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Sunday Morning December 27, 2009 Church in the Boro Rob Wilkerson
Emancipation Proclamation declared in the year 1863 but it was years until blacks fully felt and experienced that emancipation. The declaration was simply that…a declaration of the freedom of black slaves from that point on. But such a declaration didn’t become reality for them until they were actually set free…until the slave owners actually decided to follow the proclamation and set their slaves free. And that took years. In fact, I dare say it took over a hundred years, because it wasn’t until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 that blacks were finally granted the same rights and privileges of every other American. And even after that event in 1964 it took a number of years for the white culture overall to begin go to embrace the incorporation of African Americans into everyday life. The point is that a proclamation is simply a declaration of one’s ultimate desire and vision for the future. He merely proclaims with words what things will be like from now on, and what things will look like in the future, the reality of which takes years to come to pass. For Church in the Boro, the reality us that God has proclaimed and declared that we will be an essential part of His mission to build the kingdom on earth, starting here in Statesboro, and expanding outward as God leads. The reality is that ultimately we will are a healthy, biblical, reproducing local church, planting a multitude of churches with those churches planting churches. That’s who we ARE. It is a declaration and proclamation about who we ARE. Because this is what the Bible teaches us that we are. Now the difficult work comes. It is the same work as Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. It is the work of actually putting such a proclamation into effect. It is the hard labor of KNOWING that the proclamation is true, and therefore living like it. It is essentially BELEIVING that what God has already said about us is true, and reverse engineering everything we do in order to begin building what is necessary so that we will become what is true about is in the future. This is the way our God operates throughout history, from beginning to end, as the Scriptures reveal. He is a God of the future, declaring the future to those in the present. And this has the effect of altering the course of their lives forever, changing them, growing them, maturing them into being what He has already declared them to be.
Take the church of Jesus Christ, for example. He has declared the end of the church from the beginning. In Genesis He tells us that the object of mankind is to have dominion over the earth and be His divine representatives on earth. In Revelation He tells us that the new earth will be inhabited and ruled by the church. So we have the future of the church being declared in Genesis 1:28, and the fulfillment of that future in Revelation 21-22, and we are all caught right now in the in-between. And it is the knowledge of this – the future proclamation about us – that causes Peter to write how such knowledge ought to change the way we live in the present, today. He teaches us, for example, that if the end of the world has been proclaimed then Christians ought to be a different kind of people while they are living here on earth. So what God has said about the church in the future ought to change the way it operates in the present so that it will be working its way toward the fulfillment of what God has proclaimed it to be. And in like fashion, if we know what God has proclaimed about us in the future as the church and bride of Jesus Christ, then essentially we ought to be reverse engineering our lives, working backwards from the final picture, in order to accomplish what God has promised we will accomplish, in order to become the people God has declared us to be. Electronic engineers do this. They imagine a product that will do everything they can think of, then they work backwards from that final product to what must be done to create it. There are also reverse engineers who are masters at taking any electrical device or product and dissecting it in order to understand how it was put together, so that they can learn how to manufacture all the parts necessary to build the product, and so that they can learn how those parts are to be put together, and in what order they are put together, so that what they manufacture is exactly like the product they started with. Of course, this practice is unethical in the business field. But when it comes to the church it is not only ethical, but necessary. The Bible provides the proclamation and declaration of what the church will be like in the future. And the church’s task is to start from that final “product”, if you will, and work backwards figuring out the parts that make up that “product” and in what order they ought to be put together…all in order to produce the final “product.” In essence, we’re talking about a blueprint, aren’t we. And the Word of God gives us that blueprint.
Two Important Proclamations for Church in the Boro for 2010
First: The Biblical Ministry of the Apostolic is Proclaimed in the Scriptures, and it Will Change Things For Us Forever.
