Living things grow, change, reproduce, and adapt. Dead
things stay the same or decay. These characteristics are familiar to us
because life and death are realities we all experience.
Of course, living things also die. It is the natural
course of living things.
This year thousands of churches across America are closing
their doors. This is not because there are fewer people who need to hear
the gospel message. Many of those churches are not adapting their message
so their audience can hear them. They resist change so they die. It
is not necessarily good or bad, right or wrong. It is a simple fact of
life. They have served their purpose.
The Shoreline Church is a living body of people who follow
Christ and want to grow, change, reproduce and adapt. We do not believe
God is calling us to be the same or to decay.
Therefore, we encourage each other to grow in Christ, to change according to His will, to reproduce by sharing Jesus with others and to be ready to adapt when God calls us to change.
Every once in a while I still see them at rest areas along the highway or in restaurant or bank vestibules. Highway maps. Before Global Positioning Systems (GPS) these tools of travel were critically important for getting from point A to point B.
With either a map or a GPS there are two important questions that must be answered. First, my location. Where am I on the map? The second question is your destination. Where do you want to go that is represented on the map?
If you don’t have the first question answered, telling you where you are presently located, then it does little good to plan for the second question that specifies the place to which you wish to go. Without any reference point for your location or your destination you are “just driving around.” Some drivers do this a lot. They say, “We’ll figure out where we are going when we get there.” These are happy people who don’t live by the clock and have extra money to spend on gas.
MAPS ARE NOT THE TERRITORY
It would be silly to think that you could look up Tampere, Finland, for example, on a map and then walk away saying that you have now been there. It is not the same thing. Until you have been there physically it is not logical to say that you were there because you found the city on a map.
When you look at a map, however, you can determine how you are going to get there if you know from where you are leaving. With point A and point B in mind, you can now start planning how to get to where you wish to go. In this case you will easily conclude that you will need a car, that you will need to fly in an airplane or take a boat and that you will have to take another car, train, plane or bus and find a place to stay.
MAP METAPHOR APPLIED
For churches it is so important to be clear about who they are and what they believe; i.e., their location on the spiritual map. People can then decide whether or not they share the same positions and enthusiasms.
It is also important for churches to know where they are going. If they are focused upon being heaven-bound then they start planning how to get there and how to bring along as many people as possible.
So, it is important now and then to remind each other of the beliefs, practices and enthusiasms that unite us. As we review them there should be very little disagreement. And so, we have listed “Our Beliefs” on a page of our website to affirm what most other followers of Christ also affirm. But, as we state at the outset…
…the problem with Doctrinal Statements about “What We Believe” generally serve to distinguish between one church devoted to following Jesus to other churches who are also devoted to following Jesus. The truth is that this approach to following Jesus does not make sense in light of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me….“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
John 17:21-23, NLT
ONE IN CHRIST
It is one thing to believe some things, however, and quite another to put them into practice. That is why we begin by giving attention to how we do what Jesus has called us to do. This is when we make sure that we know the territory itself and not just the map.
Jesus said two important things that help us define our place on the map. First, Jesus tells us that when we lift Him up, He will draw others to Himself (John 3:14-16; 8:28; 12:32). So, we lift Him up.
Second, Jesus tells us that others will know that He are His disciples by how we demonstrate His love to others (John 13:34-35). So, we love each other with the love of Christ and we love the people around us with the same love so that others can see Jesus in our lives.
SERMON ON MAPS
The sermon on maps, consequently, is a simple reaffirming of what can be found on the “Our Beliefs” page. To guide us along the way we have made a commitment to several specific keys that include the following:
The abrupt ending to the gospel of Mark implies a critical question to the reader: “Do you believe?” This singular event—the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus—is absolutely critical to our faith. This is precisely how Paul defined “the Good News that saves you” (1 Corinthians 15:2-4). If we don’t believe it then our preaching and our faith, Paul says, is “useless” (vs. 14).
