Why are we an international church?

 

Introduction: why international church? Is it because…?

Dutch people are very kind and hospitable?

Practical to have an international church when there are lots of international people?

We like international, brings so much different tastes , flavors, styles, etc.?

Demand and supply: we have all kinds of churches for all kinds of different people…?

It just happens to be so?

 

International church is something that is God’s heart. International church is Biblical!

 

(Ephesians 2:1-10 is about being saved by grace and not by our own merits)

 

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed inordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[e] the Spirit.

 

1. “Jesus died for my sins”

As good christians we all know that when Jesus died on the cross, He bore the punishment that we deserved for our sins. Thanks to Jesus, we’re now forgiven!

But the Bible tells us this is not the only thing that happened when Jesus gave his life on the cross.

 

Everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve in Paradise (I assume). God gives them everything, the world lies at their feet. They can enjoy everything that God has made for them!

Except, God says, there is one tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you are not allowed to eat from. “The day you’ll eat from it, you will surely die”.

 

We ‘ve all read how Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and did what He told them not to do!

The way we usually look at this is “Adam and Eve broke a rule”. Just like you break a glass or a window.

“Too bad it happened, but, hey, you know, it ’s just a thing. Nothing personal…”

 

But, this is not what happened when Adam and Even broke God’s rule. (If it were, it would make God a very petty god!).

In Hosea 6:5 we read the following about the people of Israel: “…like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me“.

 

The image Hosea is using is of a married couple of which one of the partners is unfaithful. It’s not about a rule, but about relationship!

What happened in Paradise was that Adam and Eve destroyed their relationship with God, they betrayed Him!

 

The result was not only that their relationship with God was broken, but, from that moment every relationship would be in some way “broken”.

The next thing in the bible story is Kain killing Abel, his very own brother!

 

We can see this brokeness everywhere around us. There are broken relationships between husbands-wives, fathers and children , men- women: divorce, abuse, domestic violence, rape…

There are wars between tribes and countries. And even within countries between people of the same nation: civil war in Syria and Egypt.

And what about racism, where people of one “race”, think they are superior to people of another race…

Etc. etc.

 

2. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again

Everything that stood between us and God was destroyed! Everything that stood between us and other people were destroyed!

 

How? By destroying Jesus! By breaking down Jesus! (This is what Paul writes!)

 

…For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

Dividing walls of hostility, of racism, of feelings of superiority, of tribalism, nationalism, were broken down when Jesus was broken down!

 

…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Hostility between Go-mankind and mankind-mankind was killed when Jesus was killed!

Jesus reconciled us with God and with one another…

 

Galatians 3: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

3. Result is that Jesus made us one with God, but He also made us one with each other!

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

 

The result of all that Jesus did is:

1. Jesus made us one with God the Father, 2. Jesus made us one with one another, one body 3. we are now being built together! in to a dwelling place for God, by the Spirit!

 

To get to the core of the matter: what Paul is telling us here is that international church is not an accident or a practicality, or a nice idea.

It is what Jesus purposely created when He was destroyed on the cross!

 

4. International Church is at the heart of Jesus mission

Isaiah 49:6 Messianic prophecy = about Jesus

 “It is too light [small] a thing that you should be my servant

    to raise up the tribes of Jacob

    and to bring back the preserved of Israel;

I will make you as a light for the nations,

    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

 

A glimpse into the future: Revelation 5

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

    from every tribe and language and people and nation,

10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

    and they shall reign on the earth.”

 

I can show you many more examples in the Bible, but you, hopeful, get the point!

 

5. Practical/application

 

Q: After I have finished in Groningen and go back home, should I join a church that sings songs in English?

A: international church is not primarily about the way we do things, or about the language,  it is about what Jesus has done through grace and how we respond to that in our hearts.

Actually, we ‘re not just talking about “international”, (between nations) but also “inter-social” (between social classes), between people of other political convictions, etc. So it is much broader…

 

International church should begins with an “awareness and an inclusive mindset”. Inclusive is the opposite of exclusive.

Exclusive = Reinstalling barriers in our thinking, our speech and behavior that Jesus has broken down and declared non-barriers.

There are things we think, or say, or do that exclude other people. Most of the time we’re not even aware of it. 

  • Prejudice: African people are always too late – the reality in our church is that Dutch people are always too late! And even if they were always too late, our cultural idea of time is not superior than other people’s cultural idea of time. Dutch people would probably also say that Jesus was always too late if they had live in his days!
  • All Chinese people look the same – They may all look the same to you, but every single one of them is created and loved by God. 
  • “Birds of a feather will flock together”, meaning: naturally we are inclined to hang out with people of our own kind. That is not sinful, but on the other hand, when you’re with a group of, let’s say, spanish speaking people, it makes it more difficult for people who don’t speak spanish to join. They will feel excluded…
  • Feelings of superiority: Many of the 19 and 20th century missions by Western countries were done this way: we not only exported the Gospel, but also our culture because we thought Jesus like our way of doing more than other cultures’ way of doing. So we tried to teach African people to play the organ and sit still in the pews, because that’s how you’re “supposed” to worship God. But an organ is not better than drums, we can use both to praise God!
  • Being uninterested. “I am not really bothered about “international, I’ve got other priorities and interests. Oh, and btw, I don’t have the brains to learn foreign languages easily”. Now that you are aware of how Jesus thinks about “international” you should be bothered! 

 

Inclusive = that we purposely and wholeheartedly affirm in our thinking, our speech and our behavior that we are one in Jesus

 

Q: We have read Galatians 3: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Should we strive to have as little differences as possible in order to emphasize our unity?

A: No, Paul is not telling us that there aren’t any differences anymore. He is telling us that when we belong to Jesus, our difference are not separating us anymore, nor from God, nor from one another!

Actually, God is using our many differences for His Glory: Eph. 3:10 through the church the manifold (lit. many colored) wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…

 

Through the church God has done something that is impossible in the world! Where all these people could never be united, because there is always something that separates them, be it socially, financially, gender, politically, different favorite football club, etc. God has made us ONE!