Soul Shift #5 – Our Father In Heaven, Part 2

SoulShiftI. INTRO

I used to play a game at home when my children were younger – much younger.  In this game they might have asked for money for their allowance, or we may have been playing a board game, with dice – and I would have what they wanted in my hands –and I would pretend to suddenly fall asleep. They would start giggling and laughing and crawl all over me while attempting to pry what they wanted from my clinched fists.  Those were some beautiful moments of giggles and joyful laughter and mutual longing – they were longing for the things I held in my hands; I was longing for our closeness, our innocence, and wanting those fleeting moments of sheer joy to last forever.

For me this is a picture of the activity of prayer – while we love God sometimes we are focused more on the gifts in God’s hands rather than hand of God Himself (someone described it as seeking the hand of God and not the face of God) – we pray fervently for the new job, or the return of health.  When we gain the prizes we are delighted and, often, our focus turns to the prize — and away form the momentary closeness of the good Giver Himself.

We are in a series on prayer that we are calling “Soul Shift,” where, as individuals, as couples, as families, and as a church we are asking God to move us from ‘ordinary’ prayer to ‘extraordinary’ prayer.  What does that mean?

It means that when we speak or teach about prayer in church it’s easy for all of us to instantly feel guilty.  A sermon on prayer can amount to a drive-by guilt-ing.

Is there anyone among us who is satisfied with their prayer life?

So, today, let’s not talk about – or, even think too much about what WE SHOULD DO, but let’s take a few minutes to consider WHAT JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE.

If we can lift the eyes of our hearts to see WHAT JESUS CHRIST has accomplished FOR US it will lift the “eyes of our hearts” (Eph 1:17) in worship, in adoration, in joy, in expectancy, and in delight.  It will draw prayer out of us…

Our goal, our objective is that we would leave here today more fully delighting in the Giver than in the gifts.  (Some people’s prayers go something like this: “God, if You get me out of this mess, I won’t bother You until the next one!”)

In our study of prayer we are looking primarily at what has been called The Lord’s Prayer in Mat 6.  (There is a more compact version of the same prayer in Luke 11.)  This prayer is not meant to be prayed ritualistically, but to be viewed as a pattern for prayer.

Here’s the bottom line: **We don’t need to make bigger commitments about prayer, what we really need is to think and to believe truer thoughts about God — thoughts that are shaped by the gospel, by what Jesus Christ has already done on our behalf.

We are called to work, love, to worship, and to pray FROM His righteousness, not FOR His righteousness.  That is the gospel in a nutshell – we work, serve, love, and worship FROM a growing understanding that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has won the heart and ear of God on our behalf.

Hebs 4:16: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

We come to God through Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to earn the ear of God in prayer – Jesus has earned the ear of God for us, He has won God’s ear and God’s heart for us — so we come to God in prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is best used as a model for prayer –or, we could think of it as template – to launch us out into a place or a perspective of reflection, adoration, and gratitude.

For the next few weeks we will be looking at the individual phrases of this model prayer… learning to delight in the Giver of all good gifts.

What we will learn is 1) the initial focus is upward, with its first three requests having to do with God’s glory and 2) the remaining three requests are for our well-being. God first, humanity second – that is the ideal order of prayer.  His glory before our desires.[1]

II. BODY

Today I would like us to look at the opening phrase of The Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father in heaven.”  Simply stated:

  • The word, “Our” — speaks of community. 
  • The word, “Father” speaks of family.
  • The phrase, “in heaven” speaks of majesty, transcendence (time, space, understanding, etc.), and authority. 

Let’s take some time and briefly consider each one…

1. What does the word “Our” tell us about community?

  • We have left the land of “me” and entered the land of “we.” [2]
  • The Lord’s Model Prayer begins with the acknowledgement that we have been invited out of isolation and into both the joy and the challenge of community.
  • Here’s a simple way to say it: Pro 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one [person] sharpens another.”
  • There are at least three primary and legitimate needs of every human being:
    1. The need to feel authentically human
    2. The need to belong
    3. The need to have a sense of destiny and purpose
  • It is in the heart of God to fully meet these needs in every person. 
  • The first and most important step is through conversion and regeneration, which is the restoration of our individual relationship’s with the living God
  • The next step is through significant relationships with each other
  • Some people find it helpful to think in terms of a cross (), with our relationship with God signifying the vertical and our relationships with each other signifying the horizontal – the cross, and subsequently, Christianity is all about engaging and pursuing both the horizontal and vertical aspects of faith.
  • Our culture, unfortunately, sidetracks us with counterfeit opportunities for community.  The neighborhood bar is possibly the best facsimile there is for the fellowship Christ desires to give His church.  The bar is an imitation — dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality — yet it is tolerant, it is ac­cepting, it is inclusive, and it is virtually unshockable.  You can tell people secrets in a bar and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.  Bars flourish not because most people are alcoholics, but be­cause God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known (Cheers!), to love and be loved.  There are scores of people who seek to medicate their shame and pain for the price of a few beers, drinking their courage instead of turning humbly to Christ.
  • With the opening word of the model prayer Jesus is welcoming us into community.

2. What does the word “Father” tell us about family?

  • With the words, “Our Father,” Jesus is welcoming us into the family of God and identifying Himself as our older brother.
  • The Aramaic word for Father is ABBA.
  • Last week we spoke about the “Abba” Cry/Longing
    • Romans 8:15“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
    • Galatians 4:6“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
  • According to Jewish rabbinical teachings, slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by the affectionate title, “Abba.”
  • “Abba” approximates “papa” or “daddy” and implies unwavering trust.
  • “Father” expresses intelligent comprehension of the relationship.
  • Together the two reveal the trusting love and intelligent confidence of a secure son or daughter.

3. What do the words, “In heaven” tell us about authority?

  • It may be helpful to view heaven as a perspective and not a physical place, like a zip code.  God is omnipresent (always present everywhere).
  • God’s omnipresence reminds us of His transcendent nature.  Transcendence is a theological term referring to the relation of God to creation.
  • And so “our Father Who is in heaven” is “other” or beyond His creation.
  • God is independent and different from His creatures: Isa 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
  • Being beyond His creation and not limited by it or to it. This simple understanding of transcendence makes our privilege of approaching Him intimately like a son or daughter would their earthly father, all the more humbling and praiseworthy.
  • Our transcendent God is also the omnipresent God and is never farther than a prayer away!

