Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Living within God’s New Paradigm of Faith’
© April 27, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #668
(The New Life – Colossians 3); r of Prayer)) Prayer
Opening Hymn: #1 Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
Scripture Verses:Genesis 2:5-7, Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:22-33
Let us pray…
Before the time of Christ, because of sin, and in order to worship God, people practiced a religion filled with good works, sacrifices to God for transgressions and communicating to God through such intermediaries as holy prophets or priests. Worship involved performing visible, tangible actions to honour God.
Through Jesus, God reveals His New Paradigm for His relationship with His people. Let us review the definition and usage of paradigm, let us consult dictionary.com:
par·a·digm /ˈpærəˌdaɪm, -dɪm/ Show Spelled [par-uh-dahym, -dim] noun
framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community.
such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group: the company’s business paradigm.
To better understand paradigm, let us use some visual aids found in today’s bulletin. In the middle of the first page, just below the Order of Service are scrabble letters arranged to make the words “paradigm and shift” formed in the shape of a cross. If you look at the illustration one way, you see a term representing a change in way of thinking, at the same time it is set in the shape of the cross, which reminding us of how Jesus removed humanity’s judgement for sin and restoring our souls before God our father.
To the right of the “Paradigm Shift Cross” in the bulletin is a drawing that from one perspective appears to be a woman whose eyes are closed having what appears to be a bad hair day. When viewed differently, the drawing seems to be that of a person in a white parka at the entrance to a dark tunnel or cave.
On the bottom of the right inside page are a series of other paradigm graphics which can be interpreted to represent one thing or another, depending upon your point of view.
The first time I walked into this church some years ago, I had expected to enter a small sanctuary based upon the perspective of the front of the building. The front hallway seemed to support the expectation that the church being a small space. As you go from the hallway to the narthex, the interior space opens up. Still, you are impressed and surprised at the relatively large size of the sanctuary of the church. Unless you have been informed in advance in regard to the size and appearance of the church, you have to adopt a new paradigm or mindset to comprehend its actual structure.
As Christians, we are expected to adopt a new paradigm in regard to the Trinity of our God. On the top of the inside of the bulletin, beside the Order of Service header is a graphic representation of the Godhead or Holy Trinity that helps us to understand, as best we can, that God consists of a Father, His Son – Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Each is distinct from the other, and each is God. Non-Christians may have difficulty accepting this description of the Holy Trinity, even though it is no more a paradigm shift than the world needed to have when they discarded the flat earth paradigm in favour of the world being a round sphere. A similar paradigm shift was required to accept the fact that the sun, moon and stars did not revolve around the earth. Both of these paradigms run contrary to our perception of how we normally observe the world around us.
Last Sunday, we discussed how Jesus implemented the new paradigm for humanity’s relationship with God, by removing the stigma for humanity’s sins, by taking upon himself our judgement and punishment. At Christ’s first appearance in the Upper Room, we see in John 20, that he commissioned the disciples, sending them to go forth, as the Father in heaven had sent him. And knowing that he was soon to ascend to heaven, Jesus breathed upon them the Holy Spirit of God to help the twelve, implement his Commission, which is why we now refer to them as apostles or messengers of Christ. As believers in the resurrected Christ, we too are expected to serve as his apostles.
As messengers of his gospel of forgiveness, sanctification, and following Pentecost, as apostles of Christ, we are also vessels of the Holy Spirit, sharing God’s New Paradigm is the New Covenant, which not only includes salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the promise of our own resurrection. In addition to the New Covenant, we have been given the same Commission we are Christ’s apostles and therefore given the same assignment given to the twelve in that Upper Room some two thousand years ago: sharing Christ’s gospel unto the ends of the earth.
The most important part of this passage, which all Christians who did not live in the time when Christ walked before his crucifixion should note, are the words that were spoken by Jesus to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Why is there the need for a New Covenant or any Covenant at all? Over the last few weeks, we examined how God created the universe: the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and all life and had judged it to be good. Then the Creator made the first man from the earth and brought life to him by breathing into his nostrils, “the breath of life”, as we read in Genesis 2:5-7.
Genesis 2:5-7 (ESV)
5 When no bush of the field[a] was yet in the land[b] and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist[c] was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
According to Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were made living creatures, created by God, in His image. And we discussed how both Adam and Eve were beguiled by Satan, posing as a serpent, to break God’s rule “not to eat from the forbidden fruit”, as Satan had promised that they would have the knowledge of God. This was the fall from the grace of God.
Following the fall of Adam and Eve, we are aware of Adam and Eve’s judgement to be evicted by God from the Garden of Eden, to suffer death and other hardships for all subsequent generations. In a fit of jealousy, Cain killed his brother, Abel. Eventually sin became so widespread upon the earth that God decided to do a reset by make a Great Flood to destroy all life, as we read in Genesis 7:21-24.
Genesis 7:21-24 (ESV)
21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.
