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Life Without Walls

• Seth McCoy

In this, the third message in our Flesh and Blood series, we focus on Jacob’s story in Genesis. His story is a great illustration of how we build walls inside ourselves, and it brings to light who we are really protecting ourselves from.

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The story of Jacob in Genesis is a perfect example of how we build walls to protect ourselves from others and the world. When Jacob was young, his older brother Esau was his dad’s favorite and got all the blessings. This hurt Jacob, and that wound never fully left him. From then on he adopted a mentality that said “if I can’t get my needs met by my family, I will take care of myself.” So he went through life having to rely on his own wits to get his needs met. He became a masterful deceiver, in fact this is what his name Jacob means — literally it means one who grabs and will not let go of one’s leg– the phrase “pulling my leg” to mean fooling someone comes from this story. He was a deceiver. In a sense he “stole” every blessing he had in his life.

His older brother Esau wanted to kill him because of this (and all his past deceptions). Eventually Jacob had to run away because his family was so dysfunctional. The irony though is that his grandfather was Abraham– His whole family supposed to be blessed! (But more in that later)

When he was 100 years old, God called him to go back to his homeland and face his brother. He was scared, because his brother has wanted to kill him all these years and was bringing a small army of 400 men with him. So the night before, he sent his wife and children away and stayed by himself. A man appeared at night, who he thinks is Esau. They wrestled all night (Jacob is nothing if not perseverant). But by the time morning came, he realized to his shock that it hadn’t been his brother that he had been fighting — it was God he had been fighting.

The first wall that has to come down — our first fight — is between us and God.

To end the fight the previous night, God wounded Jacob’s hip so that he now had a limp. This gave him vulnerability, which was what he most needed after a whole life of “scrapping” with strength and deceiving for all that he had. This allowed Jacob to confront his brother not with strength but with vulnerability, which Esau reacted to by forgiving him.

After the night’s fight, God changed Jacob’s name to mean one who struggles and clings, but not to one’s leg– to God. Israel was Jacob’s new name. He learned not to struggle against others, but to wrestle with and cling to God.

In Matthew 18:15-22 … Jesus teaches that if a brother sins against you, go privately to them and point out the offense. If that doesn’t work, bring a neutral third party to join you, and if that doesn’t work, bring it to the church. If all that does not solve it, we are to treat them as a pagan or tax collector. (Ouch! This seems like a condemnation, except that we all know how Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors!)

When asked how many times we should go back and forgive a brother, we are told to back “70 x 7” times. We are to continue and not stop fighting for reconciliation.

The thing that Jacob missed in coveting all his brother’s gifts and family favor is that God blessed Abraham’s family not for itself, but SO THAT they could bless whole world. This ultimately is the purpose of the church, too, and to do that most effectively, we need to be in right relationship with each other and God. To do this, we need to be vulnerable with each other and with God, which starts by tearing down our internal walls.

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Topics: Conflict, Forgiveness, Relationships

Sermon Series: Flesh and Blood

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 18:15-22

    If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

    I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.

    I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.

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One thought on “Life Without Walls

  1. Peter says:

    Reflecting on the message theme and the ‘walls’ (or barriers?) that men build, it would seem that man’s motivation is to ‘protect’ his own ‘kingdom’ albeit his ‘integrity’ and ‘status’.

    When we look at the primal couple in The Garden, they sought to hide or protect themselves from God after they broke His law and sinned. They felt shame both before each other and before God as they had fallen from their previous high and holy status of being created in the Image of God. (In fact, no one has fallen further in Creation than man as Satan is an angel and was not created in the Image of God….this therefore underlines both the enormity of man’s Fall and likewise the enormity of man’s redemption.) This deficiency or shame of being something less than originally intended, is often the commencement of ‘wall’ building to hide or ‘defend’ ourselves from others.

    As one theologian describes,

    “The desire and seeking for holiness is universal, whether in religions or out of them. The Christian will have the same basic drive for holiness which is common to all men. Because man has the drive to be holy, he spends much of his life trying to assure himself—and others—that that is just what he is: ‘Tolerably holy,’ he might say. Unholiness brings shame…..man was created for holiness and will not be at peace until his life is pure. Jesus said that the pure in heart will see God, and without seeing God, man is never fulfilled, never completely what God made him to be.”

    This gets back to the scripture mentioned in a previous post, Eph 1:4,

    “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

    To achieve this end, man was part of the ‘very good’ design and functioning of creation…and ultimately the New Creation where the believer achieves this through being ‘in him’ ie in Christ. Or, as Merton has a unique way of describing,

    “Therefore, although it is true that perfection consists in imitating Christ and reproducing Him in our own lives, it is not enough merely to imitate the Christ we have in our imaginations.
    We read the Gospels not merely to get a picture or an idea of Christ but to enter in and pass through the words of revelation to establish, by faith, a vital contact with the Christ Who dwells in our souls as God.
    The problem of forming Christ in us is not to be solved merely by our own efforts. It is not a matter of studying the Gospels and then working to put our ideas into practice, although we should try to do that too, but always under the guidance of grace, in complete subjection to the Holy Spirit.
    For if we depend on our own ideas, our own judgement and our own efforts to reproduce the life of Christ, we will only act out some kind of pious charade which will ultimately scare everyone we meet because it will be so stiff and artificial and so dead.
    It is the Spirit of God that must teach us Who Christ is and form Christ in us and transform us into other Christs. After all, transformation into Christ is not just an individual affair: there is only one Christ, not many. He is not divided. And for me to become Christ is to enter into the Life of the Whole Christ, the Mystical Body made up of the Head and the members, Christ and all who are incorporated in Him by His Spirit.
    Christ forms Himself by grace and faith in the souls of all who love Him, and at the same time He draws them all together in Himself to make them One in Him.
    And the Holy Ghost, Who is the life of this One Body dwells in the whole Body and in every one of the members so that the whole Christ is Christ and each individual is Christ.
    Therefore if you want to have in your heart the affections and dispositions that were those of Christ on earth, consult not your own imagination but faith. Enter into the darkness of interior renunciation, strip your soul of images and let Christ form Himself in you by His Cross.”

    From the foregoing description, there are no ‘walls’ in Christ. Just as through the Incarnation, Jesus combines both the two natures of God and man, then we as sons of God being ‘in Christ’, become a new creation that shares the mystery of a supernatural union of our souls with His Divine sonship and nature. Just as we were once at enmity with God, Christ through His love and Grace has removed all barriers to enable us to be restored to our rightful position in Creation, so we also act similarly through Christ and the Holy Spirit to restore the lost to His Kingdom and seek to live holy and blameless lives.

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