“LIVING AND SHARING THE GOSPEL”
June 10, 2018
– Call To Worship –
“I Want To Be where You Are”
Prayers of Intercession
Bible Study – Don Auxier
Bible Study – Acts 1-2
Worship God in Spirit and Truth
Grow in His Grace and Knowledge
Share the Love and Hope we have in Christ.
Grace Communion International – We are an international Christian fellowship, on mission with the Father, Son and Spirit, living and sharing the gospel in ways that birth all kinds of churches, for all kinds of people, in all kinds of places. As an international Christian fellowship, we have about 50,000 members formed into 900 churches spread across 100 countries.
GCI Nepal Update
Hi again David. I have just received two further messages from Deben Sam in Nepal. Again, please thank your 3 congregations for their generous donation to Nepal. – Rod Matthews [GCI Churches in Terre Haute, Hope and Lafayette recently sent $2450 to Deben to help with expenses of the church building and flooding issues.]
Dear Rod: We have done the school graduation this year little bit sooner than the last years because we have to do complete the church renovation before the monsoon. You may know that this year 17 students have been graduated from Himalayan Bible School. Thanks for your support and hope for your on-going support in further years as much as possible. I have attached here some pictures.
We have also begun to bring the soil from today to fill up the ground of the church. We have to do couple of thing for the church before the monsoon to avoid flooding of our building. Please continue to pray for the renovation work of the church. I have attached here the pictures of the soil we have brought to the church today. By His Grace – Pastor Deben
Dear GCI Preachers,
Joseph and Tammy Tkach
When we preach, we must always make it our aim to proclaim the biblical gospel—the good news about Jesus and his saving work. This Christ-centered approach to preaching focuses much more on the grace of God than on human works. Though our sermons should address sin (the pain and hurt sin causes, and thus why God hates it), in doing so we must not imply that we are to rely upon ourselves for salvation.
As James B. Torrance often said, we must not “throw people back upon themselves.” Gospel-focused preaching turns people away from themselves and towards Christ where, by the Holy Spirit, they can participate in Christ’s good and right relationship with the Father.
In The Claim of Humanity in Christ, Alexandra Radcliff points out that in their writings, James B. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance emphasize the relational nature of all aspects of Jesus’ atoning work on our behalf. They note that God, in love, created us for sonship—a filial relationship in which we find our true being in communion with God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. This means that our justification (right standing) with God is relational, not legal. It also means that our sanctification (our growth in Christ) is relational, not legal. Instead of merely imitating Jesus’ example (his life of obedience), we actually participate in our Lord’s relationship with the Father in the Spirit.
Because human nature tends to prioritize law over relationship, a relational view of sanctification is not easy to grasp. As a good friend of mine likes to point out, it’s easier to keep the law living alone in a cave than to sustain a dynamic, loving relationship. Why? Because relationship requires proximity, which brings with it the risk of sinning against the other person. Though living alone may be easier, a life devoid of relationship would be relatively meaningless. When it comes to sanctification, relationship trumps legalism.
Just as our standing with God is relational, not legal, our standing with each other as Christians should be based on the relationship we share together with God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. When we view the church for what it truly is—people-in-community being transformed together in Christ—the church becomes far more than a social club that shares certain moral principles. While moral principles are good, they cannot transform us. Our transformation, which is the fruit of our sanctification, comes only in Christ as he, by the Spirit, leads us into personal, interactive relationship with the Father. In and through that relationship, we receive and respond to all that God has for us, including all that Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Our transforming interaction with God occurs as we read and hear the Word of God, pray, worship and otherwise live out our lives in communion with the Father, Son and Spirit.
Those who view sanctification as primarily legal tend to be burdened by a fear of being condemned by God for not “measuring up.” Though they likely understand that we are justified by grace, they think that we are sanctified by our works (obedience to law). However, knowing that none of us exhibit full sanctification (we are not perfect), they carry this fear of God’s rejection. Though they surely know what is said in John 3:16—God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son—it seems they are unaware of John 3:17—For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. This fear of God’s condemnation-rejection tends to arise from a common misunderstanding where justification is equated with the gospel and sanctification is equated with Christian living, as though the two are separate or sequential.
