Monday, November 09, 2015

My statement of faith

Below is the document Pastor Chris Meirose submitted for review prior to his Ordination.  While it is not binding that all church members must adhere to this document, it gives you an idea the direction Pastor Chris guides the church.

I.  Integrating Motif: The Grace of God

A.  Theological Basis
The word xaris in the Greek New Testament is translated as “grace”.  We see from Romans 3:22-24, 5:15-16 that grace by definition is not something we have earned, it is given without expectation of repayment.  We have not done and cannot do anything to compel God to give His grace.  When we experience God’s grace we find a freeness to know God in our relationship to Jesus Christ (Jn 1:16-17).

The central theme of the Bible is God’s grace.  We find this from the beginning to the end of the Bible.  Genesis 1-2 tell of God’s gracious act in creating the world for the welfare of mankind.  From there on we can trace the grace of God through the way He first dealt with sin in Genesis 3:16-22, to Revelation 22:17 where God is still inviting people to receive His grace.

God continually shows that He is a gracious God, forgiving people’s sins, sending his Son to die on a cross for people’s sins (Jn 3:16-17), and delivering those who do not deserve such kindness from their sins.  God in grace enters into covenant relationships in the Old Testament as testaments to His grace (Noah and Abraham in Genesis for example).  In many other places as well, God showers humanity with grace.  Scripture continually reminds us that grace is a blessing given freely by God to those He has created.

B.  Ministerial Implications
Christ is the core expression of God’s grace for humanity.  Through Christ’s atonement for our sins we are freed by God from the judgment and wrath that would rightfully be ours as a result of our sins.  Christ’s work on the cross fully reconciles through grace all those who would trust in Christ as Lord and Savior (Eph 2:8).

The role of grace in my own life cannot be underestimated.  I daily need to rely upon grace as I continually sin.  From this first hand experience of God’s grace I am able to understand how God’s grace plays out in other people’s lives, and in the church.  The foundation of Christ’s church rests solely on God’s grace.  The very nature and mission of the church is defined by grace.  Without this grace the church falls into either legalism or liberalism, both of which reduce or remove the power of the work of Christ.  The church (and thereby God’s people) is God’s chosen way to bring grace into the world.  

God’s grace through Jesus Christ needs to be the central focus of my ministry.  I need to teach, preach and model grace in ways that lead others to embrace and grow in grace.  I desire to create an environment in my church where others can experience grace, and learn to share it with others.  Through this multiplication God’s grace will be spread much further than I could ever do on my own.

I.  Scripture – Through God’s grace we are given Scripture so that we may know Him and make Him known.
II.  God – God is the creator and giver of grace, and does this in and through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
III.  Humanity – Humanity exists solely through the grace of God.
IV.  Sin – Only through God’s grace can our sins be reconciled.
V.  Jesus Christ – Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God’s grace, serving as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
VI.  Holy Spirit – It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive God’s grace and come to know Christ.
VII.  Salvation – Without grace we could not be justified, sanctified or glorified.
VIII.  The Church – The church is God’s primary instrument of Grace in the world.
IX.  The Last Things – Through God’s grace all things will come to the conclusions that He has intended.

II.  God: The Source and Giver of Grace
God is a wonderful and mysterious being. His nature is beyond human understanding, and human words cannot fully do him justice. But human language, though limited, can give us an adequate understanding of who God is. When we consider the attributes, nature, and works of God, we see a God who is both the source and giver of grace.

A.  Attributes of God
God is transcendent. He exists above and beyond the limits of earthly life (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 17:24-25), and his ways and character are vastly superior to those of human beings (Isa 55:8). God is also eternal. He has always existed (Deut 32:40; Ps 93:2), is uncreated (Ex 3:14; Isa 43:10), and lacks human spatial-temporal limitations (Isa 40:28; Ps 102:25). God is sovereign. In his sovereignty God possesses complete authority over the universe (1 Sam 2:6-8; Ps 24:1, 10), is all-powerful (Job 42:2; Ps 115:3), ever-present (Ps 139:7; Jer 23:23), and all-knowing (Ps 33:13-15; Isa 46:9-11). God is perfectly holy (Ex 15:11; Lev 11:44-45). In his holiness he is perfectly truthful and righteous (Num 23:19; Job 4:17), and is totally free from sin (Deut 32:4; 1 Jn 1:5).   God is gracious.  He is gracious in all wisdom and insight according to his purposes (Eph 1:7-9).

If the above attributes told the whole story of what God is like, we might come to the same conclusion as the deists that God is distant and aloof. But the God of the Bible deeply loves the world and is greatly involved in its affairs. As we consider those attributes of God which relate to his love for and nearness to the world, we begin to see the mystery of how truly gracious he is.

