Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Church - Foundations


Psalm 111 “1 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly. 2 Great are the works of the LORD; they are studied by all who delight in them. 3 Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. 6 He has made known to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure. 8 They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; holy and awesome is His name. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.


Foundations – this word means different things to different people. For the builder it is about the bottom of the building, the bottom of the structure. I took a course in high school that I thoroughly enjoyed about building construction. We learned about frost lines, and piles and caissons. The French immersion school just past Market Mall put on a big addition this past year. One of the things I saw was the pile of what looked like telephone poles piled up. A few days later all you saw were these poles in the ground with about 3 feet sticking up. They go deep to provide a solid foundation for the building. We saw them last year as they built the Clarence Street Bridge over Circle Drive. They had the pile driver there pounding in the lone steel beams to provide the foundation of the bridge. For others it is more ethereal – like the foundations of this church that was built in 1930. Over the years many people have put time, money, sweat and other efforts into its existence. It is a foundation no less important than they use in construction.
Today we want to take a step back and look at the foundations of church – the church as a body of believers, as a covenant community. We could come just when we feel like it, when we have nothing better to do. God and Jesus have called us to something bigger, something beyond ourselves. Let’s look at this covenant community a bit closer.


The truths:
1. The Old Testament covenant community of Israel was based on the Exodus, God’s gracious act of delivery from slavery. Deuteronomy 5:2-3, 6 “2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today… He said, 6 'I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’” Now, the covenant itself was something expressed in the years before this, to Adam, to Abraham, and would be expressed after, to David. But here, with the official start of the nation of Israel, its coming of age party, the foundation was based on God’s grace, on His deliverance. Do you know the story? Joseph sold into slavery, ending up in Egypt, the nation thrives there; the nation becomes subject to slavery, they cry out to God, and He delivers them to freedom. The very foundation of the people of God was based on His power to deliver them. They didn’t serve a weak God, a powerless God. They served a God greater than any nation or idol or power of darkness. And they were set free.
· The New Testament Covenant community of the Church is based on the gracious acts of the atoning death of Jesus and His resurrection. In the same way, the church today, in the New Covenant, is based on the same grace of God, the same powerful God. We weren’t delivered from human bondage, though, but from spiritual bondage. And we were set free.

2. The Ten Commandments and the Old Testament were the expectations God had for the Old Testament covenant community. Deuteronomy 5:7-21 As foundations are built, there are building codes we use to insure the integrity of the structure. When you look at what happened with the earth quake in China in the spring where thousands of buildings collapsed, it came out that companies cheaped out on the concrete ingredients, using a substandard mix to maximize their profits. In so doing, though, they undermined the buildings with poor foundations. When the time came for testing and the earth shook, the buildings fell down. So too, the nation of Israel was given the Ten Commandments to guide and steer the people, to provide a strong foundation for the society, for the people of God. But they turned to idols and pursued money, and the nation crumbled when the testing came. And God has expectations of the church.
· The Great Commandments, the Great Commission, and the call to Christ-likeness are the expectations for life in the new covenant community. We have talked about these often. These are the norms for the disciple of Jesus. The one who calls themselves a Christian is on a pilgrimage, a journey. Whether you sit down there, or stand up here, we are all on the same journey. I hesitate to even stand here because I am no better than you. I am on the same journey of Christ-likeness. A part of me wants to speak to you from your level because the things God has for you are for me as well. The challenges I read and strive to keep in my life are your obligations as well.


3. The Old Testament had consequences for obeying and failing to obey the covenant obligations. Deuteronomy 5:32-33 The Law had penalties for disobedience that ranged from an offering to an “eye for an eye” to stoning and capital punishment. For the community it led to the destruction of the temple and exile.
· The New Testament covenant community of the Church has consequences for obeying and failing to obey the expectations Christ has for the Church. Sickness and death are sometimes a result of sin, but not always. The biggest thing we can lose is God’s presence in our life. We can grieve the Holy Spirit so the voice of Jesus, of God, is shut out in our life. Talk about lonely. Listen to Hebrews 6:1-8 1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits. 4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.


Take it home:
Get right with God at the very foundation of your life. Surrender all of you, your life, your wife, your kids, your job, your bank account… and look at all those things through the eyes of God. Make the thing of God your biggest priority.


Know what God expects of you as a disciple. Where in life can we work and it matters not whether we show up or put any effort in. Does that work in the business world? Does it work in relationships? Does it work with the children in our care and responsibility? Get into the Word and listen to what God speaks to you as you read it. Understand that it is a cohesive thing, that you can’t pull a Scripture out of context and apply it in a way that is contrary to other passages. Know the Great Commission by heart. Know the Great Commandments by heart. Pursue Christ-likeness.


Keep short accounts with God. Don’t let anything come between you and Him. Understand that the focus here is on relationship, not on doing. Some people can only make it out to church twice a month. Great! I am glad we can fellowship with them every couple weeks. But those times they are not here I pray that their pursuit of God and His community is no less.

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