Sermon:  The Goal of our Faith

Summary:  It is important to have a good biblical, theological grounding so that we can know 
what the goal of our Christian faith is, what is most important, and what is peripheral.  A clear 
theological grounding serves like a rudder to a ship, it guides ministry toward its goals.  Though 
there are many important elements in a sound theology for ministry, the central element is God 
who is a relational God.  Everything else radiates from that core.  The whole story of the Bible 
radiates from this.  Our ethic, attitudes, and ministry practices all radiate from this core.

Know:  All ministry, worship, and service begins with God who is inherently relational.  Our 
motivation for doing so should be because it is of God.

Feel:  A desire to minister to, serve, and reach out to people, seeing them as made in the image 
of God.

Do:  Reflect on motivations for doing church work, ministry, worship, and other religious activities.  
Discuss how the nature of God is connected to who we are, how we should think about others 
and this world, and what we should be doing.

Text:  Genesis 1-3

Scripture Reading:  Mt 22:37-40

1.  Theology Lab - Got a clearer picture of how God is leading us 
	a.  Refocus, or focus on the center of what Christianity is all about
	b.  If not, peripheral things can take center stage.
2.  What is it all about?

I.  Possible Answers
	A.  Salvation?
		1.  Remember as a young Christian thinking this
			a.  Did not want to go to Hell
			b.  End goal was to be saved
		2.  Warren:  Scared to death of Hell, didn't want to go there
			a.  Went over steps of salvation
			b.  Baptized that night, right away
		3.  Goal was to get as many people in the water as possible
		4.  But have realized, it is not the end, but the means to the end
	B.  Going to Heaven?
		1.  Salvation is the means to go to Heaven
		2.  Comforting to know that there is a Heaven to go to
			a.  Death a transition to a better place
			b.  Live many places, some a dump, but Heave is final home
		3.  What is Heaven?
			a.  Clouds, mansions over the hilltop, gold streets
			b.  A beautiful garden -  tree of life, no sickness, pain, etc.
		4.  Heaven as merely a "place" is not the ultimate goal
			-  If my goal is to go to "heaven," I have missed the point
	C.  The end is God
		1.  All of life, Christianity, faith, ministry is centered in God
		2.  The end of Christianity is fellowship with God
			a.  Salvation is the means for fellowship with God
			b.  Heaven is where God is
		3.  So it is not just about staying out of Hell or going to a "place"
	D.  It is about life in God, fellowship with God