Though transcendent, God is also immanent. He dwells close to those he loves (Ex 29:45-46; Isa 57:15), knows people intimately (Ps 139:1-6; Mt 10:30), is concerned about peoples’ needs (Ps 33:13-15; Mt 6:25-30), and desires personal, intimate fellowship with humans (Ex 29:45-46; Acts 17:27). Though eternal, God is also personal. He thinks and knows (1 Sam 2:3; 1 Jn 3:20), formulates and carries out plans (Isa 14:26; Acts 2:23), feels emotion (Gen 6:6; Ex 20:5), and responds to the human requests (Ex 3:7; Phil 4:6). Though sovereign, God is also just and kind. He judges impartially (Deut 10:17; Mt 5:45), is upright in all he does (Deut 32:4; Ps 33:5), and provides for all of humanity’s needs (Ps 23-5-6; Phil 4:19). Though holy, God is also loving, compassionate and merciful. He forgives sin (Neh 9:31; Ps 103:11, 12), upholds the cause of the oppressed (Ps 140:12; Lk 18:7, 8), and treats humans better than they deserve (Ex 4:6, 7; Ps 103:8-10).

B.  The Trinity
God is one in nature, meaning that he is a unity. There are not many or even several Gods; there is only one God (Deut 6:4; Isa 44:6). Though one in nature, God exists as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19; Jn 14:11-17). The three persons of the godhead live in a communion with one another which is characterized by mutual love (Jn 3:35; 5:20), mutual honoring (Jn 5:22-23; 7:16-18), sharing of authority and power (Jn 5:20-22; 17:1-2), and unity of purpose (Jn 5:19-20; 15:26).  All three persons of the Godhead share in graciousness (Heb 10:29, John 1:14, James 1:17)

C.  Works of God

1.  Creation
God is the Creator of all things (Gen 1:1; Neh 9:6; Col 1:16). God created the universe so that created beings might praise and glorify him (Rom 1:20; Acts 17:24-27). God also created the heavens and earth for the welfare and enjoyment of humankind (Gen 1:26-30; 9:1-3; Ps 8:8), and created humanity for fellowship with himself (Gen 3:8-10; 18:17-33). God’s Creation is good (Gen 1:31; 1 Tim 4:4), although it is polluted by the effects of sin (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 8:19-22). Creation is an expression of God’s generous and gracious nature.

2.  Providence
All of Creation is under God’s gracious providence. In his providence, God gives, empowers, and preserves all life (Ps 41:1-2; Acts 17:28), and controls the universe (Job 12:10; Ps 50:9-12). In his providence, God provides for all the needs of those who trust him (Ps 23:5-6; Phil 4:19), and limits and directs evil in such a way as to accomplish his good purposes and to bless those who love him (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28).

3.  Angels, Demons and Satan
With God in heaven live angels, whom God has created (2 Chron 18:18; Ps 148:2). There are good (obedient) angels (Ps 103:20; Mt 6:10), and bad (disobedient) ones (2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6), which are Satan and his demons (2 Cor 11:13-15; Rev 12:7-9). Good angels serve and worship God (Ps 103:21, Isa 6:1-3), and guide, protect, and serve believers (Lk 1:26-38; Acts 8:26; Ps 34:7). Unlike good angels, Satan and his demons work to harm and deceive humans (1 Sam 16:14; Mk 5:5; 2 Cor 11:13). Although Satan and his demons are powerful, God is sovereign over them, and graciously works through his angels to resist them and to protect believers from them (Ps 34:7; Ps 91:9; Mk 1:32).

III.  Humanity: The Recipients of God’s Grace
God has graciously created the universe and everything in it and now graciously sustains and protects his Creation. While God cares about all of his Creation, the part of Creation he loves most is humanity. As we consider the nature and purpose of human persons, we see God’s incredible grace at work in and through humanity.

A.  Makeup of Human Nature
God has created human beings in his own image (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1). This means, among other things, that humans are moral (Gen 3:1-5; Deut 30:1-20), have free will (Gen 2:16; 1 Cor 7:37), are rational (Lk 24:45; Rom 12:2), emotional (Job 30:25; Isa 61:10), and relational (Gen 2:18-25; Rom 12:9, 10). Human beings, like God, are also spiritual (Acts 7:59; Heb 4:12), having an eternal soul (Mt 10:28; Rev 20:4). Being created in God’s image, humankind has great inherent value (Mt 6:26-30; 12:11, 12), and is loved by God (Deut 4:37; Jn 3:16).  Through Christ we not only receive grace, but are participants in giving grace (2 Cor 1:15).

Though created in God’s image, humans are inferior to God (Job 15:14; Ps 144:3, 4), are accountable to him (Ezek 18:20, 30; Mt 12:36), and are totally dependent on him (Ps 16:2; Jer 10:23). Unlike their Creator, humans have physical, limited bodies which are subject to deterioration and death (Gen 6:3; Mt 10:28).

