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Relationships: God’s Idea

October 4, 2020

Teacher: John McLeod
Scripture: Ephesians 2:13, 19-22

Introduction

Today we will be exploring our third core value as a church in our series called “The DNA of Cornerstone.” We have covered our first two foundational core values—Doctrine and being Spirit-filled. For many years, we have preached some type of “Vision” series during the first few weeks of the fiscal year, which for us begins in September. This year, with the changing of our name from Sovereign Grace Church to Cornerstone Fellowship Church, we wanted to take a slightly different approach. Instead of focusing on our church vision statement, which is Loving God, Loving One Another, and Loving our Neighbor, we decided to drill down into a few of our core values as a church.

Here is a look at our core values in picture form.

The 4 Core Values of Cornerstone Fellowship Church
The 4 Core Values of Cornerstone Fellowship Church

These are four fundamental commitments that we have as a part of our DNA as a church. Each individual local church should share a set of commitments and values with one another—commitments to Christ and the Bible and the world. But, each church is somewhat unique in how they express and live out those commitments. As our elders and members talk about what we value as a church, these four things are at the top of our list. To some degree, these capture something that should be a part of all churches, but we also feel these uniquely capture us.

First, we are a church that believes in building on a foundation of good “Doctrine.” Now, it actually says something about our church that we’re willing to have a sign in the lobby that says “DOCTRINE” in big, bold letters. What we’re trying to get at is that we’re built on the truth of the scriptures. Absolute Truth claims in our day are shunned, but we want to boldly say that we are not ashamed of the revealed truth in the Bible. We genuinely desire to build this church, our families, and our individual lives based on the truth of the Bible. We believe that the Bible is infallible, and inerrant, and sufficient to teach us all we need for life and godliness. By “Doctrine” we simply mean “what the Bible teaches on a particular topic.” We believe the Bible is clear that God is like THIS and NOT like THAT, or that we should pattern our lives one way and not another.

By using the term “doctrine” we are also acknowledging that we believe working hard to understand the Bible and what it teaches is a worthy goal. We value what the church has said about what the Bible teaches, and are particularly grateful for the work of those in the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century who helped bring new clarity to theology and the Gospel at a time when they were obscured.

Second, we are a church built on the foundation of the Holy Spirit. Daniel did a great job teaching on this topic last week, and I’d encourage you to go back and listen to that message if you missed it. Without the Holy Spirit we would not follow after God or pursue holiness. And, without the work of the Holy Spirit, we would be powerless to change or help others change.

We believe that the pursuit of knowledge or holiness or effective ministry apart from the power of the Holy Spirit is doomed to fail. We are weak vessels that need the power of God.

Today, we’ll look at our third core value—RELATIONSHIPS. If the first two values were foundational, these second two will be our mission.

From the Cornerstone Website:

A life of purposeful RELATIONSHIPS

We are a church family devoted to one another as members of the household of God. Strong relationships in the church are a powerful engine for spiritual growth and also serve to demonstrate the power of the gospel to those outside the church. The Christian life is a shared life—a fellowship or partnership—and not simply an individual pursuit.

One thing that you’ll notice in our Core Values graphic is that #3 and #4 work together. Mike will be talking about Spiritual Growth next week, but for now, I’ll just say that biblical, purposeful relationships must involve spiritual growth to be biblical, and that Spiritual Growth will necessarily involve relationships—it is not merely an individual pursuit.

We believe that both of these, relationships and spiritual growth, are a part of our DNA. They have characterized our church since it was founded. We certainly have room to grow, both in our personal devotion toward these goals, but also in bringing more and more people into a relationship with Christ and his church.

As we’ve done throughout this short series, we will be basing our sermons on texts from the book of Ephesians. Today, we’ll be starting in the Cornerstone passage in Chapter 2. There is a significant amount of relational language in Ephesians, but we’ll begin by reading from 2:11-22.

