Created on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 19:54
Written by Element Christian Church
A couple of weeks ago in his message titled Acts 14: A Hope That Heals Us (Acts 5:12-16)
, Aaron talked about how the gospel speaks directly about God’s miracle of reconciliation in the midst of broken relationships that seem hopeless.
Every day we face situations, circumstances, people, and desires that are broken and hurting that the Gospel can speak good news
into. We get to be His people who know and speak God’s truth into not only our lives, but the lives of those we live with in community. Jeff Vanderstelt calls this being ‘Gospel Fluent’ – a language of redemption in all areas of life. And just like any other language, it needs to be studied and practiced much before it becomes second nature.
The Verge Network has released an eBook called “Gospel Fluency: The Key to Effective Disciplemaking” from one of Jeff’s talks. I want to pull a little from of the ‘everyday situations’ section of that book here.
The Gospel and Finances
When was the last time you counseled someone with finances and you said, "Okay, before we go anywhere, I just need to let you know the God of the universe has all the resources you need today, that you are co-heir with Christ.
Therefore, you are as rich as you could ever imagine. That He who was rich became poor so that in His poverty, you might become rich. So that should make you the most generous and eager to give because you know that even though He lost it all, He got it all back." And let me ask you, do you know much about first fruits? Because see, Jesus is the first fruit of a new creation.
And God was willing to give His own son so that with Him, He might take in everyone else. Do you know that idea of first fruits, that you give the very best that you have, trusting that God will complete what He started in your life?
And you won't have to worry about your provision tomorrow because when you give it to Him and trust Him with it, He will give you everything you need. How will He not also, with Christ, give you every good gift?
The Gospel and Debt
How do we counsel people in the area of finances? They're in debt. Why are they in debt? Because they went somewhere else to find great satisfaction, and they became an addict of a thing that didn't satisfy them. That's what's going on.
They thought that by buying more, I'll feel better. But it didn't make it better, so I kept buying. And I became a worshipper at the marketplace. And what they don't need is better financial counsel first. Rather, they need to repent and turn to Jesus Christ who's the only one who deeply satisfies their longing.
Because if we're not, what we're telling people is Jesus is really good when it has to do with your standing with God and your eternal destiny, but he doesn't really know a whole lot about finances.
The Gospel and Sex
What about sex? The reason why you wait to have sex till after you're married is because you're telling the story of Jesus Christ through your purity. That's why. We don't wait to have sex till we're married so we can have better sex. We wait to have sex till we're married because Jesus is the one who, with His own life, purchased his bride.
And then He said, "I will wait to return to consummate." You want to talk about someone who's waiting a long time? It's been over 2,000 years from my count, and He's doing pretty well at being faithful to His bride.
That's the story we're telling. It's not about you. It's about Jesus. Don't give people counsel about sexuality without helping them to understand the whole point of it is to tell the story of God's faithfulness to His bride.
Read more of Jeff’s words and download the entire ebook at the Verge website here
Created on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 08:27
Written by Aaron
After briefly talking about “The Law” on Sunday, I had a few questions from people that I thought I would briefly try to recap and answer.
The Pharisees taught and lived mostly what was known as the Oral Law, the Sadducees lived more in line with what was called the Written Law. The Written Law was more of a letteral (not literal) view of the Torah, where you lived it word for word. The Oral Law was more about the meaning behind the words of the Law. The oral interpretation was to make the Law more understandable and livable because they knew not everyone, especially foreigners, would understand the Law.
Many of the things Jesus taught lined up with the Oral Law, understanding that the Laws were made for man, not man for the Laws. As an example, if your animal fell into a ditch on the Sabbath the Written Law adherers would say to let it die and not to violate the Sabbath, the Oral Law adherers would say it is ALWAYS lawful to do good and you should pull your animal out.
The word Law can refer to the whole Old Testament, God’s specific 613 Laws found within the Torah, or the Torah itself (5 books of Moses). You find in the books of Moses, 613 Laws that can be broken in 3 categories.
- Ceremonial Laws: these would refer to the temple, the priesthood, the sacrificial system.
