Mission Drift

Mission Drift Can Start With Just A Slight Shift In Theology.

Jordan Hill
Jun 4, 2023    50m
Having just a slight shift in theology is how Mission drift starts. It's a subtle change, but that small shift can lead to massive ramifications in the church. We learn it's not enough to have a clear mission statement and core values because small events over time can cause us to drift completely away, and now it no longer look like the organization did when it started. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

June 4th Mission Drift.mp3
Jordan Hill: [00:00:30] So whenever you step foot here, if you come through the middle, the main entry here at 121 and you look up, you'll see four beams, four kinds of big posts hanging in the rafters, it's one of my favorite things about this building, and those beams are our four core values here at 121 community church. Essentially, these are the four values that hold up this church as a body.

Jordan Hill: [00:00:54] So we have four core values and the first one being the authority of Scripture, and we get that from Second Timothy 3:16 and 17, that all Scripture is God-breathed, that we first come built off of the Scripture first and then we move out. The second one is authenticity and relationships that we are to love God authentically. And then from there, we then have authentic relationships with one another, because you can never really have an authentic relationship with God if you don't have then authentic relationships with other people. It's a beautiful thing about God, and how it kind of works to have a relationship with him. The third one is partnering in ministry, so we want to pray with joy for our partners in the Gospel. This is not just about the Kingdom of 121, but rather this is about the Kingdom of God and where He's placed us, and so we want to partner. Well, you saw it here with ESL, we partner with two other churches in Grapevine, not in competition with one another, but rather in gospel partnership for the sake of Jesus' kingdom, not our own. So we want to partner well in ministry. And then lastly, excellence in everything. We get this from First Corinthians 10:31, that whatever you do, do it all with all of your heart for the Lord. You see, we don't hold anything back for God because God Himself did not hold anything back from us, but rather gave us His son Jesus. So because God didn't hold anything back from us, why would we ever want to hold back or give him the least of our own life and our own heart? These are the core values that 121, and they essentially help ensure that we are staying true to our mission to lead people to live for Jesus Christ.

Jordan Hill: [00:02:35] Now, we're not the only church or organization that has core values or a mission statement. Many places, if you are part of an organization or maybe you lead an organization, you have a mission statement and you have core values. Again, those core values help ensure that we're not drifting away from our central mission of why we exist. That drifting away is a phenomenon called mission drift, and it can happen with any organization. In fact, a good way to define it would be the way that Peter Greer and Chris Hertz did in their book called Mission Drift, they would define it like this, "That it's a move away from the goals established in an organization's purpose statement. It never happens suddenly, but rather over time, through a series of events, an organization looks completely different from its original intent." I find that really interesting when it comes to Mission Drift. So what he's saying right here is it's not enough to have really clear mission statements, and really clear core values, but rather mission drift happens because of just small events over a period of time, and the next thing you know, you drift completely away, and you now no longer looked like the organization did at its beginning founding.

Jordan Hill: [00:03:55] One of my favorite mission statements actually comes from a university when it was first founded, and it's this, it says, "Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider, well, the end of his life and studies is to know God in Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning and living." That was the original mission statement of Harvard University, but Harvard now boasts the fact that they have outgrown that, and in fact, they are smarter than what they originally intended to be.

Jordan Hill: [00:04:38] But you see, mission drift doesn't just happen in universities and organizations, in fact, in particular, the church itself is prone to mission drift. Dr. Paul Hibbert, he's a missiologist, and he's just a person who studies church history and the kind of the movements of different churches. He points out, looking at the Mennonite denomination, the Mennonites actually were just an offset of denomination from an Anabaptist movement. So he pointed this out, looking at the Mennonites, he himself grew up a Mennonite, and he said one generation of Mennonites believed the Gospel and held as well that there were certain social, economic, and political entailments. Basically saying they believe the Gospel, and also there were some certain things that you did socially, economically, and culturally that made you a Mennonite. The next generation assumed the Gospel but still identified with the Entailments. The third generation denies and in fact, hated the Gospel, and the entailments of what it meant to be a Mennonite became everything. Do you see the drift happening? The third generation ended up hating the Gospel, of which their grandparents so loved and gave their life for. You see, mission drift isn't just for organizations and universities but rather is in particular for churches.

