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?

 

 

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.

 

I posted our blog earlier in the week for my school that urges us to be shrewd are serpents and innocent as doves in dealing with folks caught in the darkness of homosexuality. We must, for their sake and the glory of Christ. However, our response to the media coverage and the culture of glory surrounding the issue must be analytical and real. This culture requires some critical thinking. So, lets give it a go.

I would encourage you to read “After the Ball: How America will conquer its fear and hatred of Gays in the 90’s” by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen. Both Kirk and Madsen are Harvard grads and outline the strategy for normalizing the homosexual agenda from a marketing and psychological agenda. This book is hard to read. Don’t do it if you are sensitive to such things or if you want to stay in the dark on the intentional strategy to make homosexuality appear normal. Ever notice how the “gay” guy is always the funniest and magnetic personality on the show? On purpose. Read the book. It will open your eyes to the level of warfare waged by darkness. I have a copy in my office and would encourage folks to get it and read it.

Chapter three is titled: Persuasion, Not Invasion and covers these topics: why only a media campaign will do; don’t just express yourself, communicate; appeal to skeptics; keep talking; keep the message focused; portray gays as victims of circumstance and oppression; give potential protectors a just cause; make gays look good; make victimizers look bad. Chapter four is titled: Tactics for eating the media alive: sound bite here, sound bite there.

Not joking. We must be aware of the battle and the terms of the battle and how it is being waged. We can’t be ignorant. We can’t be silent. We must  be willing to work with those who desire transformation, and therefore, innocent and doves. But we must be shrewd too. Jesus does not expect us to be silent about those who are pushing devastating lies. Read, research, know and speak truth.

Here is the entirety of an article from Matt Walsh. I’m copying it here for you because the site he writes on is full of advertisements and I just want you to read the article. So, here is Walsh’s rant on the media and campaign carried out:

Matt Walsh

Let’s just cut to the chase. We’ve all read this script before.

If you do anything less than fall to your knees weeping tears of jubilation that a man who is sexually attracted to men was picked to play a game for a living — you’re a homophobe.

It doesn’t really matter why you aren’t joining in the celebration, or why you aren’t using words like ‘historic’ and ‘revolutionary’ to describe a scenario where a homosexual fellow plays a sport with some other fellows, and is paid handsomely and applauded loudly for doing so.

It doesn’t matter what reasoning you provide, or what sort of logic you employ, when attempting to explain why Michael Sam’s likeness shouldn’t necessarily be etched into Mount Rushmore just because he took it upon himself to alert the media of his sexual habits a few months before being selected in the 7th round of the NFL Draft.

It doesn’t matter what you say when trying to articulate why the President of the United States of America probably doesn’t need to release an official White House statement to congratulate someone for being gay and athletic.

It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. Nothing is acceptable but complete and total adherence to the prevailing cultural dogma. You are only allowed to think a certain way about these kinds of things. Any thought, or statement, or phrase, or utterance that deviates from the zeitgeist by even the slightest degree will earn you the label of homophobic bigot, and that’s just all there is to it.

So, while I’m not a bigot, and while I’m not ‘homophobic,’ and while I generally carry about my day very much unconcerned with the sexual proclivities of football players from Missouri, I nonetheless feel the need to be a voice of reason amidst this whole spectacularly ridiculous charade. Therefore, I will be called a bigot, because that’s how America has been trained to react to anyone who questions popular opinion.

So be it.

I don’t care.

I really don’t.

I’m not celebrating Michael Sam, I don’t think anything historic occurred at any point during the NFL Draft (besides the fact that the Raiders actually made a few good decisions), I find this spectacle to be rather embarrassing, I question the motivations of everyone involved, including Michael Sam, and I’ll give you several reasons why:
1) You don’t get to have it both ways. You can tell me that your sexuality is nobody’s business — what you do in your bedroom is between you and whoever you do it with — and I’ll agree. I’ve never taken it upon myself to approach a group of strangers and survey them about their carnal propensities. In my life, I’ve probably had thousands of conversations with thousands of different people. Of those thousands, I can safely say that not once have I begun the exchange by saying, “Hello, my name is Matt. Do you sleep with people of the same gender?”