III. CONCLUSION

  • Pastor and theologian Arthur Pink, in his book The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, says, that in these four words: “Our Father in Heaven,”there is a “blessed balance.”[3]
  • The first two words: “Our Father” teach us about the nearness and dearness of God’s relationship to us through Jesus Christ – and they inspire us to confidence and love for God.
  • The second two words: “in heaven,” Pink says, should fill us with humility and awe.
  • He says the first two words (“Our Father”) without the second tends toward an “unholy familiarity.”  And the second two words (“in heaven”) without the first two produces “coldness and dread.”
  • **When we combine these two lofty concepts for the purpose of adoration and prayer we see a marriage of God’s unfathomable love with His immeasurable holiness.
  • In the coming week will you consider giving the best five minutes of your day to God?  Before moving to quickly to petitionary prayer, will you take 3-5 minutes of worship and adoration?  Will you worship God and ask God to open your heart afresh to the wonder, to the reality of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf.
  • Begin by thinking of it this way:
    1. No one has ever been so rich and became so poor as Jesus Christ.  He left the richness, the perfect love, and perfect communion within the Trinity of heaven.  He condescended to become a man and live a perfect, sinless life so that you and I could enjoy confidant access to a holy and righteous God.
    2. No one has ever been so poor and become so rich as those who’s hearts are awakened to the reality of what Jesus Christ has done – on our behalf.  Has your heat been awakened to that gift?
  • We said at the start that we want to focus more on what Jesus Christ HAS DONE than on what we SHOULD DO.  I invite you to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation…you and I don’t have to work to earn God’s favor.  The perfect, sinless life of Jesus has already accomplished that.  We own our own sin, we repent (surrender), and we believe that we have been made righteous and perfectly acceptable in the presence of a holy God…

[1] Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books.

[2] Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals: 18.

[3] Baker Books 1982:80-81.

God Is Closer Than You Think #1 – What Is Man?

I. INTRO TO SERIES

Ephesians 1:17-21 is our theme passage for this series.  Will you join me and pray this passage regularly for yourself, for SBA – and for me and the other men who will be teaching and preaching??

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (emphasis added).

As a church we want to see and encounter the greatness, wonder, and glory of God from an elevated vantage point. Isaiah admonishes,

Get yourself up on a high mountain! (40:9a).

We want to glorify God and know God; we want to have our hearts captivated afresh by a revelation of who God is and what God has done, so that He becomes our greatest hope, our greatest joy and delight.

The first thing we need to know about God is that God’s ultimate goal in all that He does is to preserve and display His own glory. God is uppermost in His own affections.  This is difficult for us to fathom because many of us grew-up and were taught, inadvertently, that we were at the center of God’s world.  This isn’t true.  God does not NEED us.  God loves us, but God has been perfectly content and joyful within the context of the Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – where there has been perfect unity, joy, delight, and love – for all of eternity.

God prizes and delights in His own glory above all things. It is SO important that we see this.  The Bible is about God, not us.  The Bible is written TO us, but it is ABOUT God.

The phrase “glory of God” in the Bible generally refers to the visible splendor and the moral beauty of God’s perfection. It is a weak attempt to put into words what cannot be contained in words-what God is like in His unveiled magnificence and excellence.

When we begin to see God from this vantage point it will free us from our lessor fixations, fears, and anxieties and we will be changed from the inside out.

The secondary reason for this series is to re/lay a foundation of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith at SBF.

Our English word doctrine is derived from the Latin word doctrinais and is the term given to the body of teachings that result from weaving together the various strands of the biblical witness and integrating them into a coherent and systematic account of reality.[1]

A doctrinal statement, then, would be a collection of our core beliefs as an expression of the larger body of Christ.

Some perspective[2] about where I hope this series will take us…

  • God is bigger, more passionate about His own glory, and at the same time, more available to His people, than we have ever dared to imagine.
  • While “principles” are good and helpful, they don’t drive (or change) our lives – passion does. What we really need is for our hearts to come alive for God. Whatever our heart prefers will exercise gravitational pull over the rest of our lives.
  • Something always takes first place in our lives. Whatever, or whoever, is at the top of our “passion list” will drown out everything else. What is it that takes first place in our lives? Is it a relationship – or the thought of a relationship? Is it money, success, pleasure, comfort?
  • Augustine said it as well as anyone – and turned it into a prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[3]
  • This is why the Bible doesn’t just give us advice on how to live, the Bible gives us a revelation of who God is. The glorious gospel is not advice it is news. The Bible does not just offer principles about how to live, it offers an unmatched vision of what (or Who) to live for.
  • Most of us don’t need more information what we really need is illumination.
  • If all we want are practical steps regarding how to live our best life now, then we are seeking the wrong thing.  Our goal in this series is to catch a glimpse of the wonder, majesty, and greatness of our God – that He would become our “exceeding joy” (Ps 43:4) that eclipses everything else.
  • When we studied the Beatitudes last Spring we studied Mat 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. We become pure of heart as we long to see and encounter God above all else.
  • When our thoughts of God are small our feelings for God will be small. What we seeking with this Fall series is a truer, greater, weightier vision of God.
  • In our North American 21st century Evangelical churches, God is not always the true subject matter of much of our preaching.  We have settled for what one researcher described as mere “moralistic therapeutic deism.”[4]
  • My hope for this series is that we wouldn’t have small thoughts about God, but that we would begin to think BIG thoughts about God and that in thinking BIG thoughts about God we would grow an appropriate and wholehearted worshipful response to God – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.[5]
  • As we begin, I am reminded of a quote from John Piper: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man…You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.”[6]
  • May our Bible studies, classes, CommGroup dialogues, and sermons during this season at SBF cause us to worship Christ – first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.