Jordan Hill: [00:06:06] And that's one of the reasons I believe Luke is writing the Book of Acts. See, Acts is a historical narrative of how the small Jesus following believers turned the world upside down and how it spread from just this little, small hub to the ends of the earth. And so it's a historical narrative of how this happened, but with it, there are certain warnings because the church itself experienced different things where at a moment they could have drifted completely away from what they were originally called to do. And so Luke is writing that for the believers today in a sense to say, hey, listen, we can also today drift a little bit from our mission. So we need to take heart, we need to look inward to make sure that we're not doing the same thing.

Jordan Hill: [00:06:52] So what we're going to see today in Acts 15 is some mission drift starting to happen. But thankfully, like, this happened, thankfully because of courageous leadership willing to step in and address the mission drift head-on one of the core foundations of what it means to be a follower of Jesus gets cemented forever, and that's the idea that we are saved by faith alone through grace, alone in Christ alone. It's at this moment in history that the church bands together and forever decide, no, we are only saved by faith alone. And it's incredible to see who God uses, and how he continues to work, even in the midst of dissension and divide. You see, mission drift happens, it just happens very subtly, like it's in these slight little shifting’s that mission drift first occurs. It's not like you're over here and the next thing you know, you're way over here, it's rather just a subtle shift that starts mission drift, and that's what we see here in the text.

Jordan Hill: [00:08:06] So let's go, Acts 15 starting at verse 1, "But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” So men from Judea, otherwise known as Judaizers, they're coming down and they're now preaching a mix of law and grace. So these are actually Jewish believers who have converted from their former ways, but now they've still been very much shaped by the Mosaic Law. And so what they're doing is they're coming in and they're saying, hey, you Gentiles, you are just you're missing one little thing, you have to be circumcised, really, to be a believer. You've kind of got it, but you're just missing this real big key to them. Now, what they're saying is not, like, insane, it really isn't, they're getting their theology from the old Mosaic Covenant. They're most likely getting this from Genesis 8, from Genesis 17, and also Exodus 12 and 18. So it's not like it's out of the bounds of what they're saying, again, it was part of the old Covenant, but it's just a slight shift in their theology. Because again, that's how Mission drift starts, it's just a subtle thing. But that small, subtle shift can lead to massive ramifications, and that's how mission drift starts.

Jordan Hill: [00:09:30] For example, again with ESL. Imagine with ESL, the hope is, I mean Rick said it, that we would create relationships with people by learning and teaching English and fellowshipping together so that people would come to know Jesus and hear the Gospel. But imagine if you come in and you go, Well, okay, I mean, it is English as a second language, we really need to prop up our English teaching. I mean, come on, that's what it's about. And so let's get some English professors in there, we'll get to the Bible, but we got to get the basics down first. Just a subtle shift, but then could build on another, on another, and on another. Because you see what's happening because of this, Gentiles are now having a faith crisis. They are now deeply disturbed at what is going on and they are being completely undone by what they're hearing from these Judaizers.

Jordan Hill: [00:10:26] And now, again, put yourself in their shoes. Like that would undo me if I heard that. Like, imagine yourself, and maybe you've even had this moment before where you just become a believer and you have this mountaintop moment. Right? And then maybe you're in a life group scenario and you say something and it's just a little wrong and people kind of laugh. Have you ever had that happen before? And now you just start kind of feeling guilt and shame and you're wondering, do I even understand, do I even know anything? You kind of start shrinking back a bit. See, the thing with mission drift is when it's spotted, you have to address it head-on.

Jordan Hill: [00:11:14] And that's what we see here with Paul and Barnabas, we cannot ever, when mission drift is occurring, just turn a blind eye and just hope it gets better, we have to address it head-on. And that's what Paul and Barnabas are doing here, because they're seeing a massive wake of destruction that's just starting to build. So Paul and Barnabas meet this mission drift with a direct approach. So verse 2, "And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question." So with any organization and maybe if you lead one, you've taught this or you've heard this before, there's kind of this idea of if what you permit is what you promote, and what you allow is what you encourage. Maybe you've heard that before, you may have been taught that before.