Sunday’s service is built around this core principle: we believe that Jesus died, was buried and three days later, He rose from the dead! This is why the Shoreline church exists. This is the reason we come together. So, we encourage the resurrection-life to which Jesus has called us to live. Why? Because WE BELIEVE!
Two videos are presented between the Lord’s Supper comments and the sermon. Here are links to Igniter Media‘s presentations:
Three central reminders are important when we come together as the body of Christ: 1) The Lord’s Supper, 2) Baptism and 3) Sunday worship. All three of these markers remind us of the Gospel message: Jesus died, was buried and, after three days, arose from the dead.
When someone asks for our I.D., they want to know who we are and where we live. Not just any I.D. card will do. When the police officer asks for our I.D. we don’t give him our library card! We give him our driver’s license that is issued by the government of the state in which we live.
Our spiritual I.D. centers around the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Whom we celebrate our salvation. It is the spiritual DNA of the body of Christ and it defines who we are, why we are here, and what we do.
This first of our 5-lesson series will focus upon how a person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of Christ’s church. What is the core belief that draws all of us together at the Shoreline Church?
At the conclusion of the lesson, our shepherd, Dean Wolf, will offer some comments and reflections about the lesson and what it means for our Shoreline Church family. His key text is Romans 8:9-17.
The Herod family highly valued their title: King of the Jews. So much so that Herod the Great had boys under 2 years old killed in hopes of eliminating baby Jesus (Matthew 2). His son, Herod Antipas killed John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12) and wanted to kill Jesus (Luke 13:31-32). In Herod Antipas’s court he interrogated the silent Jesus in the midst of shouting religious leaders. Herod and his soldiers mocking and ridiculing Jesus, putting the purple robe of royalty on His shoulders before sending Him back to Pilate (Luke 23:1-12).
BOOKENDS AND ROBES
For Luke, the purple robe forms a front bookend to the end of his gospel and the beginning of Acts through chapter 12 where Herod (Acts 12:20-25) dons a royal robe that Josephus describes:
…he [Herod Agrippa 1] put on a garment made wholly of silver, of a truly wonderful texture, and came into the theater early in the morning. There the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays, shone out in a wonderful manner, and was so resplendent as to spread awe over those that looked intently upon him. Presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good) that he was a god; and they added, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.”
That robe event provides the concluding bookmark with Herod the Great’s grandson being eaten to death by worms because of his desire for the praise of men as the King of the Jews (Acts 12:23). From the appearance before Herod in Luke 23 and Jesus’ passion until the explosive beginnings of the church through Acts 12 the Gospel begins its advancement into the rest of the world.
KING OF THE JEWS
GIVE GLORY TO GOD
Herod provides a significant reminder to all of us as we seek our own recognition, popularity and fame. Paul encouraged the church in Corinth:
”So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
It had been 13 years since Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and 10 years since his failed attempt to return to Jerusalem. His hope had likely been to make amends with those he had hurt and convince his friends that Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah (Acts 22:17-21). That was when the disciples ‘took’ Saul and ‘sent’ him back to his hometown of Tarsus (Acts 9:30).
Now, 13 years later, Barnabas needs help with the exploding Gentile church in Antioch and we find him knocking on Saul’s door in Tarsus, asking him if he can come help (Acts 11:25-26). They would spend a year together. So, after 14 years since meeting Jesus Barnabas and Saul make their way back to Jerusalem bearing gifts from Antioch to help steel them for the predicted famine that would come.
This trip to Jerusalem has Saul being mentored in Barnabas’s shadow as Luke notes that the two of them, uneventfully, return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). At some point in their first missionary journey, however, Luke makes a couple of changes that are significant. First, he acknowledges Saul’s Greek name, Paul (Acts 13:9), and he now lists these two evangelists as “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:14).
It is easy to think that Saul’s maturing in Christ happened shortly after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. But, a lot needed to happen for Saul to be ready to take the gospel to the world. Those 15 years represent a lot of hard work to help Saul become the evangelist, Paul. Time well spent when we consider his impact upon churches all over the world ever since then,
So many things about ourselves remind us of the Apostle Peter in his early days. He thought he could walk on water…until he saw the storm. He thought he would be faithful to Jesus to the very end, even if he was the last one alive…until he denied Jesus under pressure the third time.
