Four Core Commitments of Main Street Church

Dec 2

Four Core Commitments of Main Street Church

Ezekiel 36:22-36

Preached at Main Street Church on December 2nd, 2018

  • My goal today is to convey to you 10 months of collective work by many in this church working prayerfully and diligently in an effort to be faithful to who God is callusing us as a church to be

About one year ago Doug and I, along with the elders, began a conversation of reexamining and refreshing our identity as a church.  What is important to us? Why do we exist? What is our goal?  If we are unclear on the answers to these questions then we won’t go anywhere, and we aren’t being faithful to who God has called us to be.  It had been 10 years since we last undertook this kind of endeavor.  A large change of those involved in the original process vs. now

Over the last 10 months a strategic leadership of roughly 30 people have gathered four times to take a fresh look at these questions, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Interspersed between these meetings were individual conversations, and dialogue between the elders working to distill ideas from our larger meetings for clarity and direction

Conclusions from the Process:

  • Our core commitments – what we value as a church
    • God’s glory, God’s word, God’s mission, God’s family
  • Our mission statement – why we exist
    • MSC exists to experience and communicate the gospel in our community and around the world.
  • Our vision – what God is calling us to
    • Our vision is to see our communities flourish as God intended.

I want to convey our core commitments: who we are as a church; what defines us.  These commitments are what shaped our mission and vision.  I am going to use the text we read earlier, because it grounds our commitments as a church in God’s word, and why we are committed to these particular things.  We have an all encompassing core commitment, like an umbrella, with three core commitments that fall under it.  The all encompassing core commitment is God’s glory, and the three that fall under it are God’s mission, God’s word, and God’s family

Ezekiel began his ministry began around age 30 (same as Jesus), lasted roughly 20 years, which is how long it took him to record the book; from 593 to 571BC.  Number 4 makes clear that ages 30-50 mark the working life of a priest; even though Ezekiel would not have been able to serve as a priest due to the exile.  It was written several years after the first group of exiles was deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and only Psalms, Jeremiah, and Genesis are longer.  Ezekiel is concerned with the holiness of God and the sinfulness of God’s people-how can those things coexist

  • The primary purpose of Ezekiel’s message was to restore God’s glory before the people who hd spurned it in view of the watching nations. The clearest expression of this is found in our text today (36:22-23).
    • The only hope/salvation that God’s people have depends completely on God’s gift of a new heart and a new spirit.
    • This passage is a promise of redemption completely by the hand of God
    • It is a promise that has been fulfilled, is being fulfilled, and will, when Christ returns be completely fulfilled

Ezekiel 36:22-28

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a] 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

  1. God’s Glory
  • The first thing we see in this passage—and the overarching core commitment of this church—is a commitment above all else to God’s glory.
    • Imagine this like the umbrella from which our 3 other core commitments flow
    • We are committed to God’s glory above everything else because He is.
    • V. 22 “Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”
    • Isaiah 48:11 God says, “My glory I will not give to another.”
    • Isaiah 42:8 “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other,”
    • Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,”
  • We are committed to God’s glory above everything else

Application: Being Committed to God’s Glory

    • This means we want everything we do to be driven by a passion for God’s glory
      • Our efforts must not be driven by a desire for prestige in the eyes of people
      • Our ultimate goal is not to be respectable and civilized in the eyes of culture
      • Our goal is to make God look great in everything we do by worshipping the way He has proscribed in His word
        • Israel’s problem was that they weren’t making God look great (V. 23)
  • When our praise leaders get up their goal is not for you to think we have a great music or great talent or great style, their goal is for you to see how great God is
  • If we have guests that come in to find out about this community our goal is not for them to think we have a great building or great people, or great preaching, or great theology, or great coffee, but our goal in our worship is for people to be amazed at how great God is
    • All of those things, and more, can and should be used to do that; to glorify God
    • The question you ought to ask yourself at your job, in your family, in your marriage, at the grocery store, in your emails, in your hobbies is this: how can I make God look great?
  • Our overarching commitment as a church is to the glory of God above all things and in all things.  The first way we do this is a commitment to:

2. God’s Word

  • You can’t glorify God apart from his word—because:
    • God has revealed himself in His word — Jesus is the Word that became flesh
    • The only way we know who God is and consequently, how to glorify Him, is by His Word that He has given to us
    • We see this in the context of our passage today. 
      • In v. 26 and 27 we see the promise of a new heart and a new spirit that God will give to his people, but it leaves the question hanging: how will God re-create this kind of community? This community of people who make him look great?
      • The answer is  in a vision that Ezekiel receives in the next chapter that I want to read to you, and we will see is that God recreates with his word.
  • Ezekiel 37:1-10 “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
  • It was with his word that God created, and it is with his word that he re-creates. 
    • Eph. 2:5 “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ
    • Rom. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
  • As a church we are committed to God’s word because it is God’s word that gives life, and thus it is God’s word that He uses to glorify His name.
  • You might notice that Ezekiel’s vision involved God’s word spoken, but it was his spirit that gave power to the word, and you can’t really separate them.
    • Look at what Jesus says about this in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
      • God’s word and God’s spirit work together to glorify God in us, God’s people
      • That’s why we have two separate commands from Paul, in two separate letters, that are very similar, with the main difference being a command to be filled with the Spirit, and a command to be filled with the word
        • Ephesians 5:18-19 “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
        • Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
    • The word of God gives life by the power of the Spirit of God, so we, as a church, are committed to God’s Word.  He has given it to us to find life in Him.

