Easter Week Happenings

easter 2015 ad

 Join us for our Easter week celebrations!

Good Friday Celebration (presented by the Adrian Ministerial Alliance)
Friday, April 3 @7pm
At the Adrian Christian Church (North Old Hwy 71)

Easter Day
930am Easter Breakfast (in gym–any men interested in helping to cook and set up should contact one of the deacons), free and open to everyone wanting to join us!
1045am Easter Day Worship Gathering

**There will be no Awana or other evening activities.**

Free to Do Good (a meditation)

4So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. 5When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  6But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. ~ Romans 7:4-6 NLT

Freedom. It’s a great thing; we like the sound of the word.

At the end of Romans 6, Paul argued that apart from life in Jesus we are slaves to sin. “You become the slave of whatever you choose to obey” (6:16). With hearts of rebellion, turned against God, we obey our sin. But when we receive and follow Jesus and our old selves die with him, then we have new lives no longer bound by sin or by the Old Testament Law.

chains111This is one of several places where Paul spoke this truth (almost the entirety of Galatians being another, as well as parts of 2 Corinthians, etc.). When we look back at the Ten Commands of Exodus 20 and all the laws that flowed from them, we find that we are no longer bound by them. Paul went on to argue in Romans 7 that all the Law accomplished in the lives of those who heard it was exposing their sinfulness. That doesn’t mean the Law itself was bad, it just shone as a light onto dark and rebellious hearts that refused to keep its commands. But in Christ, the greatest light, we become free.

Freedom from the Law is not liberty to do anything without consequence. Instead, it’s freedom to live for God and freedom from sin. In a sense we can do whatever we want, but when we’re free from the Law we have the Holy Spirit within us. He gives us a new heart with new desires, so that what we want is to please God.

When it comes to the Law, then, we no longer have to be bound under the command to have no other gods or to not take God’s name in vain, because with new hearts we are free to love the one true God and honor him in all we do. We are no longer bound by do not murder or do not commit adultery, because with new hearts we are free to love our neighbors as ourselves and seek their good and not their harm.

But what about the times where our desires seem to be in conflict? Where we want to please God, but we end up choosing sin because in the moment something about that sin seems more appealing?

We have to remember we are living in the already but not yet—a time between times; a time where the kingdom of Jesus has already burst forth into the world through his first appearing and his promise to build his people, his church; but also a time where sin still exists, a time where we are justified but not yet glorified, a time where we still have to put to death our old selves and put on our new selves in Christ (Colossians 3).

We have to fight the old nature to live in the new. Thankfully, though, this is not a fight we do on our own. Looking into Romans 8, we find that God is in our corner. Not only is he cheering us on, but he has given us his Spirit, made us his children, and is working out our greatest good through all situations—our glorification or the perfection we will see through Jesus and with Jesus for eternity. He fights for us.

With God working in us and fighting for us, we have the strength to do good and the ability to stand up after a stumble and keep pressing on. After all, God has freed us…

This post is part of our ongoing series as we journey through the Bible together as a church.

Site Updates and Sunday 03.29.15

Site Updates
We’ve added a couple of features to our church website. First, you will find more information about church activities and ministries on our Activities and Ministry page. Check it out. Also in our sidebar you will now find links to our Church Facebook Page and our brand new Awana Facebook Page.

Sunday March 29
Hope to see you this Sunday! Guest speaker for the week: Jeremy Bridges, speaking about “His righteousness is greater than my sin” from Romans 2-6.

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@5pm Awana
@6pm Adult Bible Study in library; Paul David Tripp’s Portrait of a Struggle

Remembering who you are… (a meditation)

1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~ Romans 6:1-4

In Romans 4-6, Paul keyed on the realities of salvation by grace through faith. Pointing back to both Abraham and David, Paul taught that no matter who you are, Jew or Gentile, Old Testament or New, salvation comes only by faith in Jesus and not by works or obedience to God’s Law (since we can’t perfectly obey). Works flow from salvation not to salvation. Our justification before God comes from the life, death, and works of Jesus alone. (The Old Testament saints looking forward to him as God slowly revealed through the prophets; us looking back to him as he came as the Savior-King.)

While Paul taught this there were some who tried to twist his message to give the idea that free justification in Jesus means we can do whatever we want, even if it’s sin.

At the end of chapter 5, Paul went so far to say that where more sin existed God’s grace came more abundantly. Then into chapter 6, Paul either confronted an argument some were making or anticipated one which might come from those twisting his message. He asked the question: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”—so, if we have freedom, if we’re justified apart from the law, and if greater grace covers greater sin; then we can keep on sinning and be good, right?

Paul answered with an emphatic: No. No! NO!—May it never be!

And he points to the reality that our old sinful selves are crucified and buried in Jesus, and the lives we live now are new lives from Jesus. What he called in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “a new creation.”