According to this misunderstanding, God justifies us by grace, but then we must sanctify ourselves through our own works. In contrast, the apostle Paul teaches that justification and sanctification are both complete in Christ, and are to be received from him as we trust him to give them to us as gifts of grace (1 Cor. 1:30. NASB).
Sanctification is also sometimes misunderstood as involving our independent response to Christ’s saving work, which “maintains” our salvation. The truth is that sanctification is a gift that comes from our new life in Christ. The only responses God is interested in are those enabled by the ministry of the Spirit who frees us to receive and share in Christ’s own responses made for us. So, while we do respond, we never respond alone. Our responses are the fruit of our fellowship with Christ by the Spirit. Our primary response is one of trusting in the ministry of the Spirit to provide us a share in Christ’s own sanctification—and even that trust is a gift of God’s grace!
Though gratitude is a primary way we show our thanks for God’s redeeming work, it can easily collapse into a work (an effort we work up) to maintain God’s grace (to keep us on God’s “good side”). Certainly we are grateful, and we should show gratitude, but not as a work of sanctification that we generate in response to the gift of our justification. Sanctification, and the gratitude that goes with it, is the fruit of our participatory relationship with God, in Christ, by the Spirit.
The New Testament uses various metaphors, images and parables to describe our relationship with God as being relational rather than legal. For example, we are branches nourished by Christ, who is the vine (see the picture at right); we are stones being built into a holy temple; we are the body of Christ. These illustrations show that as we grow and share in relationship with God, the working of our sanctification follows spontaneously and organically.
Perhaps you had a teacher with the gift of bringing out the best in her students. Through your tutoring relationship with her, you flourished and blossomed. I had a teacher like that who taught me math in elementary school. Going to a new level of understanding in algebra was the by-product of the respectful relationship I had with that teacher. I worked hard, not merely for a good grade, but because, with that teacher’s help, I was able to solve more problems and thus no longer feared taking formerly-dreaded math tests. This example from my life shows what it means to “fix our eyes on Jesus” rather than on the law and our works. We join in with Jesus, so to speak, not because we have to (legalism) but because we want to (loving relationship). As Paul notes, the law was not given to save us—it was given to show that we don’t measure up. It is Jesus, not the law, who offers us life-giving fellowship with God. This communion, which is a gift from God, comes to us through the Holy Spirit’s ongoing ministry. By the Spirit, we trust Christ to give us a share of his new (resurrection) life, which means our participation in Jesus’ own righteousness—his perfect, good and right relationship with God and with all people. This participation involves obedience “from the heart” (Romans 6:17), which Paul calls “the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5, 16:26).
Let me put it this way: ethical behavior is a matter of following God’s will as we trust in the ministry of the Holy Spirit to enable and empower us to daily receive the gift of our new life in Christ and then, living it out, having fellowship with Christ by the Spirit. In other words, sanctification is not about self-motivated will—it’s not about trying hard to meet the demands of God’s law. Rather, sanctification is a gift of grace that we trust God to give us—the gift of participating in Jesus’ own obedience, which flows from his loving and faithful relationship with the Father by the Spirit.
As Paul tells us, our response to this gift of grace is to “work out” our salvation (Phil. 2:12). We do so by placing our faith and trust in God’s Word and Spirit to transform us, with the result being the fruit of Christ’s own righteousness being born in our lives. We can count on this happening, for as Paul also tells us, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).
Sanctification provides us the benefit of our union with Jesus in which God, through the power and presence of the Spirit, delivers us from our broken, sinful natures, transforming us into the holy image of Jesus through our participation in his life, death, resurrection and ascension. This is how we become transformed and thus conformed to Christ. This is our sanctification.
Rejoicing that the gift of our sanctification is making us closer to God, Joseph Tkach
GCI Haiti Update
A wonderful THANK YOU to all the members of our GCI churches in Hope, Terre Haute and Lafayette, IN. for their generous giving that allowed us to interbank $3500 to Joseph Franklin, to help meet the Haiti school expenses for the last quarter of the school year.
Almost $3000 was needed to pay the school’s teacher salaries and utilities from March through the end of June – when the school year comes to a close. Their decreased enrollment meant less money to pay school expenses.
