024.2 Purpose and Function, pt 2

Matthew 16:15-18 Who do you say that I am?

The church is not built by human effort. God builds His church, and He does it His way. He uses pictures to reveal the church to men. These pictures reveal something about God – this shows that He is our God and we are His people; that His church declares His glory. “You are the Christ” – this declaration is where the church is built. Doing things, being places, attending meetings, having habits do not add you to the church.

When God interacts with people, the interactions often involve the Land: Garden, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos. The pattern is God heals the people, and THEN He heals the land. A healed people are designed to steward a healed land. This is purpose. With wounded people in the presence of a wounded land, we are trying to fabricate stewardship. The PEOPLE are bigger than the individual. The LAND is bigger than the people. Church life is not any kind of meeting, no matter how elaborate or simple. But ecclesia is a life lived in a land with others and God.

Current church structure is focused on the Sunday morning meeting. All the energy is ramped up for the Big Show. But most people are not satisfied with that, so we add sunday school, specified small groups, events, ministries, etc. We organize things to focus on the meeting at a set time, inside a set building, and then bemoan the fact that people are not out in the community, so we try to manufacture programs to get them “outside the walls.” We craft a system that focuses on a once-a-week meeting, and when that proves lacking, we try to add events and concerns to people’s already full lives. This is not what they signed on for. This was not the original deal. The Good News of the Kingdom is a transformational reality for your whole life. It is by its nature self-sacrificial and all-encompassing. We should be encouraging a community of people who are sharing life together, working and ministering together, who then gather to celebrate this life, praise our God, testify to His deeds, share our joys and concerns.

We should not use physical things to birth spiritual things, but use them as a tool, and use them properly, and use them alongside spiritual weapons. The church, God’s people, should have compassion, as Jesus did.

Jesus is building His church also on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and not simply the biblical ones, but those living today. The Bible is immensely important, but we cannot simply stare at it, study it, and miss the bigness of God, the vastness of the Kingdom, the immensity of our call. If we merely disect the word, we will be like those of whom Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” We should be motivated and moved by the Bible to LIVE, and to walk with the Holy Spirit in the world.

Do you hate the church? Do we hate the church? What is the church? God’s church is the collection of saved sinners living life in a fallen world, with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The religious systems of man are not the church, but merely a counterfeit. That doesn’t mean spirit-filled believers can’t be involved with them, or lead them, or that the traditional church system can’t do good things in the world. But they are two different things.

The foundation of the church is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This is in 1 Corinthians 3:11 – for no man can lay a foundation, other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. The only way a person can be added to the church is through the Holy Spirit revealing them the truth of who Jesus Christ is. This is the only way to get fruit that lasts.

What is the most effective way to communicate the Gospel? Is it to gather people for an activity? Is it by making them your friend? Is it a game night, movie night, car show, hunting trip, bike ride, concert, bounce house? Or is it by obeying Christ? To prove that we believe who He says He is, that we have been pierced by His grace, that we live in a Kingdom that forgives sin and gives you what you could never earn by your performance? Is it to love because we first were loved? Why should anyone be motivated to come to Jesus if your thoughts, words, and actions communicate that you never did? This is not a matter of being perfect or the most righteous; it’s a matter of changing what you treasure and acting like Christ is your King. If you don’t live what you preach, you negate what you preach.

What do you preach? What is the loudest part of your gospel? Is it your political beliefs? Is it your work ethic? Is it your purity codes? Is it your religious festivals? Is it your concerts? Or is it your love borne out of the immensity of grace? What is it we’re supposed to be proclaiming? The mystery of the Church – Christ in us. The church is the fellowship of the mystery. God in man. The Kingdom in our midst.

The transformation the Holy Spirit brings is not a cessation of sin. It is a total heart transplant. It is forsaking the world. It is humility. It is serving others. It is submitting to God. It is laying down our rights, dreams, defenses, and taking up our cross. It is following the Master. To become Christ-like, you must lay down your life for people who hate you.