As a new creation, then, you and I are to “walk in the newness of life.” As he fleshed this out and came to Romans 6:11-14, he said these realities should impact how we see ourselves (dead to sin, alive to God in Jesus) and how we live (presenting ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness). Yet within all of this, Paul pointed to something specific to remind us of these realities: our baptism.

He said that being baptized into Christ is to be baptized into his death. It’s to have the old self buried and the new self rise up in Christ (a spiritual reality now, looking forward to the physical reality at Jesus’ return).

At different points throughout the Bible, water represented the grave, death, and God’s judgment. You can think of the time of Noah and the flood (which Peter connects to baptism in 1 Peter 3). You can think of the exodus and the waters of the sea crashing down upon the Egyptian army after the Israelites crossed on dry land (which Paul called a baptism in 1 Corinthians 10). You can think of Jonah being tossed into the water. Swallowed by the fish, Jonah began to pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God, recounting how the “waters closed in over me to take my life” but Jonah cried out “from the belly of Sheol” and God heard and rescued (Jonah 2:1-10; Sheol meaning the grave or the place of the dead).

So the waters of baptism, when we are plunged in, represent death and judgment. But we pass safely through because we are united to Christ by faith. Emerging from the water, then, we are raised to new life. The old, the sinful, the rebel against God has been left behind.

waterThere is depth of meaning to the rite we carry out physically in water which symbolize spiritual realities Jesus and the Holy Spirit work within us.

And so Paul essentially tells us when stare down the temptation to sin: remember who you are in Jesus. Later in his letter he speaks more about the Holy Spirit and we could add as well: remember Who is in you through Jesus.

Like partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Communion) reminds us of what Jesus did in the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood to take and cover our sins; so thinking back upon our baptism reminds us that the old self is dead, buried, and gone in Jesus. In its place is a new, resurrected creation—a holy child of God.

Remembering who we are and remembering the symbols of our faith helps us to live in this reality, and to live as people who desire to reject sin for the newness of life in Jesus.

This post is a devotion as part of our journey through the Bible as a church.

Links from the week (3.26.15)

Below are some good reads collected over this past week…

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-questions-about-heaven

Instead of us going up to God’s place to live forever, God will come down to live with us in our place, literally bringing Heaven to Earth! God’s children are destined for life as resurrected beings on a resurrected Earth. We should daily keep in mind our true destination, our ultimate home.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/we-complain-because-we-forget

The antidote to spiritual amnesia is making every effort to recall and remember God’s gracious deliverance. The fact that you — a sinner who was an enemy of God — are now a beloved child is a miracle. Don’t let that wonder ever fade. Remember.

http://www.mikeleake.net/2015/03/the-redemption-of-boredom.html

If we’ll stop complaining and start cooperating, God will use even those periods of monotony for our good as He sanctifies us. He can teach us patience. Grow us in endurance. Remind you and me that we’re not the center of the universe. And if God can redeem our boring moments for His purposes, maybe we could start looking for ways to redeem them for His glory as well.

http://theblazingcenter.com/2015/03/my-son-taught-me-to-play-chess-on-sentimentality-and-christian-writing.html

What I really want to say is that playing chess with my kid, while it was snowing outside, and while we were having our 83rd straight sub-freezing day, was really good for my soul. It caused me to thank God, profusely.

A ‘Culture of Grace’ (pastor’s blog)

I was reading an article recently detailing the fall of a megachurch pastor. In the midst of it, the author made the point not to ascribe one man’s sins to the group. In other words, big church doesn’t equal big ego. The author pointed out another megachurch pastored by a man of humility and grace. The author said, one of the reasons for the pastor’s success without egotism was that he worked to create a “culture of grace.” Then the article moved on.

The phrase struck me, though. After all, egos (inflated or wounded) are not found only in large churches, nor are they only found among pastors. Exalting ourselves above others and God is a deeply ingrained flaw in the human race post Genesis 3. Yet, a culture of grace is needed in all churches at all times.

So… How might we go about creating such a culture? For the answer, I turn to Paul’s letter to Titus:

11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:11-14

First, for a culture of grace we must offer unconditional acceptance. One constant theme in the Bible is: reliance on our own efforts will fail us. Paul spoke of the grace of God bringing salvation. He offered no prerequisite to this. There is only one condition ever given in the Bible to receive God’s grace through Christ: faith—we believe what God says and we believe that his solution is THE solution. I am a hopeless sinner but in turning to Jesus alone I will have salvation and life.

reaching_outThis is good news of great joy for all the people (Luke 2:10). There is no pre-scrubbing, no wiping off the dirt, no self-changing needed before we come to Jesus. In fact, we can only come empty handed and receive.

Practically, this means that we are to love and welcome all: young, old, male, female, black, white, gay, straight, American, Iranian, etc. The message is the same: the treasures of the world are passing, death is coming, but we can have the greatest treasure and true life by turning from self and sin and turning to Jesus in order to receive his love. Which leads us to…

Second, for a culture of grace we must keep pointing to Jesus for life and transformation. Grace accepts us where we are at, but grace does not affirm us where we are at. Grace assumes that no matter the specific issues of the heart, we are all born into this world with the same problem. Our sin. We have hearts that long to walk their own ways and not the ways of God. We will accept the parts of his word we like but rationalize away the rest. We wear the badge of rebellion and the stench of death.