II. SERMON INTRO

That being said, please turn to Genesis 1:27-28…

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The biblical story of creation reaches its climax with the creation of man (male and female) in God’s image. (Woman is at the apex of God’s creation — God made man and then He said, I can do better than that! 🙂  Four things should be noted about this climactic creative act:

  1. Man is created as the last of all God’s creation works and thus is the highest creature.
  • We are below God as worshipers.
  • And we are above lower creation and therefore, have we have been given dominion – or, stewardship.
  1. Only humankind is said to be in the image of God. (Latin: Imago Dei, Greek: anthropos).
  2. Only now that man is on the scene in the image of God does the writer of Genesis describe the work of creation as being very good (1:31).
  3. Man is given dominion (stewardship) and commanded to subdue and fill the earth (1:28).

Today we are asking the question “What is man?”  Or, “What is humankind?”  It is this doctrine that answers questions regarding how humankind is both similar to and distinctive from God the Creator.

III. BODY

What does it mean for us to become image bearers of God?  The theme, the motif, the thread, of us being image bearers of God runs throughout the Bible as we will see…

So, the first thing that we learn from this passage in Genesis is that we were created to reflect God’s glory.  We are image bearers of God.

We look to God for fulfillment of our deepest needs.  We find our joy, our comfort, and our delight in Him.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Ps 16:11

We want to join God in His rejoicing over us:

The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior.  He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.  Zephaniah 3:17

If we are made in God’s image, then the more we see and understand about God, the more that we will see and understand about ourselves.

  1. We are moral creatures – born with an intuitive sense of right and wrong.
  2. We are not mere physical creatures, but spiritual creatures.  As such, we can relate to and know God.
  3. We are intellectual creatures, having the ability to think and process information.
  4. We have been born with a desire to know and be known in the context of community.  This reflects our Trinitarian God, who has existed for eternity in perfect love, harmony, respect, and admiration – each one fully serving the needs of the other.  We join in this “dance” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: 52)

Because of sin this image has been distorted.  There is a confluence (crashing) within us of both majesty and depravity.

A few weeks ago we spoke of how the “gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17) was imputed (or, credited) to us. Is 61:10 – “He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.”  Well, in the same way Adam and Eve’s sin was imputed (or, credited) to us.  Every human being is born with this “sin nature.”

This is where the dogma of contemporary culture is in direct opposition to the gospel.  Our culture desperately wants to believe that we are all basically good people (with a few exceptions).

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Rom 3:23

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.  1 Cor 13:12-13

We will talk more specifically about sin next month, but sin:

  • Sin distorts our moral judgment.
  • Sin clouds our thinking.
  • Sin restricts and hinders our fellowship with one another.  We see this in the Garden of Eden after the sin of Adam and Eve.

The good news is that through repentance God’s image can be restored. God redeems us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The theme, or thread, of us being image bearers of God:

  • Roms 8:19, 29 — For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God…Roms 8:29 — For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
  • We also see this in Colossians 1:13-15 — The incomparable Christ rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
  • Col 3:10 – Through worship and adoration we, “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
  • 2 Cor 3:18 — But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
  • Our transformation culminates with the consummation of this present age and  in 1 Cor 15:49 — Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
  • 2 Cor 4:1-4 — Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.

In Jesus we see God’s likeness as it was intended to be – and because of what Jesus Christ has done we will eventually be changed to reflect God’s image as we were originally intended to do.

What responsibilities do we bear as image bearer’s of God?

  1. We are reflecting the image of God throughout the course of each and every day (for better or for worse!).  As we engage one another, our spouses, our children, or our co-workers, or neighbors, or friends – or even those that don’t like us (or, God-forbid, those that we don’t like), we are to be cognizant (aware, conscious) of the ongoing question: How can I serve, love, and listen to this person in a way that reflects a little bit of who God is?  “We cannot commend what we do not cherish” (John Piper).
  2. We are to reflect God by taking care of the earth…
  3. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  2 Cor 5:17-21 — Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

IV. CONCLUSION

N.T. Wright on What It Means To Be An Image Bearer…

Next week: What is God like?  What does God say about Himself?  (I think this may be the longest chapter in our companion book.)


[1] Adapted from Alister McGrath, “Doctrine,” in Kevin Vanhoozer, Gen. ed., Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, Baker Academic 2005: 177.

[2] I am indebted to a sermon by JR Vassar entitled, Our Great God (Apostles Church in NYC) for spurring me on to think bigger thoughts of God.)

[3] Confessions. Lib 1,1-2, 2.5, 5: CSEL 33, 1-5.

[4] Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults by Christian Smith, with Patricia Snell (Oxford University Press, Sept 2009).

[5] Westminster Shorter Catechism 1648, Q1.

[6] Let the Nations Be Glad. Baker Book House 1989: 11.

God’s Mission Becomes Our Mission

I. INTRO

Last week we turned an important corner in the life of this church with our Sacred Assembly.  Today, I’d like for us to consider the mission of God’s Church – and more specifically this church, Southside Bible Fellowship.

By way of introduction, God has a MISSION, a MEANS, and a METHOD.

1. What is the MISSION of God?

God’s mission is the manifestation of His own glory.

“For the earth will be filled

With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,

As the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14

What is God’s glory?  God’s glory is the shining forth of the perfection of all of God’s attributes.

God’s supreme desire is that He might be known and enjoyed above all things.

God seeks to be recognized as supremely worthy, supremely splendid, and supremely valuable. God’s glory is sensed when we feel the reality of His presence, goodness, and superiority.

2. The MEANS of God’s mission is Jesus Christ and the work He did on the cross.

We call this the gospel.  God creates, calls, rescues, redeems, saves, restores, restrains, and grants — all to the end that we may find our true comfort, joy, and delight in Him.

The gospel is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures, from Satan, sin and its effects to the Father and each other through the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension — and future return of the substitutionary Son by the power of the Spirit for God’s glory and the Church’s joy. (We see summary statements of this throughout Scripture – both Old and New Testaments.)

To be “gospel-centered” means to both see and live out this narrative as the central theme, or singular story line, of the Bible.  It is central. It is singular.

The gospel stands at the center of God’s redemptive plan, and in it we see Him most clearly for Who He is and what He has done.

3. The METHOD of God’s mission is you and me – the Church.  In a nutshell we (the Church) are all called to live as missionaries in our current life station and cultural context.

Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – all our social networks.

If you were preparing to be a missionary in Malaysia what activities would best prepare you?

