In Christ Alone – Why Are We Here, Where Are We Going, and How Do You Fit In?

Steve Viars January 8, 2017 Ephesians 1:1-12

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3 proposed emphases of 2017 for the people of Faith

I. In Christ Alone – A Year Focused on Praise

Ephesians 1:6 - …to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:12 - …to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

A. As individuals

Psalm 7:17 - I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.

Psalm 18:49 - Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name.

Psalm 40:1-3 - I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.

The mission of Faith is to glorify God by winning people to Jesus Christ and equipping them to be more faithful disciples.

Colossians 1:28 - We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

B. As a church family

II. In Christ Alone – A Year Focused on God’s Glory

A. Because we are in awe of His character and power

Exodus 24:16 - The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.

Exodus 33:18 - Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”

John 1:14 - And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 Chronicles 16:24 - Tell of His glory among the nations, his wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

B. Because we want to glorify Him to those around us

III. In Christ Alone – A Year Focused on God’s Grace

Outlined Manuscript

- Well, I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year’s with your family and friends…

- I know many have been traveling and it’s good to get everyone back as we contemplate this next together…

- if you’ve been around our church for any period of time, you know what we’re going to be talking about this am…Why Are We Here, Where Are We Going, and How Do You Fit In?

- that doesn’t mean that we give the same message at the beginning of every year because the pastors have been too busy watching football to prepare something new…

- but it does mean that we believe that being organized and mission driven is part of what it means to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us…

- we often say it this way – it’s easy to be busy – it’s hard to be effective…

- and when you extrapolate that out to local church life…effectiveness in part comes from everyone having biblical and practical answers to these three questions we’re posing this am

- to guide our study this am, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to Ephesians chapter 1…page 150 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- now, we’re going to be talking a lot about the future today…but I want to be sure we take a minute and express thanks for all the men and women who served so faithfully during all of our Christmas ministries…

- everybody knows this is a very busy time with holiday parties at work, and all sorts of family gatherings…but it is also a point in the calendar when men and women in our culture are more open to thinking about spiritual truths…

- so when you look back at it – it’s amazing how much our church family attempted in the way of Christmas ministries…

- Christmas for Everyone, Living Nativity, Christmas Musical, our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, our Winter Break Ministries, and our New Year’s Eve spectaculars…

- so if you served in one or more of those ministries…thank you for stewarding your time in a way that made that possible…

- I’d also like to say a word about our staff – about a week or so ago a senior pastor wrote a blog about how lazy church staffs are…and that started making its rounds in the twitter-verse…[to my knowledge it wasn’t re=tweeted my any prominent political figures – but it was making the rounds…]

- all I can say about that is – that’s certainly not true of our staff…

- I’m very thankful for the dedicated group of men and women who work here and the way they and their families sacrificially serve…and do it with a spirit of humility and excellence…

- so yes, we’re about to talk about the future – but in a spirit of thanksgiving to the Lord for all that’s already been accomplished…

- now, in thinking about what we should especially emphasize in 2017 with regards to an annual theme – honestly, that’s easier this year than most…because of a very important anniversary that will occur this year – [and I’m not talking about my wedding anniversary or yours--although those are very important dates for sure]…but I’m thinking about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation…

- few dates in history have had a more profound impact on the direction of Christ’s church than the Reformation…so this year we would like to organize our thinking around the theme…In Christ Alone…

- if you’ve studied this particular period in church history – you know that the Reformation was characterized by the 5 great “sola’s” – the belief that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone…

- so our theme summarizes these crucial and eminently practical theologically truths…

- this passage in Ephesians 1 goes a long way toward explaining these emphases – and for our purposes today…I’d like to encourage you to be especially looking for the phrase “to the praise of the glory of His grace…”

- variations of these words actually occur several times in this passage – and that too is an important guide to what we hope 2017 is all about…

- read Ephesians 1:1-12

- so we’re talking this morning about Why Are We Here, Where Are We Going, and How Do You Fit In?