Despite having been created in God’s image, human beings have fallen from their original, ideal state (Gen 3). Because of the Fall humans are now sinful by nature (Job 15:14-16; Ps 51:5-7), meaning, among other things, that our wills are inclined to evil (Gen 6:5; Eccles 7:20), our minds darkened by ignorance of God (Eccles 3:11; 1 Cor 3:18-20), and our souls fundamentally alienated from God (Ps 66:18; Eph 2:1-12). Because of the Fall human minds and bodies are now frail, weak, and finite (Gen 6:3; Ps 39:4-6, 90:3-10).

B.  Purpose of Humanity
God has created human beings to know and enjoy him (Rm 11:36; Col 1:16). Humans exist to praise and glorify their gracious and powerful Creator (Isa 43:7; Eph 11:12). They also exist to be loved by God (Jer 31:3; Jn 3:16), to love him in return (Deut 6:3; Mt 22:37), and to love others for his sake (Mt 22:39; 1 Cor 13:1-13). God has created humans to serve him (Gen 2:15-17), to be the stewards of his earth (Gen 1:26-30), and to enjoy friendship and fellowship with him (Gen 3:8-11, 4:3-7).

IV.  Sin: The Need for God’s Saving Grace
Although God has graciously created humanity for the purpose of knowing and enjoying fellowship with himself, humanity chooses to reject and rebel against God. Such rejection and rebellion is called sin. As we consider the nature, effects, and extent of sin, we see that sin is the reason human beings stand in need of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ.

A.  Nature of Sin
“A sin” is an act of disobedience against God’s will. For example, Adam and Eve sinned against God by disobeying his command not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16, 17, 3:2-6). Inasmuch as sin is disobedience, it is an act of the will (Deut 1:26; Isa 48:4, 8). Both intentional and unintentional disobedience is considered sinful by God (Lev 5:14-15; Ezek 45:20).

“Sin” may also refer to humanity’s sinful condition, or nature. For example, when the psalmist laments, “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5), he is saying that he is, by nature, morally inclined to evil. A sinful nature in humans is what produces sinful acts. Inasmuch as sin is a fundamental condition of persons, it is an attitude of the heart (Jer 17:9; Mt 5:17-19).

Sin (both the nature and the acts) contradicts all that is God (Lev 19:2; Mt 5:48). Sin is rejection of and rebellion against God (Num 14:9; Lk 10:16), and is a deep and profound offense to him (Gen 6:5, 6; Rom 1:18) and is corrosive to our relationship with him.

B.  Effects of Sin
The effects of humanity’s sin are devastating. Sin alienates people from God (Rom 8:7; Eph 2:1-5, 12), and brings God’s wrath and condemnation against sinners (Ex 32:9, 10; Jn 3:36). Among people, sin leads to hatred, rage, and murder (Gen 4:5-8; Eph 4:31), to injustice and innocent suffering (Ps 10:2; Eccles 4:1), and to tempting others to sin (1 Kings 21:25; Prov 16:29). Within individuals, sin leads to enslavement to evil (Jn 8:34-36; Rom 7:14-20), moral and spiritual blindness (Prov 4:19; Rom 1:21-23), and personal distress and anxiety (Job 15:20-26; Isa 57:20, 21). Within Creation, Sin results in pollution and destruction (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 8:19-22).

C.  Nature and Extent of Original Sin
Through Adam and Eve’s first act of sin, sin entered the human race forever (Rom 5:12). Every person since Adam and Eve has been born with a sinful nature (Isa 64:6; Rom 3:19; 5:12). This means that every person is thoroughly corrupted by sin (depraved); we are naturally and profoundly prone to evil desires and evil deeds (Ps 14:2; Jn 3:19; Rom 13:23). Sinful humanity is enslaved to sin; it cannot stop sinning, even when it wants to (Jn 8:34-36; Rom 7:14-20). All (unrepentant) human beings stand guilty before God because of their sin (Isa 64:6; Rom 3:19-23). Those persons who refuse to repent of their sin and turn to God in faith will be eternally separated from God (Dan 12:2; Jn 3:18).

V.  Scripture: The Revelation of God’s Grace
The Holy Scriptures, or the Bible, tell the story of God and his interactions with his creation. Through the Holy Scriptures, God graciously reveals to humanity his own character, will, and ways, so that humanity might return to him and be reconciled to him.

A.   Revelation
Through Scripture, God graciously reveals himself to humanity. As in no other collection of sacred writings, God communicates, through the Bible, his character, ways, and will. God’s revelation recorded in Scripture has come to humans through many means, including angels (Dan 4:13; Lk 1:11), historical events (Ps 105:1-45; Acts 7:2-53), dreams and visions (Gen 15:1; Mt 1:20), miracles (Ex 4:2-9; Jn 2:11), spoken words from God (1 Sam 3:2-6; Acts 9:3-6) and the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1, 14-18; Heb 1:1-3). The reason God has chosen to reveal himself in these and other ways is so that humans might know, fear, trust, and obey him, and thus enjoy restored fellowship with him through his grace (Deut 11:22-28; 1 Tim 3:15-17).

