Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Being God's People

Blogging makes it easy to take some liberties, which I hope will not be presumptious. Pictured at right is a friend-poet-preacher, B. C. Lee, retired in OK. Byrum celebrated his 95th birthday this month. The picture was with 70 years (I think) in ministry. We spent a year or so as students when Byrum was pastor in Oregon City, Oregon and I hope he will not think me presumptious. :-) 
. . .

God’s people find their identity in God’s Book. The theme of the people of God threads its way throughout Scripture. The biblical book of Exodus introduces a people who were no people. It follows them under the creative influence in history. The story of God’s people becomes God’s story—His Story. His Story and their story shape human history.

If we in the Church of God are to be people of God, we must once more become people of that Bible that recognized God’s people from early on as a “holy people who belong to the Lord your God,” the same God that “has chosen you. . .” (Deut. 7:6, NCV).1 It further concludes “The Lord will help you defeat the enemies that come to fight you,” i.e., God will “establish you as his holy people” (Dt. 7:6, CNV; 28:9, NIV).

In due time, Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected, resulting in the birth of the church at Pentecost. God’s chosen people blossomed as the church--birthed through His unique creativity, for His very own purpose. It should not surprise us that the friends Paul recommended (Ro. 16:1-5) were people chosen by God, people committed to fulfilling God’s redeeming activity in their world

Peter recognized them as the “chosen people,” the “laos” (Greek term for the people of God, I Peter 2:9). We may be fuzzy about their ethnicity, but they were of clear origin--people responding to God’s call. They were of unique characterspecial people …  a royal priesthood … God’s chosen people. They had a focused purpose: i.e., to declare God’s praises. This awesome opportunity gave them responsibility that called forth their highest commitment (cf. II Cor. 2:14-16, Col. 1:10-12).

Gerald Nevitt spoke to the Church of God Reformation Movement, locally and in the larger context, when he concluded that “A new vision of what the church is to be and do in our world must begin with an understanding of who we are.” It is critically important, he added, that each congregation “have a firm conviction regarding its identity.”2

The resurrection and the events of Pentecost transformed Christ’s followers into a tightly-bound fellowship that found its true identity in its message and its mission. Led by the Holy Spirit, the disciples, joined by an expanding company, went all-out in cultivating believers among people of various ethnicities (Mt. 28:19-20).

As a pioneer evangelist on the Ohio frontier, Daniel S. Warner found his niche when he concluded that “On the 31st of last January the Lord showed me that holiness could never prosper upon sectarian soil encumbered by human creeds and party names, and he gave me a new commission to join holiness and all truth together and build up the apostolic church of the living God. Praise his name! I will obey him.”3

A year later he added “the God of all grace has most emphatically taught us in his word that his church is one, as the Father and Son are one, and that a manifestation of this unity is to be the world-saving salt of the church.” Since that time, others have suggested that “every Christian has a legacy in every other Christian” and that we “experience that legacy only as we receive each other and relate, moving eagerly beyond group boundaries.”4

Theologian, Gilbert Stafford, in addressing an International Forum of the Church of God, suggested that “unity is a biblical mandate, not simply the idealism of … early leaders or of contemporary ecumenicists.” Stafford also insisted that people identify themselves by the different ways in which they reveal God through their daily lives:
               1. following Jesus as their model and mentor (Mark 10:43-45).
               2. obeying Christ’s commission as they embody the person of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:19-20). They symbolize His presence, becoming tangible evidence of His reality. They serve as (His) ambassadors, just as if He were making His appeal through them ((v.20).
               3. equipping themselves through discipleship (Eph. 4:11-13). They serve individually, providing channels of grace; i.e., they become grace dispensers as they use their gifts for the common good of the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:7).         
               4. proclaiming the story of Jesus to others, and discipling them (Mt. 28:19-20). God’s people keep the church in a perpetual state of reformation, being renewed by seeking first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33). Repeatedly, and repetitiously, they act on the authority of Jesus as they pursue fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father (John 8:28).

Like John Wesley, they become people of the book--always action oriented. They prioritize discipleship qualities, they minimize the luke-warmness that characterizes that casual brand of faith that Peter Wagner dubbed St. John’s Syndrome (Rev. 2:4).
In 1995, General, Colin Powell announced that he would not run for the presidency. He gave as his reason his lack of political passion. There is no higher calling, as we transition into a new era of spiritual service and Christian growth, than having the passion to be People of God People of God's Book. May we follow Jesus our model/mentor, may we embody the very person of Jesus as we follow His Great Commission, and may we adequately disciple ourselves in order to adequately disciple others.

From Warner’s World, I am
               1 “Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright 2987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.” Unless otherwise marked, all Scriptures quoted are from the New Century Version.
               2 Gerald G. Nevitt, God’s People On Mission Through Ministry. (Lansing: The Church of God in Michigan, 1995), p.29.
               3 quoted by Barry L. Callen, It’s God’s Church. (Anderson, IN.., Warner Press, Inc., 1995), p.1195
               4 James Earl Massey, Concerning Christian Unity. (Anderson: Warner Press, Inc., 1979), p.82. 

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