Jordan Hill: [00:12:04] And if you're a parent, you can kind of even understand that a bit. Like, for example, my two-year-old son, Knox, he has this real penchant for saying no to me with a smile. So I'll say, hey, Knox, come here, buddy, it's time to eat. And he'll go, no. That's like what he does, he does this whole thing with it. The problem is that's what happens. People tend to laugh, grandparents laugh. And the next thing you know, it's like, ooh, I got an audience, that's funny. But if you're a parent, you can understand this, like, it's just a little small thing, it's kind of cute, it's kind of funny. But I know this from our parenting classes if I allow that no to happen, that no is going to turn to another no, it's going to turn to another no, and next thing you know, we have some real conflict here. So I've got to come and go, hey, buddy, you can't do that, you need to listen to Daddy here. Matthew 19:19 says, "Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” See, and I know that verse because that's his verse of the month, because we're trying to meet this thing head-on, a direct approach with the Scriptures. See we can't turn a blind eye to mission drift because the stakes are too big, and the ramifications are too much, so we have to meet it head-on with a direct approach.

Jordan Hill: [00:13:36] So again, put yourself in the gentile shoes. Like I have found this to be true, that whenever somebody becomes a believer in Christ, give it a few days. Satan, the accuser loves to come in and just very subtly just go, hey, that wasn't real. Oh, yeah, you still struggle with anger, that was all fake. Yeah, I still see that lustfulness in your heart, you're not really a believer. See that's what's happening to the Gentiles, they're seeing their life change, they're seeing a peace they've never had, they're experiencing the Holy Spirit before in ways they never have because they never had the Holy Spirit, and now all that's getting called into question. This is why Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension with them. I love that language, they met this thing head on and they were saying, no, no, no, no, what you are preaching is not correct, this is wrong, we have to address this. So at some point, it gets decided that we're going to take this up a notch, and we're going to take this to Jerusalem and to the apostles and to some elders of the church to finally nail this question once and for all. Do these Gentiles have to be circumcised and then converted into the ways of the mosaic laws?

Jordan Hill: [00:15:08] Now, I love this because we see this little side note that while they were going up there, Paul and Barnabas, they travel through Phoenicia, and we also see them going up through different cities. And it says while they were there, they were encouraging the Gentiles and they're talking and proclaiming all the works that they've seen God done. Which I just think is a cool side note, because, in the middle of dissension and divide, God's mission still goes forth. His Gospel is still getting proclaimed and he doesn't need us, he just allows us to get in on what he's doing. I just think that's a really cool side note.

Jordan Hill: [00:15:46] So they are going to Jerusalem, and they're welcomed by the church. And now this is the fourth crisis in the history of the church. The first one is the selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira in chapter 5. The second one is the murmuring about the treatment of the Hellenistic widows in chapter 6. The third one is in chapter 8 with Simon the Magician. And now we're at this massive doctrinal controversy. Because now here, the apostles and the elders are going to fully settle in, what does it mean, and what does it take to actually be saved?

Jordan Hill: [00:15:54] Now we see then the apostles are gathered together to consider this matter. Now, what's interesting is the decision on whether Gentiles could become believers that had already been settled, that had been completely settled. Eric mentioned this a few weeks ago, that God's plan from the beginning, you see this all throughout themes in the Old Testament, is that his heart is for the nations. That the nations would come to him, not just the people outside of just the small Jewish community, but the nations would come to him. You see this in Genesis 22, 26, 28, Isaiah 49, Isaiah 55, Zephaniah 3, and in Zechariah 8, that's just a few to mention. Jesus himself, as he says that he would be lifted up in John 12:32, that he would be lifted up from the earth and he will draw all people to himself. Peter, who's at this council, he himself, one of the main things that he preached at Pentecost was that the Gentiles would come to know him, would come to know Jesus. He also had the experience in Chapter 10 with Cornelius at his house. So the issue of could Gentiles be saved, that had been settled.