II.  This conclusion comes from good, biblical theology
	A.  Western way of thinking, we like to do theology by "list"
		1.  Helpful way to instruct, to memorize, categorize
		2.  It is very scientific
		3.  Problems:  
			a.  Most of God's revelation is not given in lists
				- Much of it is in story  ("history" is story)
				- African theology is very narrative in nature, the 
				   stories of God and of Jesus resonate
			b.  Lists can obscure what is central and important'
			c.  Peripheral things can take center stage
	B.  Another way, identify they core - Everything else radiates from the core
		1.  This is especially helpful when you run into situations the Bible 
		     does not directly address
			a.  Bio-ethics, cloning, abortion
			b.  How to deal with a changing culture, and our place in it
			c.  How should we do church?  Do ministry?
		2.  Many Christians are confused on what to think, because the 
		     Bible doesn't address everything directly
		3.  This is why it is important to have a good, biblically grounded 
		      theology with a good core
	C.  As new challenges come and the world changes, how people react?
		1.  One reaction:  Get defensive, change is a bad word
			a.  Take adversarial stance, retreat into spiritual bunker
			b.  Protect our traditions, our mode of operation
			c.  Anyone that deviates is suspect at best, or heretic
			d.  This is traditionalism
		2.  Another reaction:  Take a good look at our practices
			a.  Identify what no longer works, adopt what does work
			b.  Many have done this, and appear to be successful
			c.  Many mega-churches adopted this stance
				- Do what works, abandon what doesn't
				- Result are churches that have thousands of people
			d.  This is pragmatism
		3.  Neither of these are reactions grounded in good theology
			a.  Without good theology, slide into default mode
				- Might be traditionalism
				- Might be pragmatism
			b.  Leaders in pragmatic churches have now found their 
			     churches are a mile wide and an inch deep
			c.  Many find that traditionalist churches are an inch deep 
			     and an inch wide
			d.  Neither has much depth.  Why?
				- For one, the center is tradition
				- For the other, the center is ABC (attendance, 
				   buildings, cash)
		4.  These are just a couple of examples of default modes you can 
		      slip into if you are not theologically grounded
	D.  So what lies at the center, and what radiates from the center?
		1.  Go back to the beginning, what do you have?  God.
		2.  Who is God?  Not whatever you wish - that's idolatry
		3.  Let's take a closer look
III.  A closer look at the story of God, beginning with Genesis
	A.  Introduces us to God, to ourselves
		1.  In the beginning, God created
		2.  His "spirit" or "breath" hovered over the waters
			-  The "breath" of God is what gives true life
		3.  God created man in his own image, gave him His breath
			- This is said of no other living creature
		4.  Everything was in perfect harmony
			a.  Harmony between man and God
			b.  Harmony between man and creation
			c.  Man had peaceful dominion over the creation, keeper of 
			     the garden  
			d.  Could eat from any tree, except one.  It was all very good
	B.  One day man came across a serpent
		1.  Serpent told them they wouldn't die if they ate the fruit
			a.  Said they would be like God
			b.  Would know difference between good and evil-smarter
		2.  Imagine what may have gone through their minds
			a.  Wow!  Could it be?  Is there more to life than this?
			b.  Is God withholding something from me?  I could become 
			     greater than I am?  I could become more independent.  
			c.  But God said not to, but maybe he lied, maybe the 
			     serpent is right….
		3.  So man ate the fruit
			a.  It was good, it was sweet.
			b.  But then something happened - then came guilt, shame
			c.  Like the serpent said, they "knew" something they didn't 
			     know before - they had become "smarter"
		4.  Then they heard God walking in the garden
			a.  Any other time, they might have run to him like children 
			     run to their fathers when they come home
			b.  Instead, they just wanted to hide
			c.  They could hear God calling, "where are you?"
	C.  Why does God call?  Because he is a relational God
		1.  It is not just that he exists, but that he is relational
		2.  We see it here as he walks with man in the garden, calls to them
		3.  Bible tells us in so many ways that God is relational
			a.  Bible calls him our "Father"
			b.  Bible tells us Jesus is God -- Holy Spirit is God
		4.  Word - "trinity" = God is three in one
			a.  Already a God of fellowship, of love, before he created us
			b.  Already a relational God from the beginning
			c.  Does not "need" us to be relational
			d.  Redeemed because chose to love us - so God calls us
	D.  The serpent was wrong…and we was right.  
		1.  They did not die, at least not in the way many think of death.  
		2.  They went on "living," but it wasn't really "life."  
			a.  Suffered the worst kind of death - alienation from God
			b.  Instead of harmony, love, peace, security, fellowship, 
			     beauty, and things from character of God, 
				- something never could have quite grasped 
			c.  Now there is alienation, pride, hate, war, violence, 
			     murder, anger, deceit, -- the opposite of God.  
		3.  This result of being alienated from God disrupted the beautiful, 
		      relational harmony of God's creation.  
		4.  Because God is relational, story doesn't end there
			a.  God promised to destroy power of sin and reunite man to 
			b.  God continues to call to man - Adam, Noah, Abraham, 
			     Moses, Israel, and even us
			c.  Why?  God is relational.

