Learning to Love Our City

Dr. Brent Aucoin January 28, 2018 1 Corinthians 9
Outline

Four biblical understandings that we must have in order to love our city well

I. Understand God’s Eternal Goal—The Establishment of a "Garden-City” where He and a Throng of His People Dwell Together for His Glory

Genesis 1:26-28 - Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; ...God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it”…

Genesis 2:8-10 - The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed…Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.

Revelation 21:10-11, 22-27 - And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations (are there in the city) will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean…shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

Revelation 22:1-4 - Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb…There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.

II. Understand that Earthly Cities Still Retain Some Heavenly Shadows

A. The benefit of a densely populated area

“A city is a social form in which people physically live in close proximity to one another. Psalm 122:3 refers to this density: ‘Jerusalem, built as a city should be, closely compact.’ In a fortified city, the people lived close to one another in small residences on narrow streets. City life was street life—physical human presence at all times and in all places. In fact, most ancient cities were estimated to be five to ten acres in size, containing an average of 240 residents per acre. By comparison, the island of Manhattan in present-day New York City houses only 105 residents per acre–with high-rises! After Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem’s city wall, there were far too many vacant homes for Jerusalem to flourish as a city (Nehemiah 7:4). In other words, the city wasn’t densely populated enough to function as a city should so 10 percent of the nation was commanded to move into the city to fill it (Nehemiah 11:1).” Tim Keller, Center Church, p. 135.

B. The benefit of stability/security

Proverbs 25:28 - Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.

C. The benefit of diversity (Acts 13:1)

D. The benefit of creativity/productivity (Genesis 4:17–22)

“So ever since the beginning of recorded history, cities have been the centers of cultural intensity — for better or for worse. And what makes a city a city is not so much population size but proximity. Edward Glaeser writes, ‘Cities are the absence of physical space between people.’ This is what gives the city its distinctiveness and potency among all other human living arrangements.” Tim Keller, Center Church, 138.

III. Understand the Problem with Man’s Cities (Gen 11)—Making a Name for Man Rather than God

Genesis 11:4 - They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make a name for ourselves.”

Genesis 11: 9 - Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

“…what makes the human city fallen is not its density of population (indeed, this is what makes it an ‘accumulator of the energies of culture’), but its ‘spirit of rebellious self-dependence over against God.’ A horse is a more valuable animal than a mouse, yet a crazed horse is capable of far more damage than a crazed mouse; so too a city’s strengths under sin can unleash more destructive evil. As the Genesis narrative unfolds, we see that warring with the city’s great potential is a profound bent toward corruption and idolatry.” Tim Keller, Center Church, 139.

IV. Embrace Your Calling of Living out God’s City in the Midst of Man’s City

A. The gospel is that Jesus left His heavenly city and entered our “Babel,” our “City of Confusion,” out of love for us and to save us (John 1:14)

B. Adopt God's perspective about man’s cities—love the city (Jonah 4:10)

Jonah 4:10-11 - Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

C. Heed God's instructions about man’s cities—seek the peace of man’s cities (Jeremiah 29:7)

Jeremiah 29:7 - Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.

D. Be God's city (the church) while you reside in man’s city for impact

1 Peter 2:11-13 - Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit to every human institution

How many of you have ever heard of John Denver?

He was an American Folk Singer who wrote beautiful songs

His songs captured His joy of nature and his disdain for city-life…

Do you remember what his most famous song was ? 

Probably Country Roads….What was “Almost heaven to him?”

What do you notice is conspicuously absent from the pictures? People!

In his also equally famous song Rocky Mountain High, notice the very Christian terms he uses to describe his joy of nature.

He was born in the summer of his 27th year  [How can you be born in your 27th year…unless you are born again?} Coming home to a place he'd never been before [Seeing Colorado for the first time] He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again You might say he found a key for every door

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams Seeking grace in every step he takes His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more More people, more scars upon the land

And the Colorado rocky mountain high I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly Rocky mountain high

If you remember, I grew up a country boy in Oklahoma…Thank God I’m a country boy.

I love John Denver…and I loved those songs…

Nature declares the glory of God and John Denver certainly sang about the beauty of nature almost to a fault.

 Why hasn’t anybody has every written a song like this….

Almost Heaven, NYC

Why hasn’t anybody written a song like that?

Many believers today are hostile toward cities

In fact, there was a trend in the last century regarding people and churches…they moved where?  Away from the cities into the suburbs…

But what really is “almost Heaven?” about which John Denver sings?

And, when John Denver sings…Now his sight has turn inside himself to try to understand…in Rocky Mountain High…where is understanding?

Where is grace in every step you take? In the forest?

What would make me a poorer man—never having seen an eagle or never engaging with God’s ultimate creation—mankind?

