DNA Reminded: Church 2

DNA Reminded, the Church 2

We have been revisiting the spiritual DNA of our church together as a bridge between 1 Timothy 3 and 4. Our DNA is contained in our mission statement (For the glory of God we will build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ)

Gospel / Church / Glocal / Radical

We have been reminded of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God (1 Timothy 1:11) and we started to unpack the glorious community of the kingdom of God, the church.

The big idea in the last message and in this message is this: the church is not a throw away; rather the church is a necessity for the Christian.

This big idea should be a “no duh”, but often if a person would affirm this big idea their practice says something different. Here is a reminder of what we believe about the church:

We believe that God’s new covenant people (the church) have already come to the heavenly Jerusalem; they are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies. This universal church is manifest in local churches of which Christ is the only Head; thus each “local church” is, in fact, the church, the household of God, the assembly of the living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the body of Christ, the apple of his eye, graven on his hands, and he has pledged himself to her forever. The church is distinguished by her gospel message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by her members’ love for one another and for the world. Crucially, this gospel we cherish has both personal and corporate dimensions, neither of which may properly be overlooked. Christ Jesus is our peace: he has not only brought about peace with God, but also peace between alienated peoples. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than for self-focus. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world. (TRCC Statement of Belief)

The church is a glorious community.

Truthfully, there is more that can be said about the church. She is a grand expression and object of the grace and love of God, but for the purposes of revisiting our spiritual DNA we’ll keep to the highlights.

The church displays the multi-colored (multi-sided) wisdom of God

About the church Paul says, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold (varied, diverse, multi-colored) wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Ephesians 3:8-11)

Ephesians 3:8-11 says that through this community of the kingdom of God, the church, God’s multi-colored wisdom is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

First, note that the church is the vehicle through which the manifold / multi-colored wisdom of God is made known.

There are other organizations that have purposes to do great and good deeds on our planet for people and for nations, but only the church contains the special presence of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 1). This is not to say that we don’t experience the presence of the Lord daily when not gathered. We do. But being covenanted to the body of Christ is special and carries with it supernatural realities that church discipline removes, which is why Paul says to remove the unrepentant sinner from the fellowship. The disciplined sinner, once removed, no longer has access to the supernatural protection and presence of the Lord. Therefore, the “Christian” who does not covenant with a body but refuses to covenant with a body refuses, in a real way, to come under the influence of the Chief Shepherd and his supernatural shepherding.

Next, note that God’s manifold wisdom is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This is probably the whole host of heavenly beings; not merely angels or evil powers, but both (see 6:12). These heavenly beings, fallen and faithful alike, are assembled witnesses before whom God vindicates his wisdom (D.A. Carson, NBC). God vindicates his wisdom through the church which is the expression of his wisdom. And even deeper, verse 11 affirms that this is according to his eternal purpose that was realized in Christ. According to 1:9-10 and 2:11-22 the eternal purpose realized in Christ that vindicates God’s wisdom and shows it to be so glorious as to call it manifold / multi-colored is the unity of all things in Christ (1:9-11) and this unity is brought to expression in a local / global church where Jew and Gentile live and worship as one body in harmony with God and with each other in Christ. And this unity emphasized in chapters 4-6, to Paul, is the central witness to the powerful gospel. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 emphasized this unity under God purchased by Christ as the powerful witness to the work Jesus was about to accomplish on the cross. All this through the church!

Is the church a negotiable for the Christian? No way.

Therefore, we dare not minimize the church. We dare not neglect the church. We dare not abuse the church. We dare not mislead the church. We dare not segregate the church by race or age. We dare not think the church not capable of being the central organization in the global advance of the gospel and replace her with something else. She is precious. She is the bride of Christ. She is glorious. We are a glorious proclamation of the multi-colored wisdom of God!

The church is visible yet invisible

This glorious institution of the Lord that is making his wisdom known in the heavenlies is also visible and invisible. The visible church is the church as mankind sees it. The invisible church is the church as God sees it (Grudem, p. 1640 iBooks).

The Lord knows those who are his, Paul reminded Timothy (2 Tim. 2:19). Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the weeds to teach that in the kingdom there are true followers of Jesus and fake followers of Jesus. Some know and live the truth and some are deceived. Such is the case resulting from a devastating fall in Eden.

Paul warned the Ephesians that fierce wolves would come to them from their own number and devour the people (Acts 20:29).

So, the church exists as those who the Lord knows are his (invisible) and the organization (visible) the culture at large sees.

What are some implications of what the church is truly and what man sees as the church?

As far as it depends on us we want to display to our world what is to be displayed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. We want to put the glorious multi-colored wisdom of God on display in the church. What we are is on display to those outside. Here are a few implications regarding what we truly are and how it is viewed.

