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Reviewing the EFCA Statement of Faith

Notes
Transcript

Notes

Series Notes

https://www.freeimages.com/photo/core-1-1180354
God —> Prayer / worship (“God is God, so we are best when we pray”)
Bible —> Alignment (“The Bible is God’s Word, so we are best when we follow/keep”)
Humanity —> Confession (“We are fallen, so we are best when we are rescued”)
Jesus —> Trust (“Jesus is the risen Son of God, so we are best when we trust in Him alone”)
Spirit & Church —> One anothers (“The Spirit is for the Church, so we are best when we are committed to one another”)
The Christian —> Evangelism (lead into OneKC) (“The Christian has eternal life, so we are best when we missional”)
Pattern
Intro
Grab
RV series
Read SoF
Overview
Read or summarize paper? (Read w/passages per paragraph, note in Cadenza)
AOT borders
Content: 1 key passage in the shoes of the intended audience, setting up SCT/CR
SCT - connection and CR
Concl
Reread SoF

Paper

We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
God is the lone Creator. He created all that exists apart from Himself (Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Mal 2:10). All He made was good (Gn 1; 1 Tim 4:4), creating everything from nothing by only His own authoritative command (Gn 1.2; Ps 33:6, 9). God possessed the attribute of Creator even before creating our universe. He Himself is uncreated (Act 17:24-25), therefore Creator and the Created are distinct from each other. Humankind is uniquely created in His image (Gn 1:26-27).
As Creator, He has all prerogative, authority, and judgment over Creation, determining its purpose (Gn 1:28-30; 2:15-24; 3:22-24; Ps 98:9) to His own glory (Ps 19:1; Rom 1:20), which also encompasses humanity’s purpose (Gn 2:15; Acts 17:28). Furthermore, He demonstrates loving care over His creation, even when it is rebellious against Him (Gn 2:21; Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8).
This author loosely holds that the Creation days each took millennia to complete (Gn 2:4), but without macroevolution. Creation consistently bears the marks of tremendous age, which connotes either it is truly old or was created with that appearance. Neither God nor the text is threatened if the universe is indeed old. The text summarily and truthfully establishes the conditions prior to the Abrahamic Covenant (Gn 12), specifically: God as holy Creator and humankind as fallen creatures in need of reconciliation. Regardless of the time span of Gn 1-2, we creatures ultimately fulfill our purpose by worshiping the Creator rather than Creation (Rom 1:21-23).
He also possesses aseity. God the “I AM” self-exists eternally and is therefore utterly independent (Act 17:24-25). He has no needs and is completely satisfied within Himself. Hence, His actions, especially toward us, are entirely for His pleasure rather than for satisfying some lack.
Existing logically prior to matter, God is necessarily spirit, so He is rightly worshiped in spirit (Jn 4:24). He eternally exists as three divine, distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:13; Eph 1:3-14; Mt 28:19; Jn 14:26; 17:20-26; Acts 1:1-6; Heb 9:14; 1 Pe 1:2). Each Person is fully God, and yet there is only one God (Dt 6:4; Isa 43:10). Within the Trinity is perfect eternal love and harmonious collaboration (Jn 17:23; 1 Jn 4:8).
Ezekiel repeatedly states God’s desire that mankind knows that He is the Lord (cf. Isa 43:10), and Judges describes the travesty of forgetting who He is (Jdg 3:7; 8:34). Knowing God as He has revealed Himself is essential to eternal life (Jn 17:3; Heb 11:3, 6). If created beings are ignorant of God’s revealed attributes and His purpose for their existence, they cannot know themselves nor can they trust Him with their lives or salvation (2 Tim 1:12).
God is the only one for whom every analogy eventually and necessarily breaks down  (whereas analogies for finite things can be sufficient). He is infinite (Rv 1:8), which is not to say that He is “really, really” exceptional in a given attribute, but that He possesses all His attributes infinitely, without bound, without flaw, and without measure. For example, it is logically possible to traverse something that is “really, really long,” but it is impossible to traverse the omnipresence of God (Ps 139:7-10). Consequently, He is also perfectly holy (pure and set apart; Isa 6:3) and necessarily simple and unchanging (Ps 102:27). Anything less than perfection in all His attributes would mean He is not God (Jam 1:17), being improvable and less than the best possible being.
God always knows all things past, present, and future (Ps 139) and has the power to do all things consistent with His character (Jer 23:17). Otherwise, we have no means to hope that He will act reliably and efficaciously for good to fulfill His purposes and promises to us. He would not be trustworthy. And yet we remain culpable for our freely-made decisions (1 Cor 3:9-15). Therefore, He can sovereignly permit and even use evil to accomplish His purposes (Gn 50:20; Job 1:12).

