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October 17, 2012 / Matt Larson

Luke 18:1-8

On Sunday, we’ll be teaching through Luke 18. The parable of the persistent widow is a valuable parable with significant implications, but on Sunday we’ll be talking more about 9-34. So, I thought I would take the time here to share some thoughts on this section. 

Here’s the text:
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

This is a carryover from last week’s message on the Kingdom of God. Jesus talks about the persistence of a widow and an unrighteous judge. Again, this could be a tricky parable to understand, but Jesus helps us by applying it specifically.

He talks about how the widow’s persistence causes the unrighteous judge to relent and pay attention to her case.

Just a quick reminder, our tendency with parables is to try to interpret everything in them, but the teaching style of parables is designed to draw out a big idea. 


The picture that Jesus leaves his listeners with is that God’s justice will ultimately reign. There will be a season where it seems as though God is not victorious, as though the domain of darkness (last week) is overwhelming the Kingdom of his beloved son.

Jesus’ instruction is to faithfully remain steadfast. He knows that between inauguration and consummation of the Kingdom there will be a season of difficulty for his followers. His encouragement to them is to trust that justice will win.

The question that Jesus poses about finding faith on earth is not a statement of desperation, but Jesus is posing the question as to whether people are understanding this message. Will there be believers in the Gospel when the Son of Man returns. This is an ongoing challenge to the faithfulness of the disciples to continue his work! 

Jesus is comparing God to the unrighteous judge and using the story of the widow to show that God will go so far and beyond the attitude of the unrighteous judge when it comes to declaring justice on earth. He will be faithful and our responsibility is to remain steadfast, faithful and patient as we look towards God’s righteous judgment of humanity. 

 

I hope this helps. If you’re reading it before Sunday, awesome, you’ll come in prepped for the message. If you’re reading it after Sunday, I hope it helps fill in some gaps. Feel free to pose any questions in the comments section.

 

 

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October 7, 2012 / Matt Larson

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

This morning we will be gathering both of our campuses into one place to worship Jesus together as we celebrate our 3 year anniversary as a church! We are meeting at Sequoia Intermediate School in Newbury Park (2855 Borchard Rd. Newbury Park, Ca).

 

After we meet together, we’re inviting everyone down to the field to enjoy an In N’ Out Truck picnic. It should be a blast! Bring a blanket to sit on, shade if you need it (should only be about 75 degrees), and join us after!

August 13, 2012 / Matt Larson

Anthem Continues to Amaze Me

This has been a simultaneously tragic and inspiring week for me. We had 2 deaths in the body at Anthem Church. Each situation has brought sadness and grieving. With each situation we have also gotten to see the body love, serve and support one another in an amazing way.

Tim Bradley has been around at Anthem for quite some time. He has struggled with his health for the entire time we’ve known him, but he has served in different ways and loved to learn about Jesus. When he died this week, his family called Anthem asking if anyone was available to do a memorial service for him. Kevin, Ryan and I are all unavailable, so Dewey Coleman stepped in and will be leading a memorial service at the end of the Ventura Pier on Saturday, August 18th at 9 AM. You are all invited to be there and it would be a great opportunity to support both Tim’s family and Dewey.

 

The Arguello Family are dear friends and great servants at Anthem Church. Their baby daughter Sienna went into the hospital on Thursday and on Friday morning, she died of heart failure. This tragedy has left many of us hurting and grieving with Carlos and Devin as they have struggled through these first few days. We have also gotten to see the body care for them in incredible ways. Multiple families have visited, provided meals and offered financial support to help with whatever needs are coming up. In addition to that, Anthem came together to take up an offering for our Acts 2 fund that will help cover the Arguello’s in this time.

We have had a lot of people ask how they can give. Here is a link to the Acts 2 fund that we have been using for the last year to care for families in time of need. If you would like to help the Arguello’s, this is the best place to give for Anthem to be able to help them out: Anthem Acts 2 Fund

If you would like to help out in some other way, Chris Sprinkle has been facilitating much of the care. Her email address is available through the Acts 2 link given above.

We are still working on a location for the memorial service for Sienna, but it will be next Saturday, August 18th at 5:00 PM. I will update this post with information as soon as I get it. 

Romans 12:15 reflects the life of a body, we rejoice with those who rejoice and we weep with those who weep. This has been a weeping week. Thank you for being a body with us. It gives us great comfort to know that we are a part of such an incredible body.

 

-Matt

 

July 15, 2012 / Matt Larson

What exactly is Leadership Community???

If you’re a part of Anthem Church, and you’ve attended in the last 3 weeks or been on Facebook, you’ve probably seen something related to Leadership Community. At least, I hope you’ve seen something related to Leadership Community. It’s been about a year since we’ve done Leadership Community with both campuses, all leaders, all apprentices and all potential leaders. In light of that fact, I thought it would be worth sharing what it is, what we’re doing tonight, and why this is so important.

Leadership Community is the monthly gathering of all leaders across both campuses to build on the questions of who are we as a church and what is God asking us to do.