IV.  This is some of what we did in the theology lab
	A.  We hit the major mega-themes of the Christian faith.  
		1.  We spent some time trying to identify the core -- which is 
		     relational God
		2.  The makes the Bible a book about relationship.
			a.  This is why the greatest command is love
			b.  This is why the Bible tells us that God is love
		3.  Everything radiates from this core
		4.  Our project - Develop grounded, theological framework for 
			a.  Prevent us from slipping into default mode
			b.  Started with God and scripture on two axis
			c.  From there, radiates…
				-  Jesus, incaration - demonstrates relationality
				-  Death, resurrection, atonement, sin, baptism
				-  These are non-negotiable core items
				- Jn 8:24 - Unless you believe I am he, you will die in 
				  your sins
			d.  Continue to radiate - humanity
				- God created us in his image 
					-- We all worthy of inherent dignity and worth
					-- This is why Jesus says when we serve 
					   others, we are serving him
				-  Breath of God - We carry the breath of life from God
					-- In the beginning, breath brought life, beauty, 
				-  Sin disrupted that life, but God breathes new life in 
				    us through the Spirit
					-- The flesh profits nothing, the Spirit gives life
				-  All around worse kind of death, result of Adam sin
					-- Hatred, pride, fear, shame, murders, etc.
					-- Where new life?  Breath of God - found in us
					-- We are a temple of the Holy Spirit
				- True life exudes from us as we reflect the life of God 
				   in peace, mercy, kindness, goodness
					- Spirit sanctifies us, transforms us, renews us
					- Spirit is renewing the image of God in us
					- Spirit is restoring harmony, unity, beauty
	B.  Jesus came to reconcile all things to God
		1.  He is God in the flesh, came alongside us, became one of us
		2.  Experienced our hurts, temptations, our human nature
			a.  He became weak, poured himself out, vulnerable
			b.  He chose to live by faith as a human
			c.  Had to trust that when he put to death, God would not 
			    abandon him to Hades and would raise him from the dead
		3.  Can hardly get my mind around it!
			a.  God, crucified as a common criminal, died, buried, raised
			b.  I find love, grace, forgiveness, life
		4.  Because of his forgiveness, I have capacity to forgive others
			a.  No matter how heinous, I have capacity to forgive
			b.  I now have capacity for unity, harmony, renewed life
	C.  This restoration work is not finished
		1.  God's kingdom is near, it is here, and also still to come
		2.  Jesus said world is like a field, wheat and weeds mixed together
			a.  Kingdom of God and world overlaps for now
			b.  It a parallel kingdom of light and salt
				- Community of justice, peace, mercy, love
				- Whole lives become worship and service
				- It is where you find the breath of God
			c.  Alongside the world for redemptive purpose
		3.  As people experience the "breath of God" in us, broken people 
		     will find new life
	D.  Time is coming when kingdoms will no longer be parallel
		1.  Kingdom of world will become kingdom of his Christ and he shall 
		     reign for ever and ever
		2.  God will once again walk in the presence of man as in the 
		3.  We will see his face, and God will have his goal of fellowship

1.  God inherently relational, our relationship is not based on legal requirement
	a.  See it in Abraham, Israel, in Job, and Christ
	b.  It is by God's relational choice, call it mercy, call it grace, call it love
	c.  This is who God is - basis of our relationship with God is his love
	d.  This is why Jesus went to the cross, even for his enemies
2.  Just now beginning to reflect on how this affects our attitudes and relationships to God, 
each other, and the world
	a.  Greatest command is love
	b.  Strip away love, and it all tumbles down.  You have nothing
3.  So much more can be said, but in nutshell, this is where we are
	a.  Stacey and I seeing this as a new beginning in our ministry
	b.  We believe all ministry training should begin and end with this
	c.  Theology lab instrumental in putting us in the right direction
	d.  Better, theological perspective on self, kingdom, and ministry
		- Not slide into any default mode
4.  Relationship
	a.  As always, this means strengthening our relationship with God, with 
	    each other, with our family, and also the church family
	b.  Will be visiting all of you at home
		- Want to see where you live, what you do, to connect
		- God is relational, therefore I want to be more relational with you
		- Means reading, praying, sharing together and having fun too!
	c.  Want also to connect with the last
		- We are a parallel kingdom in the world for a reason
		- As the temple of the Spirit, we have the breath of God, we have 
		  the new life that the spirit has breathed into us
		- Most energized when leading people to the kingdom, I am praying 
		  and looking for how God will use me in this regard
	d.  I ask for your prayers for God to continue to open our eyes to him. 
5.  Jesus is the resurrection and the life
	a.  It is about fellowship with God
	b.  It is about relationship
	c.  (Invitation)

Small Group Questions:  The Goal of our Faith

Summary:  It is important to have a good biblical, theological grounding so that we can 
know what the goal of our Christian faith is, what is most important, and what is peripheral.  
A clear theological grounding serves like a rudder to a ship, it guides ministry toward its 
goals.  Though there are many important elements in a sound theology for ministry, the 
central element is God who is a relational God.  Everything else radiates from that core.  
Our ethic, attitudes, and ministry practices all radiate from this core.

- What is the first thing that pops in your mind when someone says God?

Explore:  (Gen. 1-3)

1.  What do these first three chapters reveal about God?  About humanity?

2.  Discuss which characteristic(s) of God stand out most in Christ, in his incarnation 
(meaning that he is God become flesh), in his ministry, and in his atoning work?

3.  Discuss how God's central characteristic(s) are seen in the overall story of scripture, 
(such as in Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus, Israel, the apostolic church, 
the apocalypse, etc.)

4.  What is it that led God to call Adam, to call Abraham, to call Moses, to call Israel, and to 
send Christ?


5.  In what ways have you seen the characteristics of God come through in your own life?  
Give some instances, stories, or ways.

6.  How does (or should) the story of God affect your motivations and how you do church 
work, ministry, worship, and other religious activities? 

7.  In what ways do you desire for God to change your heart?