A few weeks ago my friend Carl Herrington came and taught us from the Word about the necessity of the biblical ministry of the apostolic. That’s where the blueprint starts. That’s the first piece to the “product.” Every product, and every church begins with a wise, master builder, according to 1 Corinthians 3. And that
happens with the apostolic ministry. While Church in the Boro didn’t start with this most important piece in the blueprint, I taught of its emphasis from the beginning. We began with what GOD was doing here when we planted this church. And we continue by building on what HE has done, by following HIS direction as revealed first in Scripture and second in providence. He has given to us this ministry of the apostolic in 2009 with Carl Herrington, John Lanferman and New Frontiers, a fellowship and family of churches who are built together relationally and set on the mission God has called all Christians and churches to. Following God’s providential lead, we have quickly set this ministry into its proper place here at our local church so that we can continue the building work here in a truly biblical, and therefore successful fashion. God has declared that the church is built on the ministry of apostles and prophets, and that Jesus Christ adds to these evangelists, pastors, and teachers, all five of whom equip the saints in order to build up the body so that it looks like the final “product” that God has declared it to be. But like our illustration with the Emancipation Proclamation, the effects, fulfillment, and implementation of this biblical proclamation about the apostolic ministry in the local church takes time. We know what the final product looks like, but it takes time to get there, to see it, to enjoy it and experience it. And like the Emancipation Proclamation - a declaration that changed history forever – the incorporation of the biblical ministry of the apostolic changes the history of a church forever. Things morph, shift, change, and transform…all toward the final biblical product of a healthy, reproducing local church. So our clear vision for 2010 begins by acknowledging what God says in the Scriptures, what God has done in His providence to us and for us here at Church in the Boro. And that clear vision continues in and beyond 2010 by maintaining a state of constant flexibility (spiritually, emotionally, mentally) that is oiled and greased by constant communion with Jesus by regular intercession through the Holy Spirit. Like any machine that is not well-oiled and greased, parts begin to grind against one another, causing heat and friction, and eventually threatening to self-destruct itself. But when the proper oil and greasing are applied, parts run smoothly, efficiently, quickly, and successfully, each one doing the work it was created to do so that the machine may run and fulfill the purpose for which it was designed. Church in the Boro is a machine created by God for a particular purpose. To be sure, it is the same purpose for which God has designed and created every other church. And each church has the same function: to seek and save the lost, to minister to the poor and needy, and to expand the kingdom of God on earth until Jesus returns. However, each church looks different. The music is different. The preaching is different. The leaders are different. The implementation is different. Same
machine, same results. Same universal church, same mission, same results. But at the same time, although it is the same machine with the same results, it is functioning in a different way, based on where each is located, who is leading it, who is the demographic, what is the culture, etc. Understanding all of this then, is essential for where we are going as a church plant. God is building His church here among us. And it has the same mission as every other church He plants. And it will have the same results as every other church He plants. But that mission and its results will look different on the outside. And that’s my point here. Same internal parts and pieces, but different external products. The products are Christians and they are all the same on the inside – carrying around the glory of God in Jesus Christ who dwells within them. But on the outside the look different, talk different, have different likes and dislikes, different personalities, different lifestyles, cultures, cars, houses, budgets, jobs, families, children, neighborhoods, etc. This means that Church in the Boro will look different on the outside than other churches, but we are called to be the same basic machine producing the same basic product, if you will. All the internal gears and pieces are exactly the same, because they all come from the same manual, the Word of God. However, the products they produce will look different. Much like a carpenter who can make the exact same piece of furniture from any type of wood you give him, he’s using the same exact thing to make all his furniture – wood – but the appearance or looks of the final product is different because a different type of wood was used. Same element, same design, different results and appearance. And so it works the same way with churches. And failure to recognize this will result in frustration, confusion, disappointment, and discouragement. You can no more uniformitize churches in everything they do than you can uniformitize your children so that they will do exactly the same things, talk the same way, like the same things, go to the same places, eat the same things, etc. In fact, it’s a testimony to the creating God that people and churches are different. Our God is a God of such variety that I dare say that world history may never have enough variations of the local church to reflect the full creative capacity of our infinite God. Just as He created the flower, but tens of thousands of variations of the flower…and just as He created the bird, but also created tens of thousands of species of birds…so also does He create churches, while simultaneously creating a wide variety of churches. This fact only aggravates Type A people like me who likes things to be consistent, symmetrical, orderly, uniform, and scheduled. Variations in things cause us to go nuts. The problem however, is introduced when one type of person interprets the unfolding of events and the creation of a local church through the lens or filter of their individual personality, and insists that things be organized and implemented in a particular fashion.
