Podcast: State of the Church 2011
As we celebrated what God did in our lives in 2010, we also looked forward in faith to how God will work through our obedience in 2011. Lead pastor Jeff Noble challenged us all to make much of God.
State of the Church 2011
Many of you came today because you were hoping to hear something wonderful and magnificent about Northstar’s vision for the future. You may have expected to be inspired to service and missions. You may have anticipated us sharing about Northstar this and Northstar that – goals, dreams, challenges, etc.
But we’re not here to make much of Northstar today. That would be the exaltation of people. And as lofty and creative as we are because we’ve been created in the image of God, any magnification of ourselves would be spiritual larceny. By adding to our selves or the reputation of our church, we would be robbing God of His rightful worth and immeasurable glory.
Besides all that… We don’t have great plans and goals and dreams apart from simply listening to and following God.
So, I’m here today to share from my heart about how great our God is. I hope to paint a picture of the Lord that aside from my own inadequacies as an artist reveals a Savior who is utterly lovable, infinitely merciful and wonderfully holy. When I finish speaking in a few moments, I hope the echoes of my words will reverberate in your skulls not as the noisy glorification of a contemporary church but as a symphony of beauty that elicits your heart’s deepest praise of God who in Jesus Christ has sung the perfect song.
Last year, we consistently communicated to you that we didn’t want you to only attend or just “go to church.” Rather, we exhorted you to “be the church.” Last fall, we tried to show you what being the church meant. In a nutshell, it means to live your life – to live our lives in community – in such a way that we reflect the image of our Savior. Being the church is not a slogan for us. It’s a constant reminder that we are called to be something other than we used to be.
When we are the church, we are the body of Jesus Christ. We are the extension of His presence, and as such, we live our lives for His fullest glory.
As Ephesians 2.1-10 says:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
And Ephesians 3.8-11:
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And Colossians 1.9-21:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
We are THE CHURCH of the living God! We are His people! The magnificence of being chosen by God, of being included in His gracious plan to redeem the world, of experiencing redemption ourselves… it is truly allelujah! We are His Church!
As we gather today to celebrate the State of the Church, it would be impossible for one person to share that. As your pastor, I’m privileged and blessed to consistently hear and witness the work of God in your lives. I get to see dead people come to life. I get to see transformation take place…. But so do you… and so, I’ve asked just a few people who have experienced God’s work in their lives over this past year to share from their perspective about the state of His church.
Folks to Share:
Small Groups: Fickes, Rosandiches (9:00) Englands (11:00)
Discipleship: Kevin & Sam (9:00) Paul (11:00)
No greater joy (3 John 1.3-4)
It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
There are so many ways that we can share how God has worked this past year. And it’s been all God. He is alive and active! “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1.14)
As we celebrate what He’s done, we must be fully aware that He is not finished with us. If we’re still here, then He still has plans. Philippians 1.4-6 says, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
As you commit to make much of God in your life and your surroundings, you’ll discover right away that you face opposition. It may not be the kind of Satanic, in-your-face-opposition that you will readily identify. Rather, our enemy will use a situation, a tragedy, a bad decision, a neglect, an attitude, a misperception, your finances, spouse, relationship, children, job… as a wedge.
It starts out small, but Satan’s whole strategy is to get you to focus on that thing, that wedge, rather than on making much of God. Before you realize it, you are making much of the wedge. Your whole life is focused, shaped and twisted around that wedge.
It’s important to understand that the wedge may not be “bad” things, but it may also be good things that the enemy uses to magnify other things over your relationship with God.
However, God is a God of Transformation. He will take your wedge and transform it to a stake. He will use that stake in your life to kill your sinfulness and selfishness.
Paul said, “I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15.31) Galatians 2.20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.”
What Satan intended as a wedge, God transforms into a stake that is used to help kill our sinfulness. It is God’s generosity of grace that helps us identify and experience clarity of vision. We move from being near-sighted to walking in faith rather than sight as God reveals what we’re focusing on instead of Him.
As we mature, an even more wonderful transformation takes place. The former wedge, now stake, becomes only a thorn. Paul experienced this as well, when he prayed and asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” three times.
2 Corinthians 12.7-10 describes Paul’s experience:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When we fail to make much of God, our gracious Lord uses what has become “Much” in our lives to redirect us to total dependence on Him. Sometimes that process is painful, but it is always loving. He does so because it is always best for us to make much of Him!
One day, with maturity and humility, we are able to see like Paul understood that it is God’s grace alone that is sufficient. When we make much of Him in our weakness, His power is made perfect in us!
Questions for Small Groups:
• What does it mean to you to “make much of God?”
• How much does your past position (dead, alienated, enemy of God) affect your present attitude?
• How much does your current reality in Scripture (alive, reconciled to God) impact your mission and focus on a daily basis?
• What are some ways you want to change so that you can daily make much of God?
• What would a group of people committed to making much of God look like?
• Identify a truth in the scriptures above that spoke/speaks most powerfully to you.
• What has Satan used as a wedge in your life?