We are to begin the discipleship process BEFORE conversion.  (This is where most churches get it wrong…think about it – we start discipling our kids before they’re converted…)

II. BODY

Having identified God’s MISSION, MEANS, and METHOD I would like to spend the rest of our time considering the mission of the church – and specifically this church – SBF as we enter into a new season of ministry…

The mission of the Church universal is: To glorify God by making disciples through embodying the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s mission and the mission of His Church are inseparably linked. If God’s mission is to be glorified through the redemption and reconciliation of a people, the Church’s mission must orient around the glory of God and seek to glorify Him through redemption and reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The mission of the Church is highlighted in these verses. As those who have been reconciled to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are now ambassadors of reconciliation to a lost and broken world. We plead, urge, implore, reason, pray, serve, preach, teach and gather to see God glorified through reconciliation.

We also see the mission of the church in the more familiar Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

A suggested mission for SBF: To glorify God through making disciples.  We will accomplish this through:

  1. Gospel-centered worship
  2. Gospel-centered prayer
  3. Gospel-centered community
  4. Gospel-centered service
  5. Gospel-centered mission.

1. Gospel-Centered Worship

All of life is worship. Every thought, word, desire, and deed involves the ascribing of worth and value – glory. Each attitude, affection and activity is an expression of our allegiance, whether to our Creator or His creation. God is alone worthy of our worship.

Worship is related to every area of our lives. We are called to eat, drink, speak, think, and work to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 – whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”). Worship cannot be narrowed down to a particular time and place as if God does not claim authority over certain aspects of our lives. There are no neutral desires or deeds; everything is an expression of worship.

Gospel-centered worship is to be pursued in every facet of our lives as we consider how all encompassing the gospel is to us. Gospel-centered worship is nurtured through:

The gathering of God’s people in a weekend worship service. Within this venue, we worship God by remembering the gospel through preaching, teaching, singing, praying and celebrating the ordinances of baptism and communion. Each presents an opportunity for the church to receive, remember, respond and rejoice in the work of our great King.

Gospel-centered worship also means that we orient our lives (between Sundays) around learning how to worship God and bring Him glory through our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Again, 1 Corinthians 10:31 becomes our holy objective – whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”

1 Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 145:1-21, Isaiah 43:6-7, Colossians 3:1-17

2. Gospel-Centered Prayer

Turn with me to Exodus 33:15-18 –“Then [Moses] said to [God], “ If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth? 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!

What we have here is the greatest request we could ever make of God.  It transcends any other request that we could ask of God.

It’s an unrelenting desire to engage the presence of God.

If you want to know the real you, listen for what you pray for involuntarily.  Listen to the spontaneous prayers that irrupt from your heart.

Moses’ prayer is a reflex of the heart.  It reveals what he REALLY wants.

What is it that you involuntarily pray for?  What is the unrehearsed outburst of your soul…

God loves it when we address Him in prayer as the END and not simply a MEANS.  If you’re like me it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing God as the MEANS to our true desires instead of seeing God as the END of all our desires.  We seek God for jobs, for relationships, for good health, for material things – and all those are good yet the ultimate value is God Himself.

The prayer that most delights God is the prayer that makes Him our most passionate desire.

Jonathan Edwards concluded the most essential difference between a Christian and a moralist is that a Christian obeys God out of the sheer delight in who He is. The gospel means that we are not obeying God to get anything but to give him pleasure because we see his worth and beauty. Therefore, the Christian is able to draw power out of the contemplation of God (i.e., prayer). The moralist will usually only come and petition God for things…

Gospel-centered prayer, is making God the END and not the MEANS — rather than anxious petitioning.

3. Gospel-Centered Community

We worship a triune God, Who has eternally existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In identifying the tri-unity of God, we recognize that God is communal. The Godhead has perpetually dwelt in perfect harmony, unity, joy, and love. Bearing the image of God, we are called to reflect this reality. We are called to be communal creatures imaging the community of our Creator.

Though each Christian has a personal relationship with God, that relationship is not individual or private. The Christian faith is not intended to be lived in isolation. We were made for community – relationship with God and with each other.

The local church is not merely a place that we attend but a people to whom we belong. The Bible calls us members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) with the expectation that we contribute to the body for the glory of God and the good of His people.

Gospel-centered community is a radical call amid a culture of mere attendance and casual involvement. It involves mutual love, care, consistency and authenticity as we seek to adorn the person and work of Christ with our lives. Where these elements are lacking, we have moved away from gospel-centered community and into the realm of social clubs.

Gospel-centered community is primarily expressed through Community Groups that meet during the week, or Sunday School classes that meet before the service on Sunday mornings. Groups are not perfect and those who participate in them will find them messy at times. However, our hope is that group members will be radically committed to reform from within. This takes time, prayer, effort, patience, love, trust and hope.

Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 3:12-13, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

4. Gospel-Centered Service

Gospel-centered service is motivated by the reconciling work of God and seeks to extend His grace and mercy to others for His glory and not our own. It is an expression of love and stewardship of grace marked by humility, generosity and hospitality and empowered by a passion for the glory of God.

Service can and should be pursued in various ways by all recipients of varied grace. Those who have been impacted by the gospel have countless opportunities – both formal and informal – to serve others by greeting at the doors of the church, following up guests who will be visiting our church, volunteering to work with our children and youth, teaching, singing, serving communion, giving financially to the needs of others, opening their homes to their neighbors, etc.

John 13:1-20, 1 Peter 3:8-11, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15

5. Gospel-Centered Mission

We are used to thinking of mission in terms of funding and sending missionaries to work in other countries to share the plan of salvation with unreached people groups.

If there is an unreached people group in the United States, it is New Englanders. A recent Gallup poll placed the six states of New England in the top ten least religious states in the nation.

Those in New England who attend evangelical churches hover between 1- 3% of the population. There is a higher percentage of evangelical Christian churchgoers in Mormon Utah than in New Hampshire!

Gospel-centered mission is the recognition that each one of us is sent by God as a missionary into our own sphere of relationships – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – where we boldly promote the gospel through collaborative expressions of mercy and generosity.

We serve a missionary God: The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit sends us.