Now, that’s not so bad, because that’s how God leads…with people…each of whom is different. And the look or appearance of that local church will in large part reflect the personalities of the men leading it. BUT! And here’s the caveat that will destroy a local church and has done so on many occasions – when that man or leaders begin to insist that their individual organization and implementation is the only biblical way to do things, then we’ve entered the realm of faulty-thinking and selfrighteousness, both of which will destroy a local church and decimate its witness in the community. It’s called narrow-mindedness, and it’s arrogant because it thinks that God only does things one way and to vary from that is unbiblical. Honestly, it is as foolish as racism. For in that ideology, whites thought for centuries that blacks and Jews and Indians were somehow a second class sort of being. The arrogance of racism is seen in those who declare that whites are the only pure race and that all others are adulterated and polluted and therefore not really human beings. That is so retarded and so obviously stupid, I honestly don’t have the patience with it to even talk about it anymore. Those same people will visit different restaurants and eat different cuts of steak from different kinds of cows and never apply their same logic to their eating habits, preferring some steaks over others, but enjoying them all. But when it comes to human beings, we use a different sort of logic. In like fashion, many Christians commit a sort of ecclesiological racism when they look down on local churches who do things in a different way… even though they are on the same mission as we are. To be sure, there are unbiblical churches. I’m not saying that at all. What I AM saying is that we are too quick to judge much of the time. We apply a racist sort of logic that judges other churches because they don’t do things the same way we do. Perhaps their music is different, or their preaching, or some of their practices. In short, it holds up a human standard for the church rather than the divine standard revealed in the Bible. And it holds up one human interpretation of the divine standard rather than a variegated interpretation of the divine standard in the Bible. So it’s essentially ecclesiological racism combined with legalism, isn’t it? And it destroys the church. We will not be that kind of church. Take a look at the letters of Paul. Each church was in a different location. While each church shared the same imperial Roman culture that tied them all together, each church was in its own sub-culture, defined by its own city, inhabitants, history, etc. Each, therefore, had its own problems. Each one had different issues, requiring different responses from Paul. And all of the ones Paul dealt with are different from the ones James pastored, which were all different from the ones Peter oversaw. And even in the book of Revelation, each of the seven churches were different from each other. The fact is that hardly ever will two churches do things exactly the same way. And while we assent to this mentally, we often have such a hard
time with it practically as it begins fleshing itself out…which is the very place at which conflict often begins and feelings get hurt. So how should we proceed as a church family with this knowledge and realization? We are founded on the biblical ministry of the apostolic and prophetic, and equipped with the addition of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. We look at the biblical description of the future bride of Christ and reverse-engineer our churches and lives to get us to the very place in the future God proclaimed us to be in the past. And while we reverse-engineer and work toward that aim, we are building the exact same machine to produce the exact same products – people conformed to Jesus Christ. But each machine and product – each church and its people will have a varying appearances, varying personalities, varying ways of doing things, varying emphases, varying visions and burdens, etc. I think that the best approach is one that offers the second point of clear vision for us in 2010 and it’s this…
Second: The Biblical Emancipation Proclamation is Declared in the Scriptures About Each and Every Person Who is a Part of This Local Church, and it Will Change Things For YOU Forever.
YOU…EACH ONE of you, make up this local church. And just as God has proclaimed a declaration about the bride of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the future which changes who we are and how we act today, so also, because the church is made up of individuals, God has proclaimed a declaration about each one of YOU. And what He says about you is a future declaration proclaimed in the past which must change the way we act and think in the present. Let me explain. When you are hired for a job, you are given a title, aren’t you? Do you know how to do everything you were hired to do the very moment you were hired? Of course not. You are given a name badge with your title when you are hired, but it takes weeks and sometimes months, and even sometimes years, to learn what needs to be learned in order to actually be the person you were hired to be. It’s a process. You’re still very much a crew chief, shift manager, sales rep, account executive, engineer, etc., even though you don’t know everything. When you hand out your business card or introduce yourself to customers, you give your name and your position. If you were hired just two days prior to that moment, you are still an account executive or shift manager, even though you probably have no flipping idea of what you’re doing! Why? Because it’s the truth! You ARE in that position and you DO in fact have that title. It’s not dishonest or unethical. You were hired for that position and given that title. In fact, if we’re all a little honest, having anything close to supervisor or manager or executive in our title brings with it a little bit of pride, doesn’t it? We feel a certain sense of importance about ourselves. We’re proud of that position and title. We are proud it how it appears right beneath our name on our business cards or on our office door. It gives a certain sense of significance.
