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The Future of God’s Church

April 14, 2009

I have heard a growing number of people taking note of New Spring here in Anderson County. Yes, it is true that the Presbyterian churches in the area feel the power of New Spring attracting their younger members. It is painful to see people with whom I have relationships looking for something more than what they can get at our church. I say this without any wish to point fingers or to lay blame, only to note that what we are experiencing in our small corner highlights a huge societal shift that seems merely to be gathering steam. We are seeing the end of American Christianity as we have known it in our lifetimes. When people ask me about this I tell them that this change presents us with an unparalleled opportunity. If Jesus is LORD then we can rest, knowing that God is at the wheel. This knowledge of God’s gracious attendance to our unfolding history gives us great freedom from the fear of having to be in control of the really big stuff beyond our control. God has freed us to live humbly and to live humanly by taking us out of the driver’s seat of history, most especially our own.

So what has God done for us? Paul says it all in the first chapter of Ephesians. (Here is where, if you really want to get the full effect of what Paul is saying, you need to read this out loud and with some emotion) “Blessed the be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has BLESSED US IN CHRIST with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (verse 3),  just as he CHOSE US IN CHRIST before the foundation of the world TO BE HOLY AND BLAMELESS BEFORE HIM in love(verse 4). He DESTINED US for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will (verse 5), to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely BESTOWED ON US in the Beloved (verse 6). In him we have REDEMPTION . . . FORGIVENESS . . . ,  according to the riches of his grace (verse 7) that he LAVISHED ON US (verse 8). . . .  he has  MADE KNOWN TO US the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a PLAN  FOR THE FULNESS OF TIME, TO UNITE ALL THINGS IN HIM, THINGS IN HEAVEN AND THINGS ON EARTH.”  In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will (verse 11), so that we who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. . . . “

God:

·        Blessed us in Christ

·        Chose us in Christ

·        Destined us . . . through Jesus Christ

·        Bestowed on us in the Beloved

·        Lavished in us

·        Made known to us

 

In Christ we have:

·        Redemption through his blood

·        Forgiveness

·        Obtained an inheritance

 

There is a lot more here but this is enough to make the point. As a nation and as a people, even as individuals we tend to think that everything is up to us—our security and safety, our social and political well being, our economic life.  The point that Paul makes is that God has already accomplished all that we need in Jesus Christ.

One thing, it seems to me, that Paul is doing is placing our chaotic and messy lives inside a much larger picture of order that God has already put in place. God has already accomplished this new order or new creation as Paul often puts it. Thus we who have set our hope on Christ already have the things that we need for abundant, thriving, flourishing, vibrant life. We are the beneficiaries of work which God has already accomplished on our behalf, but it is not ours as though it were our possession. It is ours to share and proclaim from the housetops for all the world.

So then let us not fill our lives with anxiety over events which we have no control. Let us fill our lives and think on those things that are ours to do—the truly human things, the kind of things Paul asks of us: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about  these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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