B.  Inspiration
Everything written in the Bible has been inspired by the Spirit of God (2 Sam 23:1-3; Jn 16:12-15; 2 Tim 3:16). This means that the Holy Spirit has instigated and superintended the writing of Scripture in such a way that the human authors of Scripture have written what God intended them to write (Ps 18:30; 1 Pet 1:23-25). To say that the Bible is inspired of God is to assert that God, speaking through humans, has authored the writings of Scripture (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Pet 1:20).

C.  Illumination
Though God reveals himself through the Scriptures, this revelation cannot be understood by unaided human minds, which are blinded by sin (Rm 8:5-7; 1 Cor 1:18-25). In order for a person to be able to understand the meaning of God’s revelation in the Bible, the Holy Spirit must grant him or her understanding (1 Cor 2:11-16). Through illumination, God’s Holy Spirit graciously enlightens human minds concerning the meaning of Scripture.

D.  Authority
As God’s special and trustworthy self-revelation, the Bible is authoritative for human belief and conduct. What the Bible teaches us to believe about God, humanity, and the world, we ought to believe, and what the Bible teaches us to do as followers of Jesus we ought to do. God’s revelation in Scripture is given for our salvation and sanctification (Jn 20:31; Rm 1:16; Col 3:16)—therefore, the Church should use it for admonishment, encouragement, discipline, guidance, teaching, and worship (1 Cor 10:11; 2 Tim 3:16, 17; Rm 15:4).

E.  Inerrancy
God’s revelation in Scripture is trustworthy and authoritative. God’s words are the ultimate standard of truth (John 17:17).  God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam 7:28; Titus 1:2; Heb 6:8).  All the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error (Numb 23:19; Ps 12:6; 119:89, 96; Prov 30:5; Mt 24:35).  The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact, the Bible always tells the truth.

Jesus Christ: The Full Expression of God’s Grace
As noted earlier, because of sin, sinful humanity is alienated from God and is powerless to make itself right with God again. But God, in his infinite mercy, has come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to reconcile sinful humanity to himself. In the person and work of God the Son, we see the fullest expression of God’s amazing grace.

F. Humanity of Jesus Christ
During his earthly existence, Jesus Christ was fully human in nature. He was born of a human mother (Lk 2:6, 7), and died a physical death (Jn 19:30). Jesus had a physical nature (Lk 2:4-7, 21; Jn 1:14), an emotional nature (Mk 3:5; Jn 11:33-35), an intellectual nature (Lk 2:46, 47, 52), and a moral nature (Lk 4:1-13; Jn 4:34). He was subject to all the joys, sorrows, triumphs, and trials common to humanity. For example, he celebrated and mourned (Jn 2:1-10, 11:33-35, hungered and ate (Mt 4:2; Lk 24:42, 43), grew weary and rested (Mk 4:38), felt anger and compassion (Mk 3:5; Mt 9:36), and experienced temptation and physical pain (Mt 26:67; Lk 4:1-13).

G.  Deity of Jesus Christ
Before, during, and after his earthly existence, Jesus was and continues to be fully divine in nature. He has always existed as part of the triune godhead (Jn 8:58), and was involved with the Father and Holy Spirit in the creation of the world (Jn 1:1-3). As such, Jesus shares all authority, power, wisdom, glory, etc. with God the Father (Mt 28:18; Jn 3:35, 5:22, 8:58, 17:2). Jesus’ divinity is clearly expressed in the fact that he lived a sinless life, a life of perfect obedience to God the Father, despite being tempted to sin (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15).

H.  The Atonement
All of humanity stands alienated from God because of its sin. Because God is perfectly holy and just, and humanity thoroughly corrupted by sin, a great barrier exists between God and humanity (Isa 59:2; Hab 1:13). This barrier arises out of the fact that a holy and just God is deeply offended by sin (Gen 6:5, 6; Rm 1:18) and must, in the interest of justice, give sinners the due penalty for their sin, which is death (Rm 6:23). Compounding the problem of this sin-barrier is the fact that humanity is powerless to completely turn from its sin (Rm 7:14-24), to cleanse itself of its sin (Pr 20:9), or to justify itself before God through its good works (Rom 3:20).

God, in his grace, has provided a wonderful and gracious solution to the sin-barrier in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Through his sinless life and death on the cross, Jesus has paid the penalty for humanity’s sin, thus effecting atonement between God and humanity (Mt 26:28; 1 Pet 2:24). Among other things, Jesus’ atoning death accomplishes satisfaction of God’s justice (Rm 3:23; Gal 3:11-13), deliverance from God’s wrath (Rm 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10), redemption from enslavement to sin and Satan (Jn 8:34-36; Eph 1:7), reconciliation between God and humans (2 Cor 5:18, 19; Col 1:19-22), justification of sinners (Rom 4:25, 5:18), adoption into God’s family (Rm 8:15-17; Eph 1:4, 5), and victory over the power of Satan (Col 2:13-15; Heb 2:14). To put it simply, Jesus’ death removes the guilt, impurity, and condemnation of sin for those who believe on him, so that believers might enjoy restored fellowship with God and live righteous lives (Isa 53:10; Heb 1:3; Rm 8:1).  Through Christ’s atonement we are adopted into God’s family and stand as co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:15-17).

