Watching the news can be depressing. Murder, assault, burglary, drive-by shootings, protests and disasters are the usual top stories. We are interested in them because they are shocking; usually outside of our normal, personal experience. Many of these events represent man’s natural urges taken to the extreme. People often act and react impulsively, without thought for the rules or laws that are supposed to govern their behavior.
A HIGHER STANDARD
For followers of Christ, we see the disconnect and wonder how people could be like this. Jesus has called us to a higher standard. In fact, so much of the Sermon on the Mount goes beyond things like pride, adultery and murder to talk about the issues of our hearts like selfishness, lust or hatred. Things our neighbor may not observe in us but that God sees with perfect, laser-focused clarity.
God has called us personally, individually, to look into our hearts and evaluate our motives towards one another. And when we come together as the church of Christ, He demands that we live out His love with each other. In obedience to Him, we learn to crucify our own urges in favor of adopting His Jesus-centered, cross-centered, perspective. This means that there are some things that will happen among us that must be taught, encouraged and multiplied. It also means that we must confront and discipline those things among us that are sinful, divisive, mean-spirited and wrong.
Our Christ-centered, Christian Counter-Culture contrasts sharply with the norms of the world in which we live. This is what our focus will be today. Membership in the body of Christ demands that we live in contrast to our natural inclinations and adopt the mindset of Christ.
Part of that ‘counter-culture’ for which we strive can be found in a commitment we have made to each other at the Shoreline Church. If you would like to view a copy of our Membership Covenant, click HERE. To view the scriptures upon which our covenant is built, click HERE.
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.
Identity is important. It is good to periodically reflect upon the shared beliefs that bring us together in Christ, to consider where we are going and to reaffirm our plan for getting there. For seasoned members of churches, these points of identity reassure and give hope. For newer members and our honored guests they offer hope and promise for the future.
In churches identities change. As the hairs of members grey and the culture around them shifts and transforms, living congregations must adapt and change without compromising their identity in Christ. That is why it is important to reaffirm core values and beliefs now and then.
I.D. FOR FIVE WEEKS
For the next 5 weeks, including Easter Sunday (April 21) we will be focused upon those values that hold us together as the body of Christ. We will also be pointing to those values that we share with fellow believers in Christ that allow us to strive for the singleness of purpose for which Jesus prayed in the garden:
20 “And I ask not only for these disciples, but also for all those who will one day believe in me through their message. 21 I pray for them all to be joined together as one even as you and I, Father, are joined together as one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognize that you sent me. 22 For the very glory you have given to me I have given them so that they will be joined together as one and experience the same unity that we enjoy. 23 You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they will experience perfect unity,] and the world will be convinced that you have sent me, for they will see that you love each one of them with the same passionate love that you have for me.