1. How ought we to live? Our piety…
If being a Christian means following the teachings of Jesus Christ, then by definition there are practical implications and effects to our life and faith. How we “live” out our Christianity has been called many things throughout the history of the Church – our piety, our service, our lifestyle, our life commitment. Whatever one calls it, how we live our Christian faith is informed by many things including our parents, our culture, our Church. One of the goals of Sunrise Church is to identify from the Bible how we ought to shape our lives. How much of the modern Christian in North America is Biblical Christianity and how much has been passed to us by our families or our culture?
Some of the issues of lifestyle and piety that are important to us as Reformed Christians are:
Loving God: We believe that God has called all people to love him. Not merely as an emotion but as a commitment and an expression of faith. As Christians we believe God exists as the sovereign and supreme being. If God exists as revealed in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, then he is worthy of our love, our commitment, our devotion. Each person is called to love God with all of their being.
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5)
Loving Others: (Benevolence, love and Biblical justice): God has been gracious to us through his forgiveness, mercy and provision. He loved and protected us when we did not deserve it. In light of his love toward us, we are called to extend similar love, mercy and justice to those around us… even when they don’t deserve it.
“…love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18)
Following Jesus: (The Lordship of Christ): If Jesus, indeed, died on the cross, as the atonement for our sin, then such an act of immense love and grace demands a sincere response. The only worthy response to Jesus as our “Savior” is to submit to Jesus as our “Lord.” This means that Jesus’ demands on his disciples become an expectation for us to which we willing submit. Jesus has the right to rule over our priorities, opinions and desires. We willfully embrace Christ and His people.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
Worshipping God: We believe that God has called all people to worship him. Worship happens on the Lord’s Day (Sunday, the first day of the week when Jesus arose from the grave) but it is also intended to be a daily way of life. Reformed Christians believe that “all of life is religion.” Thus, worship is not something that only happens for one hour on Sunday, or only in a church sanctuary, but rather everything we do, we should do to the glory of God. Therefore, worship at Sunrise Church is not about a “polished performance.” Rather our corporate worship is intended to be an expression of the diverse gifts God has give us and the diverse cultures from whence he has called us. We believe that worship should be both culturally relevant (contemporary) and historically honoring (traditional). Most of all, we believe that our worship to God should be focused on him, not upon ourselves nor our preferences. Worship is about God, not us.
Sin, Salvation, Service: A summary of mankind’s journey from our condition of brokenness, to salvation through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, and our goal of offering our lives in service to God out of a heart of gratitude.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
Covenant Community: The call of believers to live in the covenant with God is also a call to live in community with fellow believers. If believers are made one with God through Jesus, then we are also made one with one another, thus called to love, forgive, and serve one another. As members of God’s covenant we have a “vertical” relationship with God, but also a “horizontal” relationship with other Christians.
Responsible Christian Freedom: Since “all of life is religion,” then we believe that how we live our lives on a daily basis matters. Since God won us by his grace, we chose to walk by grace and live in grace, not according to the laws or rules of humans. Christians do not have to try to be “holy.” Christian ARE holy because Christ’s work on the cross made us so. Thus, we do not stress “rules” in our covenant community. We do, however, urge each Christian to live out the holiness that God has given to them with responsible freedom. We are made holy, called to glorify God, and empowered to be a witness to the world. Each of us is called to wrestle with what that means and how best to glorify God in the culture where he has placed us, responsibly seeking the good of those around us.
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:20-23)
How does a “Reformed” Christian view God, Creation and Humanity?
2. How ought we think about God? Our theology…
Some theological and Biblical themes that are important to us as Christians are:
We Hold a “High” view of God: We acknowledge and stress God’s kingship. We affirm He is at the center of creation and acknowledge His absolute sovereignty. We desire to have a “high” view of God and His gracious control of all things. Reformed Christians believe in and rely upon the Sovereignty of God, his sovereign grace for the salvation of believers and his daily guidance.
