Spiritual Refugees

We continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin called “Refugee.”

Discuss ways to apply the message here:

Next Steps – discussion questions for your life group or family dinner.

Listen to my message from Gateway South here:

Here are notes from the message from John Burke:

Come As You Are—the value of grace-giving acceptance. Why do we say that at Gateway?

Because it’s what Jesus lived out continually during his 3.5 year ministry. He told a parable saying the Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who prepared a party for his son’s wedding, but those first invited were too busy or unresponsive, so the King said to his servants:

“‘Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.”
– Matthew 22:9-10

God’s party is an open invitation to all who will come—good and bad alike—and God makes them ready for eternity with Him. Our job is not to determine who is worthy, our job is to invite everyone.  That’s Grace—God’s Unconditional Love and Favor and Good Will offered with no strings attached.  Come as You Are.

That’s really what Christmas was all about. God’s Favor/Grace, Good will shown to all humanity. Luke tells us that first Christmas night:

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:8-11

Christmas was God’s good news for all people, of all nations everywhere, as God reminded us with the wise men coming from Persia or India to worship this King of Kings foretold in the stars—and this was news that would bring great joy to all who heard and truly understood it.

We’ve been exploring the connection between Christmas and refugees because it’s a refugee story through and through. As we looked at last week, Jesus was a literal refugee—Evil King Herod heard from the wise men this King of Kings had been born 2 years earlier, so he ordered every male child 2 and under to be killed—Jesus’ family fled to Egypt where they lived as refugees for 1-2 years until Herod died.

Christmas is also a refugee story because God foretold through prophets (for 1500 years) the day the One True God would enter our world in a form we could relate to–to rescue it—to save us from evil. God created every human in His image, to be His children, His family for eternity…evil made it necessary for Jesus to be displaced from His rightful home, entering earth’s poverty and suffering To bring many Spiritual Refugees safely home to God where we belong!

As we said, you and I and every human—we too are Spiritual Refugees.  Due to the evils of this world, we all turn from God, we run from our rightful home, we are the prodigal sons and daughters, and that’s why Jesus was born to suffer for us:

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. – 1 Peter 3:18

Christmas was Good News for all spiritual refugees who have run from God or gone our own way. God was entering our world to rescue us from evil and bring all willing humans safely home.

That was the Church is meant to be—a spiritual home for refugees of all types.

Church is not meant to be a member’s-only country club—Club Jesus—unfortunately, that’s what churches can easily become.

Which is why at Gateway, we define terms so everyone can know what we mean—God never meant us to be a secret, exclusive Club Jesus, Christmas was Good News for all people.

Church was meant to be a safe refuge—a safe harbor for spiritual refugees to finally find a spiritual home in the midst of the storms of life – a safe place to assess our hurts and begin to heal.

There are lots of times in life when we need a safe place:

  • When we feel beaten down from the pace of life.
  • When we feel we can’t live up to people’s expectations of us.
  • When we’ve made terrible mistakes and have no place to turn.
  • When we feel chained to an addiction, or stuck in sinful patterns that hurt us and harmed others.
  • When we feel emotionally damaged, alone, purposeless, or unlovable.
  • When we’ve lost all that really matters to us, we need a safe place.

All of us hit times like these, but where in the world do you turn? Too many times, we have looked for a safe place, only to find more pain and disappointment: in family, in friends, in bars and nightclubs, even in churches.  But God wants to provide us with this safe refuge.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1 

It was the very reason Jesus came that first Christmas. The Angels proclaimed “Peace on earth, God’s good will and favor toward people everywhere.” Peace doesn’t come to earth, not really, not until the Peace of God becomes our safe refuge. So God is going out to rescue Spiritual Refugees—to bring them safely home to God. He wants his church to be that place that says, “Come as you are” and find love, acceptance, warmth, spiritual food and shelter from a broken, evil world. Many people are just an invitation away because God has been out on a rescue effort behind the scenes.

God’s seeking after Spiritual Refugees, trying to rescue them from a life of wandering with no spiritual home—trying to lead him back home to Himself. Many people are one invitation away from coming and seeking Him because He’s already at work behind the scenes—drawing people back to himself.

And see, as a church, we’re here to help you extend Grace and a Come As You Are invitation to your neighbors and coworkers and friends—because that’s what Jesus did.

In order to be a church that is safe refuge for people, we must become a place full of safe people.

And this is the challenge of Church. To those who believed in him, Jesus said:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.   In the same way, let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  – Matthew 5:13-16

If you catch what He’s saying here, and you read more about His life and mission, you start to realize that Jesus bet the farm on what seems like a very risky plan.  And here it is:  People!

He wanted the people who chose to follow him–His church–to show the world what God is like as we allow God’s will and God’s love to shine through us in a very dark world.  But that’s a risky plan—because if you know people, we’re all imperfect.  We all tend to revert to our will and ways instead of God’s will and ways.

You are His rescue plan for a world of hurting, wandering, beaten up, abused, dismayed, spiritual refugees.

If you are a Christ-follower, have you ever considered that the way you live your life can either be the best, or the worst message about what God’s like?

Some of you are here, and you aren’t sure about God, or God’s Son coming to earth as a baby, or growing up to die on a cross. Many people who have real doubts have those doubts not because they have read the Scriptures and searched for God with an open mind and came away disappointed. No, instead, they never get start the search because they have been put off by Christians who don’t live out what they say they believe or who are so judgmental. Some reject Jesus from observing “Club Jesus” Christians.

“That’s why we say Live Connected and Be transformed. Christmas was Good News for all people, because God was making it clear—he was rescuing spiritual refugees, all who would come, not to be orphans, but children—a family. A New Family with God as our spiritual parent, and brothers and sisters learning to love others in a new way.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters…. – Hebrews 2:10-11 

This is Good News for all people—Jesus came to draw us into God’s new family—and to become a Safe Refuge, where we grow and learn to live as a new Family that’s what we’re doing as we Serve together in Networks and Grow Together in Life groups —then go back out to love and serve other Spiritual Refugees like we were—we say “Change Your World.”

I want to challenge you to go out and love, serve, and invite people to explore the true meaning of Christmas. That’s also why we’re challenging each other to do something about rescuing foreign refugees. This End of Year challenge to give above and beyond to provide safe places for refugees from other countries.

So here’s what we’re doing: everything given to Gateway is about creating a “Come As You Are” place, where people find safe refuge, helping us “Live Connected” to serve others, connecting us in life groups to “Be Transformed,” so we will mobilize out to Change Your World.

Everything we give supports that all year long, but here at year end—we’re asking you to go above what you normally give, and everything above our budget in December will go to meet this refugee crisis by empowering local churches in Jordan and Lebanon to meet the needs of refugee children. Locally we want to help the Hope Medical Clinic and United Christian Athletes after school sports and mentoring for refugee kids and families here in Austin.

For more info or to get involved in giving or serving, go to the following:

www.gatewaychurch.com/refugees

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