Here is The Church

Here is The Church
May 2021 - Jul 2021
This series will focus on renewing our understanding of Jesus’ church and its life. The Elders want to invite you to join us on a journey of renewal of understanding and practice of everything Jesus meant when he told us he was about building his church.

Sermons in this series

The Church on Mission
Sun, Jul 25, 2021
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. - Matthew 16:18 (ESV) “In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.” This Sunday we will be looking at the last phrase of our statement of faith and concluding our series on the church. It is about what has been called, “the great commission”. I like to call it “the great task” because it is what our Lord has called us to do. But what does that mean and how do we accomplish it in these days of recovery from social distancing and our global internet age? Join us this Sunday at 10am either in person or online as we to look together at this most important purpose for Christ’s church.
Fighting the Spiritual Forces of Evil
Sun, Jul 18, 2021
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6:11-12 (ESV) As we continue in our study of the EFCA Statement of Faith, Article 8 tells us, "With God's Word, the Spirit's power, and fervent prayer in Christ's name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil." So often we are prone to the deception that what we see with our physical eyes is all there is. However, the Bible tells us that a great conflict is occurring between God and all who oppose him, both natural and supernatural. The enemy has a plan: "...the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4) As those who have had the veil removed, we now see the conflict between God and those who oppose him. In this conflict we have a role to play. Now that he has saved us, God has not left us to ourselves. We have been brought into the kingdom of light, the heavenly kingdom that will one day be established on this earth. Until then we are equipped and called to combat the spiritual forces of evil with God's help. We have a great Savior, at the helm, praying for our protection (John 17:15), and He has already won the victory.
Loving God & Others
Sun, Jul 11, 2021
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. - Philippians 1: 9-10 (MSG) And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. - Philippians 1: 9-10 (ESV) The poet Robert Browning once wrote, “Take away love and our earth is a tomb.” That is true, for if you take away love, you take away the presence of the very life of God. Jesus said that loving God and loving our neighbor was the fulfillment of the law of God, for it is the perfect expression of the character of God. And love is the essence of that new life to which we are called. John says, “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and he has demonstrated that love supremely in the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America). Honestly, I picked this topic early on thinking it would be easy. Guess what? I was wrong. The closer I looked at the second greatest commandment, the more I realized that I’m probably not as good at the first greatest commandment as I thought I was. Thankfully, God provided the way. This week we’ll look at how God loves us and commands us to love one another. Join us this week as we continue to explore our Statement of Faith on Christian Living. To prepare for this week, please read and meditate on the words of 1 John 4:7-21 and demonstrate your love for a friend or neighbor this week by inviting them to join us as we worship together this Sunday at 10AM both in person and online.
God's Justifying Grace must not be separated from his Sanctification
Sun, Jul 04, 2021
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Philippians 1:6 (ESV) When you were a kid, did you have parents who would let you go see movies with friends that other kids weren’t allowed to see? Or did you think your Mom and Dad were “overly protective”? The kind who wouldn’t let you have a computer because it had a ‘curser’ . . . or who wouldn’t buy a certain kind of vacuum cleaner because it was a Dirt Devil. This week Derek will begin our study of the second of the two articles we are exploring, Article 8, Christian Living. This Article begins with a statement that we must believe that God’s justifying grace, or right mercy, cannot be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. This means that we are not only saved by his mercy but that our redemption has within it a power and purpose to showcase the very nature of God, that He is ‘gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’(Psalm 145:8), for His glory and not our own. We’re able to work out our faith because of His power, not ours – for His purposes to find us complete upon Christ’s final victory. To prepare for this week, please read and meditate on the words of Isaiah 43: 1-11
Church Ordinances
Sun, Jun 27, 2021
"The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer." EFCA Statement of Faith The Lord Jesus has graciously given us Baptism and the Lord's Supper to practice joyfully until the day of our salvation, when Christ returns. Consider these questions: What does it mean that these ordinances 'visibly and tangibly express the gospel'? How would you define their significance? What might it mean that 'these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer'? Have you repented and put your trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, but have yet to be baptized? Is the meaning of the Lord's Supper a bit fuzzy to you? Join us this Sunday as we solidify our understanding of these ordinances, handed down to us from our Lord Jesus, and may God move us into a greater appreciation for the glorious grace of salvation.
The Local Church
Sun, Jun 20, 2021
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. - Acts 7:58-60 (ESV) Christ’s final command was to go into all the world. Similar to the scattering at the tower of Babel, there was a catalyst which scattered the true believers into the uttermost parts of the earth. The persecution of Christians, which began shortly after Christ's crucifixion began the church's movement into other nations. A key event of this persecution was the stoning of Stephen. Saul, who became Paul, was involved in Stephen's execution and became the central figure in the transition of the gospel being proclaimed among the Gentiles. The propagation of local churches throughout the world was Paul's ministry. Paul set these churches up to be self-governing. He did not rule over them. As Lynn taught last week, Christ has always been the Head of the Church. The local church is truly the greatest institution ever created. Christ is not only the Head of the Church, He is its Founder. This Sunday, we will explore the origin and purpose of this great institution. We will see how the broader church, which is the group of true believers for all time, is manifested, empowered and grown through local, visible, autonomous churches. As you prepare your hearts for the service this week, please take a few moments to read through chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of the Revelation. Notice the different characteristics, personalities, strengths and weaknesses of these seven churches.