Passage:

Ephesians 2:11–22 (ESV)

  • (11) Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—
  • (12) remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
  • (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
  • (14) For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
  • (15) by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
  • (16) and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
  • (17) And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
  • (18) For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
  • (19) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
  • (20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
  • (21) in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
  • (22) In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Outline

Today we will look at:

  1. CREATION: We were made for relationship
  2. FALL: Relationships are now broken and hard
  3. REDEMPTION: We are called to be members of God’s household
  4. RESTORATION: We are destined for perfect fellowship with God and Man

And we’ll end by taking a closer look specifically at the DNA of relationships at Cornerstone.

Pastoral Prayer

  • unity in the church
  • growing relationships
  • new opportunities for fellowship

I. CREATION: We were made for relationship

The first thing we should consider about the value of relationships is that we were made for relationship—with God and with others. This was not some evolutionary achievement; rather, our Creator considered what kind of creatures he wanted to create and he made man and woman in his image and likeness, with the purpose of communicating with the creatures he created. One of the first things God did with Adam after he was created was communicate with him—was to relate to him. In Genesis 2:16 God commanded the man not to eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden. In Genesis 1:28, God commanded Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Perhaps we read of God communicating with man and think nothing of it, but this is significant. An infinite Creator (God) made a finite creature (Adam/man) that he could communicate with and relate to. It seems totally normal to us that God speaks to the man in the Garden. But, this is only normal because God created us to have relationship.

God points out in Genesis 2:18 that man was designed not simply to relate to God but to relate with other human beings.

Genesis 2:18 (ESV) — Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

I’m grateful for author Christopher Ash in his book, Married for God for helping me realize that the issue is not that Adam was lonely, but that he was alone. He could not accomplish the tasks for which God had made him without others. God built the need for relationship and community into the very Garden of Eden.

We also see glimpses of this in Ephesians as well. Look in Ephesians 1:5.

Ephesians 1:4–5 (ESV) — even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

This is somewhat subtle, but amazing. We so quickly get caught up in what is meant by “chose” and “predestined” that we often miss was he chose us for or to. There are two glorious statements. First, he chose us that we should be holy and blameless before him. This seems too good to be true, and so far from our current experience with God. But, it will come to pass through Christ. Second, he predestined us “for adoption to himself as sons.” This is relationship. This is for the praise of his glorious grace (as the next verse tells us), that God created us to be adopted into his family—that he would relate to us, not just as creatures, not his enemies, but his very sons.

God created us for relationship. This was part of his perfect plan for the cosmos and for all eternity.

II. FALL: Relationships are now broken and hard

It did not take long in the Garden of Eden for Adam’s relationship to Eve and to God to change. Though we don’t know how long chronologically, in the story of Genesis it takes almost no time for Adam and Eve to be tempted and to fall into sin. From that moment until Jesus returns and judges the living and the dead and makes all things new, all of our relationships are affected and corrupted by sin.

In Genesis 3, the Serpent tempts Eve to doubt God’s word and his goodness. Once Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate, the effects on their relationship were immediate.

Genesis 3:7–8 (ESV) — Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

The immediate effects of sin were that they hid from one another and from God. They knew nakedness where they had not known it before, being pure and unfallen. Now they were ashamed.

But, the effects and consequences of sin did not stop there. As God is dealing with their disobedience, he pronounces on them the curses that will come because of their sin. Thus enter into the world pain, enmity, strife, toil, and death.

This is the state into which each of us have been born. It is the only world we’ve ever known. We think of this state as being normal, but it’s not. The very creation groans because of sin. Our hearts ache because of it. Our hearts are hardened to God and others because of it. We long for the kind of fellowship that we were created for, yet it is always out of our grasp.

We see this same situation in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

  • Ephesians 2:12 (ESV) — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Apart from God’s intervention, this would describe the reality for every man, woman, and child since Adam.