Jordan Hill: [00:17:45] But now let's look here at really what is the issue, the issue is in verse 5, "But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” Now, note this, Luke says that these are some believers who belong to the party of the Pharisees, so these are converted Pharisees. So I don't believe these are people who have an evil intent in their heart, their theology is just a little off because of how they grew up, they're just mixing it up a little bit with this law and grace. However, the mission drift is occurring, and it has to get addressed because, again, this slight little shifting on what it actually means to be saved is leading to massive ramifications for the elders and the apostles, they're about to settle this.

Jordan Hill: [00:18:43] So we are now at a crossroads for the church. We have the Jewish believers here kind of putting a lot of pressure on gentile believers. Gentile believers are now having a real faith issue controversy going on, am I really saved? I don't know. The church can go one way or another, mission drift is occurring. And there's even some pushback because, again, these are two believers, it's not like these are believers and nonbelievers. See mission drift when it's being met, often there will be pushback. And it's in this moment, when mission drift is met with a direct approach that courageous leadership has to stand up to set course where we are going and how we will stay on mission together. You see, one of the biggest reasons mission drift never gets actually corrected is because of a fear of man. A fear of really offending anyone, especially offending another brother or sister in Christ. See it's going to take some real courageous leadership now to step up in this massively critical, important piece of the church's history, and we see it's Peter who's the first one to stand up.

Jordan Hill: [00:20:03] So Peter, in verse 7, "And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” So we get this impression that Peter's just kind of chilling sitting back and he's listening to all the conversation going on, and there's a lot of dissension. I kind of have this picture of, I don't know if you've ever been bored, and you've ever watched like the England House of Lords and how they talk with each other when they're doing their governmental work. They're like yelling at each other constantly and they're calling each other all these different names, it's very funny to watch. Our politicians just kind of say to each other through social media and kind of behind each other's backs, they're just yelling it to each other, so that's just the kind of picture that I get. And we see Peter, Peter waits, and he just listens to everybody make their case. This is a real growth moment in Peter's leadership, Peter was the guy if you're familiar with him, he's the guy, he always speaks first, he doesn't ever really think about it, he just jumps right in, and usually, he ends up putting his foot in his mouth, but he just waits. It's a real Proverbs 18:13 moment that says, "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Because again, these are two sets of believers, they are supposed to be United Brothers in Christ. So he just sits back, and he listens.

Jordan Hill: [00:22:02] Now it's in this moment that Peter could either shrink back for fear of how he will come across, because we actually know this, that ten years earlier in Acts 10, and a little bit in Acts 11 verses 2 and 3, Peter had a run in with this kind of Judaizers sect of believers. And then also, we know this too, that Peter at one point kind of cozied up a little bit really close with the Jewish sect of believers. Paul then ends up, he talks about it in Galatians, Paul then at one point opposed Peter to his face for how he kind of preferences them. They also would not have forgotten the fact that Peter very publicly denied Jesus three times. You got to think, Peter, at some point in the back of his head is going to go, what are they going to think of me when I stand up and correct them? Are they going to be like, yeah, right, Peter, you're the guy that's about to say something to us? You see mission drift again often never gets checked because of a fear of man, and it's at this point some courageous leadership with our eyes fixed on Jesus, caring more about him and his mission than what anyone else thinks has to step up.

Jordan Hill: [00:23:27] There's a great book by Ed Welch called When People Are Big and God Is Small. So if you struggle with fear of man, or really wanting to be liked maybe too much by people, this is a great book. I've read this book because I need this more and more in my life. Ed Welch talks about the fear of man is when we are more concerned about looking stupid than we are about acting sinfully towards God. Because, again, there's now about to be some conflict here, and Peter's going to have to call out these Jewish believers for being wrong. But thankfully, he shows some courageous leadership, and he steps up and he tells them, guys, let's look back on the Scriptures. Do you remember how it was actually God that declared that it was going to be through me, that Gentiles were to be saved? He very calmly and humbly took them back to the promises of Jesus, the promises of the Scriptures, and said, no, no, no, we know this to be true, and what you're doing is wrong, and he steps up and he starts to correct the drift.