- and from this power-packed phrase, I’d like to offer 3 proposed emphases of 2017 for the people of Faith.

I. In Christ Alone – A Year Focused on Praise

- the truths articulate in these verses certainly should result in great praise in our hearts and on our lips…

- if this doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet…

- so no wonder as Paul is talking about principles like forgiveness, and adoption, and redemption, and every spiritual blessing…that he would pause along the way and say things like…

- Ephesians 1:6 - to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

- Ephesians 1:12 - to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

- I’m going to be suggesting several homework assignments this am – which probably surprises nobody – but one of those assignments would be to find times to slow down and actually mediate on the meaning and significance of this great phrase – living to the praise of the glory of His grace…

- if Christ tarries His coming and we’re able to gather together at our Stewardship Celebration in November and say that summaries the way we lived in 2017 – to the praise of the glory of His grace…it will have been a good year…and this can/should be true of us…

A. As individuals

- here’s a second assignment (I have a feeling they’re going to be coming fast and furiously this am)

- look up and review the uses of the word praise in the Bible…there are some great ones…even if you limited your search to the book of Psalms, you’ve find some marvelous examples…

  • Psalm 7:17 - I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
  • Psalm 18:49 - Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name.
  • Psalm 40:1–3 - I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.             He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.

- this is especially attainable when you think about this little phrase that occurs several times in our passage – the words “in Christ…”

- it’s possible for people like you and me – because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus…to be united with Him…to be in Christ as individual human beings…it’s a personal relationship that begins the moment we admit our sin and place our faith and trust in Him…

- the more we contemplate what had to occur for our sin to be forgiven, and the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to our account – so we could enjoy that precious privilege – the more likely it will be that our individual lives are characterized by praise…

- we’re going see this year that this was one of the primary emphases of the Reformation…that you didn’t gain access to God through a priest, or through Mary – but you have direct and unfettered access if you’re in Christ alone…

- that’s where the doctrines of the priesthood of the believer and individual soul liberty fit into the discussion…

- now, this is both a blessing, and a responsibility…because if you can know and praise Christ individually…then you have the responsibility to cultivate that relationship individually…

- now, as a church, we want to do everything we can to make resources and opportunities to help you do that well in 2017…

- that’s why our mission statement is – The mission of Faith is to glorify God by winning people to Jesus Christ and equipping them to be more faithful disciples.

- so, soul care is always an important focus around here…what can we be doing to help each and every one of us to be growing at living to the praise of the glory of His grace each and every day?...so that this truly is a year where in Christ alone, we ‘re focused on praise?...

- now, as I said – we want to provide as many resources as possible to help you in that endeavor…

- I would encourage you to have your FC 2017 initiatives on your lap…

- and we can’t go over all of them…but quite a few of them involve the individual care of souls…

- GS #1 – assigning mentors to new members and families

- GS #3 – providing mentors to young parents…

- as you look down the list – there’s all sorts of steps we hope to grow in this area…

- and from the perspective of the question – how do you fit in?...that somewhat depends on where you’re at in your spiritual journey…

- for many, you might want more access to those resources…if so, please speak to your service pastor, deacon, ABF or small group leader…

- for others, you might say – I’d like to be part of providing those resources for someone else…or maybe even a little of each…in either case, speak to that same group…

- another great way to think about all of this is this important verse about our church’s mission… Colossians 1:28 - We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

- so sure we have projects and activities and larger initiatives to discuss yet this am – but nothing is more important than the bread and butter issues of outreach and soul care…those areas will always remain our focus and as we grow in our love for Jesus, hopefully one of the results will be more heartfelt praise as individuals…

B. As a church family.

- if you’d like to, feel free to go on our website and review our annual preaching schedule…I’m very excited about where this is all laying out for a lot of reasons…

- we going to start this emphasis with a verse by verse study of the book of Colossians…we’ve not done that here on Sunday mornings, at least not in the last 20+ years…so we’re looking forward to that…

