September 2016 Congregational Letter

By September 2, 2016Congregational Letters

It Matters What We Believe

The Apostle Paul tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12.3).  What we think matters as our thoughts shape our beliefs, and our beliefs shape our actions.

Our understanding of God’s interaction with humanity stresses God’s sovereign accomplishment of salvation for His people by the means of a single covenant of grace extending from the first page of Scripture to the last.  This covenant relationship between God and His redeemed people has unfolded in many stages throughout biblical history, but these various stages are aspects of one unified covenant in Christ. So, faithful men and women before the incarnation of Jesus Christ looked ahead with anticipation to the salvation that was to come in Him. Faithful men and women of the New Testament era and down through history look back at the work of redemption completed in Christ’s death and resurrection.

At the heart, then, of St. Andrew’s is the Gospel – the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.  We believe that the Gospel tells us at least five truths: one truth about our need and four truths about God’s action.

The truth about the human condition: We are broken

Of all the assertions that the Christian faith makes, this is probably the most self-evident. We are broken. A quick read of the newspaper or a glance at any news channel, and we are overcome the brokenness of humanity. We believe that this brokenness (which the Bible calls ‘sin’) touches every aspect of human personality leaving no dimension of our lives untainted. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17.9). For this reason, all people are spiritually dead (Ephesians. 2.1-10) and unable, apart from the stirring of the Holy Spirit, to respond in faith to the offer of the Gospel. We depend on the initiatory action of God to break the grip of sin in our lives.

The first truth about God: He Intervenes

God, looking at His good creation, not content to live apart from humanity, seeing the desperate nature of our condition, in love, intervened on our behalf.  And so, the Apostle John will write, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.”  (John 3.16)  Human need – the human condition – is met by God’s love.  Having rejected God, having asserted our own will over and against God, finding ourselves broken by sin and in bondage to sin – unable to help ourselves, “dead in our trespasses,” God, in Christ, turns to us.  The Father, unfolding the plan that Paul says was planned before time, acted on our behalf and sent His Son, choosing us as the objects of His affection (Ephesians 3.1-11) and making us alive together with Christ.  We see this all through the New Testament.

The second truth about God: He accomplishes His purposes

In Christ’s crowning moment on the cross He cried out, “It is finished!”  What was finished?  What had Christ accomplished? The New Testament will speak of His work in four terms: forgiveness, freedom, cleansing and reconciliation.  Christ has accomplished something real.  Something tangible.  We use the word, “salvation,” to describe Christ’s accomplishment.  The Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 1.15) will say it like this:  “This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

The third truth about God: He draws men and women to Himself

We recognize that salvation comes to sinful people because the Holy Spirit changes our rebellious hearts. Jesus told His disciples that His sheep would hear His voice.  And so, He gives to us the spiritual ears with which to hear the call of God. Jesus told His disciples that He knows His sheep. And He said His sheep would follow Him (John. 10.27). God, from ages past, sought to create a new community comprised of people from every “tribe, language, people and nation” (Revelation 5.9). We depend on God’s powerful grace to awaken us and transform us into new creations and to draw us to our Savior.

The fourth truth about God: He finishes what He starts

When God calls a person to Himself He makes them a new person.  He puts His Holy Spirit within them sealing us for Himself.  We read in 2 Corinthians (1.21-22), “it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” What is this “guarantee?”  We are promised that God’s power will guard and keep those who believe in Christ to the end. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1.6).  So, we persevere through trials and difficulties of our lives by faith, with the assurance of eternal life, because God is sovereignly working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8.28).

To God alone be the glory!

Steve


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