VI.  Holy Spirit: The Mediator of God’s Grace
God the Son is the full expression of God’s grace. But even though God’s grace expressed in Jesus is truly amazing, sinful humans cannot, without God’s help, comprehend or receive this grace. It is only through the mediating work of God the Holy Spirit that sinful humans can come to believe and receive the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

A.  Person of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune godhead. Like God the Father and God the Son, God the Spirit is a distinct person (Jn 14:16, 15:26) who is fully divine (Gen 1:2; Ps 139:7) and who has personal qualities (Isa 11:2; Eph 4:30; Jn 16:8-11). Like the Father, the Holy Spirit is an invisible being lacking a physical body and human spatial-temporal limitations (Isa 40:28; Ps 102:25). But though invisible, the Spirit is an active and powerful force on earth (Judg 14:6; Lk 1:35).

B.  Work of the Holy Spirit
The works of the Holy Spirit are many and varied. The Spirit assisted in the creation of the world (Gen 1:2), and is now active in the world bearing testimony concerning Jesus (Jn 15:26), convicting people of sin and righteousness (Jn 16:7-11), and restraining evil (2 Thess 2:7). The Holy Spirit communicates the gospel to human hearts and persuades those hearts to believe the gospel (Jn 16:7-11, 13-15). In this way, the Holy Spirit acts as a mediator of God’s grace to humanity. He mediates grace by converting (Acts 10:44-46) empowering (1 Cor 2:4), directing (Acts 13:2-4), encouraging (Acts 9:31), uniting (Rm 6:1-7), and sanctifying (Rom 15:16) believers. The Holy Spirit also produces “spiritual fruit” in believers (Gal 5:22), and bestows upon them spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11).

C.  Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit graciously bestows upon believers abilities for ministry, known as “spiritual gifts.” Many of these gifts are mentioned in Scripture (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:7-10, 28-30). The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts for the purposes of equipping believers for service (Eph 4:11, 12), of building up the Church (1 Cor 12:7), and of winning unbelievers to Christ (Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 14:22-25). As wonderful and impressive as spiritual gifts may be, they should only be seen as means to love and serve God and others (1 Cor 13:1-13).

VII.  Salvation: The Fruit of God’s Grace
The Holy Spirit enables sinful humans to believe the message of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Jesus are thus saved from the power and condemnation of their sin. In the outworking of salvation in human lives, we see the fruits of God’s saving and sanctifying grace.

A.  Union with Christ
Those who place their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ are united with Christ (Phil 2:1). This is a spiritual union, a close fellowship of spirits wherein the believer imitates Jesus (I Pet 2:21), obeys him (Jn 14:15), shares in his sufferings and triumphs (Rom 8:17), and is inwardly conformed to his likeness (Rom 8:29). This process of being united with Christ is progressive and can only occur through submission to the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:5-9; Gal 5:16).  Through Christ we are new creations (2 Cor 5:17) and have a new standing in God’s family (Rom 8:17).

B.  Grace
Salvation in Jesus Christ comes only by God’s grace, through faith (Eph 2:8). This means that the person who trusts in the saving work of Jesus, and who commits herself to follow him, is saved from the penalty and power of her sin and reconciled to God (Jn 8:34-36; Eph 1:7; 2 Cor 5:18, 19). This salvation is in no way earned; God gives it freely to the one who believes (Eph 2:8, 9). In his grace, God imputes to the believer a righteousness that is not of her own doing or making (Rom 3:22-24). Saving grace, then, is God’s gracious and free act of bestowing salvation on those who do not deserve it and cannot earn it.

C.  Faith and Repentance
Salvation in Christ comes through faith, and not through good works. Saving faith has both a divine side and a human side. Any experience of saving faith among humans is a work of God, because God is the source of all faith (Eph 2:8; 2 Thess 2:13). From a human standpoint, saving faith requires an act of human will—a choice to trust Jesus and a commitment to follow him (Jn 8:12; Rom 10:9). Saving faith also necessarily involves repentance (Lk 13:3-5; 2 Cor 7:10), which is an inward turning away from sin, and a turning toward trust in and obedience to God (Lk 19:8, 9; Acts 19:17, 18).

D.  Regeneration
Sinful humanity is so thoroughly corrupted and controlled by its sin that it cannot turn away from that sin and turn to God, and thus be saved through His grace. What is necessary for salvation to occur is regeneration, a dramatic change of heart in the sinner (Jn 3:3; 2 Cor 5:17). God is the gracious initiator of such regeneration (Jn 1:13, 3:5-8); his regenerative initiative leads to saving faith and repentance (Eph 2:4, 5; 1 Jn 2:29). The effects of regeneration continue after salvation as the regenerate person lives in the Spirit and is led by the Spirit (Rom 8:4-14).  It is God who initiates regeneration in us (John 6:44; 6:65).