Now here’s the funny thing about the church. God has put our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, which is the most significant thing about us. But if that weren’t enough, He puts on our business card, right underneath our name, our titles. Yes. That’s titles, plural. Few employees have more than one title. And those who do are very impressive to us, aren’t they. Well guess what. You are eternally more impressive than anyone with at least three titles. Why? Because of the One who “hired” you and appointed you and gave you that title. God Himself has proclaimed and declared certain things about you through titles and descriptions He has given you and you are to be most proud of those above every other function you have on this earth. And just like your earthly titles for the businesses you work for, you are working toward being the fulfillment of that position and title, aren’t you? You are not everything God has declared you to be in the future. But that doesn’t change the fact that you have been given that title and position today! You ARE a Son of God, and it has not appeared what we will be like in the future, as John the apostle says. But we know one thing for sure, and it’s this: we WILL see Jesus face to face, and when we do we WILL be like HIM, because we WILL see Him as He is. In Philippians, God has already declared you to be the victor in the race you are running right now. But you haven’t won yet, because you haven’t finished the race. God has essentially walked out on the track field, had a preaward ceremony and awarded YOU the blue ribbon and gold medal, and then raised the track gun in the air, fired a shot, and initiated the race. So imagine this scenario then. You run and run and run your guts out. And at times it appears you are losing or falling behind. As Paul says, it’s not as though you’ve already obtained the prize. But then you feel something itching your chest beneath your jersey. You reach up to scratch it while you’re running and realize that it’s the blue ribbon God pinned to your jersey. You look down at it, and remember what God has already said about you. But you’re in last place! Yet instantly this memory, this proclamation of your victory given before the race, spontaneously rewards you by filling you with a second wind so that you run as if you are the winner…because you know you already are! But you then get tired and winded. You grow weak. Your knees are killing you and your thighs and shins are burning like never before. Your feet are aching, and you don’t believe you have the breath necessary to go on. Cramps penetrate your sides as if you’ve been shot through with poisoned arrows. You feel weighted down. Everything feels so heavy. Your jersey feels too heavy for goodness sake. My jersey…oh it’s so heavy because of this thing banging against my chest. Wait a minute! I’ve got something pinned to my jersey…something heavy! No wonder it’s so hard! What is this thing? Oh yeah! It’s the gold medal God pinned on me before I started the race. He’s already declared me the winner. But look how far behind I am! Everybody else has passed me like three times! I’ll never catch up. But God
said I’m already the winner? How can that be? He’s messing with me! He’s just trying to patronize me because He KNEW I’d lose. He’s trying to do this stupid, ‘everybody’s a winner thing’ to make me feel special when I cross the finish line last! But wait, you say. Does God lie? Does He know the end from the beginning, as Isaiah writes? I mean, does He really know it? If so, why does He know it? Isn’t it because HE planned it that way? I know you’re like three laps behind, but if God is NOT a liar, and if God DOES know the end from the beginning because He already PLANNED it all out, then you in fact ARE the winner of the race, even though you don’t feel like it right now, and even though it doesn’t look like it right now. So it’s a faith deal! I’m supposed to believe what God has already said before the race about my future placement in the race! I’m supposed to run like I believe that I’m the blue ribbon, gold-medal winner. I AM the winner. I AM the record-breaker in this race. I AM the first place runner here. Hey…I feel like I’ve got a third wind… wow, I’ve passed these guys twice now and I’m only one lap behind now! I’m running faster! Wow. I AM gonna win this race after all. Friends, this is exactly how our lives operate day-to-day, and week-to-week, isn’t it? And the future proclamation of God about you must dictate how you run this race. What God said about you in the future IS most definitely a truth. But it will only come about as you grunt and groan your way through the race to obtain the prize that’s already been pinned on your chest. And it is this proclamation, this declaration about you – that you’re destined to win, that you’re freed from the power and consequences of sin, that your forgiven, that you’re a Son of the Most High God, that you’re a priest… It’s these declarations about you that give you the wherewithal to run your guts out to the glory of God so that you are filled with faith to BECOME what God has ALREADY declared you to be! Consider some biblical examples. 1. Abraham. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham which means “father of many nations.” But the old man only ended up having one son! Yet he lived like He believe he would be the father of many nations while offering up his only son as the sacrifice God commanded. Why? Because as Hebrews says, Abraham believed God would raise His Son from the dead! This is why God made him the father of all nations who believe in Him. The mere changing of His name proclaimed something about him that built faith into his heart and carried him through the rest of his life so that he lived in the present based on what God had said about His future in the past. Again, a proclamation was made in the past, and it took decades for that declaration to become a reality. 2. Moses. Moses was appointed by God to be the savior of Israel who was in bondage to Egypt for 450 years. Yet Moses ends up in the desert for 40 years as a shepherd, after spending 40 years living in Egypt as a son of Pharaoh. Then, at age 80, God finally calls him into action. No doubt, though, Moses’ purpose and place in God’s plan must have been constantly on his mind as he watched his fellow Israelites suffer day in and day out for