Seriously, that’s never happened. OK, maybe I can’t say never, but rarely. The point is, I usually don’t grab strangers by their shirt collars and demand that they paint me a vivid portrait of their erotic activities.

Your sexuality is none of my business, right? Yes. Fine. Sounds good to me.

But this “none of my business” shtick is a two way street, friend. What exactly does it mean for a thing to be “none of my business” when you’re holding a press conference and proclaiming it to the entire world?

“Hey, this is personal, man. That’s why I’m throwing a parade, alerting the media, issuing a press release, having t-shirts printed, and booking an interview on 20/20.”

Personal business. You keep using that phrase. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Michael Sam, apparently, ‘came out’ to his teammates a year ago. By all accounts, they took it well, nobody really cared, and everything continued on as normal. Sam wasn’t hiding in fear and he wasn’t being forced to suppress or disguise anything. But then, mere months before the draft, he decided to declare himself to ESPN and the New York Times.

I remember seeing this headline back in February: “Michael Sam Announces He’s Gay”

My first thought: OK, was anybody asking?

The man pursued national media outlets and, without being provoked or solicited, ‘announced’ his sexual desires to the nation. Why? Because it’s none of our business? Because we should feel nothing and have no opinion on the matter?

No, of course not. We are supposed to feel something, and we are supposed to have an opinion, but they must be the right feelings and the right opinions.

That’s the point here.

If you simply wish to be accepted, perhaps you’d discuss these private details with those closest to you. If you wish to be celebrated, you throw yourself a party and call the press.

Michael Sam chose the latter.

2) I don’t know Michael Sam. I know more about Michael Sam than I need to, but I don’t know him as a man. He might be brave, for all I know. Maybe he’s rescued kittens from burning buildings, maybe he’s jumped in front of bullets. I’m not saying that he’s not a hero, but I am saying that telling the world about his sex life sure doesn’t make him one. Ellen Page, Jason Collins, Michael Sam — all of these people were greeted by applause and adulation from all across the country. They were hoisted up and canonized by pop culture, most of mainstream society, most major corporations, most of the media, most of academia, most of our politicians, and the President of the United States of America. Their ‘announcements’ instantly ensured them a protected status and, particularly in the case of Collins and Sam, a fame and cultural relevance they would not have otherwise achieved. The criticisms will come from the fringes, and those critics will be drowned out and beaten back by a shouting, venomous mob of dogmatic progressive zealots.

Liberal blogs made much ado about the few random Tweets they could find from people expressing disgust about Sam kissing his boyfriend. What these instigators won’t mention is that, in order to get to the ‘bad people,’ they had to wade through thousands of Twitter users falling over themselves in a competition to see who could use the most glowing adjectives to describe watching two men smooch on Sportscenter.

There’s nothing brave about any of this. You can’t measure a man’s bravery by his ability to endure high-fives and congratulations from millions of fawning fans.

And heroic?

To call this heroic is to obliterate the meaning of the word. I’m sure Sam will hear some taunts and jeers, but the people taunting and jeering will be swiftly and immediately punished. He also won’t encounter anywhere near the level of accepted mockery and derision that another well known football player faced, which brings us to…

3) Plenty of people have already said it, but it’s true that many of the Michael Sam cheerleaders are hypocrites of the lowest sort. Say what you will about Tim Tebow; one thing you can’t deny is that the dude was told loudly, harshly, and frequently, to ‘keep his religion to himself.’ Football isn’t a place for religion, they said.

But football is a place for sexual identity discussions?

Other current and former NFL players, like Jake Plummer, said they wished Tebow would “shut up” with the Jesus talk. Plummer was never chastised for making those statements, and no player was ever fined for complaining about Tebow’s overt religiosity. Most people just nodded their head in agreement.