Let me just say that I am more of a fan of mining the vein of our current relational sphere than I am into organizing what we’ve known as “street witnessing.”  And I am more of a fan of initially engaging our relational network through learning how to listen.  In our culture at this moment in history, we will earning the right to speak through first of all learning how to listen.

2 Corinthians 5:11-2, Matthew 28:18-20, Mt. 4:19; John 20:21; Acts 16:20; 17:6, and to make disciples of all nations Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8

Start A Community Group!!

Community Groups:

One of the goals of this transition season at Southside is to see multiple groups of individuals and families sharing life together and living life on mission – serving the city and each other. We are seeking to be theological, relational, and missional. This can occur in multiple ways.

Community Groups will be a venue in which believers and unbelievers alike can gather together to dialogue about what is being taught in our Sunday gatherings. There are at least four integral components of a community group: 1) Worship – to meet with God and to know Him is our highest priority. 2) Conversational Prayer and Mutual Ministry – having a conversation together with God is an essential way to build unity; first by praising God and then by praying in response to the needs expressed. 3) Application of the Bible – we will seek not just to talk about the Bible, or about each other. Rather, we want our groups to seek to be transformed by the truth of the Gospel. So we will do our best to apply the truths learned to our everyday lives. 4) Sharing a Life – there’s nothing like an honest testimony to illustrate what is being taught.  When a person shares with the group, s/he feels more a part of the group. The objective of the leader is not to be the authority or even the teacher, but the guide.

Also, Community Groups are missional communities that will act as missionary teams, seeking the good of their unchurched family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. They will be concerned with praying for and serving their sphere of relationships in such a way as to let them know that we are Christ’s disciples because we love one another.

Finally, and most simply stated, our community groups are networks of Christ-centered relationships. They are friends seeking to learn how to “speak the truth in love” to one another. They spend time together, meet one another’s needs, watch one another’s kids, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, challenge one another, hold one another accountable, rejoice with one another, weep with one another, correct one other, be corrected by one another.

This is gospel community. It is not natural. It is not easy. It is messy. It can be frustrating. But it is good, and it will change you.

Gathering for Worship:

This is perhaps what most people think of as “Going to Church.” Church, however, is not an event, or a ceremony – it is people. Those who have been saved by God’s grace have been saved into God’s family, into a community. So it is only natural for local pockets of this family to come together and celebrate what God has done in Jesus. We come together to celebrate the truth of the gospel and to rehearse the gospel by singing it, praying it, hearing it preached, and seeing it in communion and (God-willing) baptism. We come together to encourage and be equipped for lives on mission. Expect mostly expositional preaching (verse by verse through books of the bible), seeking to exalt Christ and unpack the gospel in every text. Expect communion often, if not every week, (we like remembering the gospel as many times in as many ways as possible.) Expect to be told the truth – no pulled punches. We won’t “Go to church.” The Church will gather.

Discipleship (Life-Long Learning)

We believe that gospel-centered (or Christ-centered) living will make us desperate for theology and that our worship gathering will whet your appetite for theology. However we see a huge need for an ever-increasing understanding of our faith. We live in an age of skepticism and relativity. In many places Christ and the church have been pushed to the margins of society instead of existing at the center. We believe that Christianity is a relational worldview that is complex, beautiful, and meaningful. We believe that if we are going to be effective missionaries we must understand our Bibles, love what it teaches, and proclaim its contents. We all have a lot to learn, and we envision venues within Southside that will take time to work through learning the central truths of our faith.

Gospel Shaped Prayer and Passion (Acts 1:12-14)

Series: Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1

I.      INTRO

A.   Last week we spoke of some implicit core values that were seeded throughout the first two chapters that helped to shape the Jerusalem church as it launched (which we’ll look at next week).

  1. They valued the kingdom of God.
  2. They valued humility and prayer — and as a result they grabbed a hold of unity.
  3. They valued the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  4. They valued contextualized[1] Gospel presentations.
  5. They valued honest, and straight-forward Gospel presentations
  6. They valued an outward missional focus.
  7. They valued discipleship in the context of authentic community.

B.    Today, in our study of the book of Acts, I’d like for us to consider how we can become people of passionate prayer.  Passion driven…fighting unholy passions or getting in touch with God’s holy passions.

C.    I am going to take a different approach than you have probably heard regarding this subject of prayer.

D.   CS Lewis[2] has this fascinating quote that speaks to the issue of passion:
“Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires [i.e., passions] not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (Weight of Glory pgs 25-26).

E.    Most teaching on prayer focuses on petitionary prayer. Today I would like to focus more on preparing our hearts for petitionary prayer.

F.    We will be looking at 4 passages today:  Acts 1:12-14; Lk 11:2-4; Rom 14:17; & Jer 29:7.

G.   Acts 1:12-14 –  

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

13When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.

14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

H.   I’d like to look closely at the phrase, from v. 14, continually devoting themselves to prayer.  (The NIV Bible says, They all joined together constantly in prayer.)  What  does this mean??  Our English Bibles do not do this phrase justice.

I.      There is one Greek word for the phrase, continually devoting themselves.  And that word is HOMOTHUMADON, which comes from two Greek words:

1.     HOMO – meaning same. homo – same; hetero – different

2.     THUMADON – Comes from the Gk word thumos and is often translated as rage or wrath.  There is, however, a noble thumos that burns for the good of others, for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, and thus it motivates people to act.  Wrath or rage anger is usually personal; born of envy, self-absorption, or vengence. Thumos is often translated as “spirited” or “passion.” It implies a focused indignation or fight.  (It is also the word we get our English trademarked word Thermos[3] from.)

HOMOTHMUDON is used 10 of its 12 NT occurrences in the Book of Acts.[4]

3.     So, our English translations certainly do not do justice to this volatile Greek word.  We can define HOMTHUMADON as: To be together, to become unified with a passionate fierceness and indignation – it’s a crying out for God’s purpose and order to be established.  (Remember, our battle is NOT against flesh and blood [Eph 6:12] – so the fieriness and indignation is not directed toward people – it speaks more of an attitude of desire.)

4.     Today we are going to ask the question – How does this happen?  How does this come about?

II.    BODY

A.   There are 2 holy passions I’d like for us to consider as we pursue passionate prayer for the upcoming season of fruitful ministry here at Southside…

A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

1.     A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

a.     Luke’s shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer

2And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come’” [Very important words concerning prayer!]