the first 40 years of his life, and then hearing about it for the next 40 years. What God declared about Moses when he was born became a reality eight decades later, while creating in him the faith to carry out God’s mission for him. 3. Gideon. Another favorite story is about Gideon. Here we have this coward making bread in a hole in the ground because he was afraid the Midianites would see him and steal his food like they’d been doing all across the land for decades. Then the Angel of the Lord appears to him and says, “Hail, mighty man of valor!” God declares something future about Gideon in the past so that his present is filled with courage, boldness, and valor in leading three hundred men into war at a ten-thousand to one disadvantage. So God’s declaration about Gideon, while taking a long time to blossom, created hope in his heart to make him be what God had already declared him to be. 4. David. Then there’s David who was anointed as a teenager to be the next king of Israel. Yet he spent twenty years running from the current king who was intent on killing David. And those twenty years didn’t include the years between David’s anointing and the time he was driven from out from living in Saul’s house. We’re talking possibly four decades between his anointing as king by Samuel and the time he actually took the throne. And even then, it wasn’t until years later that he was eventually ruler of all of Israel after uniting the split in the kingdom. And all that time, the future truth God had declared in the past through Samuel created hope and faith in his heart the entire time he was hiding, convincing him that he would not be killed, but would live on to see the day God kept His promise. Beloved, God has declared you to be a father of many nations. God has declared you to be a deliverer of the lost who are in bondage to sin. God has declared each of you to be mighty men and women of valor, putting tens of thousands of God’s enemies to flight. And God has declared each of you to be a ruler and king on this earth, despite the tribulations you are facing right now. You are kings and priests. You are sons of God. You are daughters of God. That makes you princes and princesses right now. You ARE holy. You ARE made right with God. You ARE sanctified. You ARE righteous. You ARE blameless and pure. Why? Because God has already declared this about you in the past, before He created the world. And God has proclaimed this to you in the present when you were saved and when you read His Word. And God WILL bring it to pass in the future just as He promised. The point here is to allow these pre-creation declarations about you, and present proclamations to you create hope and faith in you about the future positions already granted to you. Friends, this is powerful! This is SO powerful. This is how faith is created and nurtured in your lives. It is believing something God has already said about your future in the past and in the present. And believing it you live like it.
You arrange the affairs of your life around this declaration and proclamation. Sure it will take years to come to pass, but that doesn’t make it any less true. As with anything it is a process. It’s all about progress. But it’s with a confident assurance that what has been declared about you and proclaimed to you will become true for you.
Now, Church in the Boro is a local church whose future has already been declared by God. We will be a healthy, reproducing church, governed and led by God’s men, and expanded in God’s mission through God’s saints. We will be a holy and blameless and pure bride presented to King Jesus when He returns. These things are facts. They are real. They are truth. They WILL come to pass. Make no mistake. In the meantime, things will morph and change. They MUST! For a thing to grow to BE what God has declared it will be in the future, it cannot stay the same. That is ridiculous! It’s preposterous to think that something can be more in the future than it is in the present without any change. And it’s equally absurd to think that change will always be comfortable. Process means progress. Progress means growth. Growth means stretching. Stretching means discomfort and even pain. And all of this is a struggle. It is a struggle to put into reality what we know is already true of us in the future. But that struggle is a journey. And each journey is different, because each person is different, and because God has each person at a different place in their journey. But we are all on the same mission together. So somehow, God miraculously converges everyone’s journey to merge into the same mission in the same local church. And even more a miracle is that all these very different people are being matured and grown into conformity with Jesus simultaneously to the local church being matured and grown into that local expression of the bride of King Jesus. It’s all very complicated to me, but all so very miraculous and incredible and mind-boggling. So here are two lenses then that give us 20/20 vision in 2010: understanding, realizing, and implementing the declaration God made about the church before the world began and the proclamation He made to the church when He was on this earth; and understanding, realizing and implementing the declaration God made about us individually before the world began, and the proclamation He made to us when He saved us and brought us into His kingdom. This lenses help us see several things more clearly in 2010. 1. There will be change. 2. We must become comfortable with discomfort. 3. We must embrace the truth that tension always means growth, since growth can’t happen without stretching something. 4. We must believe that God IS NOT failing to make us into what He has already declared us to be. 5. We must NOT be discouraged by WHAT we look like today.
6. We MUST progress and proceed with confidence and boldness and joy in light of these truths. 7. We WILL be victorious this time next year…and on the day of our final breath. This is what is in store for each of us individually in 2010. It is what’s in store for us as a church body in 2010. And frankly, it’s exciting because of what I KNOW…what WE KNOW God tells us in His Word about all of this. So there’s no reason whatsoever to walk a single day of our lives in this local church, or any other, with discouragement, unbelief, depression, guilt, despair, or doubt. The victory is guaranteed. Our holiness and blameless before God are guaranteed. Our prize is guaranteed. We ARE a mighty church of valor! We ARE today a father and mother of many Christians in many nations. We ARE this very day kings and rulers on earth, anointed and appointed by God Himself. Let us believe it, drink it, eat it, sleep on it, and live it and we will find the reality of it all descending on us and growing around us faster than we can imagine in 2010. Let’s pray.