The Body of Christ
Sun, Jun 13, 2021
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. - I Corinthians 12:25-26 (The Message) I’ve sometimes said that I keep my God in a box, defining him with the terms and understanding with which I’m comfortable and which therefore limits my God. I’ve probably done the same thing with the church. If you’re like me, when you think of church, you probably first think of Hope Church at 1661 Balch Road in Madison. If you’ve moved from one city to another, you probably have a better understanding of church being the body of believers and even understand some of the diversity in the body. If you’ve attended churches of different denominations, you may have an expanded understanding of how the denominations differ and opinions about what this means. This week we will look at the second sentence in the EFCA’s Statement of Faith on the Church: We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer. Won't you please join us on Sunday at 10am, either in person or online, as we explore this statement. We’ll dig deeper into Ephesians 4:1-16 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 to better understand what this means.
This is the Church
Sun, Jun 06, 2021
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:18-22 (ESV) Jesus declared, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church is Jesus’ very purpose, His mission on earth. The Bible teaches clearly what his church is, but how clearly do we understand what the church is? What Jesus means by His church and what our culture understands may be two very different things. Who belongs to the church? What does it take to be part of it? And what does it do? The true church of Jesus is under attack on many fronts, some subtle and some not so. The past year of suffering the consequences of COVID-19 have challenged the very existence and health of the church. We have, due to God’s grace toward us (of which the results of the vaccine are a part), been able to return to unrestricted meeting. With grateful hearts we can renew our purpose as a church and seek the Lord together to live for eternity as part of His church. This summer we will focus on renewing our understanding of Jesus’ church and its life. The Elders want to invite you to join us on a journey of renewal of understanding and practice of everything Jesus meant when he told us he was about building his church.
Here is the Church - Introduction
Sun, May 30, 2021
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. I Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV) In God We Trust You've probably heard or seen that somewhere, right? Most of us probably don't remember a time when our national motto (adopted in 1956) wasn't printed on all of our coins and paper currency. Our national motto encapsulates the beliefs and ideals which we want to guide our Nation. The Nation of Israel had similar, though not formally adopted 'mottos'. The Shema (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃), which serves as the centerpiece of morning and evening Jewish prayers, captures the monotheistic essence of Judaism, "Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." Additionally, tucked away near the end of the song David composed to celebrate the Ark of the Covenant being brought to the tent he'd pitched for it in Jerusalem, is another phrase which became regularly used throughout the rest of Israel's history. 1 Chronicles 16:34 summarizes the nature of God as He revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" The historic Christian church has similarly composed and used creeds and confessions to make a formal statement of our beliefs as Christians (think of the Nicene Creed or the Apostle's Creed.) This Sunday, we'll enjoy an extended time of musical worship and have a shorter sermon to introduce our summer series "Here is the Church". We'll briefly examine the purpose of a creed or confession and how they inform and help us to understand what we believe about what 'the church' is and how it acts corporately and what 'Christian living' is and what that looks like both corporately and individually. Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone) is a foundational doctrine by which all of our creeds and confessions are derived, so it might be useful to you to prepare for Sunday (and the upcoming series) by looking at some of the scripture passages upon which some of these historical creeds are founded. (e.g. I Timothy 2:5-6 and 3:16; Matthew 16:16; Colossians 1:12-20 and 2:9-15; Romans 10:9-10; John 1:1-3, 10,12-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 12:29-31 and I Corinthians 8:6 and 15:3-4)
The Undershepherd's Job Description
Sun, May 23, 2021
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. 1 Peter 5:1–4 (ESV) When I was in seminary, we had chapel a couple times a week. There we would hear from professors, ministry leaders, and alumni. The books of choice to speak to seminary students were the pastoral epistles. That seems appropiate as Paul addresses young pastors. If there were favorite chapters that were taught, they were 2 Timothy 3-4. We were regularly charged to know and trust God's inherent Word and we were told to preach that Word boldly. All of that was helpful in forming us and our committments, but we heard these passages so often that a classmate and I made an agreement, that if for some weird reason we were called on to come back and speak, we would choose other places to preach. So what would I preach? This week I'm going to take you to that passage. It's one that I think has been overlooked to encourage pastors and elders. Why am I going there? Because as I step out of leadership for my sabbatical this summer, I want the leadership team and all of you to hear these important words. Will you take a few minutes to read through 1 Peter 5 to prepare your heart and mind.
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