Monday, December 7, 2009

Expecting God: Getting the Church

Expecting God: Getting the Church. Sunday, November 29, 2009.

The title is from a paraphrase of the French scholar Alfred Loisy by Ben Witherington, III in his book Imminent Domain: The Story of the Kingdom of God and Its Celebration (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009)

As we begin the church year with the season of Advent, we are centering ourselves on the kingdom of God.

I used three statements that Professor Gregg A. Ten Elshof puts before his students. These statements were outlined in his book, i told me so: self deception and the christian life.
(William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009)
1. I have lots and lots and LOTS of beliefs. These beliefs can be simple statements of math or history. Or they can be more complex statements concerning human life.
2. I believe that some of my beliefs are false. I can be convinced that my car is parked in section F of the Pittsburgh International Airport, only to find that the car is in secion L. We don't know beliefs are false until they are tested.
3. It's fairly likely that I don't believe all of the things I think I believe. This is the arena for self-deception, states Ten Elshof. The statement is illustated in the inconsistency between what we claim we beleive and what we say and do.

I applied deception to the area of belief. To make a claim about belief is to claim to believe in something. In our culture of commonly held values, belief can be seen as a commonly held value. Believing is not seen as trust in something or someone, but a statement of morale. With the statement of morale, in the face of adversity, we claim we believe to strengthen ourselves. Yet, we may never finish the statement. As a result, we may think we believe in an ultimate power to sustain us, when instead, we are motivating ourselves with a positive thought. We deceive ourselves that we are believers.

Christians are called to believe in something. We are called to believe in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God breaks into the world and reveals to us God's salvation. God's salvatation is a new way of living.

The sermon series on the kingdom of God, then will focus on three areas as outlined by Witherinton in the book mentioned above:
1. God desires that all persons be saved. This can challenge commonly held convictions of heaven;
2. God desires that all be conformed to the image of Jesus' character;
3. God desires that all become their best selves.

Each of these three areas will be explored in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th weeks of Advent.

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