God’s Transformative Church | Ezekiel 36:25-28 & Luke 4:18-19
A healthy church is measured by its “influence” or dimensions of impact rather than “success” with big buildings and/or programs. The influence starts from the individual heart, where internal transformation must take place first before influencing others. God’s mission starts from you and your family. Before God called any leaders or prophets in the Bible, individual conviction of trusting God happened first. Before we ask “Can I trust God?,” we have to ask ourselves, “Can God trust me?”
Today’s Scriptures teach us how we prepare ourselves before pursuing God’s divine calling.
Although God chose Israel to trust and to do God’s great works, “influencing and blessing of other nations,” Israel continued committing sins against God. They worshipped idols and lived as if there was no God. They continued defiling themselves by soaking themselves into worldly pleasures. They were spiritually corrupted and dying.
In Ezekiel 16:49-50, God says, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen.”
As we can find in the Bible, people of Sodom and Gomorrah were practicing the acts of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft. They were full of hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Gal. 5:19-21). It was abomination to God. So, God punished them.
However, for Israel, God had patience and decided to forgive them. God made a new divine initiative: “You will be my people and I will be your God.”
Prophet Jeremiah shows well in Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
This renewed covenant was reconfirmed by Ezekiel who proclaims God’s plan.
Ezekiel 36:25-28 says: “The Lord will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:25-28)
Luke, in his Gospel, narrates Jesus’ arrival in Nazareth after his 40 days of wilderness temptation. Luke says, Jesus visits a synagogue as his custom and opens the Scripture passages written by Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
As you noticed, Jesus’ two main ministries were 1) to bring the good news to the poor; and 2) to liberate the oppressed people from bondage of sickness.
Many people were possessed by many evils at that time. In Luke 4:33, Luke describes that there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit, in the synagogue, when Jesus visited Capernaum, a town in Galilee, on the Sabbath. Luke reports that there were evils in the temple, synagogues and everywhere where religious leaders taking profits with wicked hearts.
At that time, the social norm was that rich people enter the heaven automatically because God bless them so much materially. Many people, especially, poor and disabled, orphans and widows were oppressed by the religious elite group. They were brainwashed by the Midrash and religious restriction set by Sadducees and Pharisees, who were politically connected with Roman Empire to gain wealth. People were treated harshly and were starving to death because they trusted their religious leaders. Religious leaders were busy robbing people’s money and didn’t care about their lives.
Simply saying, the Israel was deeply corrupted and people were living in chaos. They were under the spirit of darkness without hope. The only hope was waiting for the Messiah to deliver them out of the political and religious oppression. They were simply living each day looking for their daily food.
In Matthew 15:10-11, Jesus says to the crowd, by targeting the religious leaders, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” And the disciples asked back to Jesus, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matt. 15:12)
Jesus warns of those who have stoned heart filled with greediness, lies and evil thoughts, especially the religious leaders.
As His disciples are still wondering about the meaning of this, Jesus further explains, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matt. 15:17-20)
Apostle Paul warns us in Galatians 6:1-2, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
God warns that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Apostle Paul also says in Galatians 6:7-10, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
We are all sinners and cannot get away from sins. But Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 5:20-21.
“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We are covered with blood of Christ, so that our sins cannot outgrow the grace of Jesus Christ.
Right after the descension of the Holy Spirit. Apostle Peter delivers the Church’s very first message in Acts 2:15-21:
“Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
Peter proclaimed “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37).
When they heard Peter’s message they were in great repentance as Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive 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.”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Jesus said in John 8:32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” and Jesus continues by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Apostle Paul affirms in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
Jesus has many names such as “Second Adam,” “Prince of Peace,” “Lamb of God” or “Bread from Heaven.” Two important names of Jesus are “Truth” and “Grace.” When we hear that “the truth will set you free,” the truth is directly referring to Jesus (or knowing Jesus), who gives us abundant grace to sustain our faith until He comes again.
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41).
After this, great transformation happened and the Bible explains this in Acts 2:43-47.
“Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
August is very special to me. This year, I am celebrating 39 years of living in the USA since I first arrived in Honolulu in 1983. In the summer of 1992, in August, during the last day of my first 3-day fasting, I was fully covered with God’s grace and baptized by the Holy Spirit. I was fully liberated from the bondage of sins. My stoned heart was tendered and my dried bones got new blood. It was my transformative moment to change my life to dedicate to the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s been 30 years. I am so thankful and blessed to have the 30 years of new journey with Jesus. In August 1995, I vowed to God to be a pastor and left Hawaii in December of 1995 to arrive in San Francisco. After graduating from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in 2002, I became an ordained minister in 2003.
Let’s see what God says to Ezekiel in Chapter 37:4-6, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
God wants to restore and transform us to live the life that God designs. God wants us to live as warriors, the army of Jesus Christ, to liberate the captives. God commands us to be the transformative church to bring the good news to the poor; and to liberate the oppressed people from bondage of sins (and sickness).
If you’ve never trusted God in your life or have doubt that God may not (or will not) trust you, now is the time to trust God who loves you more than any stories of the Bible. Do not afraid of punishment of your sins. Your sins are forgiven at the cross of Jesus who died for your sins. God’s grace is bigger than your sins.
Many people, especially Millennials and Gen Zers are captivated by dark forces and living in fear. We have mission to love and liberate them. It is Mosaics vision and missions.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
The only antidotes to the stoned hearts are repenting, praying, and practicing the love to others. When you follow Jesus and keep the Word of God in your heart, abundant fruits of the Holy Spirit will flow through you to touch others to receive the love of Jesus Christ.
For those who are already trusting God and serving others, ask God to expand your territories of influence to serve more by offering your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God and be transformed by the renewing of your mind in a daily basis to understand God’s perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
The healthy Body of Christ has: 1) Strong Head (Theological Depth); 2) Heart (Missional Zeal and Passion for Worship); 3) Hand (Addressing Community Issues Requiring Mercy and Justice).
I want to share 7 strategies of how we can cultivate the cross-cultural community.*
1. Christian communities need to provide a learning, caring, and affective space for mutual encounter and dialogue.
2. Participating in cross-cultural mission requires mutual patience and compassion. Patience, because there will be times when our plans and objectives will not be accomplished. High expectations and ambitious, planned objectives can harm the process.
3. Cross-cultural mission is grounded in the Christian experience of liberation and reconciliation. Reconciliation begins with the oppressed. The invitation for reconciliation comes from those who have suffered the consequences of cultural, economic, political, and social displacement, and oppression.
4. Cross-cultural mission acknowledges the mutual recognition of incomplete, partial communal visions, with the understanding of the privileged location of those at the margins. Cross-cultural mission recognizes the particularity of cultures and the need to dwell in one another’s cultures in order to see and develop more comprehensive communal and missional visions.
5. Cross-cultural mission is a sacramental activity. The missional encounter of cultures needs to establish a roundtable for sharing food and nourishing dialogue.
6. The dialogical and programmed activities of cross-cultural mission need to be seasoned with devotional and spiritual mutuality. Coming together for worship and witnessing becomes a crucial factor in faith exchange and transformation of both communities.
7. Finally, cross-cultural mission will occur as Christian communities offer mutual hospitality and recognize time, not as money, but as a gift of God to know one another. One of the most dramatic characteristics of the church in Acts is its hospitable character to fellow Christians and others in the community. (Acts 2:46-47)
Source: “Mission: An Essential Guide” by by Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, excerpt from the Strategies and Theology for Cross-Cultural Mission in Congregations
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)
Prayer: Thank you Lord for saving us from the sinful world where we were dead in our transgressions and sins. We were disobedient and lived by cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. However, because of your great love for us, who are rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by your grace we have been saved. It is your grace we have been saved, through our faith. And we confess that even the faith is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. So, Lord God, help us to do good works, which you prepared in advance, in a turbulent times like this.
Benediction: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.