETHER in that depth of closeness that is the perfect mystery. God exists as 3 but is 1—because they are TOGETHER. And for a season, it was Everybody. They were together with God, together with the world, and together with each other.
But then something happened. Anyone know what happened? Together was shattered. Adam and Eve were no longer together with each other. They were no longer together with the world. And they were no longer together with God. Eve admitted her sin, and blamed the snake. Adam blamed—who? God! Yes, he did. He said, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit”.
Sin was now in the middle of God’s creation. Together with God, with the world, and with each other was now just a memory. And generation after generation continued that brokenness. But God, God longs to bring us back together—back to being EVERYBODY. Throughout time, God has been seeking to bring us back together.
The Kingdom of God is all about bringing the “Everybody” back into His Design. And Paul, who at one point in his life thought he was with the only ones who would get into heaven—said in Galatians 3:28—“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And thus. . .this word Everybody. Though we are Fractious And Fractured, there is still Everybody.
Everybody has a common condition; really 3 conditions. Everybody Has A Past. Everybody Has A Present. And Everybody Has A Future. We are going to look at an example of each of these each week. And here’s the 1 thing you need to remember: Everybody Has A Past!
I want you to know I’ve really challenged myself with this series—well, actually God is challenging me. I started thinking about an example of this from Scripture—and almost immediately it hit me, “Hey, God! This book is full of people who had a past.” I suspect that God had this sheepish grin on His face. It’s harder to find someone who didn’t have a past. Then it finally hit me. Turn to Romans 7:14-25 (the Message)
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.
My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Here’s what God is continuing to teach me about this passage.
1] Everybody Is A Sinner By Nature
Do you believe the Bible is accurate and reliable? Then there’s Romans 3:23—For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. That’s what he’s expanding on there in Chapter 7. I want to do right, but I don’t do it. I don’t want to do wrong, but Golly Gee Willikers Batman, I do it anyway.
You say, “I’ve been going to church all my life. I’ve been baptized. I’ve memorized Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed.” That’s good. “I’ve never stolen or cheated or killed anyone.” Good for you. But, we are still sinners by nature. As followers of Jesus, we’ve been born again and transformed by Grace. But. . ..
We are just as much sinners as those waking up this morning, hung over, in someone’s bed they don’t know, or in a jail cell somewhere. We are all equally sinners by nature. Even after we invite Jesus into our hearts and are born again—we are capable of sinning again.
Not only are we capable of sin—we actually sin. The most commonly used Greek word for sin is ‘hamartia’. It’s an archery term—missing the target. Everybody at the foot of the Cross is Equal. You and I are no different from Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Charles Manson, or your ex-spouse. When we understand and accept that we are equally sinners—it’s the first step in healing the divide between Everybody.
2] Everybody Has A Story That Needs To Be Told And Heard.
One of the results of this Fractious And Fractured culture is that we have become good talking at and talking about people. The result is that we have become poor listeners. Coming together never happens if we never listen. Some hear as much as they need to point the finger to tell them how wrong they are. That’s not how Jesus listened. Think about that episode with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well found in John 4.
Plenty of people talked about her. And they probably talked at her. But did they ever talk with her? Jesus did. He never talked at her. Even when she tried to hide her story, Jesus revealed her story. Broken heart, broken marriages, broken life. She knew Jesus heard the story of her life. He never said to her, “Divorce is wrong.” He didn’t say, “You need to quit shacking up with that man.” Instead He created a safe space for her story to be heard.
People around us all have stories that need to be told and heard. A couple of weeks ago at McDonald’s I notice that the young woman waiting on me had tattoos, and I really liked how they looked. I notice ink because, well, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Just haven’t done it yet. I mentioned about how good they looked. She began to tell me the story behind the ink. I listened because she had a story that needed to be told and someone to listen to her story. I’m not bragging on myself—but I’ve been hoping for the opportunity to hear more of her story through her ink. But I haven’t seen her again. Looking back, I can’t help but think that God engineered this circumstance just for her—and for me.
YOU have a story that needs to be told and heard. Oh, it may not be a story made for Lifetime Channel. You may not be invited to appear on Fox and Friends on Monday morning, but understand that everyone, including you, has a story. All of us are people with stories—stories that someone needs to hear. You story will come out of 2 places: a place of brokenness and the other place is where God’s Grace has touched your life. Everyone has a story that needs to be heard. The second step in coming back together as it was in the beginning requires genuine listening.
3] Everyone Needs Kindness!
Kindness is the opposite of the words we hear in our culture today. If our culture is ever going to stop this madness, it must start with us—the Body of Christ, the Citizens of The Kingdom of God. Paul puts it like thin in Ephesians 4:31-32—“31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
I’ll give you an example from Jesus on how to be kind. It’s the story of Zacchaeus found in Luke 19. I’m remembering a song from childhood at Vacation Bible School: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.”
He was a crook, cheating people. He was a collaborator with their hated enemies, the Romans. He ate high on the lamb while the people he took from struggled to get by. This man deserved no kindness. He made his bed now let him lie in it. But Jesus showed kindness to Zacchaeus. Jesus was criticized for it—but Jesus didn’t care they criticized Him. What He knew was that Zacchaeus was a man who needed kindness, and He wasn’t about to allow public opinion to change His mind.
Kindness is not what is earned and given to people who deserve it. Kindness Is Given In Abundance To Those Who Need It The Most—The Wounded, Broken, Angry, And Those Who Have Given Up On Life.
The division in our nation is getting worse. It’s race, it’s economics, it’s politics, it’s a whole lot of stuff. None of it is The Kingdom of God. Everybody has a past—and they won’t get over it as long as people hold it over them.
Here are your Next Steps:
- Know Your Own Story. Your story comes out of your broken places and where God’s Grace restored you.
- Be Ready To Listen To Someone Else’s Story. God is going to provide you the opportunity to hear another’s story. This will not happen every day. So you need to pray every day for the Holy Spirit to help you recognize that Holy Moment God is preparing them to share their story.
Remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!