Jordan Hill: [00:24:41] I love this, in verse 9 he says, "And he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Peter, right here in this moment, is forever solidifying the doctrine of sola fide that we are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone.

Jordan Hill: [00:25:16] He steps up and he's saying, what are you doing? What are you doing? I love how he uses yoke because he uses yoke to reference back to Jesus when he's saying you're putting a yoke on them, a yoke of works on them that our forefathers who we love so much, they couldn't even do it, you can't even do it, why do you want these people to do it? Why are you putting this burden on them? And he's saying, do you not remember that it was our savior that actually said, hey, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." That's what Peter's referencing back to here, he's saying, why are you trying to put this yoke of burden on them? And in this moment, he is solidifying forever for them and for us today that we are saved by grace alone, hear me through faith alone not of works, not of anything of our own accord, but by simply by faith alone. Because Jesus on the cross forever solidified everything that you and I could ever need to be in right relationship with God, the Father, and all he asks of us is to just believe, that's the light yoke just believe He took on all the burden. He took on all that we could ever possibly try to do to get right with God, and we couldn't do it, and it is by grace that we are saved through faith, not by works, Ephesians 2:8.

Jordan Hill: [00:26:48] So hear me, in fact, look right at me. Are you feeling burdened today? Like maybe you've been trying your best. Like, maybe you're just like, I'm trying to be a good mom, or I'm trying to be a good dad, I'm trying to be a good husband, I'm trying to be a good example, I'm trying to get up and read, and I'm just trying to do all these things, and it just seems like I can't ever get it right. Oh, I so feel that, most of my life I still struggle with it sometimes. Like, I just want to be perfect. And just as much as I tried to do it, I could never do it, I could never measure up, as hard as I tried, as many things that I listened to, as hard as I studied, I just could never be perfect, and it was exhausting. Here in this moment is forever solidified the fact that we don't have to do that, our yoke is easy because of Christ, he took all that burden on. So are you feeling burdened today? Cast that off of you, Christ is paid for that. And I love this too, and it doesn't even matter who you are or where you're from. The phrase is so fascinating to me that he actually says in this statement that we are saved just as they will be, that's amazing to me. See, a Jew under the law would say, no, those heathens will be saved, just by becoming like me. Peter flips it on him, and he says, no, no, no, no, you're going to be saved, just like those heathens are, by grace through faith.

Jordan Hill: [00:28:27] See, to quote the late Tim Keller, who passed away here recently, in his book The Meaning of Marriage. He said, "The Gospel is this, we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe. Yet at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope." See, it doesn't matter where you come from, it doesn't matter what your job is, it doesn't matter who your parents are, it doesn't matter how good, how smart, how successful, all those things, none of that matters, you and I can never measure up, we are saved solely by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8., "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." You woke up today not having to earn your salvation, but rather to new mercies. So if you're feeling burdened today, rest, Christ has paid for that.

Jordan Hill: [00:29:37] Now, what's interesting is whenever mission drift is then directly met with an approach, and it's met by courageous leadership, there's a massive impact that tends to happen. We see it in the text, verse 12, "And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me." So James is leading this council and he stands up after everything gets real quiet and they listen to Paul and Barnabas talk about all the things that they've been seeing God do through the Gentiles, and he says, "Brothers, listen to me." Now, what he's about to do is he's about to basically affirm everything that Peter said through the Old Testament. And what he does is he quotes Amos 9:11-12, and it's kind of this messianic prophecy. And what's very interesting about this, when he quotes it, he doesn't quote from the Hebrew Masoretic text, basically the Hebrew text. He quotes from the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is what the Gentiles would have been reading. So he quotes from the Septuagint and what he quotes here, it's very fascinating, there's a lot of really good, rich discussions about it, especially in terms of the millennial reign of Christ there. There are also fascinating discussions on why did James particularly quote this one? There are several different disagreements among commentators. Those are great discussions, dive into them, and talk about them in your life groups, that's for a totally different sermon from today. But what is abundantly clear when you look at this portion of the text is that James is affirming Peter by quoting this passage to show the legalistic Jews that God had always promised a place for the Gentiles and that they would come in by just their desire to seek him, as God called them, this was God's plan all along. So he's affirming Peter, and he's stepping up really courageously, and again, he is forever solidifying the doctrine of sola fide that we are saved by faith alone here, stamp it.

