From the Pastor

Listening to the Real Story

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We live our lives in the midst of a "story war." 

Here's what I mean.  Every day we are bombarded with stories which command our attention, which call us to believe something other than true story of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Commercials:   You are nothing without this product!  With the right deodorant you will no longer be an unattractive loser!  Substitute just about any product in the previous sentences to help their marketing!  All of Iphone users know the power of stories.

Hollywood:  You need this story in your life!  It will help you cry, help you better understand the world or to better understand yourself.  You need some entertainment and escape right now.  Just tap out for 2 hours.  You need a fairy tale ending in order to get through the next week of struggle.

Listen to Andrew Garfield, formerly the Amazing Spiderman, and most recently a Jesuit priest in the movie, Silence.  He commented on the power of film in his life as a child:  “Films were really my church,” he said. “As a young kid it was movies and books; it was nothing remarkable really, just that is where I felt soothed, that is where I felt most myself...safest. 

Now he is acting and pursuing stories in order to deal with the reality and “...the grief of living in a time and a place where a life of joy and love is...impossible.”1

More sinister is the story told by a secular culture:  Right now is all that we have.  If you find pleasure in relationships, great music, excellent films, a beautiful sunset, there is a scientific explanation for that.  It's nothing more than a "chemical reaction which helped your ancestors find food and escape predators, and nothing more."1  And if right now is all that matter, then I have to get what I want now or it'll be gone.  To quote Dr. Strange from the latest Marvel film, "There is no such thing as spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more. We're just another tiny, momentary speck in an indifferent universe."

Those are just a few of the stories we are bombarded with.  We haven't mentioned the destructive stories other people have told us, "You are a failure."  Or the stories we tell ourselves, "I can't believe I was so stupid to have done that again!"  How do you fight these stories of unbelief in a world that believes it has an explanation for everything? 

Enter the Call to Worship on a Sunday morning.  The beginning of an ordinary church service.  In the midst of the bombardment of all the stories we tell and are being told, God speaks to us!  Just like the true story of creation, God speaks order into the chaos.  Just like the true story of redemption, God speaks rest to sinners.  And the rest of the worship service tells us the old, old story, that God loved the world so much that He gave up His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life! 

The service begins with an unashamed statement of truth about the God who is.  We are called once again to see God in all His glory:  His wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.3 And all this greatness shines in the face of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3, 2 Corinthians 4:6), who says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

What effect will the Call to Worship have on you this week as God comes down to meet with us?  What are we being taught? 

We are being taught how to listen.  When Isaiah sees the Lord in all His glory, the man who talks for a living shuts up. (Isaiah 6)

We are being shown that we are not the center of the universe. The Lamb who has taken away the sin of the world, Jesus, sits on the throne, at our Father's right hand.  He is in control.

We are being told the true story that there is more to this world than we can see.  And in the words of the apostle John, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it..."  God became visible in real space and real time. 

A lifetime of listening to God speak first in corporate worship, of seeing His glory, and hearing that infinite love became a person and gave His life for us ought to have a trans-formative impact on us.   God's teaching us to listen to Him and those around us (James 1:19).  It is the pattern of corporate worship that is trying to cultivate that elusive character trait of humility, to think of yourself less, rather than thinking less of yourself.4 

The Call to Worship is the first shot across our bow on a Sunday morning, calling us to look at the One whom all of creation, even the angels, are obsessed with looking at (1 Peter 1:12). 

We are told that we are more than our anxieties, our failures and and frustrated desires.  We are the assembly of the firstborn, His beloved children saved by grace, brought into God's presence by the Holy Spirit.  We are not alone in Christ.  And this world will not have the last word.  Death has no sting.  And we will rise again to enjoy a new creation where each day is better than the day in a better Garden of Eden...a global city where Jesus dwells with his people.

What story are you listening to right now?  The best part of this story is that it is true...

 

 1 Garfield was quoted here: http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/grace-enough.
2Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, 16-17.   
3 Quote found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1211837/quotes.
4 Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 4: What is God? A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
5 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 8.

Taking the Pressure off Marriage

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"15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

                  “This at last is bone of my bones
      and flesh of my flesh;
                  she shall be called Woman,
      because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." 

~Genesis 2:15-25

Here we have the first wedding in human history.  God walks Adam and Eve down the aisle.  He gives Adam a 'helper', who is like Adam but different.  They share the same nature, being human, but are different persons. 

Sinclair Ferguson comments: 

Adam's "instinctive response to his first sight of Eve was to recognize that she was someone different from him (she was another person and a woman!).  yet she was someone in whom he could see himself - in distinction from all the other life forms in creation she was 'fit for' or 'corresponding to' him (Genesis 2:18-20).  In this sense Eve was the one companion fully suited to him, who would turn the 'not good' of his being alone into the 'very good' of a new, covenant relationship in which he would discover at a new depth what it meant to be the image of God, sharing now - as his Triune Creator had done from all eternity - in a world of intimate fellowship with another who shared his nature."1

  "...[Adam] would discover at a new depth what it meant to be the image of God, sharing now...in a world of intimate fellowship with another who shared his nature."

Here's what Ferguson is saying:  Marriage, a one-flesh relationship between a man and a woman, was intended to give us a taste of God's love, experienced as intimate fellowship.  God is love (1 John 4:7-12).  The Bible's teaching is that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are the same in substance, all God.  They are of the same nature.  But God is three persons.  For all of eternity God has been in a loving intimate fellowship with another who is of the same nature.  The Father loving the Son and the Son loving the Father and the Spirit binding them together in love. 

Therefore, marriage is a gift from God designed to bring two different persons (a man and a woman) together who are similar (both image bearers of God) to be an image of God's self-less love.  Marriage is a good thing, but not a god thing. 

The apostle Paul tells us more in Ephesians 5:31-32.  He quotes Genesis, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh," and then drops a bombshell: 

Adam and Eve's marriage and intimacy refers to Christ and the Church!

God created marriage to show us how Jesus loves His people, the church.  Eve was given to Adam to picture God giving Jesus the Church.  Jesus looks at the church, His bride, with a married kind of love.  Paul calls it a mystery, even as He tells us why Jesus died.  Jesus' sacrificial love is ours in order to make His bride:  holy and without blemish.  He loved us so much that he became like us (flesh of my flesh) so that we might become like Him (righteous). 

"For our sake [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God"

2 Corinthians 5:21

Do you hear the similarities?  Jesus, someone of another nature (God) became like us on the cross, so that we might become one (in Him), being like Him.

This takes the pressure off marriage because Your spouse is not Your reason for living.  He or she cannot give you the affection that our hearts crave because we were made to find marital satisfaction in relationship to Jesus Christ.  Which means we can be married or single and find a deep satisfaction in Christ's covenant love for the Church, His bride.  This makes us unusual because we can say that it is not good for anyone to be alone.  We are made to be in relationships.  But we can also say that it is good to be single in Christ because Jesus died to make us His spouse.  And it is good to be married in Christ because Jesus died to make us His spouse. 

Do you know how to experience this kind of satisfaction in Christ?

 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.    ~Ephesians 2:8

 

 1Sinclair Fergusion, Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth, 90.

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