One, we must exercise church discipline in order to preserve the integrity of the church in the eyes of the world (not the world system opposed to the gospel, but the people of culture and society). We must also exercise church discipline to guard the fellowship from the leaven of rebellion against the Lord. Sin infects and affects the atmosphere/culture that everyone takes in and the spiritual affects of rebellion hurt everyone. If we don’t take holiness and righteousness seriously, we damage the reputation of Christ and we hurt others we are one with.

Second, we must also encourage perseverance for those who know and live the truth. The Lord knows and will not let his elect go. One of the means of the Lord keeping his people is by the providential encouragement of saints to other saints. Have you ever noticed how someone has an encouraging word at just the right moment?

Take note also, that this works the other way too. Satan hates the church and seeks our demise. Often you’ll find that one believing the lies of the evil one will have a damaging and deflating berating for you just as things are starting to look up? Satan and the rulers in the heavenly places are astute observers and seek to inject as much chaos as possible. This is all the more reason to make sure you are connected to the body and not segregated from the body. You need encouragement not berating.

Defecting from the faith robs God of glory publicly and in the heavenly places, destroys the defector and hurts the faithful. A timely encouragement is just what is needed.

Finally, we must maintain Christ exalting, Christ-centered worship because Jesus is our audience! When Jesus is the object of our preparation the people of God are built up. When we are the object of our preparation then we become idolaters and offer nothing truly transforming to the culture at large (it’s just a sub par concert). Christ exalting worship is part of making disciples and fills the earth with people who desire to make Jesus big.

The church is local and universal

As long as the gathering is observing the sacraments, engaging in the great commission by planting churches, engaging the domains of society, and making disciples through front door strategic engagement of unreached people groups it can be called the church. The church can take many forms inside culture as a local reality and a global reality.

A house church is called the church in Romans 16:5 and 1 Cor. 16:19.

The church in an entire city is called the church in 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1.

The church in a region is referred to as a church in Acts 9:31.

The church throughout the entire world can be called the church because Eph. 5:25 tell us that Christ gave himself up for his church (all of her not just part of her and that implies the entire body).

What are some implications of a local and universal church?

First, we must recognize the vital nature of being in covenant in the church. In other words, what we do on the local level has implications on the universal level. This is why there is church membership. In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul challenges the Corinthian church to judge those who are inside the church and leave judging outsiders to God. How did the Corinthians know who was in and who was out? They knew who Paul was talking about because some people had formally, publicly identified themselves with the church in Corinth while the rest of the city had not. Those who had covenanted with the church were inside the church. They were the church’s members. Those who hadn’t were not. This is not complicated.

One cannot be loved rightly if they are not willing to be accountable and hold others accountable. This is a local reality that has universal implications. What if a member sins against the body and leaves and takes that same sin to other fellowships and leaves a wake of personal destruction? That is a local reality that can have universal / far-reaching implications.

Finally, a local reality with universal implications is that we are members one of another with our family who is persecuted globally. This is, among many reasons, why the church must be engaged globally. It is necessary, if a church be a church, to be part of the global movement of the kingdom of God and help minister to those who are pioneering the gospel of the kingdom. The local church being part of and empathizing with and serving and helping the universal church advance the kingdom is a major way the church is local and universal.

In conclusion, the church has a mission and in that mission the church has functions, means, things to do. What are the functions of the church?

The functions of the church

Ministry to God (communion)

 

Ministry to believers (community)

 

Ministry to the world (collision)

As conclusion, you will recognize these three as what we call Radical Life. We won’t unpack these today; just bring them up as conclusion and launching for the remainder of our reminder of the spiritual DNA that drives our fellowship.

The book of Acts and the whole of the bible, really, identifies these three realities as the function of the people of God. People are made to worship the Lord. People who truly worship the Lord are brought into community with each other due to the indwelling Holy Spirit, and we become family. People who are worshiping the Lord as family will collide with the culture as the values of the world system of lies that stand against the gospel come into full contact with the values of God’s kingdom. How we engage in this collision is key to the advance of the gospel.

Do you rightly worship the Lord? Are you in community? Are you bringing the Kingdom of God to bear on the world system?

 

 

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Pastor/Elder Installation

Elder/Pastor/Overseer Installation, May 14, 2014

1 Peter 5:1-4

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Men, today you embark in the challenge of a lifetime. You have chosen to answer the call of desire and aspiration to be an under shepherd to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus.

I want to take four exhortations from 1 Peter 5:1-4 and speak them into your soul by the help of the Holy Spirit. My prayer has been that these words you hear today would never escape you, but wherever shepherding takes you they would follow.

As under shepherds we choose to enter the subversive war of taking back all of creation from the domain of darkness as officers of the Most High Sovereign, Jesus. The weapons of our warfare are not physical but they are spiritual and they tear down strongholds, things that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. As under shepherds, officers of the Chief Shepherd, the General, we lead the warriors of the General into the frontiers of taking back occupied territory. We do this as we have been instructed. The General has not left us without instruction. We have our instructions in the Manual, and today I want to give some of those instructions to you.