Which are you country lover?  Or City lover?

A better question is which is God?

And what would God want us to be if we are being careful about how we build?

With that in mind turn to Gen 1 and 2 in your bibles…page 1 on the Bible in the chair in front of you.

We are going to start in Genesis but we are going to visit many other passages of Scriptures today.

Our theme this year is Being Careful How We Build…and we’re taking that directly from 1 Corinthians chapter 3, verses 10-15…

We introduced all of this earlier this month and you can access the sermons on line.

Paul explains in that passage – that for Christians…praise the Lord – the foundation is secure…

1 Corinthians 3:11 - For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

but each believer has the opportunity and privilege of building on that foundation…which is why Paul says in the verses directly before and after the one we just read…

1 Corinthians 3:10 - …each man must be careful how he builds on it.

1 Corinthians 3:12 - Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

see, two entirely different kinds of building materials…

one valuable…one not

one permanent…one not…

and the goal is that followers of Jesus Christ would be more careful about the way we build on our foundation every day…

If you are going to build wisely you must learn to Love what God loves and be about the activity of what God is building.

Today we are speaking about

Learning to Love Our City

Four Biblical understandings that we must have in order to love our city well.

I.                   Understand God’s Eternal Goal—The Establishment of a  "Garden-City” where He and a throng of His people dwell together for His Glory

The Bible begins with a Garden…but ends with a Garden-City…not a simply a Garden or country roads or even Rocky mountain high…

The Bible ends with a city…a beautiful city at that…more beautiful than God’s creation of mountains and streams and the beauty is because of the redeemed throng of people densely packed together in the glory and light of Jesus Christ….

The bible does not end in vast open spaces of people dwelling in isolation turning their thoughts inward and contemplating the grace in creation of the earth.

Folks there is no grace in mountains, there is no grace in oceans.

Absolutely there is a level of God’s creative beauty in creation!

But God’s ultimate beauty is not in the country….

And what is most beautiful?  GRACE and the only place to see that exercised is among people…

Let’s start with where God starts in in Genesis

Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; . . . 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; . . .Gen 2:8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. . . .10Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.

Let’s look at where God started creation…

Let’s say the earthly looked like this before the flood.[ See PPT slides]

God created a Garden called “Eden” which means delight.

Let’s zoom in a bit on Eden

I have represented “God” with the temple his dwelling place and the first man and woman—Adam and Eve.

God gave Adam and Eve two positive commands—cultivate the Garden, subduing the earth around them, and then be fruitful and multiply.

Question:  Did God want Adam and Eve to stay isolated in a beautiful Garden? What did He want them to do…?

Multiply…when you multiply and get more people what tends to happen to the space around you…it fills up….

Eventually, you will have to come up with systems of interactions with people, commerce, business, etc…

But eventually that small garden space would be filled…what would it start to look a bit more like than country roads—a bit more like a city…

God wanted the garden to expand along as his people multiplied.

The imagery here is God dwelling amdist His people who represented Him and they would expand to fill the entire earth with his glory.

As an aside, with the vast genetic gene pool that Adam and Eve had in their DNA, the earth would be populated by all sorts of people representing God.

Now, please turn to Revelation chapter 21, the end book of the Bible. That is on page 201 in the back section, the NT of the Bible in the chair in front of you.  Look at verse 10.

This passage describes where all of God’s plan in history is moving to….

Rev 21:10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. . . 22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.24The nations (are there in the city) will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;       26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it;27 and nothing unclean . . . shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  22:1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb. . . 3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.

What is this? 

Country Roads? Isolated mountains with not a person in sight?

This is God’s  Garden-City…at the end of all time filled with people.

All of God’s plan is moving toward the establishment of a Garden City in which His Son dwells in a densely packed city full of the most beautiful of God’s creation…a redeemed people by the grace of His Son….

While “Almost heaven” may be country roads…Heaven is the Garden-City full of redeemed peopled….

How do I know they are redeemed….HIS NAME JESUS IS ON THEM…because He bought them….

The most beautiful aspect about the Heavenly City is Jesus and His redeemed people dwelling together.

But, from where did all of these redeemed people come from?

They came from Earth’s corrupt cities…..

If you are thinking, I hate cities, I hate population explosion, I hate being in close proximity to people….You might actually be uncomfortable in God’s heavenly city.

You see God is all about People not mountains

God is all about individuals not lakes

For just a moment lets stop and take inventory about what your life is oriented around.

Is your life from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed oriented around people….your spouse when you get up, your children, your co-workers, your class mates, your friends….

Or do you live as if people are a necessary burden to use in order to get to your greater delights entertainment, pleasure seeking, possessions…

God is planning a City….with people because that is what God cares about.

