“Misfit Community: Religiously Diverse”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our new series “Misfit Community.”

We live in a pluralistic society. Some of us come from a Catholic, Baptist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, New Age, or irreligious background. Some of us have tried all of those experiences or made up our own. Discover the differences and similarities between these world-views and God’s heart for all who have struggled with religion. God wants us to know His true character rather than think He can be represented in idols or even man-made ideas. Instead, He creates the opportunity for us to experience a genuine relationship with Him.

Discussion Questions:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Religiously Diverse Community Next Steps

Gateway Online Inspire Service:

Message Notes from John Burke:

We live in a global city, people from all over the world are living and working here in Austin. My street has more Indians, Middle Easterners, Asians, Latin Americans than Caucasian North Americans. Some see it as a threat, but if you know the heart of God, you’ll see that it’s an incredible opportunity. God’s desire has always been to build a community, a family of people, from all the nations.

In Genesis 12, 2000 BC before any world religion was formed God creates the Jewish people for this reason: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3.

And ultimately, that blessing would come through the Messiah, who God said through Isaiah the Prophet, would not only “…restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel [Jewish people] I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles [non-Jewish religions], that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

Then Jesus comes, dies, and the risen Jesus appears to his followers and tells them this:

Jesus said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day; 47 and that this message of salvation should be taken from Jerusalem to all the nations: There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me. Luke 24:46-47

The very first church was made up of people from all nations. 

And at Gateway we have over 65 nations represented, and God is asking us all “Do you see what I’m doing?  Will you cooperate with me to offer hope to all people from around the world—coming to live and work with you?”

But bringing people from all nations together often means starting from very diverse religious backgrounds. 

Which may seem like a misfit community—after all what do muslims, jews, buddhist, hindus, Christians and atheists all have in common? 

We had a chance to talk with a group of people, from Gateway’s various campuses, that grew up in all those religious backgrounds.

We’re going to hear several longer interviews today that will be very insightful for you to understand how to build the community God desires.

When we hear the stories of people in our church family, we notice some common themes. People from every religion tend to share a couple of things. First, all those people said in the longer interview (this is edited from 2 hours), that early on they had a sense there must be more—must be a God or something bigger.

There’s an intrinsic knowledge Romans 1 says:

Through everything God made, [people] can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20. 

But who God is, what God is like, gets confusing among the world’s religions. 

And as you heard, the major world’s religions do share a basic common morality—or Moral Law. When people say, “Aren’t all religions basically saying the same thing” in this aspect it’s true.

The Bible actually affirms this truth: “Even when Gentiles [other religions], who do not have God’s written law, instinctively follow what the law says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong. They demonstrate that God’s law is written within them.”  Romans 2:14-15 

In most all of the major World Religions, we see evidence of this similar Moral Law that God has written in our hearts. C.S. Lewis lays out what these common moral laws found in all World Religions in his book, The Abolition of Man.

So in every culture and Major World Religion we’ve known The Moral Law, basic right and wrong.  But how well have we kept the moral law? The history of humanity indicates we don’t honor parents, we fail to be kind to siblings or the elderly, we’re sexually unfaithful, dishonest, untruthful, greedy, and self-consumed with our own will and ways. 

So what do the World’s Religions teach all of us? 

We all fail. 

We have a real serious problem humanly speaking—Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists–you have a problem, I have a problem, and it’s affecting all of us.  We all desperately need God’s help. As you just heard, every religion tends to lead us to a sense of “falling short.” Questioning our own ability to be righteous in our own efforts. That’s intentional.

Paul says of the Jewish Law: 

Therefore the Law has become our guardian to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24.

The word Guardian is Paidagogos—paidea is a child, so this means child teacher or tutor.  The Law—whether the Mosaic Law, or the Moral Law in the World’s Religions—is meant to be a tutor to lead us to Christ.  To show us that something’s wrong–and God is what’s missing, and where we all fall short, God is willing to forgive and meet us and help us. 

All any Religion can do is show us our need for a Savior.  When we realize that, and humbly turn to God, really seeking, truly wanting to know Him as God—God meets us in very personal ways. 

Powerful—it is incredible to hear those stories like Kieu said–you see God’s Grace and Mercy..