Jordan Hill: [00:32:11] Now when mission drift occurs and then it's met with a direct approach by some courageous leadership, there's something amazing that happens from it, it's like the whole organization then becomes stronger because it's like you go through this moment, like, they just went through a battle here. And it's kind of like when you work, it's like if you work out, like, you go through some struggle, but then your muscles get actually stronger. So what happens in this is there's a little bit of a drift now, everybody actually gets more unified back on the same page, and then the Gospel and the church go out stronger and better than ever. That's what we're about to see today, we're about to see a more unified mission come out of this council.

Jordan Hill: [00:32:52] So James now leads the discussion into more practical, life-on-life sort of discussions between Jewish believers and Gentile believers, and now he's about to talk to them about let's abstain from things that could potentially cause friction in our fellowship with one another. So he says in verse 19, "Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God." So he's saying, okay, Jewish believers, stop troubling the Gentiles, quit trying to make them like you, don't do that. But instead, he's then also going to say, hey, Gentile believers abstain from four things that would potentially also trouble the Jewish believers. So he says in verse 20, "But should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” So he quotes and he tells them to abstain from four different things.

Jordan Hill: [00:34:00] Now what's interesting is all four of these different things are related to ceremonial laws that are laid out in Leviticus 17 and 18, three of them are particularly concerned with dietary matters that would potentially inhibit Jewish and Gentile fellowship with one another. Now, if you want to learn more about why those were given in the Old Covenant, come to our summer Bible study where we're in Deuteronomy, so that's where you can learn a lot more as to why God actually gave them this. But I find these really interesting, like, I don't know about you, but like I kind of read this and I'm like, well, yeah, like, no duh. Like, of course, they're supposed to abstain from sexual immorality, and like, why would they eat things that are of blood and strangled? That doesn't make sense to me. What he's doing here is he's saying, hey, just like the Judaizers had some things that were ingrained in them from their mosaic laws and their times growing up, you Gentiles also have that as well. So he says here, abstain from sexual immorality, he doesn't say abstain from sexual fornication. There's a difference there because in a gentile culture, there were no boundaries for sexual fornication, and there was no sexual immorality. So it was very common for Gentiles to have multiple partners, it was very common for Gentiles to just have extramarital affairs, it was a very commonplace thing. And so now if that has been your whole life and you then become a believer, those habits, that just doesn't go away overnight. And so he's saying, okay, now abstain from this sexual immorality.

Jordan Hill: [00:35:44] And then he also mentions these dietary things, so these would be things, because if you remember in Acts 2, it was a regular occurrence for the church to gather together for meals. So what he's saying here is this could potentially cause some friction while you all are fellowshipping together and eating a meal together. So he's talking about blood and strangulation in terms of dietary stuff, because one of the things that would happen is Gentiles would often take their best meat and they would sacrifice it to their pagan god. Their pagan God would spiritually eat it, and then what the Gentiles would then do is they would go take that meat and they would sell it at a meat market. Well, if you run a business, you know, it's oftentimes a good place to look for opportunity, so meat markets would be where the meat was. So the meat market would always just set itself up right outside the pagan temples. So now, you're a gentile believer, you've grown up eating meat, you've grown up eating a good steak, you're not just going to stop eating steak. And now you know. oh, okay. I know where the good steak is, it's where the pagan temple is. Well, it's not real what they're doing, sacrificing their meat to this pagan idol. But that's where the best meat is, let's just go get the good meat and just eat it. Well, that would have been very unnerving to a Jewish believer who had grown up their whole life with very strict dietary restrictions, and that would have caused a lot of friction. So to the Gentile, there's no big deal, it's like it's good meat, let's just chow down. To a Jew, they're sitting across the table going, whoa! I mean, that's just a lot for me to digest, no pun intended. So what he's saying here is, hey, you want to see if you're really staying true to the mission of God, one of the best markers to see if we're really meeting the mission of Jesus Christ is how are we laying aside our preferences for one another?