- Civil (or Magisterial) Laws: These would be how God’s people were meant to live as residents under His earthly Kingship. The Hebrew people didn’t have a King (except for God) so God gave decrees that ran their governmental system.
- Moral Laws: These would include the 10 commandments (Don’t kill anyone, don’t steal anything, don’t lie, don’t gossip, don’t worship false gods.)
Many Christians today misunderstand what happens when we speak about these Laws today. Some want to take and try to live all of them, which is a strict form of moralism that tends to lead to defeat and failure. If we understand the scriptures as whole everything begins to make more sense.
The Ceremonial Laws were all fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is our priest, Jesus is our sacrifice, Jesus fulfilled all of the ceremonial laws which brings us great freedom in worship. We also do not live in a theocracy, we live in a representative republic, this means the Civil Laws are not intended for us (you can wear a poly-cotton blend, shave your sideburns, and eat shrimp and not be in sin). The Moral Laws are the decrees that represent the character of God and they are still binding on us. Jesus dying to “fulfill the law” (Matthew 5:17) doesn’t mean we now get to lie, murder, and steal from others.
In Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us that the Law was good, it had an intended purpose: to draw us closer to God. The Law was meant to help us see how futile righteousness is on our own and that we need a redeemer.
As I said on Sunday, our job is to live as God always called His people to live, being a blessing wherever we are. Our job is not impose moralism or to run away from our culture, our job is to live on mission with the good news that Jesus has fulfilled the law, called us into relationship with Him, and is making all things new.
Created on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 09:23
Written by Element Christian Church
Here's an overview of where we are with our Planting Roots Journey:
Created on Tuesday, 03 May 2016 10:46
Written by Aaron
I tried to give you a succinct definition of a phrase we say while studying the book of Acts, “The Missional Calling of Jesus.” I told you I would then post a blog, that a few of you will read, that you could have with you to better understand this phrase in a tangible way.
So, when we say things like the “missional calling of Jesus,” what do we mean? Stick with me as we go through this because it will get a little redundant.
Mission is simply our purpose.
Element’s mission statement is this: “We exist to glorify God by teaching and living out the scriptures, transforming community into Gospel community, and planting churches.” In our lives we should glorify God, but we do that by living out the scriptures and moving from shallow relationships into deeper relationships that are centered on the Gospel. When we live with each other, centered on the Gospel, we begin to disciple one another.
This means our relationships take shape as we orient life around making disciples who make disciples—these disciples (who are us) become a blessing to the earth.
How do we disciple each other?
By understanding and living the gospel in each other’s lives (see, I said it would be a little redundant).
What is the Gospel?
The book Called Together
defines the Gospel like this: The Gospel is the good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His own death and resurrection, and is making all things new, even us.
Living the Gospel in our lives
means living in the reality of salvation and redemption that we have been given by grace through Jesus. As we understand His grace, love and discipline more fully, we live that out in each other’s lives.
This means we live in community centered on the Gospel
. As I said, again, it sounds redundant, but it all goes together
Community is how God intends for His people to live with one another
. We are saved individually, but we are also saved to live in community with one another just as God Himself lives in community in the Trinity.
Living the missional calling of Jesus is about mission, calling, purpose, being a disciple, making disciples, living the Gospel out, and community. These various aspects weave themselves together so we as a people can live the life God intends, on mission, glorifying Him, lifting up Jesus, submitting ourselves to his Lordship, while we grow deeper into the grace that He has given to us.
Created on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 11:37
Written by Aaron
Last week our Gospel Community was meeting to discuss the previous week’s sermon and someone asked, “Why did Jesus have to die?” I asked what they meant, because I knew this person trusts and believes in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. They said (I’m paraphrasing), “Why couldn’t God just say, ‘All’s forgiven’ rather than have Jesus die?” This is a really good question.
I mentioned it to our staff two days later in staff meeting, and someone asked how I responded. They suggested I share my response in a blog post, because this is something that has come up in multiple Gospel Communities during Notes Night. I had no idea this was a common occurrence. If you have been wondering about this question, are a GC leader who has been asked this question, or never even thought about it until now, this post is for you.