Yet, if we receive the grace of Jesus, he will transform us. Grace trains us to turn our backs to what is slowly killing us, and walk in the better of the Life Giver. His grace frees us to do this.

The phrase has grown trite and is now almost a bit campy, but I still hear some variation of it on occasion: the church is a hospital for the sinners not a showcase for the saints. There is truth here in that with a culture of grace we find no room for self-righteousness. But let’s not stop at this phrase and glorify the fact that we’re a bunch of messed up people.

After all, we don’t go to the doctor or the hospital in order to remain sick. The same is true with coming to the Great Physician. And in Jesus we are saints, we are sinners made perfect and righteous meant to display God’s glory to the world. But there’s the balance—we’re made perfect and righteous; we’re meant to display his glory to the world.

The church, then, is a place for sinners to come and find the cure and to showcase the life transforming healer who is Jesus. Grace does not leave us trapped in the midst of our sin. Grace is when God plucks us from the mire and darkness, and sets us in the kingdom of his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). And yes, the light exposes our crevices of darkness to ourselves and before others, but the light is also what allows the dirt to be cleansed and the darkness to be driven out (John 3:16-21).

This means… Third, for a culture of grace we must constantly seek one another’s good. Our passage starts with the short little word for. It is the foundation of what Paul wrote in 2:1-10. Within that he told Titus to be an example of godliness (aka grace applied to the sin-stained life). He also told the older men and older women to model godliness and train younger men and women to live godliness as well.

In a culture of grace, people take responsibility for one another and receive guidance from one another. We help each other learn and apply the truths of God’s word and grace. We help each other see Jesus exalted. And when a person stumbles back into the darkness, we chase after them with the light and help them see afresh the realities of the Cure.

Paul also spoke about being a people zealous for good works. Grace is healing. We are to be people who seek to bring the healing of Jesus everywhere brokenness exist. We pray for the hurting. We feed the hungry. We clothe the naked. We befriend the lonely. We bring medicine to the sick. And we do this with eagerness and joy. We are to be zealous. Grace realizes our hopelessness without Jesus and the greatness of life and love in Jesus, so we work with zeal wanting others to share our joy.

Finally (fourth), for a culture of grace we must keep looking forward to the greater. Grace is predominately forward looking. We long with hope for the return of Jesus, because that is when the greater—indeed the best comes. That is when all wrongs and harms are forever healed. That is when brokenness is no more.

This isn’t hoping in theories of what might be. This is longing for what will be. If we belong to Jesus, we are agents of his kingdom. His kingdom is one of perfect peace, joy, health, and righteousness all bound up with satisfaction in God. Though enemies of Jesus and his word will remain until he returns, we are to go boldly with his grace, bringing a taste of his kingdom everywhere we set foot.

The Greatest Treasure (a meditation)

And remember that the land must never be sold on a permanent basis because it really belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenants living with me. ~ God, Leviticus 25:23 (NLT)

Towards the end of Leviticus, God provided Israel instructions about the rest or Sabbath for the land (the Year of Jubilee) and subsequent property rights when one person sells his land to another. Within these laws, God issued a reminder: the land is actually mine. Therefore, the people were to be careful what they did with it.

treasureAs the great Creator of all things, not just one strip of land but the entire world belongs to God (1 Corinthians 10:26).

This fact should remind us even today to hold loosely to our possessions. From an early age we buck against this reality. We see it when our children refuse to share their toys with a sibling or a friend, let alone the new kid on a playdate. Despite being taught to share and do good, we cling and hold tight. As adults, this temptation doesn’t go away.

There is nothing wrong with comfort and possessions. There’s nothing wrong with having some cool toys. But what do we do when we see others in need and hurting? As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6, do we both enjoy our possession and also give generously? If we don’t, sometimes we even make excuses for ourselves: well, I’m just one person. One average person may not be able to make a huge difference in fighting poverty, disease, brokenness, poor education, and spiritual lostness; but a community of people can.

This is the type of community the church is meant to be.

Where it starts is looking at our possessions through the right lens. Everything belongs to God. James says every good thing in life is a gift from God above (James 1:17). What we have from breath to saving grace to food on the table to companions are gifts from God. We are not possessors but sharers.

God has shared his world and goodness with us (especially in Jesus). In turn, we (especially those who follow Jesus) are to share with others. This sharing may take many forms: time, money, homes, clothing, food, friendship, etc.; but in each case, we have received therefore we give.

God is the owner of all. The greatest treasure we can have, then, is not the gifts but the Giver. The greatest thing we can do is freely, joyfully, and lovingly share both Giver and gifts with the world around us.

This post is a devotion as part of our 2-year Bible reading plan as a church.