The Gospel changes how we interact with people. It changes how we view the world. It changes where our hope is placed. It should change your interactions with the rest of creation.

Let’s Recap

  1. The decline of the church – its health as an institution and its status in our culture
  2. The way we see our church – using physical tools to try to get spiritual results
  3. Trying to get purpose out of function instead of allowing purpose to define function
  4. The Church is primarily spiritual in nature
  5. Physical things should only be midwives; tools to loosen satan’s grip. Not using things of the world to attract people to the Gospel.
  6. What you draw them with is what you draw them to.

Do you see your church the way Jesus sees your church? How does Jesus see your church? Jesus’ church has a design defined by Him. Here are some of His patterns from scripture:

  1. Creation and marriage of Adam and Eve – God’s purpose came before people’s function; intimate fellowship; grace-covered state; stewarding over creation in obedience to God; this brings glory to God.
  2. Tabernacle of Moses – demonstrates God’s work in the sacrifice of Christ. The tabernacle was symbolic of God’s presence with the people, and of the impending appearance and sacrifice of Christ. The church today should also be representing God’s presence and the sacrificial nature of Christ.
  3. The Tabernacle of David – God’s grace manifested in salvation to the Gentiles
  4. Temple of Solomon – God’s glory revealed through His presence amongst His people
  5. Temple of Ezekiel – pattern of priesthood in service and ministry.

We must examine our purpose and our function, and discern which is leading. If we adopt an incorrect purpose, it will lead us to bad functioning. If we try to create purpose by functioning, we are performing a transaction. We don’t do nice things for our spouses so that they will love us. We love them, and so do nice things for them. When we have a false purpose, or attract with functioning, and let our tasks and activities lead, we will attract people to those things. They will never find real purpose. They will not find intimate fellowship found in unity in the Spirit.

Songs:
David Crowder Band – A Beautiful Collision
Audio Adrenaline – Jesus Movement

This episode originally broadcast live on September 11, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:
www.sunministries.org
www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

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024.1 Purpose and Function, pt 1

There are numerous statistics that express a decline in the state of the church in America. This includes things like attendance, doctrinal literacy, giving, etc. A Barna report says the number of “post-Christian” individuals has increased to 44% (as of 2015; most current/relevant article can be found here: https://www.barna.com/research/post-christian-cities-america-2017/). Why is this important?

It depends on your context. If you are worried about the survival of an institution, then these statistics should be alarming. If you are concerned with the Gospel setting captives free to make disciples and follow the Holy Spirit, these statistics take on a more nuanced nature.

One of the sources of this “decline” is the confusion of purpose and function.

What is purpose? It is your vision. It is your reason for existing. It is your motivation. What is function? It is what you do. It is what your purpose drives you to do. It will guide your tasks and how you perform them.

If we get purpose and function backwards, then we are never going to achieve what God has designed us to do. Many churches function in a way to sustain themselves – their salaries, mortgages, programs, etc. Many people function in survival mode. And you don’t have to go to the inner cities to find people living this way. Functioning by self-preservation does not lead to the healthiest decisions. When we function out of survival mode, we won’t live by God’s design – we are merely trying to stay alive. Our options appear to be (and often are) limited. This is the stronghold of poverty – having limited options because of a concern with resources and survival. Your power to choose has been enslaved to your wants and needs.

We should discover our God-given purpose and allow it to define our function.

You and your church
When you communicate about your church, what do you mention first? Attendance, programs, preaching, music, serving opportunities? What Gospel do you preach? Does it matter how you preach the Gospel? Must you obey the Gospel you preach? Are you adding to or removing from the Gospel and leading people into bondage or hypocrisy?

The church is becoming obsolete in the culture. We have neglected the fulness of the Gospel and the desolation in our midst, so that our doctrine becomes separate from our works, and our works appear small and our doctrine becomes meaningless. The church, historically, was a massive force to bring value to human life. It shaped culture because people lived differently. Because they were obedient to God. Now there is a glut of answers and solutions to all of life’s ills. There are groups, politicians, and celebrities “doing something” about issues, and the church looks irrelevant in comparison, even though we all know that “Jesus is the answer.” If that is true, then He has to truly be the answer, and we have to be willing to be His body, His hands and feet, to answer the call. Jesus did not look at us in our need and say, “You don’t deserve it! I’m going to keep what’s mine.” He responded with grace.