E.  Justification
An important aspect of salvation is justification. Justification means God’s free and gracious act of declaring guilty persons righteous, on account of their faith in Jesus (Rom 4:16; 5:1), and on account of Jesus’ moral perfection and redemptive substitutionary death on the cross (Rom 3:23-26, 4:5-8, 5:18). As with all aspects of salvation, justification is a free and gracious gift from God to sinners, which cannot come through any human effort or works, but can come only through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

F.  Sanctification
Sanctification is the progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our lives. Sanctification touches all aspects of the person (2 Cor 3:18; Gal 5:22). It begins at conversion and continues throughout the life of the believer (2 Cor 3:18; Phil 3:12). Sanctification is not a human work; it is a gracious work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Gal 3:2-5; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Thess 5:23). However, believers may facilitate their own sanctification through pursuit of God’s holiness (Mt 5:6, 8; 1 Cor 9:24-27), resistance to Satan and temptation (Rom 12:21; 1 Jn 2:13), and obedience to the Spirit (Gal 5:16-25).  Sanctification will not be completed in this life (Ecc 7:20; 1 Kings 8:46; Pro 20:9).

G.  Glorification
At Christ’s Second Coming, all believers in Christ (both dead and living) will receive from God “glorified” bodies (2 Cor 5:1-5; Phil 3:20, 21). In their glorification, believers will attain the perfection for which they were created—they will become immortal (1 Cor 15:54), morally pure (Phil 3:20, 21), and will be freed from all of the sufferings and evils of earthly life (Isa 60:9). Glorified persons will also enjoy intimate fellowship with God and Christ forever (Rev 19:6-9), and will experience eternal joy, peace, and rest (Ps 16:11; Isa 35:10).

VIII.  The Church: The Ambassador of God’s Grace
God’s Church is comprised of those who have been saved and are being sanctified by God’s grace. Central to the nature, mission, functions, and ordinances of the Church is its fundamental call by God to be an ambassador of his grace to the world.

A.  Nature, Mission and Function
Five statements summarize the nature of the Church. One, the Church is one: it is one body of believers, regardless of differences among denominations, congregations, and individuals (Jn 10:16, 17:20-26; Eph 4:4-6). Two, the Church is holy: it is called to be separated from what is profane and to be dedicated to the service of God (2 Thess 2:13; Col 3:12). Three, the Church is universal: wherever sincere believers gather in Jesus’ name to worship and serve their Lord, there the Church is (Mt 18:20). Four, the Church is apostolic: it is built on the foundation of the words and work of Jesus Christ, and upon the testimony of God’s prophets and apostles, as found in Holy Scripture (Eph 2:20). Five, the Church is God’s: Jesus is the head of the Church, and the Church’s one foundation is the grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3: 10, 11; Eph 1:22, 23, 2:22).

The mission of the Church is summarized by Jesus in his Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). The primary reason the Church exists is to help people become disciples of Jesus (Mt 28:19). To be a disciple is to be a fully devoted follower. Discipleship is a process which includes communicating the gospel message of God’s grace to all peoples (Mt 28:19), baptizing converts into the name of the Triune God (Mt 28:19), and instructing believers in Jesus in the way of faith and obedience to God (Mt 28:20). Important functions of the Church which support this mission include worshiping (Acts 2:46, 47), preaching (Acts 5:42), teaching (Acts 11:26), discipling (Acts 14:21, 22), and serving (Eph 4:11, 12).

B.  Officers of the Church
A church officer is someone who has been publicly recognized as having the right and responsibility to perform certain functions on behalf of and for the benefit of the whole church.  This would include the pastor, deacons and elders (with titles varying from church to church).

In his epistles, the Apostle Paul mentions various types of officers within the New Testament Church (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:28). What seems most important about a biblical view of church leadership are the following: (1) The Church needs leaders to guide, correct, encourage, and care for it (Acts 13:1; Eph 4:11, 12), (2) Some people are gifted by the Spirit for leadership roles, while others are not (1 Cor 12:28-30), (3) In addition to being appropriately gifted, leaders must also be spiritually mature (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9), and (4) Leaders are called, first and foremost, to be servants of others (Mt 20:26-28).

C.  Ordinances of the Church
There are two ordinances of the Church instituted by Jesus: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Mt 26:26-29, 28:19). Baptism symbolizes the graces of repentance and forgiveness (Acts 2:38), and personal identification with Christ (Rom 6:3-8). Baptism is best administered to those who give a believable profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  The Greek word baptizo means to plunge, dip, immerse something in water. People were baptized by John in the river Jordan (Mark 1:5) and Jesus came up out of the water (Mk 1:10). When Philip had shared the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36) clearly neither of them thought that sprinkling or pouring water from a drinking container was adequate. The both went down into the water (Acts 8:38-39) and not just near the water. Further, there is deep symbolism of union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection through baptism by immersion (Rm 6:3-4; Col 2:12).

