2016-09-04 - Grace Summit Values - God/Growth/Grace/Gospel - pt 1
4th September 2016
Lord, thank You that we can be with You as Your family – as a community to worship You and hear Your voice and that You would speak to us – may our hearts be open to what You would have to say to us. Help us to follow You as disciples in every way. Help us to set ourselves aside that You might live in us. To understand that we have died and You live in us. Self gets in the way in so many ways – so help us to understand how our self gets in the way of You – show us things we would never think of.
Melissa has put together a bulletin board downstairs – our mission/purpose/values– we went through a program – we are refocusing our mission and vision – there are four words that we are using to summarize this whole thing – and they all begin with G – God, Growth, Grace, and Gospel.
We could spend an eternity looking at God – but we will focus a bit of time on each one. Today’s focus is on God – and when we think of our purpose and calling from God as a community – all that we do as a community should help fulfill that purpose – that calling – that mission. We don’t just do things to do things – well, we shouldn’t – there are probably things that all churches do just because they always have – but everything we do should be connected to fulfilling God’s calling in our lives.
So when you go to work next, you are doing this to fulfill God’s purpose and calling in your life. There is something there where God is using that to fulfill what He has called you to as a person.
“We are seeking closeness with God being aware of His Presence through prayer, Scripture, and worship.”
We know we are accomplishing our calling and purpose when people are growing in relationship with God – and that includes when people are beginning a relationship with God. They must be in a relationship with God and growing in a relationship with God.
This is from the Great Commandment – Love the Lord Your God
And the Shema – Deuteronomy 6:4
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
To be a Christian – is to be in a love relationship with God as a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ. What being a Christian has turned into has been being part of a religion or believing a certain set of beliefs – but it is really about being in a love relationship with God – as Master – Jesus Christ.
We tend to read the Bible from our perspective – but it was written from their perspective. When they said Jesus is Lord – it meant He was in control of my life – but it also meant – and Caesar is not. So when you were saying Jesus is Lord, it was a life-threatening statement. When we say Jesus is Lord, we are saying certain things are not – and they are usually things we hold to dearly as a people.
The focus of God from the beginning was to have a relationship with His creation.
Adam and Eve – it talks about God walking in the Garden with them in the cool of the evening. God created these creatures – and He didn’t just put them out there to see what happens – but His focus and purpose is to be in relationship with US.
He wanted it so badly – that Matthew 1:23 says that “23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
I AM – He became one of us – that He could have the closest relationship possible. This was God;’s plan from the beginning a relationship that goes beyond Creator/Creature, but Hebrews tells us Brother/Sister/Friends.
All the other promises of the Bible are built on this. Protection/Support/Care – if God is not with us – all promises fail. That is why it says in 1 Cor. 1 – all the promises are yes in Christ – they are fulfilled. Do we believe it? Of course we do in our heads – but tomorrow – when something crazy happens in your life – do we believe this? When the deadline is not being met? Do we believe it?
This promise of God being with us – there is another verse our church is built upon – The Great Commission – Matthew 28: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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.”
When we look at the Bible – and how God was with His people – there are these spectacular stories – Adam and Eve walking in the garden – remember Morning Has Broken? It was really not by Cat Stevens – but an old hymn – about being in the Garden.
Noah – build a boat!
Abraham – Look at the stars!
Moses met God in a burning bush! There is fire and lightning and stuff being carved in stones!
The Children of Israel being led by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night.
And we – well, we don’t see God working in this way in our life and it can cause us to feel like our experience of God is lacking.
Isaiah 64 starts – O God, that You would rend the heavens! That the mountains might quake at Your presence!
Then the New Testament comes – and God becomes flesh –
When you read John’s writings – 1 John 1: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
They beheld and handled GOD! That is exactly what he is saying. This is not a theological thesis on the incarnation! When Jesus was there, they didn’t know anything about the incarnation – but when it was all over – John looked back and said, “Oh MY! We spent 3 years walking with God here on this earth”
IN the Old Testament – it was like they had this vague understanding of God. But NOW they got it – they beheld His glory.
We have the great privilege of being able to look back and just read it.