The second aspect we must understand if we are going to love our city is…

II.                Understand that Earthly Cities Still Retain Some Heavenly Shadows

If God is moving all of history to a Garden city, we can not say…earthly cities are a result of the curse of sin.

Like all of God’s creation, sin has corrupted everything…

God’s gift of sexual pleasure in marriage has been corrupted by immorality.

God’s gift of pleasant tasting food has been corrupted by our own gluttony

God’s gift of relationships has been corrupted by self-fishness and strife

God’s gift of marriage has been corrupted by divorce, polygamy, etc.

And likewise the concept of a city has been corrupted as well.

The first city…was build by Cain, the murderer but the city he built was a place of refuge for him.

The second city we have named in the Bible is Babylon which became the example of the city of man in opposition to God’s city or God’s Kingdom.

However, in the development of earthly cities there has always been shadows of heavenly gifts…

Tim Keller mentions the benefits of earthly cities…

A.     The Benefit of Densely Populated Area

If anything defines what a city is, it is not the size…but the population density

Tim Keller states,

“A city is a social form in which people physically live in close proximity to one another. Psalm 122:3 refers to this density: ‘Jerusalem, built as a city should be, closely compact.’ In a fortified city, the people lived close to one another in small residences on narrow streets. City life was street life—physical human presence at all times and in all places. In fact, most ancient cities were estimated to be five to ten acres in size, containing an average of 240 residents per acre. By comparison, the island of Manhattan in present-day New York City houses only 105 residents per acre–with high-rises! After Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem’s city wall, there were far too many vacant homes for Jerusalem to flourish as a city (Neh 7:4). In other words, the city wasn’t densely populated enough to function as a city should so 10 percent of the nation was commanded to move into the city to fill it (Neh 11:1).” –Tim Keller, Center Church, p. 135. 

What characterizes city life is physical human presence at all times….

NYC---the city that never sleeps…

Why is God moving human history to a city….the importance of people and life together with God…

What does that density produce?

Secondly,

B.      The Benefit of Stability/Security

In the Bible fortified cities are places where people wanted to be for security—Jericho, Jerusalem, Ninevah, Babylon,

Outside the cities individual struggled for security in the wild wilderness land where marauders or beasts could attack you at any time

But, you don’t have to go to the middle east to see this.

What happened in America during its founding?

As the people moved west with out established cities, what was the west know for…the wild wild west…

Cities arose because of the need for protection, security and refuge

In contrast a city that ceased to function as a city with its walls broken down was a place that was dangerously out of control and that metaphor is used to describe a man who has no self-control.

Prov 25:28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.

A city that ceased to function as a city was dangerously out of control

Third cities have

C.      The Benefit of Diversity (Acts 13:1)

When my family went away to Chicago to start my PhD studies in 2004, we lived in an apartment. Down the hall from us was a Russian family, across the hall was a polish family, at the supermarket we encountered a Romanian lady.

With the vast population and dense population of cities, what cities are know for is their diversity….

We see this emphasis in scripture.

A flagship early church was in the city of Antioch and notice its diversity…

Acts 13:1Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Notice the five men all with five different backgrounds and heritage.

Those five different men God used in the early church….for the benefit of the early church.

Cities have diversity…

Fourth,

D.     The Benefit of Creativity/Productivity (Gen 4:17–22)

My friends, I am not meaning to be in anyway disrespectful, but when was the last time you heard any tourist say, I’m going to Rossville to see great works of art. 

When have you heard anybody saying, I’m going to Fowler to see inspiring architecture.

Where do you go when you want to see great human accomplishments—the city.

What is more

In a secure, place, that had food, water, shelter, then….also systems of not only art and architecture would development but law/Order and commerce would develop…

Think about that for a moment…in a secure place where most basic needs can be met, then other good aspects can be developed...

Again, contrast American’s wild west where there was no justice, no law, no order…

So, how important is the city for people and culture?

The social construction of a city where people are densely packed together is a fascinating paradigm….with great potential

Cities are centers of cultural intensity or the engines of culture….

Tim Keller summarizes…

So ever since the beginning of recorded history, cities have been the centers of cultural intensity — for better or for worse. And what makes a city a city is not so much population size but proximity. Edward Glaeser writes, “Cities are the absence of physical space between people.” This is what gives the city its distinctiveness and potency among all other human living arrangements. Tim Keller, Center Church, 138.

Friends, are you beginning to see the potential of the city paradigm…. 

Cities have great potential they are the centers of “cultural intensity”

Cities are the absence of space between people….

Let me ask you a few pastoral questions…

If all of history is moving toward God’s city with an absence of space between people…

Then what justifies a person in our church saying, “I don’t like to be involved with people?”