THE NEW PETER
Something has changed for Peter since those days. Now he realizes that his power to accomplish anything comes from one, singular source: Jesus.
And so, when he approaches the bed of a man who has been paralyzed for years, he says clearly, with confidence: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!” (Acts 9:34, NLT). When he approaches Tabitha’s body he is reminded of His Savior, Jesus, who took little Talitha’s hand and told her “Talitha Koum” (Mark 5:41). Knowing that Jesus did this upon His own authority and might Peter knows where he must go. After sending everyone out of the room he falls to his knees, alone, in prayer, before taking her hand and commanding her: “Get up, Tabitha.”
LUKE’S THEME IN ACTS: JESUS
The name of the book in most of our Bibles is “The Acts of the Apostles.” Perhaps a more fitting title for this incredible book of the history of Jesus’ people and the early church is “The Acts of Jesus”. Masterly woven throughout the pages of this timeless documents is the thread of a cross, an empty tomb and the power, might and majesty of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit working seamlessly to bring about the vision of their Father.
Choosing is very different from being chosen. When we choose from many options we are being empowered. We can say ‘yes’ to some things while saying ‘no’ to others. For example, at a church pot luck, I can choose what I wish to put onto my plate. I also choose what I do not wish to have on my plate. As I get older I realize that choosing to put a little of everything on my plate needs to be modified. I now make different choices because I have the power to do so…if I choose (once again) to exercise it.
Being chosen, however, is different. When applying for a job, I hope that I will be the chosen one from among many other candidates. When it comes to jobs that I do not wish to do, my hope is that someone else will be chosen.
In choosing, I am empowered to choose. In being chosen, I hope to have the option of deciding whether or not I wish to respond; but, sometimes, it means submitting to the one who has chosen me.
CHOSEN BY GOD
Reflecting back upon his being chosen by the Lord, the apostle Paul recognized that God had set him apart before he was even born (Galatians 1:1, 15-16, NIV). The Lord made it clear to Paul, however, that accepting God’s call would mean choosing a life of suffering (Acts 9:16).
This means that it is of value to consider Saul’s upbringing in Tarsus and Jerusalem from his earliest years (cf., Acts 26:4-5; 22:3) until he received his irresistible calling from the Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31). So strongly influenced by his studies in Judaism according to the Pharisaical tutelage of Gamaliel himself that re-orienting the “Christ in me” (Galatians 1:15-16) to the way of the cross would take three years in Arabia, ten years in the region of his hometown of Tarsus and a year under the wing of Barnabas to anchor itself in the destiny that God had planned for him (Galatians 1:17-2:2).
CHOOSING TO ACCEPT GOD’S CALL
We have all been chosen by God (Ephesians 1:3-14). The question for each of us is whether or not we choose to accept His calling. For those of us who do choose to follow His lead, Paul’s life helps us do as Jesus instructed us: to count the cost (Luke 14:25-35).
Fame might seem like magic formula to wealth and popularity to some. Others will think of celebrity status as a horrible nightmare.
Consider the celebrity who walks into a room of strangers, knowing no-one; but, everyone knows him or her. In contrast, look at the introverted person who appreciates privacy and anonymity: the prospect of universal face recognition would be frightening.
Now, consider the person who loves the spotlight, celebrity status and all of the trappings of fame and fortune. And, by the way, may I introduce you to Simon the Sorcerer! This is how I read Luke’s detailed description of a man whose pride and egocentrism would have been legend in Acts 8:9-13.
Whenever Simon the Sorcerer would walk into a room. Luke assures us that Simon had been well known by every person in the room–rich and poor–in Samaria, for some time. Boasting of his own greatness people associated him with a ‘Great Power’ that came from God. His sorcery amazed everyone. People actually followed this narcissist, waiting for the next magic trick!
PEOPLE FOLLOWED HIM
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
Assuming that the reports of these early church writers is accurate, Simon the Sorcerer never understood some of the basic tenants of the Christian faith. These begin with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.