Will players who tell Sam to “shut up” with the gay talk be treated as leniently? I guess that question has already been answered. One Miami Dolphin sent out a two word disparaging Tweet when ESPN spent 26 hours airing footage of the now famous same-sex kiss. The offender has since been fined and banned from the team until he undergoes ‘educational training.’ Ex-NFLer Derrick Ward expressed his view that ESPN shouldn’t have aired the kiss, and now people are threatening to kill him because of it.

The double standard is so obvious, so inevitable, and so common that I’m bored with pointing it out. Tell Tebow to stop praising his Lord and Savior, and the country will laugh and cheer along, but tell Sam to stop trying to turn his sex life into international headlines, and you’ll be bound, gagged, and tossed into a river.

4) Media hacks have already begun conjuring up a controversy over the fact that it ‘took so long’ for Sam to be drafted.

They’re furrowing their brows and inquiring as to why Saint Michael Sam didn’t get taken off the board until the very end of the last round. Could it be homophobia, they wonder?

Perhaps, or could it be that Sam is a small, slow, middling prospect who might not be good enough to even make the squad? Could it be that he’s exactly the type of player who often goes undrafted every single year? Could it be that he’s a below average talent?

With that said, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if some teams were scared away by the media circus that follows him. That’s a funny thing about football teams — they’re worried about winning football games, not becoming champions for liberal social change. Michael Sam chose to call attention to his sex life. He chose to whip up a media frenzy. That choice guaranteed him a spot on a roster, if only for political reasons. But it also guaranteed that he would be a distraction to whatever team he ultimately joined.

This is all a joke, only it’s not even funny anymore.

As I type this, I see that Michael Sam has already started starring in ads, making him, I’m assuming, the first 7th round pick to ever get an endorsement deal before training camp even starts.

In the Visa spot, Sam insists that he only wants to be judged for what he does on the field.

A fine sentiment, but one that would have been easily accomplished had he not gone to great lengths to be applauded for what he does in the bedroom.

 

 

DNA Reminded: Church

DNA Reminded: Church

We are reviewing our DNA, the spiritual genetic code that determines our ethos and our strategy as a church. We are doing this as a bridge between 1 Timothy 3 and 4.

Gospel (gospel of the glory of the blessed God); Church; Glocal; Radical

For the glory of God we will build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ.

Why do we say this is our mission? Listen to the Lord’s words in Matthew 16:13-20: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”

Jesus said that he is going to build his church. The building of the church is done on the bedrock of the good news that Jesus is the Christ, the full truth of the gospel. Jesus said he had given us the keys of the gospel that would open up the doors of his kingdom in which the church would live and from which the church would grow. So, what is the church? If Jesus is building it, shouldn’t we know what it is? If the church is where gospel believers are, shouldn’t transformed gospel believers value it?

“The Christian leader today not only must teach the gospel, but also must teach how the gospel works out in daily life.” – D.A. Carson (tweet)

This is why we are talking about the church. The gospel of the kingdom has implications, out workings and therefore, we don’t want to take those for granted. One of those is the church.

What is the church?

Last week we learned that that kingdom of God has some good news. We learned that the gospel of the glory of the blessed God is the key to entry into the kingdom of the Son of God. We learned that the keys of the kingdom at least represented the authority to preach the gospel and open up the doors of the kingdom for people to come into the personal and corporate rule of Christ through faith and repentance. (I would argue that those who don’t believe the gospel are still under the rule of Christ ultimately as the Sovereign although under the domain of darkness because Jesus has not stopped being God, and he rules either for good or for judgment)

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:13-14

The kingdom of God produces and creates the church! Listen to our statement of belief on the kingdom:

Therefore, “we believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing who’s created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation. The kingdom of God is an invasive power that plunders Satan’s dark kingdom and regenerates and renovates through repentance and faith the lives of individuals rescued from that kingdom. It therefore inevitably establishes a new community of human life together under God.” (TRCC Statement of belief)

This new community of human life together under God is the church. The church is the community of the kingdom of God.

