After my sermon last week about who are you and what are you doing here, a church member told me a story about Albert Einstein getting on a train and when the conductor came by to validate his ticket, he couldn’t find his ticket. Finally the conductor told him, “It’s alright Mr. Einstein, I know who you are.” Mr. Einstein was still concerned, “Yes, I know who I am too but I don’t know where I am going.” We talked about the value of knowing who you are and what you are doing here and where you are going, meaningful origin plus meaningful destiny equals meaningful life. All of this was very clear to Jesus as we read in John 8:12-14: John 8:12-14 Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. When you know who you are and where you have come from, why you are here and where you are going you experience greater peace, joy, rest; freedom from stress, pride, envy, competition and frustration. Knowing about spiritual gifts is a key
Our Constitution of the United States of America and the first seven articles and 27 amendments are the shortest constitution in force in the world today. Its first three articles secure the doctrine of the separation of powers. Our federal government is divided into three branches: the legislative; the executive; and the judicial. Articles Four, Five and Six establish the concept of federalism, describing the rights and responsibilities of state governments and of the states in relationship to the federal government. The Constitution and the form of government that was established by it was written and instituted based on a very strong understanding of the sinful nature of mankind, that men are totally fallen, that sin permeates all we think and do, that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our founding fathers set in place policies and principles that had checks and balances; with built in accountability. This was meant to limit government, to limit the powers of any one individual and to limit the power of the federal government over state’s rights. Our founding documents sought to carefully walk a balance between tyranny and anarchy, between the abuse of the rule of one person, and the rule of the mob. Human nature being what it is needs structure, discipline and accountability. To do that you have to have laws and the force of discipline behind the laws to enforce them. Where there is sin there is a need for rules and laws and obedience, and when this is broken, there is a need for discipline. This is true in our nation and in our cities and communities, this is true in the military, in schools, in all our homes and in our churches. Article 32 of the Belgic Confession addresses these issues and principles in our churches under what we call church order and church discipline. The officers or spiritual leaders of the church are responsible for the life and doctrine of the church, they are responsible to maintain peace, unity and order. They are to see that the Word is faithfully preached and the sacraments are faithfully administered and received. In order to do all this they must be able to use the tool of good church order to keep order and the tool of spiritual church discipline when something is out of order.
Rabbi Jozef was on his way home from a long day at the synagogue. It was evening. In typical rabbinic fashion his head was down deep in meditation on that days reading from the Torah. Oblivious to his surroundings he suddenly ran into a wall and a Roman centurion called out: Voice: “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Narrator: In typical rabbinic fashion the Rabbi answered the question with a question: Rabbi: “How much do they pay you?” Voice: “One denarius a day.” Rabbi: “If I pay you two denarii a day will you follow me and ask me those two questions every day?” “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Why do you get up every morning? What are you living for? Are you enjoying it? What do you dream about and wish you could do? What dreams have faded or died over time? What would you like to do in retirement? “Who are you and what on earth are you doing here?” Two Options: (see R.C. Sproul, Essentials). There are two possible perspectives on all of this. The first option says we emerged from the primordial slime and we will return to it - ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But a meaningless origin plus a meaningless destiny equals a meaningless life. In the words of some Nazis we are just “useless eaters.” In the words of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre we are just “useless passion.” In the words of Macbeth we’re “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” In the words of the retired Berkeley law professor and father of the intelligent design movement Philip E. Johnson, according to the Darwinian theory of biological evolution we live in a closed system of purposeless, undirected causes and effects that have created everything that exists. God is not the creator but rather a subjective invention in the minds of those who chose to be religious. In other words mankind created God and not the other way around. Many attempt to assign dignity and worth and significance to this temporary human existence lived between two poles of meaninglessness, but to do so is fantasy and self-delusion. The second option says we are created by God and therefore we are related to God. Meaningful (purposive) origin plus meaningful (purposive) destiny equals a meaningful life. Our origin is tied to God from all eternity. We are His workmanship. Our destiny is tied to God. We will receive a crown of glory. Knowing where we have come from and where we are going is important. Why? The value and significance of our lives is at stake. God's purpose and plan for each of us is at stake. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To God be the glory now and forever.” Romans 11:36. Os Guinness’ in his book The Call puts it this way: “God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.” (p. 4)
What is Father’s Day? Father’s Day is that day when children pay particular attention to their father, and devote a little extra time, share a gift, share some meaningful words, express some gratitude. It’s a day of praise, honor, and memories. There’s a sense in which every Sunday is a Father’s Day. That day when children gather to express praise, gratitude and honor, to show appreciation and share some meaningful words directed to our heavenly Father.
For the past few weeks we have explored the nature of the church and church leadership. We have talked about the importance of good church government and doing things decently and in order. We have talked about the Biblical foundations for having a plurality of qualified elders and deacons. One thing we haven’t talked about is whether the officers of the church must be men or not. There are few things in the contemporary church today that have caused more division and debate than the issue of women in spiritual leadership over men. Why do some denominations and some churches have them and some don’t? Why doesn’t First CRC have women elders or deacons or let women preach? Is it because of past prejudices born out of long standing tradition? Is it because we are uncomfortable with that kind of change, we just aren’t quite ready for it yet? Is it because some think women are inferior or not as smart or too weak? Is it because of first century culture, and the lack of education for women of that time? Is it because the Bible was written by a bunch of male chauvinists? Is this just our interpretation and it’s no better than anyone else’s? After all don’t lots of serious scholars disagree on this issue? Is it just because of our current pastor and as soon as we get a different one who is more open minded things will change around here? The push to ordain women in the past 50 years has not come from a church that after 1900 years of progressive enlightenment has now finally opened its blind eyes to see the truth. The push is coming from a culture that has lost or thrown off its Biblical mooring. We live in a day of blurred distinctions, and especially when those distinctions are sexual. Almost all boundaries are gone, and the church has entered into that confusion and blurring of distinctions. She has lost her moorings in the timeless truth of God’s Word. Our generation doesn’t want God to define who we are and what we may do. So when that’s cast off, what’s left to guide us but the shifting winds of culture? This is true whether we are talking about when human life begins or what marriage is or what the nature of spiritual authority is. Let’s turn to Scripture and lay the foundation for why we do what we do so that when our understanding is challenged we will have a good answer. Since our text appeals to Genesis let’s start at the beginning.