- then we’re going to switch to the OT and look at Christ in the Psalms…

- that will take us to the summer time where we’re planning a topical series on issues like anger, pride, worry, and bitterness, and despair, and lonliness – we’re calling that – “Handling Problems in a Christ Centered Way”…

- then we plan to switch to the gospel of Matthew and think about times when Jesus alone…sort of a twist on this annual theme, but an important set of reminders that we could not be in Christ alone had He not been willing to be all alone at times for us…

- later in the fall we’ll actually do a specific series on the 5 solas of the protestant reformation – Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, and Sola Deo Gloria…

- now all along the way – we’ll have some time-outs – where we’ll take one week breaks for stand-alone messages on various aspects of the reformation as well…

- now I realize you might say – I think maybe I should try to read a book on the Reformation this year to acquaint myself more fully with this subject?...

- what did you just say?...because that brings us to our next homework assignment…that every person in our church family would read at least one book on the Reformation in 2017…at whatever level of depth you’re comfortable…

- so here are some options:

1. The Reformation – A Very Short Introduction – Peter Marshall, 2009 (Oxford University Press)

2. Reformation Thought – An Introduction – Allister McGrath, 2012 (Wiley-Blackwell)

3. The Reformation – A History – Darmaid MacCulloch, 2005 (Penguin Books)

4. Erwin Lutzer's Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation, 2016 (Baker Books

5. Why the Reformation Still Matters, by Michael Reeves & Tim Chester, 2016 (Crossway Books)

- you might want to read one of these individually, or as a family, or in a small group…

- now, one other point about how we praise the Lord together as a church family on Sundays…

- if you check out the preaching schedule – you’ll notice that there is a significant amount of variety…more-so than any other year in our history

- that’s because we’re tentatively planning to launch a Sunday morning service at the HH…there’s also at least the possibility of adding an 8:00 service at FW…none of those decisions have been finalized…but we are moving to the likelihood of having a third campus and even more worship services…so how does that affect the preaching schedule?

- our goal is to be one church at three campuses…we think it’s very healthy when one of our campuses can be focused on east side suburban ministries along with a Christian school, and ministry to young women in need, and outdoor sports, and special ministries to senior citizens…

- while we have another campus focused on Purdue and West Lafayette ministries and all that entails…

- and then a third campus focused on urban ministries in an economically challenged area of town…

- few churches are able to have that breadth of ministries…and it’s healthy because we can be praying about what’s happening on our other campuses…and we can also be serving across a variety of ministry platforms…

- but we think it’s best, at least at this point in our history, to be one church (not three) – but at three locations…

- so here’s the preaching plan – once a month, I or one of our other pastors – but usually me will speak to all three campuses at the same time via technology…

- that’s the provide overall ministry direction for what we believe the Lord wants us to accomplish as a church family together…

- then I plan to prepare one other message each month – and carry that one live to the various campuses…

- that means we’re going to have fewer messages that are projected at FW…

- it also allows us to layer in 8 of our other pastoral staff members – and many times they will give a message at one campus and then take it on the road to the others like one big round robin affair…

- we believe that will provide great variety and also help us have an extremely deep bench which is very important…

- so the point of all of that is – we hope 2017 is a year where we are living lives of praise throughout the week and then coming together corporately and praising God passionately as we develop this great theme of being In Christ Alone…

- now, let’s take this theme one step further…Paul spoke about living to the praise of the glory of God’s grace…so we also hope this will be…

II. In Christ Alone – A Year Focused on God’s Glory.

A. Because we are in awe of His character and power.

- you may recall how in the Old Testament when the ten commandments were given…

- Exodus 24:16 - The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.

- theologians refer to that as the Shekinah glory of God – a visible manifestation of His character and power…

- there was a deep longing on the part of God’s people to understand and experience His glory more…so a man like Moses would just burst out with…

- Exodus 33:18 - Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”

- in other words, help me know and understand you more intimately…

- this was a major theme throughout the OT and then we learn the great news that the Messiah is full of God’s glory…He’s the perfect embodiment of God’s character and power…so the apostle John says…

- John 1:14 - And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

- that is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 1 – in our Redeemer, the glory of God is on full display…

- please think back to our stewardship celebration in few weeks ago…

- as we celebrated what had occurred in 2016 – what were we doing?...patting ourselves on the backs for our great accomplishments?...