We are, therefore, now citizens of a new kingdom. This kingdom creates a whole new culture with new values and a new King to whom we give our allegiance. This whole new culture takes shape in the church.

The church is the community of the kingdom of God. The church is not the kingdom. But the gospel of the kingdom produces the church.

The church is not a building. The church is the gathering, the community of the people of the kingdom.

The good news of the kingdom produces fruit, and some of that fruit is the precious bride of Christ, the church.

The sower went out to sow, and he sows the good news of the kingdom, Jesus says. The seed, the word of the kingdom, falls onto hard hearts, shallow lives, crowded lives or lives ripe for the kingdom. The enemy comes and steals the word of the kingdom from the hard heart. But the shallow life, whose abundance is found in saving itself, gives a quick root to the word but fades when things get tough. The crowded life accepts the word of the kingdom like it accepts many words of many pretend kingdoms. But the word of the kingdom finds no room to grow and eventually is choked out by the deeply rooted ideas and activities already embedded. But when the gospel of the kingdom lands in good soil, the good news produces a crop of abundance.

Part of the abundant crop of the gospel message of the kingdom is the community of the kingdom, the church. The presence of the church is the fruit of the gospel message of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The gospel saves people from the domain of darkness and puts them in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and forms them into his church.

The church is bigger than small group ministry.[1]

You see, the church is not small groups. Small groups don’t observe the sacraments or engage in the great commission by planting churches, they don’t engage the domains of society through transforming domains, and they don’t make disciples through front door strategic engagement of unreached people groups. Show me one of those in the small group and I’ll show you a church that should be independent and appoint elders and begin functioning as a church.

No, most small groups (in western post-Christian southern culture) are inward focused and societally monochromatic.

Small groups are important, but they must be constructed on a common vision of the kingdom of God and NOT life preferences. We’ll talk about this more when we talk about “Radical Life” in a few weeks.

Even the “house church” in the west is nothing more than, by and large, wounded folks from the establishment or isolationists seeking escape from the “world” who are not engaged in disciple making beyond their familial borders. This is not the church.

The gospel of the kingdom of God makes disciples. Disciples fill the domains of society and make disciples in their domains, and the church grows from these domains as communities of the kingdom of God as outposts of the kingdom that are invading the dark territory that is temporarily held by the domain of darkness.

In case you don’t realize it, what was just said is revolutionary in western post-Christian circles. The reason is that for most of us the church is a negotiable variable regarding our discipleship, and for some it may be negotiable period. We think the church is a place where we go to hear preaching and we sing songs and maybe attend some kind of small group but beyond that it has no further relevance in our lives. We use it for our benefit and then go on about our lives.

The church is precious and not to be used, taken for granted or neglected. The church is the community of the kingdom. If one is in the kingdom they will be in the church.

If the church was not what happened when rebels are transferred from darkness to the kingdom of the Son of God and, therefore, necessary and vital, why would Jesus say he was going to build his church? Why would Paul spend so much time writing to the church (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians)? Why would Paul tell Titus to appoint elders in the churches? Why would Paul care to instruct Timothy on the good order of the church that is a pillar and buttress of the truth? Why would Jesus reveal himself as being among his churches in Revelation 1:12-20 as opposed to the church’s small groups? Why would Jesus himself send letters through John to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea?

Well, the church is the community of the kingdom and is therefore, necessary and vital, and Jesus cares for his church.

Listen to our statement of belief on 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, rightly understood and cherished, is not negotiable.

If the church is to be cherished then marry the church, don’t date it. Daters use, but those who marry love. Daters are not committed, but those who marry stay the course. Daters view time together as negotiable, but those who marry want to spend time together.

We only experience the unity of kingdom life when we actually get into the community of the kingdom. We will only experience the power of the kingdom in the dynamic of the fellowship not in the isolation of selfishness. We will only experience the powerful gifts in the fellowship of the community on a common mission that will need encouragement in the mission.