LS

Intro

Grab: Lynne’s theo dilemma

Nearly 30 years ago, Lynne was faced for the first time with a teaching that challenged her understanding of who God is and what He is like.
For me, I’m not a well-integrated person, so I can think about speculations of God’s nature without any connection at all to what I believe is true or what it means to me.
But Lynne, she’s more highly integrated. She doesn’t think about God’s nature in a vacuum. And I’m glad she’s made that way. A bunch of me’s would be disastrous for a church.
It was fascinating to watch how she processed this teaching. Basically, it went like this: If God is that way, instead of the way that I’ve believed, then 1) I’m not really sure I want to follow a god like that, and 2) I’m not really sure who I am.
Her identity is much more readily tied to who God is and what He’s like. All of our identities are, but she sees it far more readily than I do. If God’s nature is like this, then who I am is like that. But if God’s nature is like something else, then who I am is vastly different.
When the dust settled, Lynne saw that God is basically as she had believed, but perhaps had some attributes she hadn’t explored much, and that her self-identity is quite intact.
But, it’s of first importance that we have a solid understanding of what God is like.
A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Series Intro

It’s been several years since we’ve walked through our statement of faith, our core beliefs, so it’s time to remind ourselves of what we believe and why
The EFCA SoF is focused on just the basics - 10 statements about the core of Christianity, leaving room for differences of opinion on secondary issues.
We’ll look at one or two of these statements each Sunday over the next several weeks - not just what the theology is, but how it can matter to us in our lives
Just like how the nature of God mattered to Lynne in a deep way for her own self identity

PV (image)

Today, the Core Truth we’ll explore is God Himself. Obviously, we could take years on this topic alone. We’ll get a quick sweep of some major truths, but then settle on one specific aspect.
[Explain image]
Read SoF (together out loud, but Zoom people on mute)
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.

Prayer

Reading

In 2020, I took a refresher class with the denomination as a step toward further ordination. Each class covered one of the 10 topics in our statement of faith. Let’s get a quick overview of the doctrine of God as I read my two-page paper.
As I read, I’ll list on the screen the attributes and related ideas, plus some passages to go with each. Don’t worry about writing them all down - the notes are available online and I’ll publish the paper in Grace Notes this week.
Creator: uncreated, created everything from nothing, has authoritative command over all, is other than His Creation, made humans in His image
God is the lone Creator. He created all that exists apart from Himself (Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Mal 2:10). All He made was good (Gn 1; 1 Tim 4:4), creating everything from nothing by only His own authoritative command (Gn 1.2; Ps 33:6, 9). God possessed the attribute of Creator even before creating our universe. He Himself is uncreated (Act 17:24-25), therefore Creator and the Created are distinct from each other. Humankind is uniquely created in His image (Gn 1:26-27).
Prerogative: has all authority, is the judge, created with purpose, cares lovingly for His creatures
As Creator, He has all prerogative, authority, and judgment over Creation, determining its purpose (Gn 1:28-30; 2:15-24; 3:22-24; Ps 98:9) to His own glory (Ps 19:1; Rom 1:20), which also encompasses humanity’s purpose (Gn 2:15; Acts 17:28). Furthermore, He demonstrates loving care over His creation, even when it is rebellious against Him (Gn 2:21; Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8).
Aseity: independent, satisfied with Himself, created humans because it pleases Him
He also possesses aseity. God the “I AM” self-exists eternally and is therefore utterly independent (Act 17:24-25). He has no needs and is completely satisfied within Himself. Hence, His actions, especially toward us, are entirely for His pleasure rather than for satisfying some lack.
Spirit: to be worshiped in spirit, one God in three Persons
Existing logically prior to matter, God is necessarily spirit, so He is rightly worshiped in spirit (Jn 4:24). He eternally exists as three divine, distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:13; Eph 1:3-14; Mt 28:19; Jn 14:26; 17:20-26; Acts 1:1-6; Heb 9:14; 1 Pe 1:2). Each Person is fully God, and yet there is only one God (Dt 6:4; Isa 43:10). Within the Trinity is perfect eternal love and harmonious collaboration (Jn 17:23; 1 Jn 4:8).
Knowable: eternal life is in knowing, only way to know ourselves
Ezekiel repeatedly states God’s desire that mankind knows that He is the Lord (cf. Isa 43:10), and Judges describes the travesty of forgetting who He is (Jdg 3:7; 8:34). Knowing God as He has revealed Himself is essential to eternal life (Jn 17:3; Heb 11:3, 6). If created beings are ignorant of God’s revealed attributes and His purpose for their existence, they cannot know themselves nor can they trust Him with their lives or salvation (2 Tim 1:12).
Infinite: holy, perfect, unchanging, simple
God is the only one for whom every analogy eventually and necessarily breaks down  (whereas analogies for finite things can be sufficient). He is infinite (Rv 1:8), which is not to say that He is “really, really” exceptional in a given attribute, but that He possesses all His attributes infinitely, without bound, without flaw, and without measure. For example, it is logically possible to traverse something that is “really, really long,” but it is impossible to traverse the omnipresence of God (Ps 139:7-10). Consequently, He is also perfectly holy (pure and set apart; Isa 6:3) and necessarily simple and unchanging (Ps 102:27). Anything less than perfection in all His attributes would mean He is not God (Jam 1:17), being improvable and less than the best possible being.
Omnis: knowledge, power, presence
God always knows all things past, present, and future (Ps 139) and has the power to do all things consistent with His character (Jer 23:17). Otherwise, we have no means to hope that He will act reliably and efficaciously for good to fulfill His purposes and promises to us. He would not be trustworthy. And yet we remain culpable for our freely-made decisions (1 Cor 3:9-15). Therefore, He can sovereignly permit and even use evil to accomplish His purposes (Gn 50:20; Job 1:12).