-  amazement at the glory of God…

- as we thought about men and women who had trusted Christ last year…to the praise of His glory…

- and people who had taken significant steps in their growth and service…to the praise of His glory…

- I walked away from that event – as many, many of you did saying – I can’t believe I have the privilege of being part of something like this…stories that can only be explained by the awesome, redeeming power of our God…

- well, set up the pins again, right?...this is a good way to think about our marching orders…

- 1 Chronicles 16:24 - Tell of His glory among the nations, his wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

- that mentality and desire is interspersed throughout our plans for this year, but you see them especially in the initiatives under meeting needs…by God’s grace, a couple of them have already been started by the way…

- but why would we want to continue to develop the kinds of classes we’re offering on Wednesday night…or care about how things are going the FE skate park?...because of the privilege of seeing other men and women coming to the place of establishing a stand before God that is …In Christ Alone…

- and then for all of us – together – more and more of us – growing in our love for Christ, and in our ability to reflect His character and power…to glorify Him…

- so our personal lives…are being lived out to the praise of His glory…

- and our marriages and families…lived out to the praise of His glory…

- the way we function at our jobs – it’s different – it’s redeemed – it’s to the praise of His glory…

- the way we treat our neighbors…the way we serve in our community…In Christ Alone…focused on His praise…and focused on His glory…

- now, what about some of these major initiatives – GS # 6 and #7, and RO # 1, ST #1 (read)

- those might be short sentences, but they are massive undertakings…so let me try to unpack all of this quickly…but without this, we can’t understand why we’re here, where we’re going, and how you fit it…

- as most of you know, over the years God has allowed us to develop various ministries of our local church (school, community centers, seminary, VOH, etc)…again, to the praise of the glory of His grace…

- …3 years ago…the city asked us to start a CDC [quickly develop]…

-  that led to the development this past year of the Hartford Hub

- we believe this is a visible manifestation of living to the praise of the glory of His grace…

- and we believe someday we may want to have small neighborhood centers dotted all around the north end neighborhoods…

- but we’ve also been praying about developing a full size community center and a third full size church location…

- you could call it – seeking to shine the praise of the glory of God’s grace in one of the most economically challenged areas in our town…

- [if time, tell the story of the boy from the north-end in the snow storm]…

- now, here’s the challenge we face as church leaders (by that, I mean our 40-50 elected pastors and deacons who have the biblical responsibility and privilege of providing leadership to our church family)…

- how soon, and how often do we talk about projects like this – that very well may never happen?...

- it seems to us that you’re trying to avoid two ditches…

1. If you talk about them too early, or too often…

  • they can distract us from accomplishing our core mission
  • Give the impression that we’re not already completely satisfied in Christ
  • Be potentially disappointing if we’re not able to accomplish a particular project

2. On the other hand, it you talk about them too late, or infrequently…

  • You could give the impression that decisions are being made in a back room somewhere by a small group of people
  • You fail to give the church family an opportunity to pray about important ministry endeavors and ask for God’s wisdom and blessing

- it’s that last one that put me over the line this am…so let me tell you where we are with this CC and then give you a couple of assignments…

- we said at the beginning that to be successful…at least now having just completed an entire string of large projects over the last 10 years…the funding was going to have to come from some creative sources…

- there was a certain amount of cash we believed we could invest…and we were even willing to consider a small percentage of debt because of the debt load that has been erased on other projects…but this was only going to occur if the Lord did something unusual…

- but money follows vision – so we’ve been working hard to get to know the northend…to become acquainted with all the strengths and good people already working there…along with all the challenges and needs…

- that has led us to this project…

- [describe collaboration, and Family Promise / Car Works

- [describe the various first floor spaces…]

- describe the various second floor spaces…]

- it has taken us a couple of years to get here…but our leadership team unanimously believes we should pursue this project…we love the collaborative nature of all of this…

- now, you’re probably saying – yeah, but what about the 14M?