3‘Give us each day our daily bread.
4‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’

b.     The Lord’s Prayer is a template.  There is both form and spontaneity (like jazz).

c.     Notice how v. 2 is God-focused – or, upward focused and vs. 3-4 begin to teach us about petitionary prayer.  For our purpose today, I’d like to zero-in on vs. 2.

d.     V. 2a — Father, hallowed be Your name

  • We address God as Father (Mat – “Our Father” in a family context)
  • When we pray, we are to begin with God.  Passionate prayer begins with a concern for and a preoccupation with God.
  • When we pray, Hallowed Be Your Name we are both asking for and declaring that God’s reputation, God’s renown, and God’s fame would be set apart esteemed, and honored as holy, — That God’s Name would be worshiped, treasured, and loved.
  • We are speaking (declaring) this both to ourselves.
  • And to our city.  (This is what was going on in the upper room!)
  • May our thoughts and emotions that arise at the mention of Your Name be worthy of God.  We don’t want to treat God lightly, or flippantly.  We don’t want God’s name to be treated as common — or of little consequence.
  • But that God would be primary – and at the center of our hearts and minds.  We seek this for ourselves AND for the people in our city (and around the world).
  • **We don’t need to make bigger commitments regarding prayer, the real need is to believe truer and more lofty thoughts about God…

e.     2b — Your kingdom come…

  • Last week we defined the KOG as the “rule and reign of God.”
    • The Christ Event established the KOG on the earth and it will be consummated when Jesus returns.  (Jesus pulls eternity into the present at stakes it with the Cross.)
    • Meanwhile we have partial but growing access to eternity.  The presence and power of God has been unleashed across the earth. (2 Cor 5:2 [NIV] “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling…”)
  • We position ourselves for passionate prayer by aligning ourselves with the God’s rule and reign in our lives.  This is also what was happening for those 10 days in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14)
  • When we pray: “Your Kingdom Come,” it’s a prayer that seeks to banish all the other modern day idols from our lives (primarily money, sex, and power).
  • Rom 14:17 – 17For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [temporal things], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    • Gospel fruit – Where God reigns He brings these things into our lives.
    • Righteousness – (It’s like being pregnant – you either are or you aren’t.)  Roms 5 clearly tells us that righteousness is a gift – SO if we are lacking a sense of right standing (before God) there is either poor theology of what God offers us in Jesus OR there is resistance on our part.
    • Peace — Prince of Peace does not rule and reign in your heart?
    • Joy – Perhaps other masters have taken dominion?
    • Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone (Mat 7:22-23).
  • The primary objective of God’s kingdom is not to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us… (There are still people to be saved from the wrath of hell.)

f.      So what am I saying about positioning ourselves for passionate prayer?

  • Passionate prayer begins with being God-focused, God-centered.  We don’t begin with our petitions, we begin with God.
  • We ELEVATE, WORSHIP, and GLORIFY the NAME of GOD. (Mission exists because worship doesn’t. –John Piper)
  • SURRENDER (ABANDON) your life to the KING.  God will take your sin (infection) and exchange (Luther) for right standing, peace, and joy.
  • Worship is not about the music – it’s, first and foremost, about the heart.
  • Baptism is important (Anabaptists – 16th century)

2.     A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

a.     Jeremiah 29:7 — Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

b.     This verse helps us to refocus toward a KOG orientation.  Church is great, but is not the goal.  Church is the fruit of kingdom activity/ministry.  Kingdom ministry begins with seeking the welfare of the city.

c.     What is our city? In the Bible it was the regional hub.  Paul was urban centric – because he knew if he reached the cities he would reach the culture – and the countryside.  Historians estimate that by 300 AD somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 the population of the Roman Empire was Christian.

d.     If you want to affect your world for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester; if you want to affect the nations for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester (the world is coming to Manchester, is it not?).

e.     The is Missional reorientation taking place in churches around the world.  We will be talking/praying about the more in the coming days – here it is in a nutshell…

  • How churches measure success is being redefined.  From “How do we get people to come?” to “How do we equip and mobilize our people to go?”

f.      You might be saying, “I’m already to busy just trying to keep my head above water!”  The missional question is, “How will we – or how do we – best represent Jesus Christ where God already has us?  Family, friends, neighborhoods, work, clubs, sports.”  Are you good news, bad news, or no news?

III.  CONCLUSION

A.    How do we become people of passionate prayer?  Ask God – individually and corporately – to grow IN us and then THROUGH us:

  1. A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.
  2. A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

B.    Next week: Gospel Shaped Mission (Acts 2)


[1] The message never changes, but the methods do.

[2] One of the most prolific and profound Christian authors of the 20th century.

[3] Genericized Trademarks – like Jacuzzi, Cellophane, Google – Thermos is a trademark name for a vacuum flask.

Gospel Shaped Core Values (Overview of Acts 1-2 developing some key core implicit values)

I.     INTRO – Sermon notes from May 8, 2011

A.  Diagnostic weekend – June 9th-12th.

B.  A team of about 7 people will be here to interview as many people from Southside as they can

C.  There will be an all-church meeting on Sun, June 12th where an initial oral report will be presented.

D.  We’ll be asking a lot of you that weekend to come in for an interview and then attend the all-church meeting to participate in the report.

E.  Why study Acts?

  1. Intro Acts Series: The Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1 – Part 1 (Acts 1-9).
  2. We will be in Acts 1&2 for the next 3 weeks.
  3. In addition to the themes covered in the first few chapters of Acts (that Dana spoke about last week), I can think of at least 3 similarities between Acts 1 and SBF…
  • The Christ followers were a people in transition…as we’ll see, things didn’t turn out the way they expected.
  • In the midst of some anxiety and disappointment, they began to connect the dots and run with a vision they never expected.
  • A relatively few people (120) blossomed into a church that reached its full redemptive purpose.