Jesus told the disciples – I have to go and be with the Father – but it is better that I go. Better? Burning bushes are better! No! This is better – Jesus said – better that I go.
A great church historian from the 4th century – Athanasius - concerning the incarnation – “It is like a painting – someone paints a portrait of someone and the painting is marred – some vandal mars it – but the only way to restore it – would be to bring the person back to the painter and the painter would repaint the image on the canvas.
We were created in the image of God – male and female – in the Garden, that image was marred almost beyond recognition. So what did God have to do? To bring the image back in so it could be repainted.
He brought God back in so we could understand what it means to be really human – to be in the image of God. And we see that in Jesus Christ.
From a practical standpoint – we know that God is with us – but how do we live with God in our lives?
1) We need to invite Him to be part of our lives day by day – even though He is already there. God does not force Himself to be involved – He wants us to open ourselves up to His involvement – daily – God – here You go – come on in – be engaged in my day
2) He wants us to expect and look for Him to show up – because He is there – He has promised that. You come to church – and it is easy to think - I hope the sermon is good – I think that every week! Or that the music is good or that nothing bad happens or that I get to sit by so and so – but we need to think about – how is God going to show up? And where? And he might not show up in the sermon for you! He might show up when you are working in the nursery or when you are talking to someone. He may show up during the sermon or music – but that might not be when He shows up for you! The most encouraging thing for me is to see you guys ministering to one another – because oftentimes, God shows up in one another. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you have done for Me. God shows up with other believers – and often – He shows up with the uncool.
Genesis 28: 10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He [e]came to [f]a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it [g]under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood [h]above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your [i]descendants. 14 Your [j]descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will [k]spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your [l]descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have [m]promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
God wants us to learn how to be aware of it! A key thing – Jacob looks back to see how God was there. That is human nature – we go through whatever we go through – and then think – WOW! God was there all along – but when we are going through it – we think God is nowhere to be found. That is why it is so important to look back.
How do we become aware of God working in our lives?
Through Scripture, prayer, and worship.
Some practical ways to experience God more:
1) Scripture – read the Bible. How novel! Learn to read your Bible. Now, there are different forms of reading. What we typically do as Christians is formational reading – reading for the purpose of allowing the scriptures to shape how we think, feel, and act. When we read the Bible, we must allow the Bible to read us. You are not reading it for information – but for transformation. In order to be transformed by what we read, we must allow it to read us – to allow it to tell us what needs to change. We don’t want to do that sometimes, because we don’t want someone telling us what is wrong with us. In that case, you can’t have a relationship with God – because He will transform You!
The goal is not to master the Bible, but to be mastered by it.
2) Prayer – first an activity of the heart – and only second an activity of the mind and mouth. For too many – that is the other way around – and that is not really prayer. It is not a Christmas list to God. Those things are important – praying for this, that, and the other thing - but it should only be about 25% - yes, you can pray for your needs – give us this day our daily bread – but that should only be about a quarter of it.
Prayer is about being spiritually transformed. We go to God trying to get God to change things – but prayer only changes things when prayer changes us!
3) Finally – with worship – it is not just singing – singing is a small part of it – we have turned worship into singing – and singing is important – but worship is much more than that – it is first and foremost about God – not us. It is easy to make worship about our feelings – but God is the subject and the active one in worship – we are the responders. It is all about Him.
“If we recover a sense of the primacy of God's action in worship - that worship is a site of gracious, divine initiative - then we might better understand how and why worship is the center of discipleship. We should approach the sanctuary with a different set of expectations - that we will be met and remade by a living and active Lord.”
"When the church truly worships, it becomes the most potent place for spiritual transformation."
“Instead of the bottom-up emphasis on worship as our expression of devotion and praise, historic Christian worship is rooted in the conviction that God is the primary actor or agent in the worship encounter. Worship works from the top down, you might say. In worship, we don't just come to show God our devotion and give Him our praise; we are called to worship because in this encounter God remakes and molds us top-down. Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn't just something we do; It is where God does something TO us. Worship is the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts.” From What you Love; The Spiritual Power of Habit - by James K.A. Smith