The Great Divide

The Great  Divide
Intro: Even in healthy families, there are sometimes differences of  opinion: Which is more important—cleaning the house or mowing the yard? Is it  better to save something that might be used later on, or to save space and be  more organized by throwing it away? Is it better to put money in a savings  account or to spend it on something that the family really needs? Healthy  families have learned that conflict in itself is not necessarily bad. It’s all  about how you deal with it.
Healthy, growing churches sometimes  experience conflict as well. What is the best way to manage the growth? How can  we change what we do and how we do it in order to better meet the needs of all  our members and people in the community? Here again, there may be legitimate  differences of opinion. These “growing pains” might be somewhat disconcerting,  but they are better than the alternative! This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t  always strive for unity, but show me a church where there is absolutely no  conflict, and I’ll show you a church where there is nothing going on!
In  our Bible passage for today, Jesus brings out an uncomfortable fact that for  many is a painful reality: When he came into this world to be our Savior, his  coming would brought about division and conflict—even within families! It is a  joyful time when, through the proclamation of the Gospel, someone comes to faith  in the Lord Jesus. That person’s life has changed. They are different. But what  happens when the people around him or her (the family, friends, neighbors, or  coworkers) don’t understand or accept what has happened? It causes all kinds of  grief and sadness… and sometimes things that are even worse. This is something  more than simply a difference of opinion. It is a serious and potentially  eternal separation.
Yet, even this painful reality has a positive side.  If God wasn’t doing anything in our lives in the first place, we wouldn’t be so  different. If God wasn’t changing us, nobody would notice us; we wouldn’t stand  out!
1) Not that we are perfect; we  are, like the rest of the world, conceived and born in sin. We are not “better”  than anyone else! God loves all people, and is willing to forgive them for the  sake of his Son, Jesus, who died for the sins of the world… (see John 3:16!). He  does not desire the death of any sinner. It grieves him bitterly that not  everyone will look to him for their life and salvation.
As Christians we  are sometimes characterized as “holier than thou” by our non-Christian  neighbors.  We have to be realistic  and confess that perhaps this reputation is in some ways deserved because of our  attitudes and actions towards non-Christians. This is a sad reality, however,  because this is not what really separates us from them.
If we have a  friend or family member who isn’t a Christian, the place to begin with them is  not by constantly harping on their unchristian behavior. (It is foolish to  criticize people for not being something that they honestly aren’t!) They know  all too well that we aren’t perfect ourselves, and can easily spot the  inconsistencies between what we say and what we do.
Other false  distinctions (besides the myth that Christians are perfect) can include the use  of specialized jargon or unfamiliar customs. You don’t have to be German or  Scandinavian to be a good Lutheran, and you don’t necessarily need to punctuate  every sentence with an “Amen” or “Praise the Lord”. No, what makes us different  does not lie in whatever language or traditions we use…
2) But that we  know and trust in God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ our  Savior.
Faith in the Gospel: The church is defined as all—and only—those  who trust in God for forgiveness, life, and salvation through the death and  resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. (By his suffering and death on the cross,  Jesus took upon himself all my sin and guilt, and his righteousness is now given  to me as a free gift. Everyone who believes this is a member of the Christian  Church.)
The Means of Grace: The marks of the church are the Word (purely  and correctly taught in its fullness) and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s  Supper, rightly administered according to Christ’s command and institution.)  Through these “means” God creates in our hearts the faith which trusts in what  Christ alone to redeem us from sin, death, and the power of the  devil.
Illustration: On one of his old history books, someone once wrote,  “In case of famine, eat this book; it’s full of baloney! In case of flood, stand  on this book; it’s dry!” The world sees the Bible in much the same way: an  outdated and often erroneous history book. But we know better! The Bible is  centered in Christ Jesus, who is the “Word made flesh.” Through its main  teachings of Law and Gospel the Bible truly can makes us “wise for salvation”  through faith in Christ—it is useful for instructing us in every aspect of  Christian life. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a  hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? (Jer. 23:29) “For the word of God is living  and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing  soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the  heart.” (Heb. 4:12) “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your  heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming … Consequently, faith  comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of  Christ. (Rom. 10:8,17)
The Fruit of Faith. As believers read, study, and  gather to hear God’s Word, as we live in our Baptism by daily repentance, and as  we receive the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis, it cannot help but make a  difference in the way we think, talk, and act. As we spend time with others who  share our faith, we can learn from them and can begin to imitate their behavior.  Through the trials and hardships of life, God disciplines us and produces fruit  in our lives: a “harvest of peace and righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) It is  important to remember, though, that all these things are a work in progress, and  the progress is sometimes difficult to see right away.
– We enjoy  fellowship with other Christians. – We develop a habit of prayer. – We  strive to use our gifts for God’s glory. – We praise God in music and song,  and with the arts. – We love others and do what we can to help those in  need. – We make spreading the Gospel a priority and long for our Savior’s  return. – We look at life differently.
Keep in mind that none of the  fruits of faith are really at the heart of the difference—they are simply  results. If we are truly different, it is because Jesus was different! He is the  “Author and perfecter of our faith.”
1) Jesus is God. He was God from eternity. All that exists was  made through him. He is without beginning and without end. He is all-knowing,  all-powerful, and everywhere at once. He is holy. He is so different from us  that in order for him to become our Savior, he had to do something truly  unique:
2) Jesus became man. He took upon himself our human flesh and  blood. He became like us in every way with one important difference: he knew no  sin. He never had a sinful thought, word, or deed. Not even once! This made him  different, even though he was the same. This caused him to win many friends who  saw admirable qualities in him. It also caused bitter opposition.
3)  Jesus provoked enemies. One thing that stands out is that Jesus did not come to  be popular. There were many people who followed him. Some followed him for the  wrong reasons only to become disappointed in him later on and turn against him.  Some were offended by the harsh things he said. Others were perplexed by his  non-conformity to some of their traditions. Some were jealous or afraid of him  and opposed him from the beginning. In the midst of all this, Jesus did not let  popularity—or the lack of it—distract him from his mission.
Jesus came  to be more than just a buddy. He was on a collision course with the forces of  evil that were opposed to him, and he was not going to back down. Jesus said,  “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is  completed!” By this he meant his sacrificial suffering and death in our place,  as our substitute. Jesus’ enemies would appear to gain the upper hand. He would  be captured, tried, sentenced, beaten, mocked, and crucified. The wonderful and  miraculous irony of the whole situation was that as a result of what took place  at the hands of his enemies, God would bring about our very salvation through  Jesus’ death and resurrection!
4) There is no substitute for Jesus. Many  people today try to combine Christ with other religions or philosophies. This  can never work, because it’s kind of like oil or water…they just don’t mix. They  either reject Jesus or attempt to present him as a simply a good man. They do  not confess him as the one and only Savior of the world, true God from eternity.  They are, when it comes right down to it, religions of human works, not of God’s  saving grace to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. If there were any way to  rescue us from sin, death, and hell other than to offer up the life of his  beloved Son in our place on the cross, God would not have deemed it necessary  for Jesus to do what he did at all.

