Enter Through the Narrow Gate: Emerging Opportunities

Last week, in one of our updates, I mentioned that we would be taking some time over the course of the next week to look at the conflict that has come to a head within the denomination that Hopkins Community Church is affiliated with, the Reformed Church in America.  This is not a new discussion by any stretch of the imagination.  However, for many, this may be the first time that you are hearing about this. 
 
While some churches have put this in the forefront of things to talk about, HCC has chosen to keep it on the periphery as our affiliation with a denomination is ultimately subservient to our loyalty to Christ.  So, as things have continued to transpire, the leadership has been watching and waiting for the right time to have this conversation as a congregation.  We feel that the right time is now.
 
Two days ago, I released a short video laying out the history of our current struggles and how we got here.  Yesterday was information on our current reality and the immediate decisions in front of the General Synod (our national gathering as a denomination) in October.  The final video, today, will then involve some information on what we have done, can do, and some potential opportunities that may be in our future as a church.
 
Before you watch each of these videos, though, I want to ask you to take some time to read the following Scripture passage and prayerfully reflect on it in light of the current events of our day and the current cultural context that we are faced with.  Below that you will find a link to the video as well as some additional resources that I reference in them.
 
On Sunday, we are going to hear from this passage and others in a message about Biblical authority and our foundation in Scripture.  After the worship service, there will be some informal time for questions and answers regarding these videos and the denominational issues that we face.  We will likely be having some district meetings following this as well with dates to be determined.

Matthew 7:13-20

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
 
———-

———-


The Wide Gate: The RCA’s Current Situation

Last week, in one of our updates, I mentioned that we would be taking some time over the course of the next week to look at the conflict that has come to a head within the denomination that Hopkins Community Church is affiliated with, the Reformed Church in America.  This is not a new discussion by any stretch of the imagination.  However, for many, this may be the first time that you are hearing about this. 
 
While some churches have put this in the forefront of things to talk about, HCC has chosen to keep it on the periphery as our affiliation with a denomination is ultimately subservient to our loyalty to Christ.  So, as things have continued to transpire, the leadership has been watching and waiting for the right time to have this conversation as a congregation.  We feel that the right time is now.
 
Yesterday I released a short video laying out the history of our current struggles and how we got here.  Today will be information on our current reality and the immediate decisions in front of the General Synod (our national gathering as a denomination) in October.  The final video, tomorrow, will then involve some information on what we have done, can do, and some potential opportunities that may be in our future as a church.
 
Before you watch each of these videos, though, I want to ask you to take some time to read the following Scripture passage and prayerfully reflect on it in light of the current events of our day and the current cultural context that we are faced with.  Below that you will find a link to the video as well as some additional resources that I reference in them.
 
On Sunday, we are going to hear from this passage and others in a message about Biblical authority and our foundation in Scripture.  After the worship service, there will be some informal time for questions and answers regarding these videos and the denominational issues that we face.  We will likely be having some district meetings following this as well with dates to be determined.

Matthew 7:13-20

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
 
———–

———–


The Long, Broad Road: A Brief History of the RCA’s Current Situation

Last week, in one of our updates, I mentioned that we would be taking some time over the course of the next week to look at the conflict that has come to a head within the denomination that Hopkins Community Church is affiliated with, the Reformed Church in America.  This is not a new discussion by any stretch of the imagination.  However, for many, this may be the first time that you are hearing about this. 
 
While some churches have put this in the forefront of things to talk about, HCC has chosen to keep it on the periphery as our affiliation with a denomination is ultimately subservient to our loyalty to Christ.  So, as things have continued to transpire, the leadership has been watching and waiting for the right time to have this conversation as a congregation.  We feel that the right time is now.
 
So, for the next three days, I will be releasing a short video laying out various aspects of the current denominational strife.  We will start by talking about the history of our current struggles and how we got here.  Following that will be information on our current reality and the immediate decisions in front of the General Synod (our national gathering as a denomination) in October.  The final video will then involve some information on what we have done, can do, and some potential opportunities that may be in our future as a church.
 
Before you watch each of these videos, though, I want to ask you to take some time to read the following Scripture passage and prayerfully reflect on it in light of the current events of our day and the current cultural context that we are faced with.  Below that you will find a link to the video as well as some additional resources that I reference in them.
 
On Sunday, we are going to hear from this passage and others in a message about Biblical authority and our foundation in Scripture.  After the worship service, there will be some informal time for questions and answers regarding these videos and the denominational issues that we face.  We will likely be having some district meetings following this as well with dates to be determined.
 
————-

Matthew 7:13-20

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
 
————-

————-
 


What's the Point? H.C. Question 59

What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?

John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Romans 1:17 – For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Habakkuk 2:4 – “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness…”

Romans 5:1-2 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.



Numbers 11:24-30; Acts 2:1-21 "Poured Out"



Our Best Days our Ahead! H.C. Lord's Day 22

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 22

Q 57. How does “the resurrection of the body” comfort you?
A 57. Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but also my very flesh will be raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.

Q 58. How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?
A 58. Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.