The evolutionist would have you believe that man evolved from lesser creatures and has been becoming more and more capable, fit, intelligent, and functional—perhaps even moral. Yet, this is the very opposite of the truth of the gospel. Mankind was created perfect, and fell to a depravity that touches every part of Creation. It’s only by the intervention of God that we can be pulled out of this condition.

In order for you and me to experience the kind of relationship we ought with God and with others, we must acknowledge this fact—that our sins separate us from God and distance us from others. We are broken, fallen creatures in need of rescue. The solution cannot come from inside us; it is not through self-improvement or moral fortitude. We need to be redeemed and healed.

Praise God there is help for us broken human beings. There is hope for us in Christ.

III. REDEMPTION: We are called to be members of God’s household

You may be saying, “John, if this sermon is about relationships, when are you going to get to it? So far it’s felt really theological. Let’s get practical.” I do hear you, and we’ll get there soon. But it’s important to see why we desire real, authentic, meaningful relationships (we were made for them), and to realize why it’s so difficult (we are sinful creatures). One of the reasons that Relationships are so much in the DNA of Cornerstone is that they are so integral to the problem of sin and of the message of the Gospel.

Let’s get to the good news!

Ephesians 2:13 (ESV) — But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Notice that this isn’t just transactional language, it’s personal. Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden. The Gentiles have been separated from God—aliens and strangers. Now they have been brought near by the blood of Christ. There is no more need for separation between man and God; Jesus has opened the way.

Not only has Jesus opened the way to God, he has also broken down the walls of separation between people. We do see major separation and brokenness between groups of people today. We live in a very divided time, and it is very easy to think that our challenges are larger than those faced by people who lived before our time. But, it is hard to imagine a greater separation than between Jew and Gentile in the first century. They couldn’t worship together. They couldn’t even eat together. Through Christ that separation is removed. Now, both groups can approach God equally through Christ. There is no longer any distinction.

Ephesians 2:18–19 (ESV) — For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

The key to rightly relating to others is first rightly being related to God. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have meaningful relationships with those who are not Christians. But the deepest, most meaningful fellowship that we can have with others will be shared with those who also share our allegiance to Christ and belonging to his body.

Fellow Citizens with the Saints

Daniel spoke to the significance of citizenship a few weeks ago in our first Cornerstone message. For the sake of our discussion, notice that we are “fellow” citizens. It’s not just that we have rights and privileges, but that we share together in them. There is no hierarchy for approaching God.

Members of the Household of God

We already looked at the amazing truth that God has called us to be adopted into his family as sons in Chapter 1. Let’s dwell just a little longer on what this means that we are members of God’s household. We are not just members of the King’s kingdom, or members of the King’s court; we are actually now members of the King’s own family.

It involves belonging. There is no exclusion based on race, or gender, or hobbies, or disabilities, or sickness, or ancestry. All who come to God through Jesus Christ are accepted. There is no inner court and outer court—just an invitation to fellowship with the Father through the Son.

It involves privileges. All those who believe in Jesus as Messiah have the right to be called sons of God. And, with that sonship comes privileges—access to the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit, an inheritance of eternal life with all the saints, forgiveness of sins, friendship with God.

This means that all other believers are my brothers or sisters. Don’t only think of this as the close friends you have in this local church. This is bigger and broader than you can imagine. We are brothers and sisters with all those in the church—that is, all those who have been or will be reconciled to God through Christ for all time. This includes Christians from other parts of the world with their different traditions. It includes people across town in a church that’s different than ours. It involves people of every tribe, tongue, economic status, and race. This comes with moral obligations. We are expected to behave a certain way to reflect our family. We are commanded to especially do good to those who are of the household of faith. In Chapter 4, Paul give us moral commands for how we are to treat one another based on the fact that we are in One Body.

Ephesians 4:1–5 (ESV) — I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

As a believer—a son or daughter of God, do you find your primary identity in being a child of God? Do you find your greatest joy in being able to call the Creator God your Father?

Members of one another

Paul takes this membership language even a little further.