F.    7 Refocusing questions that we will address here at Southside during this transition season:

  1. Who has God shaped us to be? (Core Values)
  2. Why do we exist as a church? (Biblical Mission)
  3. Where is God leading us in the future? (Fresh Vision)
  4. Whom has God called us to reach? (Ministry Focus)
  5. Which ministry model best facilitates our vision? (Building authentic community)
  6. What ministry goals can we believe God for?
  7. What is our plan for ministry for the next 2-3 years? (Strategic map)

G.    What’s a Core Value?  An enduring belief, a preferred choice.  Core values are the essence of a church’s identity.

  1. Those few, select distinctives that are non-negotiable.
  2. Where is Southside’s God-given potential for greatness?
  3. There is a difference between stated values and practiced values.  Stated values are often religious values that people/churches think they should
    have.  Practiced values are the unique distinctives that a church is actually doing.  Practiced values ask the question, “What are we currently doing that has the potential for greatness?”
  4. There is a difference between implicit values and explicit values.  Implicit values are implied values – while they may be clearly formed or articulated, they are not stated.  Explicit values are definitive and clearly stated.  Churches, with explicit, practiced values know who they are and who they aren’t.  All opportunities for ministry are evaluated in the light of God given values, mission, and vision.

H.   Today we will look at some of the practiced, implicit values that launched the church in Acts.  These implicit values are salted through the first 2 chapters.

I.   We can think of it like a football game – we don’t know what play they called in the huddle, but when they run the play we find out what play was called.

II.   BODY

A.    Implicit Values of Acts (Alternatively known as The Church I Would Join)

1.     They were Kingdom Focused — Acts 1:3 (NAS) “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”  

a.     The Kingdom of God – Quite simply is: The rule and reign of God.

  • The KOG is our destination.
  • Jesus established the Kingdom at his first coming and will consummate the Kingdom at his second coming. Jesus reaches into eternity and pulls it into the present – and stakes it into the ground with the Cross.  “We live in the presence of the future.”  “The already and the not yet.” 
  • As we live in the presence of the future there is paradox (seeming contradiction).  We are saved, but working out our salvation; we are sanctified, yet being sanctified; we are healed yet being healed. It’s both present and future
  • One of the most dynamic aspects of the present reality of the KOG, is that within it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead is made available to us.  The Greek word is dunamis – the same word we get “dynamite” from – and which we find in Acts 1:8. 
  • The Church is the fruit of kingdom activity.
  • The demands of the Kingdom are that we repent; we are to place God first, and follow him at any cost.

b.  Kingdom is a gospel word – along with the Cross and Grace that form a theological construct to help us see the under-girding of the gospel throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation:

  • The Cross – Speaks of the Atoning Work of Jesus Christ
    • This is shorthand for the “5-Fold Christ Event”: 1) Virgin Birth, 2) Miraculous Ministry, 3) Degrading Death, 4) Victorious Resurrection, 5) Missional Ascension of Jesus Christ. 
    • Apart from the atoning work of Christ, we would be forever guilty, ashamed, and condemned before God.
    • The way of God is suffering/humility – and then glory.  This is what baptism is supposed to be about – I will die to my previous life and come alive to God – and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Grace – The unmerited favor of God.  Acceptance is given to us freely at God’s expense.  Martin Luther calls it, “the great exchange.”
    • It’s important that we understand there is common grace and saving grace happens when we take up residence within the KOG.  
    • Definition: All that God is, lavishly poured into you. 
    • Jonathan Edwards speaks of grace as, “the very Holy Ghost dwelling in the soul and acting there as a vital principle.”[1]

2.     They were Humble, Prayerful, & Unified“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying…14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”   Acts 1:13, 14 (NAS)

a.     Humble prayers of confession and repentance before/with God and one another.

b.     Corporate prayer leading to intercession – reminding the Lord of His word/promises.

c.     Unity is a fruit, not a goal

3.     They were Holy Spirit Empowered

1:4Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5forJohn baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

2:1,4And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place…4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…

a.     John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

b.     Eph 5:17-21 –  17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, [we apparently need to be continually, or regularly, filled with the HS – Why?  Because we leak!]

19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

    c.  Two points

  • (Jn) We are to seek to live in the healthy tension of spirit and truth.
  • (Eph) HS infilling occurs when our hearts are worshipful, when we are grateful, and we walk in mutual submission.

d.  John Piper: “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” (Supremacy of God In Missions)

4.  They delivered Contextualized Gospel Presentations16No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel”   Acts 2:15,16 (TLB)

5.  They engaged in Honest/Straightforward Gospel Presentations – Acts 2:23, 36…

23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.”

6.  They were Outward Focused (Missional)“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”   Acts 2:41 (NIV)

a.     There is a missional refocusing going on in the Church today.
b.     We are all called to be missionaries.  The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit send us.
c.     Changing metrics…

7.     They were Intentional About Discipleship and Authentic Community (They lived Community in the context of Discipleship) – Acts 2:42-47

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  44And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;  45and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  46And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

8.     As a result of living out these values – they were Fruitful

a.     “A sense of awe,” or a healthy fear of the Lord (v.43)

b.     Wonders & signs (v.43)

c.     Community (vs.44-47)

  • Identification
  • Equality
  • Unity
  • Enthusiastic joy
  • Praise
  • Favor with all the people
  • Salvation’s (v.47)

III. CONCLUSION

A.   What does it mean to be Gospel centered? (Or, Christ centered?)

B.    My experience is that the North American Church has lost, or squandered, much of the power – and the breadth of the Gospel.

  1. I have been reminded recently that the Gospel is not advice – it is news.  It is, in fact, the ultimate Good News. Sunday mornings are not the place to give advice.
  2. Gospel-centered ministry is rooted in remembrance.  On Sunday mornings we are to remind one another primarily of what Jesus Christ has done, not what we must do.

C.    Many of us have tended to view the Gospel a message that we responded to many years ago – and then moved on from.  Yet the Gospel is more like an ocean.  It is deep, and wide, and vast.

  1. We are called to view, and engage, and respond to the gospel with every passage of Scripture we read, or study.
  2. I would suggest that the essence of Christian maturity is when the Gospel itself gets worked in – and through our lives.
  3. Here is my goal for you – and for Southside: My aim is that you would experience Jesus (my goal for you is experiential) as the sovereign, risen, living, Lord of the universe – and as the source and the content of your real hope and joy. Two things are necessary:
  • God’s liberating truth
  • God’s liberating grace.