If the church truly is what the gospel produces as the community of the kingdom, and if the church is that vital, then what are some points of application?

1. Attend regularly to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25)

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

 

2. Attend a small group of people who are fellow members and share the church’s DNA (Ephesians 4:15-16; 1 Cor. 12:12-26)

If there is not a group to your liking, then start one. Don’t be a taker. Be a giver. Provide what is lacking. Make sure you are constructing relationships with people of the same spiritual DNA. Why? Because spiritual DNA produces family: values lead to relationships lead to collaboration lead to family

 

Mixing spiritual and missional DNA leads to a compromise of the individual and corporate mission.

 

3. Make sure you participate in the Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. The meal is given as a reminder of the gospel work that brought about the transfer from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son. The Lord is present. The Lord is moving about his people. Be on time. Its God’s time not yours. Manage it well for your sake and for others.

 

4. Pray (Luke 18:1-8)

Jesus reminds us in Luke 18:1-8 that faith in Christ works itself out in prayer. Therefore, if you are in the kingdom pray for one another.

 

5. Give

You simply can’t out give God. Kingdom people are giving people because the King is a Giver. Domain of darkness people are robbers because their king is a taker and thief.

 

6. Serve (1 Cor. 12:7)

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Our King is a servant; therefore his subjects are servants too. Be in the body to serve others and be like our great King.

 

7. Worship

Worship is never intended to be private only, but primarily corporate. Notice that the worship described in the bible is always with people. The word “congregation” occurs 11 times in the Psalms and it is used to describe the place where the Psalm writer vowed to sing the praise they were writing. In other words, worship is to be done publicly with other worshipers.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] This is distinguished from house churches in the east that are truly functioning as the church.

DNA Reminded: Gospel of the glory of the blessed God

DNA Reminded

Gospel of the glory of the blessed God

 

Three Rivers Community Church is eleven years old. Our church has gone through various stages of growth. However, one thing we always do is hit the launch point where college students graduate or young couples move on to the next phase of life. This is a very gracious gift from the Lord because what is happening is that followers of Jesus are being infected with the DNA of the kingdom of God here and as they move on to the next phase of life its really more of a launching or planting of the DNA of this fellowship. We have had countless students and couples launched to the nations, transplanted in towns across the country and even just a few cities away. As they go and begin serving with kingdom of God with their lives and preaching the gospel they comment on how TRCC ruined them and they are seeking to take who we are and apply that where they are. What is it they carry with them?

 

Others who come to TRCC comment on the difference of being here as opposed to other places. What is it that is different? It’s the ethos created by the DNA of who we are, and it’s essential we not take it for granted.

 

We have a membership class on purpose. We want to make sure that those who come to be part of our family of faith in Jesus are of the same spiritual and missional DNA. Are they a follower of Jesus Christ? Are they in on the mission, strategy, and leadership structure of the church? Do they understand not only the reason we are here but also do they get the ethos and DNA present that drives the mission? These are vital questions.

 

We often speak of our mission and remind ourselves of that mission. In spite of membership classes and speaking often it is inevitable that the law of entropy, due to the fall, can affect us. We can’t take the kingdom DNA driving TRCC for granted. We must speak of it, live it and speak of it again.

 

After studying through the first three chapters of 1 Timothy, it makes sense, based on what we learned from 1 Timothy 3:14-16, to bridge between that text and 1 Timothy 4 with a reminder not only of the mission but the Kingdom of God DNA that produces that mission by dissecting the mission clearly and articulating the implications of that mission.

 

This is important for many reasons, but the most important reason is: We cannot lose sight of the mission by acclimating to the post-Christian southern culture that values consumerism, moralistic therapeutic deism, methods that are for keeping people rather than planting them, and a shortened vision of the scope of the gospel.

 

Our mission:

For the glory of God we will build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ.

 

Four words/statements of this mission statement carry the Kingdom DNA we must not take for granted:

Glory (The gospel of the glory of the blessed God); Church; Glocal (global and local); Radical

 

We will take one word each week until we finish.