The Apostles’ Creed ends with two eschatological statements about our Resurrection and the Everlasting Life we are promised in Jesus Christ.  Eschatology is the study of the last things, focusing itself, at least in the realm of Christianity, on the return of Christ and the ultimate fulfillment of God’s will in the world.  Much of this is derived from the book of Revelation as well as Jesus’ teaching on the subject matter.  Both of the belief statements at the end of the Apostles’ Creed, though intimately tied to Jesus’ death and resurrection, are actually directed at Jesus’ second coming.

So what do we mean when we say that we believe in such things.  Scripture promises that, just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so too will we be raised on the last day, when Jesus comes again.  This resurrection will be a physical, literal, bodily resurrection in which our current flesh will be raised, renewed, and glorified in the same way that Jesus was after His resurrection.  Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 15, says that,

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power…”

We will still be us in every respect of what makes a person unique, however, everything will be glorified and perfected, the way we were meant to be in the beginning.  Our experience will also be glorified, returned to a perfect relationship with God who will dwell eternally with us here on earth.

The eternal nature of this relationship and dwelling is the subject of the final statement of the Apostles’ Creed and the second question of this week.  There are two ways in which we talk about and experience this eternal life.  First, and likely most obvious, is exactly what we are referring to here: Eternal Life in Paradise living with Jesus after His second coming and the final consummation of all things.

However, the second one is something that is important for us as Christians to remember as well.  We begin the experience of eternal life with God when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  The joy of renewed life is experienced in part already in this life when we come to faith.  This joy is built through the work of the Holy Spirit and increases as we are continually sanctified and built up in Christ.  Much of this happens as we grow deeper in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, receiving a deeper revelation, understanding, and experiencing greater freedom in Christ from the bondage of sin.

As we grow in this joy and freedom we also grow in our anticipation of the life to come when all things will be made new and no more will be the effects of sin in our lives and in the world around us.  This is the hope to which we profess and the great expectation of things to come!



Everlasting Life: H.C. Question 58

How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?

Romans 14:17 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

John 17:3 – Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

1 Corinthians 2:9 – However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—



Bodily Resurrection: H.C. Question 57

How does “the resurrection of the body” comfort you?

Luke 23:43 – Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Philippians 1:21-23 – For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

1 Corinthians 15:20 – But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:42-46 – So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.

1 Corinthians 15:54 – When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Philippians 3:21 – who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1 John 3:2 – Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.



Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11 "What's the Big Deal?"



The "called out" ones: H.C. Lord's Day 21

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 21

Q 54. What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?
A 54. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith.  And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

Q 55. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
A 55. First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts.

Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and joyfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.

Q 56. What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
A 56. I believe that God, because of Christ’s satisfaction, will no longer remember any of my sins or my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life.

Rather, by grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment.

Who’s in?  Who’s out?  It seems like that has often been the question the surrounds the question of God’s people.  This has become so true that it seems that church has taken on a rather “exclusivist” mindset when it comes to its members.  We see this is a number of different ways, not the least of which is the rampant denominationalism that plagues the church in North America.  Everyone, it seems, has their own idea of what exactly “true faith” looks like, to the exclusion of all others who, they think, clearly do not exhibit it.

This posture within the church has, sadly, become so pervasive that it has negatively impacted the witness of the church on many levels.  As the world looks at the Church, with all its churches, fighting and bickering with each other over petty, selfish issues, they don’t see the body of Christ reaching out to those around them and emulating the same love that Christ had for all people.  What they see is a broken institution that has become more about itself, citing faithfulness to Scripture as an expression of musical form, clothing choice, or even regularity of worship attendance.

All the while we seem to have forgotten a few things.  First and foremost, we aren’t making the rules here, God is.  We are not the ones that have somehow “saved ourselves” into God’s good graces.  Rather, we have been saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and adopted into God’s family by grace through faith.

Second, to be in God’s family is not a matter of membership, raising our own status and watching our for our own rights as some have made it out to be.  In fact, being “in Christ” doesn’t have much to do with our own selves at all (apart from the assurance of our salvation and eternal life) but has much, much more to do with taking on the heart of Christ…

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.  – Philippians 2:6-11

Two of Jesus’ disciples seemed to deal with this same sort of mistake, arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus, responding to this question, pointed out that the greatest among them was the “servant of all.”  In other words, they were called to be outward focused, modeling His heart for the least, the last, and the lost.

Finally, I think it is important for us to remember what the true meaning of the word “church” is as it relates to the calling of the people of God.  “Church” comes from a Greek word which literally means “the called out ones.”  Certainly, to be “called out” implies some sort of a distinctive identity, somehow different than before.  In the Old Testament, this looked like those that belonged to the “people of God,” or Biblical Israel.  They were called, chosen by God to be His people through whom He would work to accomplish His will in the world.

The Church, Scripture says, is the “spiritual Israel,” God’s people with whom and through whom He is working to share the Good News of His love and grace.  This people is not one of bloodlines or family heritage, it is a people chosen by God, who have received His grace through faith.  There is no limit, no exclusion to who can be a part of this people.  There is no special thing that we can do to earn our way in… it is solely by God’s grace and love, which we receive through faith in Jesus Christ that we find ourselves adopted as God’s own children.

When we find ourselves here, we also find ourselves different than before.  We begin to take on the heart of Christ, turning our focus outward as Christ did, to share the great love and hope that we have found with all those around us and taking on the very nature of a servant, following Christ’s example set for us by His life, death, and resurrection.