How difficult would it be to choose to devolve from incredible celebrity status to humble servant?
Just ask Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
It would seem that Simon Magus never got the memo.
Of course, the next question that follows, naturally, is “How am I doing with the changes I must make to become what God is calling me to be?”
Bigger and better. In our way of thinking, this is progress. Bigger. Better. Nicer. Taller. Finer. Stronger. Faster. More. These are the words we use to measure success and achievement.
The Tabernacle that Moses and and Israelites carried around the desert for 40 years was sufficient for God. He had authored its design and materials and Moses and his artisans carried out God’s instructions to the letter.
The Tabernacle sufficed as a tent of meeting between God and man for almost 500 years’ worth of High Priests. After all, at the dedication of the temple that was to replace the tabernacle, Solomon himself asked, ““But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (2 Chronicles 6:18, NIV).
Bigger. Better. Nicer. Taller. Finer.
But still insufficient.
By our standard Solomon’s Temple was among the most glorious structures of the ancient world. Yet, 400 years later the temple would be destroyed by the Babylonians, the ark of the covenant would be lost forever and the people of Judah would be exiled to Babylon.
After the return from exile, Ezra returned with his construction crew to rebuild the alter and lay out the foundations for the temple’s replacement. When the old men who remembered the glory of Solomon’s Temple saw the smaller foundation stones of its replacement, they wept in mourning (Ezra 3:11-13).
So, another 500 years later, Herod would renovate and expand Ezra’s temple into an even more grandiose and magnificent structure. This would be the pinnacle of his building projects in Jerusalem. The disciples looked around and marveled at the buildings only receive the sobering reply from Jesus that one stone will not be left upon another (Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6, NIV).
Indeed, 40 years later, the Romans would raze Jerusalem–including the temple–to the ground.
Bigger. Better. Nicer. Taller. Finer.
But still insufficient.
Jesus had spoken clearly about the religious rulers and their specious, hypocritical rules about oaths and the various items of the temple (Matthew 23:16-22). When Jesus ‘cleansed’ the temple, He told the religious rulers that they had turned His Father’s house of prayer into a den for robbers (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15-17, NIV). When He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus was very clear that true, spiritual worship will no longer be identified with a specific location (John 4:19-24, NIV)
Bigger. Better. Nicer. Taller. Finer.
But still insufficient.
REDEFINING TABERNACLE AND TEMPLE
So, there was a sense in which Stephen’s accuser’s were correct when they spoke to Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple and the changing of Moses’ customs (Acts 6:14, NIV). Certainly, Jesus did predict the destruction of temple and His death, burial and resurrection was the once-and-for-all time sacrifice. There would no longer be a need for sacrifices at the temple because of what God had done through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9).
Hence, Stephen’s point, quoting Isaiah 66:1-2:
…the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?’
The apostle Paul tells us that our bodies are now God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and that we, the church, are God’s temple (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22). The Hebrew writer locates the new tabernacle in heaven (Hebrews 9:11) and in Revelation 21:22, John tells us that God and Jesus Themselves are the temple of the New Jerusalem.
CONCLUSION: STEPHEN & THE TEMPLE
When Stephen drove his point home he had turned the tables on his accusers. It is not him but they, themselves, that have blasphemed God, disregarded the Law and Moses, and murdered the last and greatest of a line of martyred messengers that God has sent to His people.
This made his audience angry and this distinguished body of community leaders got really, really mad at him (Acts 7:54). But, once he proclaimed that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56), that was all it took for these Jewish leaders to throw dust in the air, stop their ears, start screaming and drag Stephen out into the courtyard to publicly stone him (Acts 7:57-60). Stephen was right. Nothing had changed.
The One and Only Constant in this equation is The One, Great I AM, Yahweh! His desire has always been to receive those whose hearts are turned towards Him and His promise is to dwell among them (Deuteronomy 30:9-10; 31:6, 8). This has always been true. It certainly was truly detailed in Stephen’s speech. It is true today.