It should be evident to us by now as we work through these articles of the Belgic Confession that deal with the practical governing of the church that this is there the rubber really met the road in the Reformation. While there were many important disagreements on doctrine, here is where the power and authority of the medieval European church was really challenged. Article 31 deals with the very practical matters of who should the officers of the church be, how should they be chosen, how do they relate to each other and how is the church to relate to them. Let’s begin with the most basic and practical of questions. Why does the church need officers?
Two weeks from today pastor Al Vander Griend will be teaching a one hour, five week adult Sunday school class on Spiritual Gifts. We hope that the fellowship hall downstairs is filled. We are planning something for the post nursery children so moms and dads can attend. This is a very important subject and as Paul says in I Corinthians 12:1, “concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” But before we can understand spiritual gifts we need to understand something about the source of those gifts and Pentecost Sunday is a perfect opportunity to be more informed about the Holy Spirit. Introduction to Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is the name of a Jewish feast. The word literally means 50 days, referring to the number of days after Passover. 50 days after Passover every male Jew was required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the completion of the barley harvest and make sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. On that day Jerusalem was filled with Jews from at least 15 different parts of the world. On that day God chose to send down His promised gift of His Holy Spirit. On that day was fulfilled the OT prophecy that God’s Holy Spirit would be poured out on all who believed. Pentecost marks the penultimate act of God in salvation history. These are the last days before Christ returns and the world as we know it ends. Brothers and Sisters, today is the day we come face to face with our need for renewal and revival, in our hearts and in our homes and in our church. Today is the day we are reminded of the supreme importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our world. Supreme importance. Really, pastor? How big a deal is the Holy Spirit? How important is it to know the Holy Spirit? Is it even necessary to know who the Spirit is? Let me answer by declaring what Scripture says you cannot do without the Holy Spirit.
Most of you know the drill. “Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome aboard Allegiant Flight 226 bound for San Diego. Our captain has informed us that our flying time to San Diego today will be approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes at an altitude of 33,000 feet. We want to review with you at this time some of the safety features of our MD-83 aircraft. You can follow along with the laminated card in the seat pocket in front of you. During landing and take off we ask that you keep your seat back in the full and upright position and that your tray table be stowed and locked. There are six exits, two at the front of the aircraft, two over each of the wings and one at the rear of the aircraft. In case of emergency floor lighting will direct you to the exit nearest you. In the unlikely event of cabin depressurization, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.” Today we start a new leadership year together and I hear several important lessons about leadership in this pre-flight emergency instruction. The first lesson is that people tend to ignore leaders and not pay attention to their instructions until there’s a crisis. Second, when we are traveling together in community it’s important for all those who are in any kind of leadership role to be well connected to the source of life before they try to assist others in getting connected. I understand that on an airplane you have less than a minute before your mind starts to get fuzzy and confused. That’s why they want parents to put on their masks first, so they can be better able to help their children. Getting connected and staying connected is very important. Leaders have to take care of themselves, of their own soul so they can help others. To guide us in this, turn with me to the laminated card called Acts 1 where we find several excellent marks of spiritual leaders, marks that will enable them to lead us toward the goal that God hasset before us. I want to talk about leadership this morning at all levels, and especially about the kind of leadership we will need if we are going to be a transforming community from generation to generation for the Glory of God. While what I have to say applies specifically to pastors, elders and deacons, it also applies to teachers, ministry volunteers, moms and dads, employers, leaders in any capacity. Since we are already at 33,000 feet, I am going to fly over this text and land on several verses to help us get a picture of spiritual leadership in our churches, homes and communities.
There’s an old joke about a fellow inviting a friend to church and the friend declines saying he’s against organized religion, to which the inviter says well then you should definitely come to our church because it’s real disorganized. The purpose of church government is for things to be done decently and in good order. Where there is no government there is chaos and confusion, and the possibility for abuse, tyranny and neglect. Consider Somalia as an example of no government. Consider North Korea as an example of oppressive, tyrannical government. Consider Nigeria where some are trying to overthrow the government. People cannot dwell together very long without some kind of order or law or rule or government. Good government is built on the principle that all men are sinners and sin needs to be kept in check. Our political government was set up with checks and balances because our founders had a very high view of sin and the depravity of human hearts. Tonight we come to a topic that isn’t one of the most exciting or appealing but is nevertheless an important and necessary doctrine of Scripture, the government of Christ’s Church. In the last article we talked about the three marks of a true and faithful church. This article talks about how those three marks may be carried out. To have those three marks the church must have leaders, office-bearers, men responsible for seeing that they are done decently and in good order. Let’s state two fundamental overarching principles first.