Jordan Hill: [00:37:52] This is why Paul, in First Corinthians 8:13, says that "If food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." See one of the real signposts, if we are following Jesus with Jesus' mission, if we truly understand that I am just simply saved by the gift and grace of God, not because of who I am, I'm willing to lay aside my preferences for one another, I'm willing to lay aside my preferences for my brother or my sister. So what James is doing here, he's saying, I know it's not a big deal to you, Gentiles, it really makes these Jewish believers uneasy. Will you lay that aside for their sake so that you can be more unified together? Because a unified church, I fully believe this, is the most powerful force in the universe. When the church is unified together on a mission together, it pushes all sorts of darkness out into the world.

Jordan Hill: [00:38:55] Jesus himself, in John 17:21, prayed that we would actually be one just as Jesus and God the Father are one. He prayed for our unity so that the world would believe. Jesus says here, "The world will believe in me because of how unified you are.", that's incredible, and that means it's important. The Bible actually references to unity, and has verses pertaining to unity, over 179 different times, unity matters. And when the church is unified on mission together, the Gospel explodes, and we see this happening here.

Jordan Hill: [00:39:44] So what happens then is they settle the issue. They then now send off Paul, they send off Barnabas, they also send with them a guy named Judas called Barsabbas, it's not that Judas, and Silas, and these were two powerful leaders in the church body. And they tell them, go back, and read to them this letter that we have written that we have solidified the idea that you are saved by faith alone, and then to also do these things. Look with me, look what happens, "So when they were sent off..." In verse 30, "...they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement." So picture it, they come back to gather all the Gentile believers together, and what was a crisis of faith moment turns into a worship experience.

Jordan Hill: [00:40:43] Okay, this is one of my prayers for our gatherings here on Sundays is that anybody who would step through the doors at 121, if you're experiencing a crisis of faith or if you're just feeling so burdened by the world, so burdened by not ever measuring up, that you would hear the word and be encouraged today so that a crisis of faith turns into a worship experience. Then we see that Judas, Barsabbas, Paul, Barnabas, and Silas, they stay there for more time, and they're encouraging the believers there, and they're. Strengthening the churches and more disciples are being made, the Gospel goes out stronger and better than ever because some courageous leadership stepped up and they corrected a potential mission drift that was happening, and a more unified church is now left standing in Antioch, and it's starting to just send out more and more missionaries from there. It's a beautiful picture of it in Psalms 133:1 where it says, "Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity." Again, a unified church is the most powerful thing in existence.

Jordan Hill: [00:41:59] But now, what about when we just disagree on some things that maybe they're not the big issues, but they're more secondary issues? We even talked about that with our Lenses series, that it should be okay for us if we can come to the text and we agree on some things, but maybe there are just some secondhand issues that we disagree on. Like how do we stay unified there? What does it look like to disagree yet be unified together on mission? Well, Luke gives us this really interesting, I mean, he recalls an interesting story of what happens between Paul and Barnabas. So we see here Paul is so encouraged by what is happening in Antioch that he's like, all right, now let's keep this momentum going, and let's go to every city that we've ever preached the Gospel and encourage every believer who's ever been there. I kind of love that as a guy who gets really kind of going, I'm like, oh, this is great, let's just go do more. It's kind of like what Paul's doing right there. And Barnabas is just like, all right, I'm in, let's bring this guy who John called Mark. And Paul is like, we are not bringing him, that guy deserted us. You see, at one point in Acts 13, John called Mark, he actually left when things were getting hard, he deserted Paul and Barnabas. So Barnabas saying, let's give him another chance. And he's saying there's no chance we're giving him another chance. And it ends up leading, they have a big disagreement, that leads to a division, and they then separate.