4.  What is the evidence of salvation?

  • Fruitfulness
  • What is your deepest desire?
  • True Christians have conflicted desires to be sure.  True Christians struggle, and sin, and mess up – to be sure. Yet, the deepest desire of the true Christian is for Jesus and the unfolding of the gospel.
  • Non-Christians – and you could say false Christians also have conflicted desires, yet their deepest desire is for themselves, or for ease, or comfort – something other than the person of Jesus Christ.  (The simplest definition of idolatry is making a good thing an ultimate thing.)

Next week: Persistent and Passionate Prayer (Acts 1: 13-14).


[1] Jonathan Edwards, TREATISE ON GRACE.

The Missional Reorientation of the Church

I was recently a part of a diagnostic team that conducted an in-depth analysis of a church on the east coast. One of the important recommendations is for them to turn outward in some fresh new ways. The following article will be included in the final report as an appendix resource…

Missional means adopting the posture of a missionary, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound. (from Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer)

For the church, the concept of maintenance is the one-word summary of the Christendom church paradigm that has been in place for some 1,710 years since Constantine became Roman emperor[1]and made Christianity the “state religion.” In Western Christendom, the church existed in a friendly environment and occupied the seat of influence, if not power. Today the church has been marginalized, pushed to the edge of western society.[2] The good news for us as 21st century followers of Christ is that God inspired marginalized people to write the Bible to other marginalized people. This is key, and holds great promise and adventure for us in these days ahead.

Intentionally moving from maintenance mode to missional mode involves a theological reorientation that proactively shifts from an ecclesiocentric[3] understanding of mission to a theocentric[4] reconceptualization of Christian mission.[5] In other words, the church becomes the fruit of missional activity, not the goal. As this new paradigm forms, a radical shift begins as missional praxis (practice) takes on fresh perspective. In this sense missional praxis includes missions–and much more. It brings together evangelism and social action and invites every member of the church to contextualize the gospel of Jesus Christ into the subcultures where our lives are spent beyond the church property – neighborhoods, extended family, the workplace, clubs, and other social groupings. Every member becomes a missionary.

The mission of the church, according to the late missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, is not merely an interpretation of history; it is a history making force.[6] Newbigin also noted, that the real challenge for Christianity is the conversion of a culture. During the Enlightenment there was a shift in the location of reliable truth from the story told in the Bible to the “eternal truths of reason,”[7] of which the mathematical physics of Newton offered the supreme model. These “eternal truths of reason,” required no faith and doubted everything except what could be measured and proved.

This emerging missional perspective is further enhanced by author and professor Charles Van Engen’s definition of mission, “God’s mission works primarily through the people of God as they intentionally cross barriers from Church to non-church, faith to non-faith, to proclaim by word and deed the coming of God in Jesus Christ.”[8]

Each local church becomes a missional community described as the pilgrim people of God who are on a journey towards the fullness of the reign of God.[9] Missional communities of faith no longer see the church service as the primary connecting point with those outside the community (of faith). Connecting with those outside happens during the week with those whom God has sovereignly placed in our lives within the various sub-cultures of our own local community. As we personally and authentically engage Christ – and then listen to, serve, love, and share the gospel with those around us, we act as missionaries to our culture.

As churches see their present community as a mission field. Leadership of a mission outpost is practiced with faithfulness and on-going compassion, knowing that for many years to come it will remain a mission outpost. It does not have the goal of becoming a churched-culture local church. The spirit of a mission outpost is one of mission, whereas the spirit of a churched-culture local church is one of maintenance focused on membership vs. salvation, maintenance vs. societal outreach, and dollars vs. meeting specific human hurts and hopes.[10]

Most traditional mission sending agencies in North America and Europe have, in general, failed to recognize that the most urgent contemporary mission field can now be found in our own back yards, and that the most aggressive paganism with which we have to engage is the ideology that now controls the “developed” world.[11]

The entire Bible is to be viewed as a “manual in mission,” or as one missiologist has said, “There is only one scriptural symbol that corresponds to the question of the dynamic and functional relation of the Church to the world. That symbol is mission.”[12] Finally, Van Engen also suggests that leadership effectiveness, as we move toward a missional praxis mindset, need not be measured by accomplishments, but how God’s people are equipped, empowered, inspired, and organized to participate with God’s mission.[13]

Congregations should no longer expect the community to exclusively come to us.  The Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20) calls us to go.  There is a difference between a go ye church and a come ye church. Local missional praxis ministry involves the people of God crossing barriers to serve the other.  For congregations with well cared for facilities, mix missional outreach with ministries that go off-campus as well as workshops and classes that showcase the campus.

In measuring its effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, “How many visitors have we attracted?” The missional praxis congregation asks, “How many members have we sent?”

Unchurched adults interested in finding a congregation aren’t nearly as likely to visit one in person as a churched person who is shopping for a new congregation. This means effective evangelism must begin outside the church building in relationships between Christians and unbelievers, according to research the attractional model of Church (come ye) generally attracts transfer growth, while a missional model of Church (go ye) generally attracts a higher conversion growth percentage. It’s not either-or, but both-and.


[1] Ogden, Greg. Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry To the People of God. Zondervan, Rev. 2003.

[2] A primary reason for this is that the church has lost much of its moral authority due to imposing a “Christian” moralism without gospel-changed hearts, which often led to cruelty, hypocrisy, and the abuse of power and authority.

[3] Or, church-centered.

[4] To God-centered.

[5] Guder, Darrell L., and Lois Barrett. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1998:4.

[6] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1989: 131.

[7] Newbigin, Lesslie. Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship, Eerdmans 1995:73.

[8] Fuller Theological Seminary: MP502, Lecture 1.

[9] Guder: 204

[10] Freeman, Robert E., Fuller Theological Seminary: ML525 Leadership Selection and Training in the Info-Tech Age. Lesson 1 — PARADIGMS OF ADULT TRAINING IN MISSION.

[11] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Revised). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995:10.

[12] Bosch, David J. The Why and How of a True Biblical Foundation for Mission. Reprinted as Hermeneutical Principles in the Biblical Foundation for Mission, Evangelical Review of Theology 17(4): 437-451, Oct. 1993.

[13] Van Engen, Charles. God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991: 176.