 

Glory (The gospel of the glory of the blessed God)

1 Timothy 1:9-11 (verse 11 particularly); 1 Cor. 1:17; Romans 1:16-17

“…in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”

 

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, let the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” – 1 Cor. 1:17

 

The gospel is not good deeds done to those in need. The gospel is a message. The gospel is good news. The gospel is news that must be articulated in order to be known. The gospel is good news that must be articulated to in order to be known among all nations.

 

The gospel is not just the historical reality of Jesus death, burial and resurrection. After all, who is Jesus? Why did Jesus have to die? Why and how was Jesus raised? What does all this mean?

 

The gospel is the complete story of redemptive history. The gospel answers key questions like: Who am I? Why am I here? Where did all things come from? Why do I do bad things? Why are some things bad and some good? Who decides if some things are bad and some things are good? How are bad things fixed? Am I bad? How am I fixed if I’m bad? Can I be fixed? Why do people die? What happens to people when they die? Will dead people live again? Will the earth as we know it end? How do we know things will end? Is the end the end?

 

These are ultimate questions and need ultimate and definitive answers. The world system that has been hijacked by the rebel answers these questions with many and varied lies. However, we believe the bible gives us the answers to these questions in the gospel, the good news.

 

You see the gospel is news. The gospel is news that is good. The implication of the word gospel itself means that there is some news to be known. Apparently there is some bad news, otherwise there would be no need for good news, gospel.

 

 

 

 

What is the gospel?

The gospel is best summed up in four words that help us to crystalize the gospel message but need to be expanded upon in order to have a full articulation of the message of the gospel. Those words are: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

 

Why is the gospel so important?

Romans 1:16

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” – Rom. 1:16-17

 

The gospel is the power of God for salvation (salvation = rescued from or restored to; rescued/saved from God’s wrath at the rebellion v. 19 and restored to the kingdom of Jesus Col. 1:13-14)

 

Salvation means rescued from and/or restored to. Both of those meanings come into play with the gospel.

 

The gospel rescues us from God’s wrath

The bad news is that God is angry with the rebel and all of his rebellious hoards of angels and humans. The consequences of the rebellion are death and eternal and just punishment.

 

But the good news is that righteousness from God is available by faith. That is that the perfection of God is available to be credited to those who would receive Jesus by faith and the guilt of the person believing would be removed and the believer would then be justified and adopted into God’s family as a son or daughter.

 

The gospel restores us to Jesus’ kingdom

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)

 

What is the kingdom of his beloved son? What is the kingdom of God?

 

“The kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign or kingly rule of God, and, derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In biblical idiom, the kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, liver under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the kingdom but never the kingdom itself. Jesus’ disciples belong to the kingdom as the kingdom belongs to them; but they are not the kingdom. The kingdom is rule of God; the church is a society of men” (George Eldon Ladd quoted by Wayne Grudem, p. 1656 iBook’s format).

 

This reality governs everything. When the gospel births us into God’s kingdom our allegiances change, our values change, our ethos shifts. We are completely new creatures forming a new and dynamic community called the church.

 

The kingdom of God is opposite of the domain of darkness. The value shift is monumental.

Note a few:

 

DOD                           KOG

Hoarding                     Giving

Security/Safety           Risk

Arrogance                    Poverty of spirit

Enjoyment of sin        Mourning over sin

Domination                 Meekness

Desire of sin                Desire for righteousness

Merciless                    Merciful

Division                      Peacemaking

Conformity                 Persecution

Suspicion/Hate            Love

Strength                       Weakness

Money                                    Love God (you cannot love God and money)

Celebrity                     Unknown

Natural                        Supernatural

 

The gospel we preach serves as the keys of the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:13-20)

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”

 

“The keys of the kingdom of heaven represent at least the authority to preach the gospel of Christ and thus to open the door of the kingdom of heaven and allow people to enter” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1711).

