Friday, May 13, 2016

Enlivened by the Gospel

Being back in GR and being relatively new I often get asked about our church. Where is it? What is the PCA all about, etc.. ? So after I explain that the church is located on Breton, north of 28th street — and then to clear up their confusion say, “behind the drive-in church” — I endeavor to explain what makes us tick. Articulating what makes us tick is actually a conversation that we have been having on the Session level. How do we best capture who we are in a way that honors the past, reflects the present and points us to the future. I want to take the next couple of weeks to share with you some of the fruits of those labors. For those that have been at Christ Church for some time you will recognize a lot of continuity. Ideas like “where we see the world through the cross of Christ” will resonate, as will “reach up, reach in, reach out.” But as we move forward into the next phase of the journey that God has us as Christ Church on, it is our belief that a fresh articulation of these old themes would be helpful in uniting old and new alike and galvanizing us in the service of the Kingdom.

So where do we start? Where else but with the Gospel. The starting place we have chosen for describing who we are as a community is this Enlivened by the Gospel... Let’s take this statement apart for a minute, starting with the term Gospel. The Gospel is the good news (for all who will humble themselves in repentance) that though we are more broken and sinful than we can imagine, through faith in the atoning work of Christ, we are more forgiven, loved and accepted than we ever dared hope. As you can see, the Gospel is good news for individuals. As Jesus said to Nicodemus many years ago, “ you must be born again”. The promise of the Gospel is that through faith in the finished work of Christ we are reborn, converted as it were from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Col. 1:13). This is great news, and it is even better in that the Gospel is not only good news for individuals but it is also for communities, cities, indeed all of creation! We will look more into this in coming weeks.

But it is important to note that the Gospel is more than just the starting point for entry into the kingdom; it is actually the prism through which we see and evaluate every aspect of our lives, returning again and again to the truths of the Gospel for guidance. Why did Peter, a mature believer, get off track in his treatment of the Gentiles? Because he was not walking in accordance with the truths of the Gospel (Galatians 2:11-14). We start in the Gospel and we stay in the Gospel. We don’t ever graduate beyond the Gospel. I hope you recognize this as foundational to who we are as a church. Preaching, teaching, counseling, worship, fellowship, service; everything is informed by the good news of God’s truth and grace, the Gospel.

Also note the term Enlivened. This is a passive term, i.e something that is done to us. All of us by nature are conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5). The apostle elaborates on that by saying we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1, Col. 2:13). I trust that all of you know you don’t walk into a morgue and cry for the dead to rise. If the dead are to be brought to life, an outside force has to be brought to bear, they cannot do it on their own. And God through his Holy Spirit has brought about this miracle in his people, where there was death there now is life. But “passive” does not mean powerless, for where that life has begun it is continually enlivened by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. This Gospel life does not only convert us and make us God’s, but it empowers us to live as brightly shining stars (cf. Philippians 2:15).

So what is special about Christ Church? Nothing in and of itself, but we are community infused and enthused with the Gospel and that is something worth shouting about. It is this Gospel wonder that we want to share with as many as we can!

I recognize that we have only scratched the surface of all that the scriptures have to say about the Gospel. Many of you could add to, clarify and elaborate on the above thoughts. We could talk about justification, sanctification, imputation, active righteousness, passive righteousness, etc… Because the Gospel is so full-orbed there is much to ponder and wonder over each and every week. This week we are back to the “Gospel according to Amos”. Chapter 7 brings the justice and mercy of God into sharp relief. Remember this is God’s gracious word to a people whom he loves deeply. May our hearts be ready to receive it!

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