Jordan Hill: [00:43:29] Now, I do think that disagreement and that division is sometimes overstated by some commentaries and some people, because we see here that they're both sent off, they're both sent off with blessings from the apostles and the elders. If they were disagreeing and they left in a really sinful manner, the apostles would not have blessed them going out; they would have told them, no, you need to fix that. However, what I think we're seeing here is just a personality clash. Barnabas is this constant, just cheerleading guy that he's like, no, come on, we're going to give him another chance. Paul is very righteous and very serious, is like, no, that guy is a coward, he's not going with us. They are still unified on a mission for God, but a big difference that leads to a divide.

Jordan Hill: [00:44:23] Now, I will note Paul later on would actually write with really respectful admiration for both Barnabas and for John called Mark, we see that in a couple of other texts in the New Testament. But what I think we get from here is this again, just like earlier in the middle of divide and dissension, God's mission is not stopped, and from there, the Gospel spreads even more. And in fact, now we're getting the precursor to Paul going into Europe and spreading the Gospel in Europe, that's what we're about to now see in kind of the second half of Acts. So again, God doesn't need us for his mission, he just invites us in on what he's doing.

Jordan Hill: [00:45:10] So we started with talking about this idea of how do we address mission drift when it occurs, when it's already kind of going on, But is there a way to just like, stop it, or is it just inevitable, like is just always going to happen? Well, I think we see a church in Revelation 2 that experienced some real significant mission drift happen. So John pens a letter to the church in Ephesus in Revelation, chapter two, and as he's quoting this prophecy from Jesus, this word from Jesus. He's saying to the church in Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary." Now, just hearing that list right there, it sounds like they're nailing it, they're spotting false doctrine, they're enduring persecution, they're continuing to gather together, it sounds like they're nailing it. But some significant mission drift happened while they were doing all these good things, the text says, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first." See they were doing all these good things, but they drifted away from what they did at the very beginning, and that was just a simple and passionate love of Jesus, and now they are so far removed from however they first started.

Jordan Hill: [00:47:13] See, here's the thing, one of the things I love about 121, one of the things I'm so proud of here is that we have a lot of people here who have been at 121 a long time. Rick even mentioned that he and Gail have been here since 2009. We've had some people even move and then come back, and some people leave and come back. And one of the things I love and I'm very proud of being a part of this church is that there's a similar phrase that we hear a lot that's like man, I love, yeah, it's a little different, you the building is bigger, there are a lot more people, but it's still the same, like, it's still 121. I love hearing that.

Jordan Hill: [00:47:46] But I think here this is a warning for all churches, including ours, that we can nail all our core values, but if we lose our love for Jesus, if we drift away from just that personal, passionate love of Jesus, we can do a bunch of things right, but miss the mark on the mission that God has called us to be. So hear me, we will never be able to lead people to live for Jesus Christ if we ourselves first are not loving him. We will never lead people to live for Jesus Christ if we do not love Jesus. So how do you keep mission drift from ever happening? By daily abiding with him and fixing your eyes on Jesus and loving him with all of your heart, your mind, and your soul. And then from there, loving your neighbor as yourself. Just love Jesus, stay fixed on him, and he will then ensure that you do not drift off. And maybe you're here today, and maybe you have drifted a bit, like, maybe you started off going really well, but then maybe you just got tired, just too many things going on, and you just kind of put it in neutral mode. Well, the text says here, hey, just repent, come back, fix your eyes on Jesus and your sins will be forgiven. Because we see here, it has already been solidified, you are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone.

Jordan Hill: [00:49:27] Would you pray with me? Father God, thank you so much for this day. And Lord, I thank you for all the gifts that you have given us, and I thank you for this place, and I thank you for your word. I thank you, God, that you have saved us just simply by your work on the cross. Father, forgive us if we have had moments in our lives that we've drifted away, that maybe we've lost sight a bit of what you've called us to do. Would you help correct our path? And Lord, may today be a day that if there's some drifting going on in our hearts, that you'd course correct us and lead us to love you more and more? Let's just spend a couple of minutes with the Lord and just sit, just sit with whatever he's trying to speak to us today.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051