My view on baptism is that baptism is important, but it does not confer salvation.  Devoted Christians have found themselves in both the infant and confessing baptism camps, and they were clearly all Christians, and were all reading the same Bible.  I do strongly prefer a believer’s baptism, and for that reason we did not baptize our infant son.  I think we are to honor Christ and follow in his example.  In my studies I found it clear in the examples cited in Scripture that the primary mode of baptism (nearly exclusive) is a confessional baptism, but I'll allow that there is room for infant baptism (examples of whole households being baptized within Scripture), and there are further arguments for the covenant relationship related to baptizing infant.  I think this is a subject worthy of study, but not one worth causing heated division within the body of believers.  But so I'm clear, I am baptistic in my convictions on this matter.

The Lord’s Supper symbolizes the new covenant of forgiveness and salvation Jesus Christ has made with all who trust in him (Mt 26:26-28). To partake of the Lord’s Supper is to express thanksgiving for, identification with, and dependence on the gracious atoning death of Jesus (1 Cor 10:16; 11:26). The Lord’s Supper should be offered to all who believe on Jesus Christ; however, only those who believe on Jesus and are penitent of their sins should participate in this ordinance (1 Cor 10: 21, 22, and 11:27-29).

IX.  The Last Things: The Perfection of God’s Grace
In his infinite wisdom and goodness, God has appointed a time when he will bring our fallen and suffering world to a close. At that time, the perfection of God’s grace will be seen in his victory over Satan and in his salvation of those who trust God.

A.  Death
It is the inescapable destiny of every human being to die (Heb 9:27). The timing of each person’s death is in God’s hands (Deut 32:39). Death is a separation from earthly existence (1 Tim 6:7), in which a person’s physical body dies and decays, while his or her spirit (soul) lives on (Eccles 12:7).

B.  The Second Coming
Jesus Christ will one day return to earth. At Christ’s Second Coming all believers will receive glorified bodies and through God’s grace will enter their eternal rest in heaven (Phil 3:20). At his Second Coming Jesus will gather all believers to himself (Mt 24:31), will destroy evil forever (Rev 19:19-21), and will judge every soul according to the life it has lived on earth (Mt 16:27).

C.  Resurrection
At Christ’s Second Coming there will be a universal resurrection of the dead (Jn 5:28, 29). In this resurrection, all souls (both resurrected and raptured) will receive new bodies (Phil 3:20), and will be brought before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for how they have lived their lives (Rev 20:12-15). Those persons who have lived righteous lives through grace in Christ will be rewarded with eternal life with God in heaven (Mt 25:31, 34), while those persons who have lived unrighteous lives apart from Christ will be punished with eternal separation from God in hell (Mt 13:41, 42).

D.  Millennial and Tribulational Views
I am not completely convinced and convicted to fall into one category concerning the order of events of the Second Coming, and for several reasons. Partially because I am not as well informed as to the pros and cons of the various positions as I hope to eventually be. Additionally, the biblical passages which speak of events surrounding the Second Coming appear highly metaphorical and are notoriously difficult to interpret. Third, Jesus himself says that no one knows when it is that he will return (Mk 14:31-35; Mt 24:36-44). What matters most about the Second Coming is that it is the time of God’s Final Judgment, a time for which every person should prepare him or herself (Mt 16:27; Rev 20:12-15).  If forced to pick a position I would call myself a historic premillennialist (Rev 20:1-6).

E.  Eternal States
Following the Final Judgment, all souls will be taken by God to their final reward, or eternal state where Christ will be our judge (2 Tim 4:1). The eternal state of those who have lived righteous lives through grace is eternal life with God in heaven (Mt 25:31, 34), a place of joy, peace, and rest (Ps 16:11; Isa 35:10). Those persons who have lived unrighteous lives will be eternally separated from God in hell (Mt 13:41, 42; Rev 20:11-15), a place of torment, anguish, and regret (Mt 8:12; Lk 16:19-28; Rev 14:9-11). Although God will certainly send to hell those who have lived wickedly, we can be assured he will judge every soul justly according to the light it has been given (1 Pt 1:17; Lk 12:48; Jn 9:41, 15:22).  Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked (Mt 25:41, 46; Lk 16:22-24, 28; Rev 14:9-11).

My faith story

I spent the first portion of my life knowing there was a God, without having much knowledge about that God, or having a personal relationship with that God. I always knew that Jesus was something that should be important to me; I just did not understand that it was of greatest importance. I had been living what I thought was a good moral life, and thought that paired with my years in church and Sunday school had me covered.