Ephesians 4:25 (ESV) — Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

This is a slightly different image than being members of the household of God. It fits a little more into the picture that we are members of Christ’s body (1 Cor 12). We are not just members of God’s house, as if we are simply residents in a huge castle, distant and disinterested in one another. It’s more organic than that. We are actually members of one another.

Notice, in this verse, that Paul is just using this truth as a reason for how they ought to treat one another.

Do you live with the conviction that you are members of one another? Paul gives us one outworking of this truth in 1 Cor 12:26.

1 Corinthians 12:26–27 (ESV) — If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

How does this relate to the DNA of Cornerstone?

That was a really long build up to say that at Cornerstone, we pursue relationships not out of convenience but out of conviction. We see biblical fellowship as a means or channel of God’s grace to us. We want to put into practice what we see in Acts 2

Acts 2:42 (ESV) — And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Fundamentally, we have a conviction to be devoted to Fellowship. Koinonia is the Greek word. It is partnership, sharing.

This does not mean we always good at it, or don’t have room to improve. Certainly we need lots of growth. But it is a conviction. It is in our name, after all.

Fellowship is NOT the same thing as friendship. It is broader, deeper, weightier, longer-lasting. It includes responsibilities and rewards that go beyond mere companionship or shared interests. It is not based on personal likes or interests. It has a higher goal than our happiness.

Our devotion to fellowship is not to be dependent on our personality or whether we are an extrovert or introvert.

Practically

  1. How did we become what we are?
    1. founders were greatly affected by a strong doctrine of the local church. In a day of parachurch ministries, there was a strong emphasis on the church.
    2. Small groups as a fundamental element of church life from the beginning.
    3. Restraint throughout the years from filling the calendar with church activities to encourage hospitality and every-member ministry.
  2. how do we grow in this value?
    1. We must remember that the goods of this value are not to be kept from others for our own comfort.
    2. We must invite new people into a restored relationship with God and one another.
    3. Push ourselves and others to show hospitality.
    4. Push ourselves and one another toward humility.
    5. Push ourselves and one another toward service to others.
  3. How are we different because of this value?
    1. We truly see others in the church as a gift from God to help us in our pursuit of God.
    2. Church is NOT just about an inspiring sermon or high-quality worship music.
    3. Small groups are a priority for us as a tool for helping us love one another.
    4. There is some pressure as members to serve the church in some way. Our membership commitments include being a part of a small group AND serving in some area of ministry in the church.
    5. It can be intimidating and difficult for new people to integrate into the life of the church because we have so many established, long-standing relationships. We must make room and open up our circles.
  4. How does this value affect how we structure our church?
    1. Our evangelism strategy is highly dependent on members reaching out within their circles of relationships.
    2. We practice church membership, with a relatively high bar to become a member, including a 5-week membership class, and interview with a pastor, and commitments for giving and participation in the church.
    3. Leaders and Elders in the church are identified, not just by raw gifting, but through establishing a track record of godly character and faithfulness.

We recognize

  • Meaningful membership
  • importance of small groups
  • priority of hospitality
  • our practice of spiritual gifts
  • evangelism and discipleship are both expressions of relationship
  • The importance of the Sunday meeting (Heb 10:24-25)
    • Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV) — And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  • The necessity of pursuing God together (Heb 3:13-14)
    • Hebrews 3:13–14 (ESV) — But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Here are the opening two paragraphs from Habits of Grace by David Mathis. It is a book on spiritual disciplines written a few years ago. One thing I really appreciate about the book is that he breaks spiritual disciplines down into three basic commitments: 1) Hear His Word (scripture), 2) Have His Ear (prayer), and 3) Belong to His Body (fellowship). Here are the opening paragraphs to that third section.

It’s a shame the word “fellowship” has fallen on hard times in some circles, and is dying the death of domestication and triviality. It is an electric reality in the New Testament, and indispensable ingredient in the Christian faith, and one of God’s chief means of grace in our lives.

