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Who Are You: Exploring our Christian Faith  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:42
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Well, for the last four weeks, we have been chatting together about who we are? We are Christian – why. We are Protestant – why. We are Reformed – why? We have been looking at the biblical basis for the church. This week we will take a big-picture look at what God has been doing throughout history and where EPC fits in.

1. God’s plan for the world:

God made the world and everything in it and humans in his own image. The first humans were Adam and Eve. As the world's Creator, God is its ruler (or King). God blessed Adam and Eve and appointed them as caretakers over his Creation.
But Adam and Eve chose to reject God, their ruler (or King). The effects of rejecting God were devastating. He withdrew his blessing from them and from all Creation. This is known as `The Fall'. As a result of the fall, humans no longer relate rightly to God, to each other, or to the Creation in which we've been placed.
The prime example of this rebellion is the story of Babel. The people tried to build a massive tower to make a "name" for themselves apart from God. The tower of Babel represents human pride, self-made religion, and an attitude that says, "I can do without God. We know better-we'll do things our way!"
God's response to humanity's actions at Babel was to confuse their language so they could not complete the tower and scatter them over the whole earth. However, we will see that God did not give up on humanity.
Already, we've seen that humans have set themselves against God. They have refused to rule Creation rightly under God's leadership. Throughout the rest of the Bible, we'll see God at work to save his rebellious world and establish his kingdom by choosing a human to rule rightly under him. The message of the Bible can be summarised as "the story of God's kingdom". It is all about God, the King who rules and saves. He calls humans to rule Creation rightly under him. So part of God's plan of salvation is to save a people from himself and for them to live lives under that plan. To rule rightly in this world, we need to understand God's plan of salvation and our part in that plan.
As I said, God did not give up on humanity. The Bible tells us that God chose one man, Abraham, and made a special pledge to him (also called a `covenant' or `promise'). Whereas at Babel, the people had sought to make a name for themselves, God promised to make a "name" for Abraham and pledged a special relationship to him.
Genesis 12:1–3 ESV
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God would make a great nation from Abraham's descendants and give them a land of their own. He did this so that the whole world would be blessed and humanity's rejection of God would not go on forever. It has always been part of God's plan that his people be part of the process of reaching the world. It was part of Israel's function and part of why the church exists.
Abraham's descendants became known as "Israel". They went to Egypt and were enslaved for about 400 years. But God had not forgotten his pledge to Abraham. God saved his people Israel from slavery by bringing them through the red sea. The "exodus", as that event has become known, was a defining moment in the history of Israel as a nation: they were the people that the Lord had saved from the land of slavery. The LORD ('Yahweh') was the God who had saved them. It was Moses who led Israel out of Egypt.
God brought Israel through the sea to bring them to the land he had promised Abraham and his descendants. They were to live as God's special people in this land he had given them. The promises to Abraham were beginning to be fulfilled. They were a nation of descendants who were to receive the Promised Land. On their way there, they continued to learn more about their special relationship with God.
On their way to the Promised Land, Israel was given instructions on living in their new land. These instructions told Israel what it meant to be in a special relationship with their God. The law told them how to live as God's saved people. How to live as the people through whom the whole world would ultimately be blessed. The most famous part of the Old Testament law is the Ten Commandments.
Did you notice that God first saved the Israelites and then gave them the law? So this belief that in the O.T., a person was saved by obeying the law and in the N.T., a person is saved by trusting God is wrong. It has always been by faith. First, Israel trusted God to get them out of slavery, and then once they were in the promised land (salvation), they were told how to live (law).
Part of the reason for holy living is that Genesis 12:1-3 might be fulfilled. Israel where to live holy lives to show the world what God was like. This is how they evangelised. Sure they were blessed when they did so. They were obeying God, after all. However, Godly living was for the Israelites the way to ensure the world would be blessed.
And also notice that it wasn't just one person who was meant to live this way, but the whole community. It was the entire nation of Israel that was meant to witness in this way. While they were in the Promised Land, God gave Israel kings. The King's role was to be God's 'representative' on earth by ruling Israel and saving them in battle. The most famous King of Israel was David. He came to represent Israel's relationship with God.
Yet throughout their history, God's people disobeyed the law and neglected their special relationship with God. They didn't love the LORD their God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and they didn't love their neighbours as themselves. Even the kings forgot about God. The very people through whom God planned to bring blessings to the world were thinking, "We know better than God. We'll do things our way". As a result, God took them out of their Promised Land. He sent them away to the surrounding nations, and those nations mocked God because of them. Nevertheless, they did represent God to the world.
Before, during and after the exile, God sent prophets. God spoke through these prophets to call Israel back to their special relationship with Himself. The prophets reminded Israel that God had made a pledge with them. They explained that God's people had treated their God badly and warned the people that they were heading for exile. But the prophets also comforted the people, telling them that God would not forget his pledge to Abraham and his descendants. The prophets pointed forward to the ultimate fulfilment of this pledge.
God kept his pledge by sending his son Jesus into the world. Jesus was a Jew, an Israelite descendant of King David. He lived the life of a special relationship with God that all of Israel was supposed to live. He fulfilled the words of the prophets. Unlike Israel (and Adam and Eve), Jesus never disobeyed God. Instead, he told people that it was time for God's people to be reconciled to him.
Jesus willingly died to take on himself the punishment due to humanity for their rejection of God. The Old Testament was pointing forward to this event. In the cross of Jesus, God the King was God the Saviour too. It was God's plan to demonstrate his love for his people through this act of self-sacrifice. It is an astonishing way to establish a Kingdom.
God raised Jesus from death, showing that the penalty for disobedience had been paid and the world could now be reconciled to God. After appearing to his followers, Jesus ascended to the right hand of God the Father, where he began his reign as the saving ruler of God's kingdom. Adam and Eve rebelled. Israel rebelled. But the righteous one, Jesus Christ, became the saving ruler of God's kingdom.
When Jesus returned to God, he sent the Holy Spirit to live in his followers. The Holy Spirit makes Christ known to his people and to the world. He convicts the world of its sin and comforts believers with the knowledge of God. The Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost when a group of believers saw "tongues of fire" descend on them from heaven. They began to speak different languages, and three thousand people in Jerusalem heard the news of the risen Christ and believed. God's pledge to Abraham that he would provide a blessing to all nations was being fulfilled. The nations were becoming part of God's kingdom, and God left his Spirit to be with them until Jesus' return. The question is, what should his people, his church, be doing while they wait for his return.
Matthew 28:16–18 ESV
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
This is how God uses us to fulfil the promise to Abraham. It's part of God's great ongoing plan to save or bless the world to use us to share the Gospel.
Again it's not just my or your task but the church's task to do this. We need to desperately rethink what we believe the church is. We must repent of the rampant individualism and anti-authoritarian attitude that has infected our churches. Equally, we must distinguish between the Presbyterian denomination and the church (explain).
God uses his church, which is made up of his people, to reach the world. EPC is part of that church. So one of our central theological planks is the belief that as a church, we have a responsibility to be godly as a community and as a community to reach the world with the Gospel.
Indeed, we want to be a caring community, a holy people, a biblically well-taught people because we want to be used by God. We want to be a church that reaches the world. We want to be a family forgiven by Jesus to be and make disciples.
Jesus will return as the mighty and glorious King. At that time, he will express the fullness of God's kingdom by judging the whole world and punishing 'Babel-ish' pride and rejection of God. But those who trust in Jesus will be saved from God's judgement and be with God forever. Therefore, until Jesus returns, his people are to live here in a manner worthy of the kingdom of God.
1 Peter 2:9–10 ESV
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Again we notice in this verse the inside-outside tension. Are we to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood so that we can feel good about life, or so that we can have a place to call home? No, but so we can declare the praise of him that saved us. We are disciples so that we can make disciples. The Bible never teaches us to be disciples simply for being disciples' sake. It is always so that we might honour our God as a church and make disciples that also honour him.
After Jesus' return, God will make a new heaven and earth that will last forever. This can be thought of as the ultimate 'Promised Land'. Death and pain will be destroyed. God will dwell with his people in perfect fellowship in the kingdom he has made. God's plan for the world began with Creation and ends with the New Creation. Once again, God will rule as King, with his people ruling the New Creation under him.