Application: Being Committed to God’s Word

      • What this means is we believe that all God’s word is relevant to all God’s people all the time.
      • God’s word shapes us, we don’t shape God’s word
      • God’s word determines truth, we don’t determine what we think is true and then impose it on God’s word
      • One way we want to show that we are committed to God’s word is by doing things like we did this morning where we publicly read it and honor it.
      • God’s word itself gives us an example of this type of honor
  • Nehemiah 8:1-6 “And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
      • This isn’t the only way to show honor for God’s word, but it is a way, and we are committed to God’s word.
      • We want God’s word to be the source and focus of our sermons, and we want God’s word to shape how we worship Him, because we want to glorify Him.  We are committed to God’s glory, and we are committed to His word.

3. God’s Mission

  • We are committed to God’s glory, and from that flows a commitment to God’s word, and next, a commitment to God’s Mission.
  • God’s ultimate mission is to fill the earth with His glory, and the way He has chosen to do that is through creating a community of people who will reflect his glory throughout the whole earth.
    • This is why God chose Abraham – to make him a great nation, and the descendants of Abraham that became the people of Israel, were supposed to be part of God’s mission to fill the earth with his glory, but as we saw in our passage from Ezekiel today, they weren’t doing a very good job of that.  But God does not let human failure deviate him from his mission, that’s what we see in Ezekiel 36.
  • 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord,
  • 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a] 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
    • Here we see God’s mission to fill the earth with his glory, by creating a community of people who reflect his glory throughout the earth. We see this even more further along in the passage, look at v. 33
  • 33 “Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, (I will remove you from the earth? No.) I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. 34 And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. 35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ (what will be the result? That people think, wow God’s people are really impressive? No.) 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.
    • God says He will do it.  God always does what he says he will do, and he will accomplish his mission to fill the earth with his glory, and he will do it through us, his people. 
    • In Num. 14:21 God says as surely as He lives, “all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.”

Application: Being Committed to God’s Mission

  • For us as a church to be committed to God’s mission, means that we also are committed to filling the earth with the glory of God.
    • This means proclaiming God’s word so that more people might know God through the good news of Jesus. 
    • This means experiencing and communicating the gospel to our communities and around the world
    • This means working with other people in India, and Peru, and the UK to make the glory of Christ known in all the earth.
    • It means we as a church strive to display the glory of God in our work, in our neighborhoods, in our finances, and around our dinner tables.
    • We are committed to God’s mission to fill the earth with his glory
      • We are committed to God’s glory, and from that flows our commitment to God’s word, to God’s mission, and to God’s family

4. God’s Family

  • Our commitment to God’s family means we recognize that we cannot know God’s glory individually; we cannot understand and obey God’s word individually, and we cannot participate in God’s mission individually.
    • God has designed us to know him the in context of each other, to obey his word in the context of each other, and to participate in his mission with each other. 
    • This community of God’s family is called the church. 
  • Ezekiel 36:24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land… 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
    • God says you shall be my people, not my person
    • In 1 Peter 2:9 Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
    • If you have been redeemed by the power of God in Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit has transformed your heart, and lives within you, you are part of the new humanity that will live forever with God in a renewed creation, to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
    • Being committed to God’s family mean we are committed to each other with all our foibles, flaws, and failures.  It doesn’t mean we overlook those things and pretend they don’t exist, it means we look them square in the face and say, “I love you anyways.”

Application: Being Committed to God’s Family

      • Here is why a commitment to God’s family is so important. 
        • First, Jesus said “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it,” so God’s family is his plan
        • But secondly, we are going to mess up and make mistakes in our commitments to God’s glory, God’s word, and God’s mission.  We aren’t going to do everything perfectly, we are going to make messes, we are going to make mistakes, we might hurt each other’s feelings, but we have to be committed to each other because God has committed himself to us. 
        • This means we are patient, kind, forgiving, gracious, merciful, and selfless
        • It means we love each other as Paul prayed for us to love each other in Ephesians 3, “—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
        • It means we embody 1 Cor. 13. 
        • It means that when we think of God’s family, we don’t just think of this congregation that meets here, but we think of our brothers and sisters in Dayspring, at Refuge, at Matthias Lot, at the Lutheran church up the road, and the Methodist church a little further.  If we are committed to God’s family it means we are committed to the saints in those congregations as well, because we are all one family, we are all part of the same kingdom, and we all have the same Lord whom we will worship together for all eternity. 
          • 1 John 3:17 says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
            • The definition of brother here is not limited to people in my congregation, but it applies all people in God’s family.  The church up the road, and the church in India.
        • The church is not perfect, because it is full of imperfect people like me, but the church is the bride of Christ, and he loves her.  So we are committed to God’s family, the church. 

Conclusion

Ezekiel 36 shows us the promise God has made to make his people a new community that reflects his glory, is recreated by his word, participates in his mission, and becomes his family.  This is the kind of church that we want to be, so let us strive by the power of the Spirit to do it.