I’m really coming to love my Monday “What I Meant to Say” posts. I don’t always get around to them, but I really should. It is nice to process and share any additional thoughts with you all.
I’ll start by saying that yesterday was amazing. I’d place it in my top three (top one?) favorite Sundays with you all. I don’t know all that was going on, but here is what stood out to me:
(1) Reclaiming Vineyard heritage in Worship
Erik, Ieshia and Dani led us in worship and it was super sweet. Erik broke out an old Vineyard song “Jesus, Holy and Anointed One” and it did my heart good. It reminded me that, at our core, the Vineyard is a worship movement devoted to singing simple love songs to Jesus. Very simply, we offer all that we are to Jesus, knowing that we are precious in his sight. We don’t need a world class sound and light show to have amazing worship – we need hearts that burn with passion for Jesus.
(2) We had some brand new believers with us
On Saturday, Waverly hosted its first ever Christian Music Festival called ReVibe – it was wonderful. The best part of it was that several people committed their lives to Christ for the first time. One of those people was at church worshipping with us (after having attended an 8am Mass at St. Mary’s) and her joy was contagious. I think everyone was riding high off of the ReVibe wave and we were primed to engage.
(3) God worked through my sermon
Pastor Kent told me as we transitioned into ministry time – “Just so you know, that was the best sermon you’ve ever preached.” That was really great to hear – it felt pretty normal to me, but it was the right word on the right day – praise Jesus for that! The notes from my sermon are included below. Unfortunately, the sermon was not recorded to some equipment malfunction.
(4) You guys responded in amazing ways during ministry time
We had TONS of people come over to the Prayer Wall to be the ministry team and IT WAS AWESOME! At first folks were hesitant to come, so I made the offer one more time. Evidently that was enough because we had a great response. It was so good to pray for God to refresh people, to fill them with His Spirit and to speak Truth over their lives. I’m aware that one person prayed to be born again and another asked to be baptized. It was a very tender time and made me so appreciate this part of Vineyard culture.
(5) We had powerful art
One of the speakers at ReVibe painted a picture as he delivered his sermon. By happenstance (wink wink) we were able to have the painting in the sanctuary during our worship service. It was a picture of Jesus clasping our hand and pulling us up and out of our yuck – how fitting! I don’t have my theology nailed down on this, but I believe the LORD works powerfully through art and other creative expressions… and we need more of it!!!!
(6) We are in a new season
It seems like our congregation is always in transition. It is apparent to Dani and I that we are in another new season. It feels like God has closed the previous chapter and is writing a new one – one entitled “BABY INFESTATION.” A number of folks have been having dreams/pictures/visions/feelings that our congregation is about to explode with new believers. God is totally taking the lead on this and we are trying to align with it and prepare ourselves. We’re doing that in two ways:
(a) Street Ministry – a number of us have been partnering with Heartland Vineyard in Cedar Falls to do Street Ministry on Thursday nights. It has been a beautiful time of seeing Jesus set people free. It is now time to bring it to Waverly. A little later in September we will start our own Street Ministry Program on Tuesday nights. Keep your eyes peeled for anouncements.
(b) Home Group – If we’re going to have babies, then we need to put them in families with Mamas and Papas. Dani and I are opening our home to the congregation to come and experience what life is like in the Kingdom. We’re going to eat together (potluck style – so bring something tasty!), worship, teach and minister to one another. So much of Christianity is heady, intellectual stuff, which certainly has its place – but if that is all we do when we get together it quickly becomes burdensome and boring. This is something different. This is relational and emotional experience. This is loving one another well and learning how to be family. This is connecting across generations and experimenting with being the people of God, not just learning about it in some abstract way. Dani and I both believe that home groups will quickly become an anchor for our congregation – places where people can come to rest and refresh and encounter God in different ways than they have before.
Those were the things that were stirring in my heart and part of what made this past Sunday so energizing to me. I’m curious what you all were feeling/experiencing, so if you were there – shoot me an email or leave a comment below. I love you guys. I love being your pastor. Thanks for all you do!
Ben’s Notes from Sunday – Part Two: A New Creation
Review Part One
*The discipleship journey starts with Jesus calling us to follow him.
*People can follow Jesus for a long time before they are “born again” and become a new creation.
*The Bible points out multiple times that becoming a Christian is a deliberate decision that happens after one has reasoned things through and weighed the cost and consequences.
*When a follower is ready to become a true disciple, they move on to the second stage of discipleship – being born again and becoming a new creation
*We get the phrase “born again” from Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.
Being Born Again
*Depending on how long a person has been following Jesus (or in our case, coming to church or some other Christian activity like a home group or bible study), they may know a lot or very little about Jesus and the Bible.
*It is essential to know that, while Bible knowledge is important, head knowledge does not make one a disciple. There are people who have impeccable theology, yet their lives reflect that they have never been transformed by the One they claim to know. (Think of the Pharisees where Jesus says – “You diligently search the Scriptures, but refuse to come to me.”)
*The Normal Christian Life is a transformed life. Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” and “Love is the more excellent way.” Don’t be fooled by people who can quote a lot of Bible verses, make a good argument or who want to tell you all about their experiences with God. Those things are great, but if their life isn’t full of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control) their discipleship is suspect. They might have good information, but weigh it carefully.
Being “born again” has four parts (synthesis of Acts 2 & 8):
*Belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior
*Baptism in Water
*Receiving the Holy Spirit
*All four are essential for proper functioning
Why Every Part is Necessary
*The four parts mentioned above are all mentioned in the Bible when someone is born again, or saved.
*Think of each part as a cylinder in your car.
When you have all four, everything fine, you can go wherever.
When you have three, you function well, but hills are hard
With only one or two, you can make it if everything is downhill.