The church has been taken captive by the natural realm. The primary nature of the Church should be spiritual. The very souls of the poor, foreign, undesirable, are invisible, eternal, spiritual things. This makes them vitally important in the Kingdom. The natural things associated with the church (buildings, programs, money, etc) are all temporary and are burned up in the end.

Fruit comes from the Spirit! It is not created by physical things.

Friendship evangelism is a bait-and-switch. It has so infiltrated many modern views of ministry and evangelism. This blurs our vision as we face a dark world in need of a Savior and His devoted followers. It taints our definition of the Gospel. It defined our churches in every way from architecture to graphic design to service schedules. It causes us to judge others for how they minister. It paralyzes people when facing their lost friends, family, and neighbors.

Who builds the Church? Christ builds His body, His spiritual temple. We get to partner merely as servants of the Holy Spirit. However, the church tries to build itself using physical tools and ways. Only the interaction with the Gospel and the Holy Spirit can add people to the spiritual Body of Christ. Our tools, no matter how impressive they are, are completely useless if they don’t accomplish what we need, if they are functioning separate from the Holy Spirit. Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

What is the Church supposed to be? Let’s look at the “real deal”.

  1. It is universal – everyone added to the Book of Life. Only Jesus can open that book.
  2. The Local Church – the only division the Bible recognizes for the church is regional. And they were still interconnected. Denominations are wrong. They are borne out of divisions caused by the works of man.
  3. The Body of Christ – a supernature being filled with the Holy Spirit
  4. The Bride of Christ – Pure and devoted to their Lord

This is the podcast episode Jason referenced

http://www.welivehere.show/posts/2015/8/23/what-it-means-to-be-multi-racial

and this is the paper that they referenced

https://gcaatoday.com/775/opinions-2/blackish-not-black-not-white-but-somewhere-in-between/

Songs:
Kutless – “All Who are Thirsty” http://www.kutless.com/
Nickel Creek – When in Rome https://youtu.be/ylslcF-fUeE

This episode originally broadcast live on September 11, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:
www.sunministries.org
www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

023.2 Creative Expression, pt 4: Testimony

Before we move on to testimonies, we have to back up and cover some scripture of rhema and art
Acts 2:14 Peter asks crowd to give heed to his “rhema”

Acts 5:20 go speak to the people the whole “rhema” of this life. In other words, declare what I’ve revealed to you. You can’t speak “rhema” without the Holy Spirit accompanying you.

If the truest form of expression comes when the Holy Spirit inspires and accompanies it, then some of the worst forms of corruption of that come in the form of contracts concerning “worship music” and sermons. If we contractually obligate Christians to produce albums and teachings, then they are motivated by money and job security to fill space. The Holy Spirit can certainly transcend these human limitations, but why would we not reorient ourselves to work fully in communion with Him?

Godly creative exrpession is to art what Rhema is to Logos. People can learn the skills of art, and be really good at it. But doing those things in communion with the Holy Spirit connect to something deeper. Our relationship with God can inspire others to engage a relationship with God.

Testimonies
We emphasize communicating testimonies in creative expression. We have done this (Mark, Mark, and Jason are musicians), and we encourage it in others. Testimonies are authentic; they are a weapon; and the tell of what God has done. Testimonies declare that God is who He says He is, and that He is their Lord.

Psalm 66:5,16 Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men…come and hear all who fear God and I will tell of what He’s done for my soul.

Expressing with Authority
People were moved by what Jesus preached because He taught with authority. It wasn’t just His conviction (which some preachers do not have), but that He did what He taught. He was passionate about what He taught – things that He knew, did, and had a deep conviction of. He lived what He taught. Deep conviction backed up with a steadfast walk shakes people.

