This weekís sermon is a conclusion to the recent series on the City of God as well as a look forward to the new things the Lord has for Trinity in the coming year. Under the virtues of faith, hope, joy, and love, we considered how these fruits of the Spirit create a community, a city. And last week, we considered briefly how the infinite life of God has been shared with us, making us childish city-builders, having been born again by the Word that endures forever. This week we look at our situation in particular under the four headings : Gospel, Worship, Community, and Mission.
The Centrality of the Gospel
The Gospel is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God that by the death and resurrection of Jesus, our guilt has been taken away thereby disarming all the powers of the kingdoms of sin and death and Satan, and by the indwelling of the Spirit we are enabled to believe, worship, obey, and carry out the mission of King Jesus, to prepare the world for His coming, in the sure hope of the resurrection. We want to be a gospel saturated people, preaching this gospel to ourselves, to our families, in worship, in Sunday School, in Parish Groups, and to our city. In order to make sure this happens, we want to work harder at scheduling many points at which we will be reminded and remind one another of the various aspects of this gospel. Our Lordís Day worship has been central to our identity since our beginning, and it will remain so. While we have had occasional Bible studies, we want to be far more intentional about discipleship. This means we not only want to aim at becoming more like Jesus, we want to take Spirit-filled steps of faith toward that end. We want to hang our love for God everywhere (Dt. 6:4-9).
The Centrality of Worship
Because we have been delivered from the dominion of sin, death, Satan, and the flesh, we respond in worship, submitting ourselves, our lives, all that we are to God. But we do not want our insistence on the centrality of worship to reduce to an infatuation with forms or merely thinking about worship a lot. What we mean by the centrality of worship is two primary convictions: First, because we have been rescued, we want to offer our entire lives as living sacrifices for His service and glory (Rom. 12:1). Paul thinks of this priority as flowing naturally into a discussion of being members of the body of Christ, serving one another with cheerfulness (Rom. 12:4-8), doing all things as to the Lord (Rom. 12:11, cf. Col. 3:23-25) and loving enemies (Rom. 12:17-21). Second, Paulís language also implies the origin and end of this sacrificial life. Sacrificial lives flow out and back into the transformative service/liturgy of corporate worship (Rom. 12:1). ďPresentingĒ our bodies as living sacrifices occurs in a general, everyday sort of way because they have been presented formally to God through the official gathering of Godís people and the sacraments. Worship is therefore central because it is where God promises to transform and renew our minds that we may prove what is good (Rom. 12:2). The sacraments and festivals and rituals of the Kingdom are our own unique culture in the Church which are the blueprints for building the Kingdom in this world.
The Centrality of Community
Paul says that worship forms a kind of body, a people who are members of one another (Rom. 12:3-5). A worshipping body is part of a city full of different gifts which are the result of the grace of God in our lives: prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, ruling, mercy (Rom. 12:6-8) all bound together by love, kindness, hard work, joy, patience, prayer, generosity, and hospitality (Rom. 12:9-13). Our hope is that Parish Groups in particular will help facilitate this kind of body life. The point is not to create one more thing for you to do. Weíre not trying to clutter your calendar. Meeting twice a month for a meal, sermon discussion, and prayer is not really the point. The point is for those gatherings to encourage a growing community culture of discipleship, prayer, fellowship, and outreach. ďThe Church is not a club for religious people. The Church is a way of living together before God, a new way of being human together.Ē
The Centrality of Mission
Ultimately, we exist for the life of the world. As another pastor has put it, we exist for those who arenít here. As the body of Christ, filled with His Spirit, we are called to bring the new life we have been given to the ends of the earth. That new life is a city of love, kindness, hard work, joy, patience, prayer, generosity, and hospitality, a new way of being human together before God. The Great Commission is in the first instance Godís mission, His vision for the world: He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found. How big is Godís mission? How big is Godís vision? Itís as big as the world (Is. 11:9). Jesus must reign until all of His enemies have been put beneath His feet, the last enemy being death itself (1 Cor. 15:25-26). This mission includes a message about the advents of Jesus: He has come and He will come again, but the mission is to teach all the nations everything Jesus commanded (Mt. 28:19-20). At the center of the commands of Jesus is a way of life characterized by love, generosity, sacrifice, and mercy Ė overcoming all evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21). The power of Godís love has been manifested in the cross of Jesus, and it compels us. We believe that the good news of Jesus really is good news for the world. Those outside of the grace of God are hurting, broken, and dying, and we know the cure.
By the grace of God and the working of His Spirit, we have been called to look for the city of God by faith here in Moscow, Idaho. We are called to hunger and thirst for the fruit of the Spirit here, hoping and leaning into the promises of God for this place. We have heard the announcement that the King has come and will come again, and we rejoice to get the city ready, to get the world ready for when He comes again. And this means receiving and resting in the unbroken, unhindered, determined love of God and His infinite life which has been shared with us by the Spirit. This is the gospel. This is why we worship. This is our way of life. This is our mission.