*These four parts lay the foundation for the rest of your Christian life. If one or more of them is missing, something will come up that will keep you from progressing into freedom the way you want to.
*This list isn’t intended to be burdensome or to stratify “super Christians” from the rest. Every Christian in the New Testament is supposed to have all four parts. They can come at any time and in any order, the important thing is that all four things have happened.
*Many issues that surface in our walk with Jesus can be resolved by addressing one of the four aspects of being born again. Far from a ‘once and done’ mentality, these are truths we should revisit frequently
The Four Parts Explained
*Biblically, repentance is expressed more through long-term life change than through momentary sorrow.
*It is important to confess our sins and acknowledge our guilt before God so that we can properly apprehend Jesus’s sacrifice and receive forgiveness, but the truth of our words will be backed up by our actions.
*Repentance is: (a) turning away from our former way of life, (b) confessing any past actions that we know to be contrary to the character of God, (c) asking for God’s forgiveness and (d) committing ourselves to living differently by God’s grace and power.
Believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior
*The book of Romans tells us “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
*If repentance is “turning from”, belief is “turning to.”
*At this point, the new believer swears their allegiance to Jesus as their Sovereign Lord. That sounds really mysterious, but what it means is this. From now on, the disciple consciously chooses to view themselves as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven living as a foreigner in their current location. They swear to uphold the laws of the Kingdom and accept Jesus’s words as final over their lives.
*The disciple must also believe that Jesus’s finished work on the Cross is more than adequate to pay for their sins: past, present and future.
*We are not our own, we were bought with a price
*If I were to ever change the name of our congregation, I would change it to “the Embassy” because this idea of citizenship is so important to me. (Tom and Maggie, sovereign territory in a foreign land – a place of safety and security, a place where that nation’s laws are in effect.)
Baptism in Water
*The disciple is fully immersed in water as a symbol of being dead and buried.
*Coming out of the water is symbolic of having been resurrected with Christ. The “old” person died and was buried in the waters of baptism. The “new” person is alive by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
*All past sins were washed away. All legal claims of the enemy were nullified. The person has a perfectly clean conscience before God and is an inheritor of the Kingdom of God with all of its benefits.
*Baptism is a sacrament, meaning that we believe it carries with it a significant impartation of grace. We believe that, in baptism, the Holy Spirit does a word of regeneration, or recreation, and makes the person new, hence, “born again.”
*We also believe that the disciple receives a measure of the Holy Spirit that allows them to begin manifesting and cultivating the fruit of the Spirit.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
*According to the Bible, it (sometimes) isn’t enough to simply be baptized in water – our conversion isn’t complete, we aren’t adequately equipped to live life they way God desires for us.
*In Acts 8 and again in Acts 19 we read accounts of people who believed in Jesus, were baptized in water, and still needed someone to lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the Spirit. NOTE: The assumption is that we receive the Spirit concurrently with our water baptism
*How does one know if they need to receive the Spirit?
(1) If you see yourself primarily as a sinner in need of repentance rather than a power-full new creation.
(2) If you are in bondage to fear, anger or sin.
(3) If you notice that you can’t do the things Jesus did or said you could do.
(4) If you wouldn’t describe yourself as abounding in love.
*Any of the above are good indicators that you need to receive the Spirit or be filled with the Spirit again.
A New Creation
*Being “born again” is just the start of the Christian life. The four parts of being born again really function as a chrysalis, where everything you were is melted down and you emerge as something completely different, capable of things your former self couldn’t imagine.
*The Bible calls Christians, “new creations.” Here are some of the things that are true of all those born again as children of God:
(1) God no longer cares to remember our sins and blots them out of His books. When He looks at us, He sees in us the same righteousness that was in His Son Jesus.
(2) We have the mind of Christ
(3) We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and working through us
(4) We have a new heart that has God’s desires written on it
(5) We are called and equipped to do “greater things” than Jesus
(6) God promises to listen to our prayers with a sympathetic ear
(7) We can expect that God will answer our prayers
(8) We no longer live in fear of Judgment Day because it is the Day where we will receive our eternal rewards
(9) We can come with confidence before God, knowing that He loves us
(10) We can live lives free from the power of sin
*Living as a New Creation is a topic near and dear to my heart. It might even be my core life message. For me, living as a new creation is living in a way that is undeniably supernatural, attractive and contagious.
*We have to live life better than the world. If the claims and promises of the Bible are true – that we are new creations endowed with the mind of Christ and empowered by His Spirit – then we had better look different than the rest of the world, shouldn’t we? The Church should be on the cutting edge of health care, social justice, science, music, art, government – you name it. We should overflow with love, wisdom and power for all the world to see.
*I’m not saying we fake it or put on a show – people see through that. I’m talking about being the real deal. I’m talking about actually being transformed, actually loving one another and the people around us with genuine service and affection. Is it possible? I really think it is. And that’s why we’re doing this series. I want to give us a target, something to shoot for. I want to hold up the standards of Scripture without apology or trying to explain how that isn’t for today.
*And here is the tension. Reading the letters Paul, the other Apostles, and even Jesus wrote to the churches, it is easy to see that those congregations were a mess. Almost every one had issues that needed to be fixed – that’s what the letters were written for.
*Perhaps it is a lack of faith on my part, but I don’t expect us to be perfect. I don’t expect that we’re never going to have issues to deal with or that live is going to flow along smoothly for everyone all the time.
*What I do expect is that we will work through those things together, that we won’t give up or grow weary, that we will press on together into the things that God has called us to. It is foolish to think we could establish the Kingdom in our midst in all its fullness before Christ returns, but I don’t want that to keep us from trying. I want to go for it, with you, and see what 150 lives united in love can accomplish.
Ministry Time – Pray for anyone who needs one of the four parts