The theme of my faith journey is that God works in unexpected ways, and one of the ways in which he was working in my life was I was placed with a strong Christian as my roommate in college my freshman year. Through him and some of our close friends, I began to understand that I did not have the relationship with Jesus that I needed to have. Their faith and support brought me into a relationship with Jesus and fostered in me an interest that has not since been quelled. I began to ask questions of them. I dusted off my Bible and began to read. For the first time in my life I was excited to learn about the Bible and Jesus Christ. I went on my first mission trip just a month after coming to Christ, and followed this with a month long missions trip to the same location in Mexico the following school year.

I spent the next six years learning and growing in faith. Early on in those years I was not as focused on my faith as I wish I have been, but I was going to church regularly, and usually was part of a Bible study or small group, though I wasn’t serving with any regularity. When I moved to Mitchell, S.D., and began to attend Northridge Baptist Church, I entered into a period of fantastic growth in my personal faith. I was challenged by the teaching in sermons. I joined the praise and worship team, something I would never have imagined previously (my parents didn’t believe it until they saw me sing). I joined a Men’s Bible study that taught me volumes on being a Christian, friend, and leader of a family.  I was also a member of a small group Bible study while at Northridge. I could not find enough time in the day to learn and grow in my personal faith. It was during this period that I began to listen to God's call on my life towards ministry. I also worked with the High School youth group for a couple of years while at Northridge Baptist, filling in in-between youth pastors. This gave me my first real taste of teaching about and through the Bible.

I left Northridge Baptist and this season of ministry to enter full time into Seminary at Bethel Theological Seminary, Arden Hills, MN. I have completed a Master’s of Divinity in the Greek Track with a focus on Transformational Leadership. While in seminary I grew enormously spiritually. I was regularly challenged to re-evaluate what I believed, and forced to think through many areas of theology I had never approached before. It was a greatly challenging and enlightening time. Some who go to seminary find their enthusiasm for spiritual things waning by the conclusion of their education, but not me. My faith is far stronger, and deeper because of my experiences in seminary. 

Seminary was also a great training ground for ministry for me. I had the opportunity to be the teaching assistant for the Preaching department for 2.5 years (serving under Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church, Phil Print of Crossroads Church, and Dan Rotach), and then spent another year as the teaching assistant in the Transformational Leadership department (serving under Justin Irving). The leaders in these departments were greatly influential in my personal development. I also served on the Student Senate for three years, and was the President of the Student Senate for school year 2005-06.

Following completion of Seminary I began to serve at Crossroads Church and had again the wonderful opportunity to learn under some incredible men of God. Having served as the teaching assistant to Pastor Phil Print while I was in seminary gave me the opportunity to see the interworking of this large church first as an outsider, then as an insider. I had the opportunity to write study lessons and daily devotionals for some church wide projects. I continued to grow in faith and leadership as a small-group coach as well as a small group leader. I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the team that transitioned the church from being a church with small groups to a church of small groups. In May we had something like 150 members in small groups, and when we re-launched the following September we were just shy of 700! This was a great opportunity to see God’s blessing first hand.

We were “blessed” in March 2008 to be called to a small church in Southern, MN. I say that a bit tongue in cheek because coming out of seminary I knew that I wanted to be on staff at a multi-staff church in a large city and that I did not want to be a Senior Pastor, and my long term goal was to be an executive pastor. Thankfully God knows best, and indeed He blessed me with an opportunity to do everything I didn’t want to do – I’m a solo pastor in a small church in a small town that I had never heard of before applying for the position! And indeed God has blessed me and my family in mighty ways through this experience. I have experienced tremendous personal spiritual growth through my having to preach roughly 55 times a year the past 7+ years (that includes holidays, special services, weddings & funerals). Additionally, I’ve been leading & teaching (and team teaching) Jr. High and Sr. High youth groups and Bible studies for adults, so my time in the Word is greater than ever before! Thankfully God is God and I am not, He knows best.

I have recently had the joy of accepting a call to become senior pastor at Glory Baptist Church in Aitkin, MN (north of Lake Mille Lacs).  In 2016 we will be transitioning our ministry there and are thankful for God's continued provision, protection, empowerment, and blessing!

I continue to grow through personal study, study related to ministry, and through various church conferences. I regularly listen to other preachers’ sermons to allow them to feed me, teach me and challenge me. I read regularly to continue to add to my knowledge base. I also read from a wide range of blogs and online resources to keep current with trends in our churches and our culture. I practice personal devotions from the Bible, and am growing spiritually with my wife as well. I am still being formed, am not where I would like to be, but am amazed at where I have come from. God is indeed gracious.

If I were to sum my faith up in one sentence it would be:  I am a Christ follower who is seeking to serve God, hoping to bring Him glory, desiring to be used by God, and thankful God is great enough to use me in spite of me. 

My Bedrock Beliefs:
That Christ is my personal Lord and Savior and is the only solution to my sin problem.
That we need to honor God in everything we do.
That people matter to God.
The Bible is God’s Word.
That the local church is the hope of the world.
That the truths of Scripture should be communicated in meaningful and relevant ways.

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