“Salvation  is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by  which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and  the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
But is that all we can say about the subject? Is it simply “us” and  “them”, separated for all eternity? Without a change, that is the where things  are headed. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way!
For those who must face tension  with an unbelieving friend or family member on a regular basis, here are some  ways to cope:
-Above all else, stay true to your faith in God. Don’t let  others sway you or pull you away.—Pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit for  yourself and for the other person -Learn to think of this hardship as a  discipline, and let God use it to strengthen you. -Take comfort in Christ,  who himself suffered opposition for you. -Make good use of your Christian  brothers and sisters for support and encouragement. -Realize that only God  can change someone’s heart. As God’s Spirit leads, look for ways to let  questions about the differences in your life be opportunities for witness to the  Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
As believers  rub shoulders with unbelievers, there is friction that results. Sometimes sparks  might even fly! But we can pray that by God’s grace, he would use one of those  sparks to kindle the flame of faith in someone’s heart.
Conclusion: Yes,  there is a division; a great and terrible divide. On the last day it will become  an eternal divide. But for now, we live in the day of God’s grace. There is  still time, and there is still hope. As individuals and as a church, let us  fearlessly proclaim the Gospel of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation through  Christ Jesus our Savior Lord.
A Message from Rev  Darrel Bahn brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street,  Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer  or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project

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