We believe the bible was written by human beings inspired by the Holy Spirit. We believe in the authority of the Old and New Testaments as our only rule for life and faith. Therefore, as Reformed Christians we focus on culturally relevant preaching, exposing and explaining the scriptures, so as to convict, admonish, and encourage believers in their daily lives and service.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
The Fallenness of Humanity: Mankind is imperfect and has broken relationship with God through our rebellion. No human being is perfect. We all need to be reconciled to God, but because we are imperfect, we are incapable of reconciliation by our works or intentions alone. We need God to overcome our sin and brokenness. If we are to become holy, as he is holy, we need his help. Apart from God’s grace and power humanity is incapable of finding our way to him.
“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-23)
Jesus as “Son” and His work on the cross: Reformed Christians believe that Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead is the essential work of salvation on behalf of those who will believe. We believe that Christians appropriate this atoning work by grace through faith alone. It is our faith in Jesus’ work on the cross that sets us free from our sins and makes us a “new creation” in Jesus Christ. Not only did the work of Jesus on the cross overcome the effects of sin in the lives of those who believe, but through Jesus’ work on the cross, God reconciled to himself, all things! The cross of Jesus is for our personal salvation. It is also larger than our personal salvation. Through Christ work on the cross, all of creation will be renewed.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
Salvation by Grace through Faith:
Reformed Christians believe that there is nothing that human beings can do to “deserve” salvation from God’s just punishment for our sin. Our salvation comes to us by grace, God’s unmerited favor, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
We are held by God: Reformed Christians understand that it was God who called us, convicts us, redeems us, and empowers us. We also believe that God will be faithful to hold us fast in our belief. Just as he initiated a relationship with us, he will be faithful to hold on to us… even when we fail to be faithful to him. Our salvation is about his faithfulness, not ours!
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
The work and person of the Holy Spirit: God’s sovereign grace is applied to the believer by the work of the Holy Spirit. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God convicts us of our brokenness, gives us faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, gives us the fruit of the Spirit for Christian character and holiness, and empowers us with spiritual gifts to encourage and build up other Christians and proclaim the good news of Jesus to unbelievers. If Christians are ever to accomplish anything of lasting and eternal value it must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Apart from Christ and his Spirit we can accomplish nothing of eternal value.
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:14-18)
God’s Kingdom: God created all things, has redeemed all things through the work of Jesus Christ, and through Christ, God proclaims his Lordship over every square inch of creation. When Jesus came the first time he established his kingdom. When Christ returns again, he will consummate his Kingdom. We have a broad understanding of kingdom life and service. We believe that all areas of life come under the Lordship of Jesus. We believe Christians are called to participate in the building of His kingdom through the gifts and power of his Spirit actively proclaiming Jesus’ Lordship.
The Church: The Church is more than a building. Reformed Christians believe that the Church is the agent of the Kingdom of God in the world. God brings his Kingdom through empowering his people for service by the Holy Spirit. We believe that there is only one Church, that is Jesus’ Church. We see Sunrise as part of the one universal (catholic with a small “c”…) Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is bigger than any denomination, defined as those chosen by God and filled with the Holy Spirit, and it spans the centuries, as well as the oceans.
The priesthood of all believers: Reformed Christians hold that there is no one position in the church that is more important or more “spiritual” than another. Every believer has the authority and ability to come directly to God, without the mediation of any other human being. Christ is our great high priest.
A Reformed World and Life view: Reformed Christians believe that we have been given a cultural mandate by God. That means we are to take Christ to our culture. Since God has reconciled all things to himself through Christ’s work on the cross, he is thereby, redeeming our culture. God redeems culture by equipping and empowering his servants to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every sphere of influence in our culture (education, agriculture, business, government, the environment, family, medicine, legal system, the arts, entertainment, science and technology). God is redeeming and making all things new. He accomplishes this by inviting us to join him in what he is doing.