Tonight, for example, we’re going to be talking about why Anthem Church exists. What is it that God has asked us to do in this world that would cause another church to be planted? Why do we do the things we do? And how can we continue to grow into the mission of Jesus in this world?

I realize those are some big questions to answer, but I’m ok with that. Jesus has given us a big mission and if we are going to steward that calling, that mission well, then we need to be diligent to prepare ourselves for what it is that God is asking us to do in this world.

That’s why this is an important one. That’s why we’re working hard to make sure that people are a part of this tonight. If we are taking the mission of Jesus as our primary purpose for existing as a church (and as followers of Jesus), then we need to devote time to better understand and implement that mission.

So, that’s what we’re doing tonight. I’m looking forward to getting together. The other part of the whole thing is that we actually like being together 🙂 The kids will have a blast with each other and we get to enjoy a meal together in a beautiful and hospitable back yard in the middle of July. We get to pray together and hear the dream of fulfilling God’s call for his kids! I seriously can’t wait!!

If you have questions about the details, click over to our Facebook invite, it’s got all the goods. If you could let us know how many kids you’re bringing, that would be helpful too (so we can grab food and adequate childcare). Thanks and we’ll see you tonight!

July 1, 2012 / Matt Larson

Elders at Anthem Church

About 6 months ago we preached a message at Anthem called “What is Eldership”. The preparation for the series and that message in particular sent me down a path of studying the Scriptures and reading a few books, namely Biblical Eldership and Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons. It’s been a great journey through the New Testament trying to understand the Biblical responsibilities and qualifications of the men called to lead each local church.

I didn’t go into this process with a set timeline, although I wanted to be very intentional about my study and preparation this year in the hopes that by the end of 2012 we would have a team of elders in place. My time studying, praying and talking with mentors and friends has led me to the point I’m at now. We are beginning a season of preparation for appointing elders at Anthem Church.

I’m writing to both inform you of our process and to ask for prayers. Starting tonight, a group of 12 men and their wives will begin a journey of praying, studying the Scriptures together and wrestling through responsibilities and qualifications with the goal of establishing our first team of elders.

*Before going on I want to say that while the guys who will be at my house tonight have already in many ways been functioning as elders within Anthem, this is not a “final” group. One of the qualifications of elders is that they “aspire” or desire to be elders (1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Peter 5:2). If after studying the Scriptures (1 Timothy 3, Titus 2, and 1 Peter 5 more specifically), you desire to serve in the capacity of an elder, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to talk with you more about the role and it’s qualifications.

So, as you pray tonight, please lift up this first meeting. We will be discussing the Biblical call to eldership, the vision for elders at Anthem Church and the process by which we will be preparing for eldership.

The initial group that has been asked to engage in this process is

Evan and Shannon Regenstreif

Ryan and Tricia Hinkle

Kevin and Vanessa Marsden

Kevin and Keely Bailey

Jim and Sherry Elliston

Preston and Chris Sprinkle

Greg and Lillian Lennox

Bob and Jennifer Cashier

Randy and Lindsey Carpenter

Tim and Sarah Harding

Elery and Lahona Sugarman

Matt and Kristen Larson

Not everyone on this list will be the first elder team at Anthem as a few of these families have commitments and obligations that will prevent them from taking on the responsibility of eldership.

After a process of studying the Scriptures, praying and identifying the men who can serve in this capacity, they will be presented to the members with Anthem Church for affirmation. Like I said, no set timeline. I’m not exactly sure when this will happen, probably in about 4-6 months. If you have any more questions about this process or would like to study along with us, we will be using Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch as a guideline for our discussion.

 

Thanks for reading, again, I would appreciate your prayers tonight!

 

-Matt

April 20, 2012 / Matt Larson

Anthem Students

When we started Anthem Church a little over 2 years ago, we knew that we had to pick and choose the ways that we invested our time, energy and resources in order to faithfully manage what God had provided for us. We could do too much too fast, if you know what I mean. One of the things that we had a deep passion for, but realized that we didn’t have the capacity for was Student Ministries. Kevin, Ryan and I each came out of a background of working with High School and Middle School students. We love the opportunity to preach the Gospel to kids that are in that transition between being kids and being adults. It is such a formative time and such a necessary time to experience the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus.

That being said, it’s been on our hearts the ENTIRE time we’ve been in existence as a church, but the timing and vision has never been quite right. It is so exciting to see that the time is here and the opportunity is now to start a ministry that specifically reaches into the lives and culture of High School and Middle School students with the Gospel. So, here’s the plan:

Starting Sunday, May 6th at 1:00 pm at the Lennox’s house, we are going to begin praying and casting vision for what Anthem Students will be. Our first Vision Gathering will be composed of 4 groups of people

-People willing to commit to praying for the students in the Conejo Valley and Camarillo, that they would find their way back to God.

-People who are interested in contributing to the financial needs associated with starting up this ministry

-People who are interested in participating as leaders in Anthem Students

-People who are either students or parents of students who want to hear the vision and be a part of the launch team

If you fit into any of those categories, you are invited to join us for lunch on Sunday, May 6th at the Lennox’s house: Click here for directions

We will have another Vision Gathering in June, then throughout the summer we will have Anthem Students Launch Team Meetings. We will meet to pray, invite new students, train leaders and dream together about helping students find their way back to God!