- we said at the outset that the church, seminary, and counseling center could invest $1.5 cash…

- I announced to our church family last fall that we had received a commitment from the John Scheuman Foundation to give/raise $5M

- there is also the likelihood of $1M in municipal support…that brings us to $7.5M…

- Chase Bank has approved us for a $3M draw note for this project…I’ll say more about that in a minute…but that brings us top $10.5M…and if you’re keeping score, that’s 75% of the project…

- the reason that matters is because there is a relatively new economic development tool called new market tax credits that are designed for projects just like this one…

- they can be used by Faith based groups with no strings attached other than the building has to be used the way you said it would be – but it can be set up exactly like FW…

- NMTC’s would provide the other 25% of the funding – an additional $3.5M…

- this was the perfect year to apply – because it was a double allocation year – so $7B was distributed a couple of weeks after the election…

- those funds went to 120 CDE’s (Community Development Entities) all around the country who now have the responsibility to allocate those tax credits…

- there are a lot more projects out there than the $7B can cover…and with a project our size, it will require 2 CDE’s doing partial allocations of about $7M each…

- I’m trying to keep this simple…but to be successful, you need to find a match of four things…

- qualifying project

- a CDC, or in our case, 2 CDE’s that will chose your project for allocation

- an entity, generally a bank, that will purchase your tax credits…

- here’s where we sit – we have 3 of those 4 things now in place…a qualifying project, a CDE willing to allocate $7M, and a bank willing to buy them all (at a price significantly higher than we baked into our budget)…

- so here’s the assignment…I want to ask everyone in our church to pray every day that God would bless us with that additional allocation if it would be His will…if this could be used to the praise of the glory of His grace…

- but there’s one other issue…we have a foundation in town called NCHS…which has a very large principal…several hundred million dollars…but they can’t grant to faith based entities…

- but they could make grants to our collaborative partners…

- so we have offered our collaborative partners small equity stakes in the project – essentially their dedicated space would be like a condo they would one…

- they are going to seek NCHS funding, and if successful…that would reduce our debt…

- Jeff Kessler is also working with people outside our church who might be willing to give to this project…and we are already seeing success there – all of which reduces our debt further…

- that’s the second prayer request – that our partners would be successful with NCHS funding and that the Lord would bless Jeff’s efforts so we could move into the project with little or no debt…to the praise of the glory of God’s grace…

- [develop – never wanting to hear the Lord say – I would have done that for you if you would have asked me]

- if we receive the final NMTC allocation…things are going to go crazy around here…

1. [Explain the possibility of starting a college][

2. Explain GS #7, GS #6, and ST #1

- the great news is – we’re already happy…because we’re in Christ alone…and He’s all we need…

- but this is going to be a year of praying and waiting…and then possibly working like never before…

- so it’s year focused on praise, and focused on God’s glory, and lastly…

III. In Christ Alone – A Year Focused on God’s Grace

- I’ve often asked myself over the years why the Lord has put us in the waiting room so frequently before one of these projects comes to fruition…

- I think there are a lot of potential answers – but one of them is encapsulated in the statement – be careful what you wish for…

- we’re already learning with some of our CDC and HH ministries that there are some real challenges there…

- this may be a bit of a gut check time for us…do we really want to live and minister – even in the northend…to the praise of the glory of God’s grace?...

- one last homework assignment – you might look at these initiatives and say – wow, this is a lot…

- actually, this is just the beginning, because each of our core staff members have sketched out their own initiatives…they are all on line for your information and accountability…some of them dovetail with our churches – some are unique to their ministry…

- why not sit down as an individual, or as a group of friends or family…and sketch out your own specific set of initiatives…that helps you answer the question…what does it look like for you in 2017 to live to the praise of the glory of God’s grace? I. In Christ Alone – A Year Focused on Praise

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video