God’s judgement was to reset His creation back to Day #4, but instead of recreating life, he had Noah construct the Ark to carry the his animals, as well as Noah’s extended family above the flooded world. And like the third day of creation, God parted the land from the sea so that the dwellers of the Ark could begin life anew.
You may note that in both our Scriptures from Genesis that God breathed life into the nostrils of Adam, to make him a living creature, but in Genesis 7:22-23, that the flood had removed the breath of life from everything on dry land, not only people, but “animals, creeping things and birds of the air. From these verses it is safe to infer that God’s breathed life into humanity, animals, creatures and birds.
But Genesis indicates that man and woman were created in God’s own image. We were given a soul. But the soul of humanity, even the descendants of Noah, carry the tarnish of the sin from the Garden of Eden. Through Moses God had brought humanity His laws, but the laws by themselves do not remove the sin. And even Adam and Eve, who had only one law to follow, were tempted to break that law. If I were to post on a wall a sign “ Don’t Touch! – Wet Paint”, how many people would be tempted to challenge the posting a touch the wall?
This is quite a dilemma, because the separation from God is more a result of the guilt and shame of the sinner than a result of God’s desire to be apart from us. And self-loathing can be as harsh a judgement as any. How is possible for sinners be reconciled with God? God loves his creation and waits for the prodigals to return. But how can the corruption of the sinner’s soul caused by sin be cleansed, so that we may live with God for eternity? The Pharisee, Nicodemus, asked the Lord the same question, which we find in John 3:1-8.
John 3:1-8 (ESV) You Must Be Born Again
3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Footnotes: a. John 3:2 Greek him b. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7 c.John 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit d. John 3:7 The Greek for you is plural here e. John 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit
In this passage, Jesus talks about being “born again” in the Spirit. When a baby is born, the first thing it must do is take in a breath of air. The air is unseen, but brings life. And like the air, the Holy Spirit brings new life. This is God’s New Paradigm. Where the Ark built by Noah had preserved the life God created, the Holy Spirit, as a second breath from the Lord, restores the soul. And the only way that we may receive the Holy Spirit is by Way of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which cleansed our souls from the corruption of the soul caused by sin.
That Jesus came and died to remove the death penalty for sin that everyone faces removes the impossible expectation of being perfect and sinless under law, as well as constantly offering sacrifices for sins committed on a regular basis. Architect Richard Buckminster Fuller expressed it very well, when he wrote:
The arrival of the Holy Spirit upon believers as a breath from Christ is first described in John 20:19-23, where the Lord appeared to the disciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection.
John 20:19-23 (ESV) Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time
Before he breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the Lord gave them the great Commission to share his Gospel. Then Jesus breathed upon the now apostles or messengers, the Holy Spirit of God.
The next act of Pentecost occurred again in the same Upper Room, after the Lord had ascended to heaven. Again, the Lord reminded the apostles of his Commission to spread his Gospel unto the ends of the world.in Acts 1:6-9.
Acts 1:6-9 (ESV) The Ascension
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
The twelve apostles, including Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas, were not the only apostles or messengers of Christ. For all who receive Christ as Lord and Saviour are also elected as his apostles and are expected to share the good news of his gifts of salvation, resurrection and the Holy Spirit, as we read in Acts 2:1-4.
Acts 2:1-4 (ESV) The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested
God’s New Paradigm, which is expressed in the gospel of Christ that we as his apostles are instructed to share, is provided in Acts 2:22-33.
Acts 2:22-33 (ESV)
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[a] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Footnotes: a. Acts 2:23 Greek this one
As I shared earlier in this message, the greatest barrier keeping people from God is not from Him, but caused more by our own guilt, shame and remorse. How can one carry Jesus Second Commandment, expressed in Galatians 5:13-14, to love one’s neighbor as oneself if that person is unhappy with his or herself?
Galatians 5:13-14 (ESV)
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
If we truly trust in the Lord and the Holy Spirit, trust in the unseen, we have confidence that Jesus will be with us in the Spirit and that we will see him when he returns, John 14:15-21.
John 14:15-21 (ESV) Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Therefore, as believers in the resurrected Christ, let us seek to both understand and to live within God’s New Paradigm of Faith, provided by His Son, Jesus. For where the Creator first breathed life into the nostrils of humanity to give us life, Jesus – by way of his sacrifice on the cross – cleansed the souls of humanity, by removing the tarnish of sin, and breathed the breath of the Holy Spirit, making believers vessels of the Spirit. And as vessels of the Holy Spirit, we have the gifts, power and ability to share Jesus’ Gospel, which Jesus gave to all believers, as apostles as a Great Commission.
Through Jesus, the price and judgment levied upon humanity for sin has been paid in full. God’s New Paradigm, through Jesus, removes humanity’s sin before God and allows humanity to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, in order to share the Lord’s Gospel, and to be cleansed of guilt and shame. This is really God’s vision for out life in Jesus.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn: #276 In the Stars His Handiwork I See
Benediction – Romans 15:13:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.