 

The gospel reveals the kingdom is a present and fully coming reality

Pietists say the kingdom is in the heart and spiritual. Some in our tribe say the church is the kingdom. Liberal Christianity says it is in societal reform. Others say the kingdom is fully future.

 

The kingdom is spiritual and physical. The church is the community of the kingdom, but when Christ returns we will no longer be distinct from the rest of the world because we will be all that is in the kingdom of heaven, so the kingdom is the rule of Christ over his people in the full restoration of all things. The gospel will open doors for the kingdom to restore society, but where liberal Christians mess up is they neglect the gospel believing their works alone will change. Our work will only change when the gospel changes people to begin to value the values of the kingdom.

 

The kingdom’s secrets are told so that only those who want to be in the kingdom can understand them (Matt. 13:10-16). The kingdom has wheat and weeds in it, and Jesus will sort them out. The kingdom has sheep and goats in it, and Jesus will sort them out. The kingdom is like the mustard seed, smallest of seeds, but when it grows it is larger than all garden plants where men get shade and birds make nests. The kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field. The kingdom is like the pearl of great value. The kingdom is like a net that catches fish of every kind and Jesus will have his hosts separate the good from the evil. Scribes trained for the kingdom bring out of the treasure the old and the new.

 

The gospel provides entry to the kingdom

Though the reign of Jesus is over all of his creation, not all mankind believes Jesus rules them. Jesus’ words are hidden from them. They rebel, but the gospel offers entry that mankind may enjoy the rule of Christ rather than one day be judged and punished under the rule of Christ.

 

The gospel transforms a person into a citizen of the kingdom (Matt. 5-7; Matt. 13)

The gospel is powerful. Ministries don’t change people. Societal reform will not change people. Only the good news articulated so that one can understand will snatch a person from their stupor into the sobriety of their situation and change their value system. We can’t just teach a person to stop rebelling against Jesus. Only the eye opening gospel will do that.

 

The gospel brings us to be in the community of the kingdom, the church

The gospel is what then binds people of the same value and ethos together. The gospel births people into the kingdom and people of the kingdom gather in the church as a subversive society of people seeking to counter act the rebellion begun in the garden.

 

The church then is planted throughout territory held by the rebellion begun in the garden, and because Jesus Christ reigns in us today, we can subversively begin to retake the culture with the values of Jesus’ kingdom lived out among us and among those who are walking in the domain of darkness.

 

Without the gospel opening the doors to the Kingdom of God there is no church, no mission and no purpose.

 

If God does not rule, and therefore, there is no kingdom of God that must be entered by the gospel, then the church is irrelevant and just a fad that will eventually die out in the evolution of man as a species. The naturalists are right.

 

But if God rules and his kingdom can be entered and regained and fully restored over all, and the gospel is truly the way into the kingdom of God, then the church has immeasurable significance, is a precious bride belonging to Jesus, you and I are members of that church and one another, and that church has a mission that must be kept and focused on. If the church has that mission then her means must match her mission.

 

That is exactly what this mission and the key words that define the DNA of our church in this mission are all about. The gospel is truly the way into the kingdom of God. The church is vital and truly significant. The scope of the mission has to be glocal, and the way we do this is radical life (communion, community, collision) must not be compromised.

 

Regardless of how other fellowships define the mission of the church and the words they use, we believe we have captured the essence of that biblical mission in how we have stated that mission. There are others on that mission with us. We are not alone and we don’t have the corner on the market. Don’t hear this wrong. This is not arrogance in trumpeting “us”. This is “us” focusing on God’s call on “us” and making sure we stay on point.

 

The gospel of the kingdom gives us an eternal mission, and an eternal mission given by God gives meaning and great significance to every moment of every day. An eternal mission given by God gives great significance to our worship every day and especially when we gather together.

 

We sing because God sings (Zeph. 3:17). Father is singing over us if we are his people and doing his work. It is only right and fitting that we join with the hosts of heaven singing praise to him for his grace to us in revealing the gospel and transforming us and for letting us be a small part of his mission for global glory. Let’s worship Father, Son and Spirit.