What justifies a person in our church saying, “I am not a people person?”

What justifies a person working 9-5 to earn their pay, going home to be entertained, coming to church late and sitting in the back hoping no people will find them, consuming a sermon with no impact on them personally but still thinking, “I have done my duty”.  That person has put all kinds of space between him and people….But that is not God’s plan!

God has designed the Heavenly City but that same social construct of “city” with out God can be used for used for massive evil…

III.             Understand the Problem with Man’s Cities (Gen 11)—Making a Name for Man Rather than God

In Gen 1-2, Adam and Eve were to be representing God using the population density to accumulate the beautiful creativity and productivity that God gave them so that God’s image and his values would be spread through out his creation.

In Rev 22:3–4 whose name was on the forehead of the people?

3 . . .and His bond-servants will serve Him;4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.

God wanted the city to be a place where His edifying and creative energies were put on full display…

In the arts

In economics

In science

In justice

In compassion

In families

In all aspects of human endeavors

However, mankind in his sinful creative energies used the city paradigm for a different purpose……

Gen 11:4They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make a name for ourselves.

Who were the people supposed to be representing?

Who were they representing…themselves…

So, God gave them a name for their city…and since then this name has characterized every human city…Babel which means “confusion”

Gen 11: 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

Our population centers are dealing with a confusion of justice, a confusion of sexuality, of confusion in famlies, a confusion of art, a confusion of truth.

Man’s cities instead of being used for great potential of human creativity and productivity for the glory of God have instead plunged themselves into confusion and have become great potential for the creativity of evil and corruption.

“what makes the human city fallen is not its density of population (indeed, this is what makes it an ‘accumulator of the energies of culture’), but its ‘spirit of rebellious self-dependence over against God.’ A horse is a more valuable animal than a mouse, yet a crazed horse is capable of far more damage than a crazed mouse; so too a city’s strengths under sin can unleash more destructive evil. As the Genesis narrative unfolds, we see that warring with the city’s great potential is a profound bent toward corruption and idolatry.” – Tim Keller, Center Church, 139.

So what do with do with this friends?

Country Roads take me home?

Abandon man’s cities?

Start our own in the subburbs and isolate ourselves from man’s wicked cities?

IV.            Embrace Your Calling of Living out God’s City in the Midst of Man’s City.

On what foundation are we building my friends…How does the Gospel relate to the city?

A.     The Gospel is that Jesus left His Heavenly City and entered our “Babel,” our “City of Confusion,” out of love for us to save us (John 1:14)

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.

[Gospel Appeal]

Why did He do this friends?

Do you remember God’s perspective about another wicked city?

B.      Adopt God's perspective about Man’s Cities—Love the City (Jonah 4:10)

 Jonah 4:10 Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

God loves the city…Do you?

Israel became inward focused and ceased to be a light to the nation with her city.

God disciplined Israel, and scattered them to one of the great cities ever build –Babylon. 

And they were there seventy years. 

What was God’s instruction to His people in the midst of their exile….

C.      Heed God's instructions about Man’s cities--Seek the Peace of Man’s Cities (Jeremiah 29:7)

 

Jer 29:7 ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

God’s people in the midst of the wicked city, Babylon were supposed to seek the “peace” of the city.

That term peace is the word shalom…which refers to “wholeness”

Seek the wholeness of this city you are in.

Seek wholeness in its justice system

Seek wholeness in its commerce

Seek wholeness in its social structure

Seek wholeness in its arts/entertainment

If for no other reason that it also benefits you…

But ultimately it brings glory to God….

For the church…

D.     Be God's City (the church) while you reside in Man’s City for impact

1 Peter 2: 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13Submit to every human institution….

Friends here is the nighttime picture of America’s cities.

God did not call you to Rocky mountain high where there are no people.

God called you to those densely populated areas where resides what he loves—people..

Let’s zoom in a bit…can you spot Lafayette?

In man’s city what has God called you to do and be…

Enter it like Christ

Love it like Christ

Seek the welfare of it

Be God’s city in the midst of man’s city while we await God’s new city.

You ask what does that look like… 

Dr. Brent Aucoin

B.S. - Mechanical Engineering, Oklahoma State University
M.S. - Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div. - Central Seminary
Th.M. - Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Ph.D. - Baptist Bible Seminary (Clarks Summit, PA)

Pastor Brent Aucoin and his wife, Janet, came on staff in July of 1998. Brent is the President of Faith Bible Seminary, Pastor of Seminary and Soul Care at Faith Church (Lafayette, IN); ACBC certified; instructor and counselor at FBCM; retreat and conference speaker.

View Pastor Aucoin's Salvation Testmony Video