People desire authenticity because it is a connection to something that can be known. It is proof that truth and love are attainable, that loneliness is not the only option. Authenticity in expression means that the expression is not just a product or filler, but that it bridges the gap between our experiences. This desire for authenticity puts a wedge within our religious experience. The modern church strives to be “authentic”, but kills that effort by its striving. Authentic followers are living sacrifices.

To be authentic, we need to find our identity, and we can only find that in Christ.

Godly creative expression is done with authority – it is done as an outpouring of what we know and do, it is done in communion with the Holy Spirit.

Why are you creating? Is it just to fill space? Is it to attract people to your self? Are you just adding bible words to chords? What inspires it? What is the motivation? What power is there in something contrived? Our creations have more power when they come from a place of authority – of an outpouring of our experience.

What is the vision of Godly creative expression? God’s vision for creative expression will depend on what His vision is for the church in a certain place at a certain time. He will be expressing what He is doing through mankind’s expression. If this is the case, then the church is missing out by programming and recycling “worship music.” The bible speaks of EVERYONE bringing a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song, for the purposes of teaching and edifying. This means that God can move corporately in a church BODY and express Himself at that time through new and old expressions. “Worship music”, or any artistic function within the church, should not be seen as entertaining, but in some way prophetic, in that it is expressing who God is and what He is doing.

If the creative expression of who God is and what He is doing is limited, stifled, etc., then its power is greatly decreased. The praises cannot be heard, the rebukes are not received, the encouragements are silenced. He cheapen the arts to “oh, that’s pretty” or “oh, that’s cool” or “i really like this song”.

So…how are urban renewal, reformation of the church, and reformation of creative expression all the same thing? Because they are all concerned with God’s patterns, having a relationship with God, being filled with His Spirit, walking in His ways. When we are in line with God’s ways, we are declaring His glory, we are expressing His diving attributes. When we do that, we will be ministering. You will be living out Isaiah 61. When we do this, our hearts are full of the good things of God, and they overflow in our various abilities. We do that together, corporately, as a body. Within this context, the only reason any art exists is because we have encountered our Lord and we can’t help but to express it, or we so desire to encounter Him that we call out in lament.

As the church has become corrupted in America, and Americanized the Gospel, it brought its arts right along with it and turned ministry into an industry. If we leave the world and allign our hearts with God’s, then we will find ourselves in the trenches of spiritual warfare, and shoulder to shoulder not only with our brothers and sisters, but with Jesus Himself, and that results in the restoration of dark places, including inner cities. As we live among those who need love and need the Lord, and humble ourselves, instead of exalting ourselves like the builders of Babel, then what we do create, express, and build will communicate who God is and what He does.

When we return to God’s patterns, we will be loving, we will be expressing, and we will be living the church the way that He designed.

Songs:

Keith Green – Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful

Shawn Groves – Blank Page

 

This episode originally broadcast live on September 4, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

023.1 Creative Expression, pt 3: Logos and Rhema

Creative expression includes most things people think of when they think about art. We are going to start by reviewing some of the big picture ideas we got to in parts 1 and 2 of this discussion.

First obvious signs of creative expression after the fall

Jubal the first musician, Tubal-Cain working with metal. We see records of people desiring to express creatively after the fall. Prior to the fall, man and God have perfect communion. After the fall, communication is impaired.

In the Garden, we had perfect communion. We were fully known, and we knew God in a very intimate way. So will there be creative expressions in Heaven? We will sing, we know that much. And God is creative, and we are created in His image. Are there parallels between creative expressions and spiritual gifts? Obviously spiritual gifts come from God and express who He is. But there will be a day when some pass away, and they won’t be necessary, at least not in our current comprehension of them. They are for ministry and to build us up into the fullness of Christ. What purpose would they serve once we are in that fullness, together with the Father?

So instead of looking at creative expression as a compensation for lack of communion, is it something that is fully realized in unison with God? Is it something that we do WITH God, and in doing it with God, it becomes its true form, and works toward the will of God?