2. Conclusion:

So what does all this have to do will EPC? First and foremost, we must see our place in God's plan for the world. We need to see our place in biblical history. We need to see that God will use his church to fulfil his promise to Abraham. As we, the church, take the gospel message to the world, we play a significant part in fulfilling God's promise in Genesis 12:1-3. This is EPC’s firm conviction and commitment. We have a purpose and want to fulfil it under God and not just aimlessly drift along.
Secondly, EPC tries to maintain a healthy balance between that “inside and outside tension” we’ve spoken about. The leadership of EPC tries to help members see that God desires a caring, loving, friendly and ever-maturing church because He is a God who is in the business of saving people. In other words, we ought to be concerned about how we are going as disciples because God is very concerned about making disciples.
We never do anything just for ourselves, even if it is something good, like making sure that people feel wanted. Rather we do these things so that we and others are made to feel welcomed. This mindset challenges us to take seriously the fact that God's desire to save his people and this desire affected the way he planned out human history. He organised all human history around the Gospel and the saving of his people. We ought to do likewise. (expand maybe)
Perhaps I could close by reading part of the introduction to EPC’s mission plan. “By God's grace, EPC is a growing family, but to continue growing in depth and numbers, we need to be intentional…our five-year plan aims to do this. We are planning for the personal discipleship of existing members and reaching out to make new family members. We ultimately aim to establish a new disciple-being and disciple-making church within five years.
Being a member of the Riverwood Presbyterian Church family means active service on the inside and outside. It means each member coming to Christ and maturing in obedience. In short, we are committed to building a family grounded in Christ and firm in the faith that is an effective team in reaching others with the Gospel.
To achieve this, we need to BE DISCIPLES, who are committed to building relationships, shaped by godly teaching, people who are encouraging, admonishing and teaching each other to follow Christ, people who spend time personally and together praying and studying God's Word. People who submit to godly leadership
We also MAKE DISCIPLES, by reaching out to our community with the goal of introducing them to Christ Jesus and discipling new Christians so that they will become disciple-makers. We desire to plant a new disciple-being and disciple-making church within five years.
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