UNITED by God’s Power

John 17:11-16

The great soul singer, Smokey Robinson, was a scheduled speaker for a two-day Youth Anti-Drug rally for the public schools of Sarasota, Florida. On the first day, he testified how God had rescued him from drug abuse. As a result, his speech for the second day was canceled. Smokey said in essence, "You can go into many public schools and talk about awful things, but if you mention God or Jesus, you're out of here." Is something wrong with that? Has something happened along the way to change things?

When we hear Jesus’ prayer in John 17, I’m left with this idea that things are exactly how Jesus imagined they would be. To follow Jesus is to live with friction and tension. Verses 14-15 alert us to where that tension lies: The World and The Evil One. It is a reality that evil exists and it encourages the culture to go against God’s plan and desire. But this is no battle of equals – because of Jesus’ life – the end has been decided. Even so, we must still face the conflict. BUT there is POWER available to overcome.

Whether you like it or not, Christians are called to be different. Notice what Jesus said about us, the church: "They are not of this world even as I am not of this world." Do you know how we got the name "Methodist"? We did not choose it because it sounded nice. Originally it was a term of ridicule thrown at John & Charles Wesley and his Eighteenth Century followers because they were so methodically different in their lifestyle.

We Christians are not supposed to be different just for the sake of differentness. There is no virtue in just being weird. Our distinctiveness should consist in our special joy, love, peace, but also it has to do with our values and lifestyle. We Christians have values that differ from the majority.

Followers of Jesus are also called to change culture. One of the businesses highlighted in the book – “From Good to Great” is Eckerd Drug Stores. What isn’t spoken of though is that founder Jack Eckerd became a Christian in 1983. It occurred to him it didn’t seem right for his stores to carry magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, so he got rid of them. He then contacted other businesses to follow suit and many did just that. Christians pray and work for a time when God's kingdom will on earth as it is in heaven. This is what St. Peter wrote, "We wait for new heavens and a new earth where righteousness is at home."

It means as a church, Crossroads lives with a different priority on things. Our vision is for people to connect, follow and become disciples – NOT through programs or just pretty words or polished worship and such but through One Loving Act At A Time. Before our first worship service ever took place we acted in love toward families who needed assistance in preparing for school and for kids who don’t even have families who could support them. All along the way – we’re Rethinking Church to be about others – how many churches partner with their bank for more than their account and mortgages?

But to face all we need to face, Jesus understood we'd need protection. How does God protect us? Through the power of His Name (see verses 11-12). In ancient cultures, there existed the belief that to know the name of a “god” or “demon” was to have control over that spiritual being. That isn’t the way it works with God. To call on God’s name as Jesus did is to call on the Father who is in love with his children and runs to their aid. God’s name represents His character, His power, His purpose. When we call on Jesus, we are calling on everything His name represents. There is power is the name of Jesus.

Remember, as followers and disciples of Jesus, we are not supposed to fit in. Jesus warned, "Beware when all men speak well of you." Our task is not to conform to a secular society, but to allow ourselves and our culture to be transformed by Jesus living in us. When we do – then the world has a chance to see God’s heart.

(This is the rough draft of the sermon preached. It reflects a collaboration of ideas from other pastors in the 15 churches taking part in this series so not all thoughts and phrases are original to me - I'm thankful to journey with some great people!)


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