Is redeemed creative expression meant to EXPRESS God or EXPLAIN God? Likely, both.

Is creative expression out of union with God inherently corrupt? While they can be very honest, essentially yes. We had mentioned the urge to build and control related to the urge to create. These are parts of our image of God and part of His purpose for us, that we should be little creators who rule the world on God’s behalf, and with Him. When those are corrupt, we end up building Babels. When we exercise our own creative energies apart from God, it can exalt our pride.

While there is much to be said for all humanity’s creative efforts, the kind that will build us up will in some way point towards the Creator of all. Can our communion with God, our longing for Him, our desolation apart from Him, our questions and doubts, our pains and loss, inspire expressions that bridge the gap created at the Fall?

So after looking at all the ways music specifically was used in Scripture, for godly and ungodly purposes, and exploring lots of modern corruptions, how do we get back to God’s design for creative expression? How do we reform it?

The Bible displays a spiritual connection to expression, and servants, especially Paul, desiring to communicate in God’s ways.

Creative Expression, Rhema, and Logos

Martin Luther believed that the Gospel was Jesus – essentially anything that communicated Jesus was Good News. If everything that could be expressed about God in human form was Jesus, then there is some merit to this idea. There are some who believe God’s expression of Himself has ceased, and is contained entirely in Scripture. Some believe God is always communicated Jesus in some way. Not writing a new Bible, or replacing the Bible, or negating the Bible, but that God expresses Himself and communicates the Good News of the Kingdom always in many ways.

Logos and Rhema are two greek words that get translated as “word”. However, the represent two slightly different ideas, both of which relate to creative expression.

Logos is most famously used in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Here, he is clearly referring to Jesus.

Rhema is most famously used in Matthew 4:4 “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

While their literal definitions are very similar, their uses in Scripture show a difference.

Logos is the word, it is declaration. Rhema is revelation. Logos is concrete and clear and trustworthy. Rhema is expressive and fluid, yet still never contradicts the Logos. Rhema is not simply allegorical interpretations of Scripture. It is revelation of God. Sometimes it involves reading scripture. Sometimes it simply happens in ministry, no where near a Bible.

How does art relate to rhema? As God redeems His people, He fills them with His Spirit, grants them rhema (revelation of the truth), and inspires them to express it in way similar to how He expresses. This could be seen as taking what Scripture says, and creatively expressing what it means.

God supernatually revealed the design of the Tabernacle, then He sent His Spirit to empower craftsmen to accomplish the design.

When we are faithful and obedient, we are declaring the character of God. God reveals Himself to people in certain ways at certain times. Sometimes as a burning bush, sometimes as thunder, sometimes as a pillar of cloud, etc. Why? Why does He choose different forms, different expressions? Even in Scripture, there are many literary forms. Why does He choose poems in place, and geneologies in another? Why did Jesus come in human, tangible, physical form to live an observable, historical, concrete life, and yet also grant confounding visions to John? Because He is expressing in forms that express Him, to the recipient, and to others to come after. Because He is the creative Creator. Because there is so much of Him to express.

Songs

Newsboys – God is Not a Secret

Nichole Nordeman – I am

Additional music

Ben Pasley – Rugged Old Hand http://www.benpasley.com/ Used by permission.

This episode originally broadcast live on September 4, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

004.1 God’s Church, pt 1: Man’s systems

Part 1 of our discussion of church definitions: man’s vs. God’s.

What is the American church doing?
We relay some statistics that point toward serious problems.
What has man added into the institutional church?
Are these activities biblical? Necessary? Harmful?
What are the effects of these choices?
Apostle-eez Throat Spray

Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this discussion.

This episode originally broadcast live on April 24, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:
www.discipledrivenchurch.org
www.discipledrivenchurch.blogspot.com
www.sunministries.org
www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

Other music: “Rugged Old Hand” by Ben Pasley and “All I Need” by Enter the Worship Circle, both used by permission of Ben Pasley of Enter the Worship Circle www.entertheworshipcircle.com