The koinonia—Greek for commonality, partnership, fellowship—that the first Christians shared wasn’t anchored in a common love for pizza, pop, and a nice clean evening of fun among the fellow churchified. Its essence was in their common Christ, and their common life-or-death mission together in his summons to take the faith worldwide in the face of impending persecution.

  • David Mathis, Habits of Grace, p. 145.

IV. RESTORATION: We are destined for perfect fellowship with God and Man

The Already and Not-Yet of our current condition is real. Our relationship with God has been repaired in Christ. We are now adopted into the Household of God. There is no more enmity; only reconciliation. There is no more strife; only peace. There is no more hiding; we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

However, we still experience the curse of the Fall. We still live in fallenness and brokenness. We still do not experience the freedom in our relationship to God that we desire, and our fellowship with others is still marred and damaged by sin—ours and the sins of others. We long for a day when all will be made well. That day is coming, and we see glimpses of it in Ephesians. Here are several hints that a better day is coming.

We’ve already seen the first in 1:4

Ephesians 1:4 (ESV) — even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him

The day is coming when we will indeed be in the presence of God and NOT in the presence of sin.

We see this in a couple of more verses in Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:15 (ESV) — Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Our slow, and sometimes rocky growth in holiness is leading us toward something; it is leading us into the image of Christ. Or, as we see in verse 13, until we reach “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

This seems impossible or at least far off, but it is not accomplished by our own efforts alone. There is a wonderful gem in Chapter 5, which we normally only consider in the context of marriage, but it contains a great promise. It says that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

Ephesians 5:27 (ESV) — so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

So, Christ’s work of redemption was not simply to get us to heaven. That would be wonderful. But, it actually perfects us so that we might relate to God without blemish or spot. Perfect cleansing—not just from little sins, but from big ones—not to those who grew up religious, but to those who were his outright enemies.

There is one more verse I want us to see about the glory of the church. This one caught me off guard as I was reading Ephesians for this message. There is a glory here that I didn’t expect. it is Paul’s prayer at the end of Chapter 1, and though it is a long quote, I want to read it. Paul wants us to see the glory of Christ, but also the glory of his redeemed church.

Ephesians 1:17–23 (ESV) — that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

In the midst of Paul straining for language glorious enough to declare the majesty and greatness of Jesus, our Messiah whose name is above every name not only in this age but in the one to come, he drops down to remind us of the church. But, this isn’t just the church as you see it—flawed, weak, tentative. No, Paul describes the church in ways that I’m not sure how to process. He calls the church Christ’s body, which is familiar territory for us, but he goes on to say that the church is the “fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is the church triumphant. This is the church in its glorious completeness—all believers for all time together showing forth the fullness of Christ, glorifying our Redeemer.

Though it is by faith, this is what we’re a part of here at Cornerstone. It’s in our DNA, our very make-up as believers and as a church. We are a part of God’s glorious plan to glorify himself through his church. Look with eyes of faith. Live with a conviction for biblical fellowship that remembers we are members of one another and members of God’s multitude in Revelation 7.

Revelation 7:9–10 (ESV) — After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Conclusion / Application

Challenges to healthy relationships

  • relationships are harder for some people than others. Remember, what we are talking about here is more than friendship. We’re talking about covenant commitments in the body of Christ. This is not only for extroverts.
  • COVID - more isolation than normal
  • Politics and Societal Unrest with Cancel culture
  • The air we breathe is all about personal autonomy
  • Digital Addiction and social media

Questions for application

Is biblical fellowship a conviction for you?

  • Many of us live in the good fruit of others’ convictions. This is true with biblical fellowship. Are you committed to pursuing biblical relationships even when it’s inconvenient, difficult, or painful?

Are you ready to invite new people into your circle of fellowship?

  • We need to be a people ready to share the good gifts that God has given to us.

Recent Messages

Here are some other recent messages.

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We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.

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401 Upchurch St, Apex, NC 27502

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