My story was like Kieu’s, not some mystical encounter, but a slow logical understanding that came to a point of decision—will I let Jesus be God of my life?

God knows what we need individually, but God is the God of all people. He wants all people to know of his great love for them, and how they can be set free from all the burdens, shame, fear of failure, from our bad Karma, sins, inability to achieve peace or enlightenment on our own–and when they come to understand and accept Jesus’ payment for all their wrongs—they can confidently live as loved children of God with no fear. Jesus came to set us free to be fully alive, fully ourselves, fully loved children of God, from all nations and all backgrounds.

God is bringing the nations to Austin.  Do you see them?  Will you cooperate with God to let the nations know His heart for them?  How can we do that? Here are a few Principles for building a Misfit Community of different religious backgrounds.  First…

Realize God is at Work. Paul, who Jaya mentioned went from persecuting Christians to following Jesus, goes to Lystra, where they worshipped all the Greek gods. But look what he says:

In the past, [God] let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Acts 14:16-17.

Paul understood that God is always at work behind the scenes in people’s lives, giving good things, he’s the source of their joy. So don’t act like God will have nothing to do with non-Christians until they believe—that’s not the truth. Point out where God is working. That can encourage them to seek God.

And realize that even with all our differences, we’re all the same.  We all deep down have a longing for God. Like Buddhism has no God yet Kieu had that intuitive understanding from early on that God must be good. Assume people want to know more about God, it’s true, even if they’ve built defenses you first encounter.

Ask Questions and Listen for Truth. 

You can’t assume—Jaya was Hindu, but more Jewish for a while.

Kieu was Buddhist, but knew there was a God.

You have to ask questions and listen.

Paul goes to Athens and studies the culture:

“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious, 23 for as I was out walking I saw your many altars, and one of them had this inscription on it—‘To the Unknown God.’ You have been worshiping him without knowing who he is, and now I wish to tell you about him. Acts 17:22-23

Paul is a student of culture.  He doesn’t agree with idol worship, yet he finds a bridge to the truth about God. “Let me tell you what I know about this unknown God who created us all.” And he validates where he can “I see you’re very religious.” He’s validating their desire to know about God, even though he knows it’s misdirected to the worship of Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollos who are not gods at all. Paul even quotes Epimenides, their prophet, where he speaks truth that aligns with truth from the Bible.

My hindu neighbor said to me, “we all believe in the same God.” 

Maybe there’s some truth there—I have to listen and ask questions to find out more of the characteristics of the God she believes in to know. 

We don’t need to make it “I’m right and you’re wrong”—but let’s seek truth about the God who created us all and loves us all.” And that allows you…

Tell People God Loves Them and Jesus Proved It

Most people run from God because they don’t understand how much God loves them and is for them—you can show them and tell them and invite them to come learn with us, at church, or just reading together. You’d be amazed at how many people have come to faith in Jesus here at Gateway from all those backgrounds you just heard. So don’t be afraid to tell people how much God loves them, and in time, help them see that Jesus was the proof of God’s love. [5:12]

Today we’re celebrating Baptism

The last thing Jesus said was “Go help people follow me from all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  God tells us all He needs is our simple act of faith, saying “I do” “I do want what Jesus did on the cross to count for me—I want your forgiveness, your love, your leadership.”  That’s all it takes to be made right with God. 

So why Baptism? 

  • I used to think it was just a silly church ritual—which I wasn’t into—but then I was reading Jesus’ words and realized Jesus asks us to be baptized as a “going public” with our love for Him. 
  • It’s like saying “Jesus hung on a bloody cross out of love for me.” 
  • I want to publicly proclaim my love and faith in Him. 
  • When you go down into the water, you’re saying “Jesus died and was buried for me—it should have been me.”
  • When you come out of the water, you’re saying “Just as Jesus overcame death and rose again, I am raised to New Life, clean forever before God.” 
  • And Jesus said All the Angels of heaven celebrate. 
  • I think God says to the Angels of heaven—Look, My Love wins again! 

Even if you did not come prepared, people get baptized in their clothes at Gateway all the time. 

We have towels we will let you take home.

If God is drawing you to go public, decide during this song–go out to the Courtyard after let us celebrate with you.

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