It is hard to start answering this question in any other place than the book of Genesis. In Genesis, God creates everything, including man, and lays out what is good in front of man. The Hebrew word for good is tov
); the word refers to everything good, in the broadest sense possible. God determines what is good and beneficial and He imparts that knowledge and wisdom to the man He creates. God fashions man with His hands, He makes man in His image, He breathes His very own breath into the man to make him alive, and then He instructs the man on what is good and right and places this man in the garden.
God then tells the man the consequence of sin—he will die. You sin, you die (simple, right?), and yet we have made it so much more complicated today. To make this as simplistic as possible, death is separation. Death is not the stopping of our hearts, or the blood in our veins turning from red to blue (it’s all still red anyway), and it is not the synapses in our brain no longer firing impulses to our bodies. Death is separation from life. God is life and He tells us that if and when we sin, we are/will be separated from Him. Death is separation, not just from life, but also from all that is good.
In Genesis, God separates
for the man what is light and dark
, truth and lies
. God makes the distinction between life and death
for the man. This explanation of what constitutes life and death includes the idea that man is free to live and love God and His creation in any way the man sees as most useful. The man is not part of the garden; he was fashioned and placed within the garden to nurture and take care of its beauty because beauty is good
When man decides to go his own way in the garden, without God, and do what he feels
is right, he sins. In Genesis 3 you see that as soon as the man and woman sin, they tragically died. The scriptures use words like “shame” and “exposed” to illustrate what has happened. Their sin made them lose their innocence and their connection with each other and God; they became separated, they died. They, like us, no longer know the beauty of innocence, the good
that allowed them to face one another without shame was now gone. They also lost true life that came from being in connection with God, the world around them, and each other.
The saddest part of all comes in Genesis 3:8. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day
, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
They hide from God. Adam was the head of the human race and because he died, we are all born into life with a deep-rooted propensity to sin and seek our own “good.” However, man cannot know good apart from God showing us what it is—He alone makes that definition. To this day, sin runs rampant in our lives and causes us to be separated from others, our Creator, and eventually our own flesh.
How can God restore us to the place of understanding and knowing His definition of good? In the rest of Genesis 3, you see God comes walking into the garden, this place of rebellion and death, and He calls out to the man. It is not that God couldn’t see Adam hiding behind a bush trying to cover his baby-making parts; the point is that God comes looking for the man because the man could never find God on His own. God is on a rescue mission to redeem His people from death.
God then makes a promise, in His holiness, that He would provide Himself as a sacrifice to remove man’s sin and restore relationship. We see the first sacrifice when God slaughters an animal to clothe Adam and Eve’s shame. We can oftentimes gloss over this verse, but it is devastating—blood is spilled as the cost of man’s sin. The fact that God made this sacrifice Himself shows how important and necessary it was. Sinful people cannot dwell with a holy God. Eventually, this leads to the whole Old Testament sacrificial system, which ultimately points towards the final sacrifice for our sin, Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews sums up the entire Old Testament by saying in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
” So God Himself provided Jesus, His son, at the appointed time to be the One that dies for us, in our place, as our substitution. God could not just wink at sin and say it was no big deal, like when our kids do stupid things and we act like it is okay. God is holy, just, right, and true. If He brushed sin off, He would cease to be God. Because He defined the consequence of sin as death, He had to follow through because His words are true. This is why blood, which is related to life, is required for the sin we commit.
The problem is that we could never pay for our own sin, because our own lives, our blood, are tainted because of our sin. What is taught through Scripture is clear - either you die
, forever separated from God, or you trust
in the provision of God through His Son, who has died for you. Your death for His life, your sin for His righteousness—Martin Luther referred to this as The Great Exchange.
I am trying to keep this blog on the shorter side, but the idea of our regaining life is rooted in the idea of sacrifice—more specifically, His sacrifice for us. Why did Jesus have to die? Because we are so evil, and the cost of sin is death. Why DID Jesus die? Because He is that good. Don’t let this get you down. There is a reason it is called “good news” or the Gospel; it is the only hope we have ever had. Our God has sought us and bought us with Himself. We don’t live in despair because of what it cost Him; we live new lives of joy because He has first loved us and given us a reason for great joy.
We are not dead. We are redeemed.