What God is not

Sometimes, it’s better to understand something when you understand what it is not.
For example, soccer. Caroline challenged me to use an analogy with soccer instead of American football.
So here it is - we can understand soccer by understanding what it is not. And soccer is not a sport where you are allowed to use the most useful parts of the human body that God gave us to move a ball in the right direction. (You know, like passing and catching could do.)
We understand soccer better by understanding what it is not, and we understand who God is by understanding what He is not.
++God was not created and He has no beginning, there was never a time when God was not (otherwise, He’s not God)
++God doesn’t follow the rules - rules are reflections of His nature (otherwise, rules would be God)
++God has no needs and no dependencies (otherwise, we would have some power over Him)
++God is not made up of three parts, and the Persons are not interchangeable (otherwise, each Person would be less than God)
++God is unknowable completely, but He’s not completely unknowable (otherwise, His existence doesn’t matter)
++God is not “really, really” anything (otherwise, we could eventually exhaust one of His attributes)
++God has no limits - unless we need to say that He is always consistent with Himself (otherwise, we are in total despair)

Core Focus: Acts 17:22-31

All of the topics we’ll cover in this series are way too big to handle completely in one sermon. So, we’ll pick just one area to focus in on.
For our focus on the topic of God, we turn to Acts 17.

ST: Paul on Mars Hill (pic)

Paul, missionary, forced out of Thess, went to Athens
Athens: polytheism, philosophers, commerce, sports
Mars Hill / Areopagus: what people did before they argued politics on social media, except they used antiquated things like logic and facts
Pic: this speech, now engraved in metal at Mars Hill

Reading: Acts 17:22-31

Acts 17:22–31 ESV
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

[Prep]: look how Paul used who God is —> what kind of people we ought to be

God is like this, so we should be like that
God did this, so we should do that
A bunch of philosophers all arguing about our identity and how we should live, all based on human observations, human wisdom, and human ingenuity
Paul: our identity is completely wrapped up in who God really is and what He’s really like

God created all of us ... He cannot be contained by any created thing (24)

The Creator is not contained by what He created - and we especially cannot put Him into a box of our own device
Therefore, the Creator cannot be controlled or manipulated by what He created - we cannot use Him for our convenience
As far as humanity is concerned, He’s wild and untamed by humanity - now, He’s infinitely good, and CS Lewis wrote, but He is not tamed by humankind
He’s the Lord over us, and in no way can we lord anything over Him
That defines you! You are His servant and never the other way around. That’s your identity.

