We are a church only because He brought us together and shaped us into what we are today. As God has led and grown us, His mission for our church has gradually become clear: to live out the gospel together. But what does that really mean?
What is the Gospel?
It’s the epic, eternal story we find ourselves in…the story of God. The Gospel is this:
God, the Creator of all, became the Redeemer of all in Jesus, giving new life, freedom, and purpose to those that say yes to him.
Ultimately, the Gospel points us to Jesus…who He is, what He has done, and what He is now doing to renew all things
Who Are We?
Our understanding of this story and of who we are begins with our understanding of God. We must know that God is real. He is not dependent on anything else for his existence. He has always been and will always be. He exists as one God, in three persons, Father Son, and Holy Spirit. He created everything we see simply through His spoken commands. Light. Sky. Land. Trees and plants. Sun, moon, and stars. Animals and fish. Then He created humanity, bearing His image, unique in all creation. As His representatives on the earth, man and woman were to harness and care for the natural world in ways that brought glory to Him. They lived in perfect harmony with each other, with God, and with the world around them. Every single piece of the universe declared His excellence.
Then, What Is Wrong With The World?
The first man and woman were given a choice: to trust God and live under His good rule; or to take upon themselves the right to do as they please. Tempted by a fallen angel, they were deceived into thinking they could better govern themselves. At that point, sin and death entered the world, subjecting everything God created to corruption and decay. To pain and death. To separation from the fullness of God’s presence. The order and harmony that once marked creation was replaced by alienation, frustration and conflict. Sin distorted every aspect of God’s good world, including our relationship with Him, and our relationships with each other.
Is There Hope?
Sin, death, and evil do not have the last word over this world. God determined to reclaim what He had created through the calling of one man, Abraham. From Abraham came the nation of Israel, and from Israel came God’s Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus came to us as God in human flesh, seeking to rescue the world and bring it back under God’s good and wise rule. He lived a sinless life and offered himself as the supreme sacrifice for humanity’s rebellion by dying on a cross, securing forgiveness and cleansing for all those who called upon Him. He rose from the dead three days later, reversing the effects of sin caused by Adam and Eve’s rebellion. His resurrection also foreshadowed God’s intention to renew and restore the whole world in Christ. Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves: He saved us and reconciled us to God.
Where Do I Fit In All Of This?
This epic story of creation-fall-redemption is found in our own personal story as well. We are each created, designed, and purposed according to God’s intentions for this world. But, at some point we all have preferred our own way. We are now alienated from God and living in a fallen world. But the good news of Jesus is that, through Him, we can be rescued, repaired, and renewed. This salvation is given freely to all who say “yes” to Him and His agenda for the world. But this salvation doesn’t only secure for us a place in heaven when we die, it also re-orients our entire life here and now. God’s Holy Spirit now dwells in each Christ follower, applying Jesus’ work to us, speaking, guiding, and leading us in the new life we have received. And that new life isn’t only for our own benefit. Compelled by God’s love and grace to us, we are witnesses to the world about the reality of rescue and restoration through Jesus.
Isn’t It Enough Just To Believe In The Gospel, We Have To Live It Out?
In our culture today, belief is often something we work out in our minds and say with our lips…and that’s as far as it goes. In the scriptures, however, the concept of “belief” is always tied to how one lives. A distinction between “believing” one thing and “living” anything else would have been completely foreign to the writers of the New Testament. For them, to believe something is to live in ways consistent with what is believed. The implication for us, then, is simple: to truly believe the gospel, we must go beyond thoughts and words and into action. We must live it out.
How Do I Live It Out?
The invitation of Jesus does not begin with assignments to memorize a set of “doctrines,” recite a specific creed, or perform a rote liturgy. While those have their places, the beginning of living out the gospel is in realizing that Jesus calls us to a kind of life: life lived under the gracious rule and reign of God, in dynamic and interactive relationship with Him. So, when we say “yes” to Jesus, we don’t just say “yes” to salvation. Salvation and the forgiveness of sin are intended to be the beginning, not the end, of the journey with him.
Central to this journey with Christ that we’ve said “yes” to is passing on to others what we ourselves have received. We forgive others, as Christ forgave us. We love others, as Christ has loved us. We comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him. And in doing so, we become bearers of His message of reconciliation, just as we have received and accepted it ourselves. The New Testament calls those who follow Jesus: “saints,” “ambassadors,” “ministers,” and “priests.” Empowered by God’s Spirit, gifted with spiritual gifts, we are mandated to reflect the love, grace, and truth of Jesus to the world.
It’s Part Of A Bigger Plan…
The purpose of the church, then, is to present ourselves, both individually and corporately, to God for the sake of advancing His kingdom into the world. We no longer exist for ourselves, and though we engage in study, prayer, worship, and service for our own benefit, we also recognize that they serve a much greater purpose: they form us into people used by God to cooperate and participate with Him in His work in the world.
Together…? Why Does The Gospel Need To Be Lived Out In Community?
Compelled By Love.
Those who choose to give their lives to following Jesus, have an intimate understanding of rescue and redemption and are compelled by this love, to go out, bringing the truth of the gospel, to the world. And, as it turns out, that was God’s intention all along. That we would be the messengers of His gospel to those people still separated from Him.
Not Meant To Be Lone Messengers.
But God never intended that we carry this message alone. This began with His intention that Israel be a people who together would witness to the nations about the reality and blessing of life under the One True God. Many generations later, Jesus of Nazareth came as the fulfillment of Israel’s story and mission. He gathered around himself a community of disciples, and gave them authority and power to work in His name, testifying to Israel about the coming of Messiah Jesus. And then after His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus commissioned His followers to tell of what they had seen and heard to the ends of the earth. He poured out His Spirit to empower and validate their witness.
Communities Bearing Witness To The Gospel.
In each movement of redemptive history, God uses a community to embody and proclaim the salvation of God to the nations. Jesus himself suggested that it would be the unity and love of His church that would be the most powerful testimony to the world of the reality of His work and grace.
So, Why Does The Gospel Need To Be Lived Out In Community?
We believe that what the world needs most from the church is for it to simply be the church: an increasingly distinctive and personal community that embodies the good news of Jesus to each other and to our culture. That has been God’s plan all along; to gather a collection of people who glorify creator God and declare the works and wonders of the redeemer, Jesus.
So, this is what our journey is all about. This is who we are learning to become. Together, we are living out the gospel in communities across Orange County and beyond.