Our three churches donated more than enough to cover the expenses and send an extra $500 for any miscellaneous school expenses. Additionally, we are holding in Lafayette account about $700 that was given above the $3500. We will make these funds available as needed when the fall school year starts in Haiti.
It truly was a wonderful blessing to be able to confirm with Pastor Joseph that money was sent to pay the teachers and other school expense.
Way to Go everyone! It is an incredible honor to be able to be a blessing the Haiti school children – giving them a future and a hope, along with encouragement. ~ Pastor David
Wait for God, even if the night seems dark.
He will give you everything you need
when you need it. –Peter Wallace
3X3: A Good God, and Evil in the World
April 18, 2018 Pastor Mark McCulley GCI Denver, Colorado
My nephew’s young daughter died last week. It’s started me looking again at the question “If God is good, why is there evil in the world? Much smarter people have opined on this, but I’ve come up with three basic ideas, outlined as A, B and C below. Please bear with this non-philospher as I struggle with this, and note, it’s from a Christian perspective, not an all-inclusive one.
A. The Bible tells us God is good, and that God is love, but there is evil in the world. Many respond in one of three ways:
1. There is no God, because a loving God wouldn’t allow this much evil.
2. God exists but is powerless, so it’s no use believing in him anyway.
3. God exists but obviously doesn’t care.
Those are pretty stark choices. What if the answer is different from these three? Please bear with me a moment longer.
B. If God exists, we might suggest that God could deal with evil in the world in one of three ways:
1. Nuke anyone who does anything evil. Soon there would be no evil. (And no people, because let’s face it, bullying, murder, war, slavery and hatred to name a tiny few, exist because some dark part of each of us likes it in some way.)
2. Stop all evil from happening. It might look like this:
- Put up an invisible, impenetrable wall between you and whoever was going to hurt or kill you. And vice versa. Stop all accidental harm as well — same method.
- Stop everyone from eating/drinking, smoking/inhaling, ingesting/injecting, filming/viewing anything that would cause harm — same method.
- Cure all diseases, however caused, including the above habits.
- Or turn us into some kind of robots so we wouldn’t even think of doing anything evil.
- Let people keep their ‘independence’ but reform us somehow, and help us learn how to solve problems, including disease, malnutrition automobile accidents, addictions, and other evils we face. Since this method doesn’t stop evil outright, it allows some evil to continue, at least for awhile. I believe God chose #3. He did it like this:
C. The unique Son of God, Jesus, died on a cross out of our anger, hatred, jealousy, cruelty and evil; and was raised up from the grave three days later. Because his Son gave up his life for us, and was resurrected, God has forgiven us our evil (even our evil of killing Jesus). We can be sure God is good, and loves us, because he has given up so much to offer us life. Now he invites us into joy-filled eternal life — but it’s still our choice.
People tend to respond to this good news in one of three ways:
1. Ignore it, because they still believe God doesn’t exist anyway.
2. Refuse it, because they think God would restrict their freedom, even if being ‘free’ means more pain, danger and evil.
3. Accept it, and get used to being absolutely secure in God’s love. Learn to slow down and sense the Holy Spirit helping us live in ways that actually help others all the time, and helping us find solutions to some of the problems around us, like inventing accident-avoidance systems in vehicles, or providing proper nutrition for everyone, or eliminating disease. (Lots of dedicated people are already doing those.) Prepare for an eternal party of joy, love, and peace with billions of other people who have learned to love God and each other. How does that sound?
Personally, I’ve chosen this last one. One day at a time, I am learning how to love God and love his other kids — and that is going to keep me busy for a very, very long time. Eternity, actually.
I’m still in pain from the death of my great-niece. Her death was a terrible thing, an evil that hasn’t yet been conquered. But I don’t believe God struck her down, or was insensitive to the tears and prayers of so many. She died because we didn’t yet know how to save her. And I’m grateful for the dedicated, hard-working hospital staff who struggled for days to find what was wrong and try to save her life.
This world still has much evil in it, but each person who loves God improves the space around them, one at a time. Eventually God will put a permanent end to our madness, and offer everybody the C3 choice in a way they can see it clearly. I think they’ll choose C3. After all, if there’s a delightful party going on, why would people want to stay outside in the dark?
Which one of these makes the most sense to you? Isn’t today a good time to decide?