God doesn’t need us or our religion … we need Him just to breathe (25, 28)

There’s nothing in the Bible that God gave us to do that was because He needs what we produce
Rather, we need Him just to take the next breath. Go ahead … breathe in … you needed God for that!
That defines you! If God ever gave us all the independence we have demanded from Him, we would stop breathing instantly. If God ever really took us seriously when we say, “God, I don’t need you,” He would stop sustaining us and it would be our last breath. The fact that you’re still alive is defined by God.

We all have an innate need and yearning for God … we are made by Him and for Him and will find our satisfaction only in Him (23, 26-27, 29)

Note the prepositions: by, for, in - God is the one who is fixed, and we relate to Him through prepositions; even our language shows how we are defined by who God is because we only exist in our relationship with Him.
These philosophers in Athens were way, way wrong - but their impulse to seek for God was given to them by God. Our need to search for God is evidence of the God who created us.
God gave us that impulse because He, our designer, knows how we work. He knows that we will only be satisfied in Him. He made us to yearn for that.
That defines you! The drive that we have, even if we misdirect it, is a huge part of who we are, and it was put there by God.

God put us all in a place and in a time that we could respond to Him … our response is to repent and worship in Christ because of who God is (26, 30-31)

Everyone has a chance to respond to God inasmuch as He has chosen to reveal Himself to them - either through Creation, His Word, or His Son. Even if they haven’t yet heard the name of Jesus, they have a chance to respond to God inasmuch as He has revealed Himself to them.
We won’t get into the question of what about those who never hear the name Jesus. Big, important topic that we’ve covered before and will cover again. But it’s too big to open up in this conversation.
The point here is that God made it so that everyone has a chance to respond to Him.
The main responses are repentance and worship. Turning away from serving ourselves and turning toward serving Christ … because of who God is.
Not just because it’s results in eternal life, but because God is God, and what He deserves from us is repentance and worship.
That defines you! “What comes into your mind when we think about God is the most important thing about you.”

Jesus is coming back … there is a wrong response to God (30-31)

This is something Jesus is going to do.
And because He’s going to do it, it affects who we are and what we do.
There is no other way to God, and Jesus is coming back to judge. There’s a right response, which means there is also a wrong response - an eternally consequential wrong response.
That defines you! You are someone who will stand before Jesus when He returns, and He’ll ask on what basis you should be allowed to enjoy His Kingdom.

SCT: God is God, so we are best when we pray

Who He is defines who we are best

We can get our definition elsewhere, but that definition will be less than the definition of ourselves that we get from who God is.

Our “best” could be: righteous, obedient, trusting

These might be how we would describe who we are when we’re at our best
But I offer a different answer:

We are best when we pray

Right, dependent prayer that comes from the fact that God is God (^vending machine) —> repentance, praise, thanksgiving, trust, requests, surrender
Rationale: Prayer most reflects who God is (as good as the other things are)
A lifestyle of a prayer posture and practice before God alone just because He is God is the best lifestyle we can have.
Therefore, we can reach our human best regardless of age, gender, race, wealth, accomplishments, popularity, skills, IQ
We approach this from the top-down, not the bottom-up - we don’t start with who we think we are and then work our way up to a god that suits us. We start with who God is, and once we establish who He is, the optimal human posture is prayerful because of how awesome God is. We can’t do better than that.

A Lifestyle of Prayer to Affirm God’s Godness

"How do I pray”?
The D’s asked this question
++On the calendar or as I go? Yes.
++Prayer list or whatever comes to mind? Yes.
++In groups or alone? Yes. Jesus did both.
++Intellectual or emotional? Yes. Paul talks about praying with his mind as well as from his passion.
++Pray in a way that declares God as God - manner, content, frequency, attitude, etc.
When the D’s asked this question, JC’s answer was a sample prayer that over and over again declares that God is God
The Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:9-13)
Matthew 6:9–13 ESV
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Prayer requests
The way we ask sometimes teaches something other than “God is God”
“Any requests?” “Hmmm … things are going OK this week … so … nope, no requests.” This god is too small!!!
How can I request prayer in a way that declares God is God?
Note for those fearful of praying out loud in a group:
It’s OK if you’re quiet
Remember this: God is God! Not your pride, not what other people think or say about you, not how eloquent you are compared to anyone else - these are not God.
God is God. He’s worth praying silently to and He’s worth praying out loud to. Don’t be afraid. Pray in whatever way best declares Him as God.

Summing up

[Call up worship team]
Reread SoF
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
Open prayer - to declare God as God (raise hand, microphone to one person onsite, one person online, silent prayer, I close)
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