1. Shepherd what you have been given v. 2a

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…”

 

Avoid the “greener pasture” lie that causes lesser men to flee the war. All worthy endeavors are hard and will tax you to your limit. You will either quit now or you will quit later. I know because I have quit and found that the greener pasture is not really green at all. Rather, the discipline of the Lord awaits you.

 

We move only for missional purposes, never for self rescue or for ease. If life circumstances take you away, then that is missional and the intention is to spread the DNA not sit on what you know. If other missional opportunity arises, then we dare not stay. We Acts 13 it, and figure it out.

 

Shepherding is really just discipleship. Discipleship is not hard to understand. It is quite simply is hear the Lord and obey. Yet, the hard part is obedience. Shepherding will require you not hearing what the sheep want to do, but hearing the General and doing what he says. Sheep may always want to run out of the pen or simply not move to the actual food and water that will save their lives. Sometimes wolves are disguised as sheep. We don’t listen to them. We must not march to the drum of the sheep. We must march to the voice of the Chief Shepherd and obey his call.

 

2. Actively oversee v. 2b

“…exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly as God would have you;”

 

You can still bug out. No shame. Just know that our job is to stay on alert. The hardest part of leading is not doing. Leaders are by nature doers. The most difficult part is discerning the atmosphere.

 

The shepherd of sheep have to be aware of the smell of wolves or the sense that a sheep is straying or even eating something that would kill it, and be ready to head off the potential deadly intrusion.

 

You must learn to actively oversee with discernment. Take every moment to correct wrong thinking. It is better to over teach and instruct than to let a cancerous lie grow unchecked. In everything you do, teach. Teach in your service. Teach in your presence. Teach in your doing the dirty work. When other men are standing around, you do the task and set the pace.

 

3. Be an example v. 3

“…not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”

 

Set the atmosphere with the love of God. Love the Lord with all of your being and your neighbor as yourself. Be present. Make the gathering a priority. Hebrews 10:25 it until it hurts. We’ve been doing it for 11 years. I never tire of being with the Lord’s people even if I feel an arrow coming my way. I feed on being ministered to because I need it.

 

Set the pace for the congregation to see. Never tire of doing good, for we will see fruit in due season.

 

4. Expect treasure in heaven v. 4

“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

 

Don’t expect to be repaid for the monetary, physical and emotional expenditures in this life. The bottom line is that this life is given to expend for the taking back of the Kingdom from the domain of darkness, and if we lose our health and life in the process we do not lose. On the contrary we gain the whole world.

 

Know this, you will be hurt. Hurt comes with the desire to be an under shepherd of the Chief Shepherd. But note this: Father is sovereign over the flight of arrows, ask Ahab. Father is sovereign over Satan himself, ask Job. Father is sovereign over the goober that will do you injustice with their ill-timed words and off the mark criticism. But know this; all of this is part of the Father’s good plan to bless you with more of him. If we are not wounded we will never know what it is like to be healed. Is it possible that the Lord could graciously wound while sustaining? Ask Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor or William Carey!

 

Jamie Work wrote the words of A.W. Tozer in my installation journal August 8, 1999 and they go like this: “It is doubtful whether God will bless a man deeply until he has hurt a man deeply.” I read those words with bewilderment and resolve, and I never knew what those words would cost me until the price was paid. But the truth is that Job would go through his suffering again just to stand in the dust of God’s whirlwind as he spoke with the Lord and received his fatherly discipline. For Job had heard of him by the hearing of the ear but then his eye saw him (Job 42:5).

 

Pastoral ministry will hurt you, but that hurt is not outside the good and sovereign control of Genesis 50:20, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,…”, and the hurt will lead to the glorious healing of communing with the Father as he binds up those gracious wounds.

 

“He is not poor or much enticed who looses everything but Christ. It won’t be long before the rod becomes the tender kiss of God.” (Piper, The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God)

 

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense but trust him for his grace. Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.” (Cowper, God Moves in a Mysterious Way)

 

Congregation, this does not mean you have a right to hurt intentionally believing you are doing a pastor a favor. That is what wolves do. Take that on at your own risk. Jesus will even that score on his own, and I’m not sure I want to be on that side of justice.

 

Hebrews 13:7 is your charge, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

 

Finally, a word to these precious wives: Default to having each other’s backs. Keep you tongue in check. Love each other, and always assume the best and good intentions. Be a haven for each other not a hurricane. Be a haven for your man. Be tough. Don’t always talk shop. Remember, the rough seasons will come, but they will also go. Watch out for the evil one and the lies he will propagate. The enemy may come at you before your man, so test your thoughts with discernment and prayer. Be completely suspicious of suspicious thoughts. Go with the flow and season of life. Don’t fight them. If it’s not fun and enjoyable, find what is and be ok with that. Don’t be pressured into leading a ministry. Your primary duty is wife and mom or grandmother. Be ok with who you are, for you are first Christ’s.