Then in September, our hope is to kick off with a weekend trip with our leaders and students. Nothing crystalizes vision and relationships like some time away. We will work hard to make this trip as affordable and accessible as possible, knowing that we don’t have a lot of credibility with students just yet. Our hope is to build enough relationships over the course of the next 5 months that this is an exciting and unique opportunity for students to connect with each other and with Jesus.

Finally, starting after we get back from our weekend away, we will be meeting weekly in a large group/small group format. We will meet together for teaching and worship, then break into small groups that are divided into middle school guys, middle school girls, high school guys and high school girls for even deeper connection and application of God’s Word.

That’s the dream, here’s what it is going to take to get there:

1. Prayer. Strategies, programs, visions and such are tools, but God is sovereign and we believe that He is the author and perfecter of our faith. If there is any hope for success in the mission of helping students find their way back to God, it must be covered in prayer!

2. Leadership. The same challenges exist now that existed when we first started. There is so much to do, if we are going to succeed in this mission, we need leaders who will faithfully care for the lives of students, passionately communicate the love of Jesus, and boldly live out Gospel transformation so that students can clearly see and know Jesus Christ.

3. Team. We need students. It’s kind of crazy, as young as Anthem is, there are not many High School and Middle School students that attend on a regular basis. The same vision that led us to start Anthem is leading us to start Anthem Church, God is asking us to speak into the lives of students the Gospel of Jesus and help them find their way back to God. One of the biggest challenges of student ministries is establishing critical mass, a group that is sustainable and enjoyable for students to participate in. We need a team!

4. Money. Our goal is to raise $25,000. This is phase 2 of the $50,000 that we set out to raise in January. We have already received $5600 of this and we have a matching gift that will match any donations that are made until we reach the $25,000! We will use this money to find and build out a space that we can use as our student space (we will also be using it for our Anthem offices and any other midweek gatherings/meetings). We will use some of the money to let students know that we exist through advertising and other events. We will also use some of the money to offset the cost of the trip in September so that it can be affordable and accessible for students. If you’re interested in giving to this, click here and mark “students” in the note of your online gift or in the memo section of your check.

Please join us in praying for this over the course of the summer! Please join us at the Lennox’s house on May 6th to hear about how you can pray, give and contribute specifically to this mission of helping students find their way back to God. If you’d like to RSVP for the lunch or sign up to receive more information about Anthem Students, click here and it will take you to the Anthem Students section of our website. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!

Matt

April 9, 2012 / Matt Larson

Why I loved Easter with Anthem Church

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I don’t know if you saw me yesterday, but I couldn’t get the smile off of my face. I absolutely loved Easter Sunday. It was definitely an exciting day because so many people joined us, but that’s not why I loved Easter…

It was all about Jesus! That’s why I loved Easter. Yesterday we had the opportunity to boldly share Jesus with people at every place in their journey. It made me smile.

My prayer is not that everyone comes back, I realize that not everyone is ready for that, my prayer is this:

“And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’ As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

One of Jesus’ chief concerns was that people simply weren’t able to hear his message. It wasn’t that he wasn’t speaking loud enough, it was the reality that if our hearts aren’t ready to receive the Gospel, we simply won’t hear it. Jesus frequently said “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”, or something to that effect. He was calling on people to open their hearts, open their ears to the Gospel message.

My prayer for you is that you would have ears to hear. If you’re reading this, my prayer is that God would be working in your heart, opening you to the power of the Gospel even as you read. At any time you can ask God to give you ears. You can ask God to open your heart to the power of the Gospel.

I loved Easter because we got to declare Jesus to people far from God. My prayer is that those who heard would have ears to hear… if you know what I mean.

April 3, 2012 / Matt Larson

Gospel Terminology (and it’s implications)

So, we use a lot of words at Anthem (and within Christianity) that can often fly over people’s heads, believers or unbelievers. Here are, in no particular order, some of those words, where they are used in Scripture, what they mean and what the Gospel implications are to our lives.

1. Propitiation

Romans 3:21-26 contains a large number of the words that we’ll be covering here, but one of the big ones is “propitiation”. Here is the text:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Pauls says that God put Jesus forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Propitiation is defined by the “Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms” as —An offering that turns away the wrath of God directed against sin.

So, propitiation means that God has put Jesus forward as an offering to his own holiness for the sin of the world, that the wrath of God can be poured out on Jesus instead of on the actual sinner (read: you).

What are the Gospel implications of propitiation? It means that all of God’s wrath towards your sin has already been poured out. So often we continue to live in shame over past sins believing that they are too big to be forgiven. The truth of the Gospel is that all of God’s wrath towards your sin, past, present and future, has already been poured out on Jesus on the cross. His blood was the offering and it has literally taken God’s wrath towards your sin in your place. So now, any attempt to say that God can’t forgive your sin is actually minimizing the propitiational sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. You are saying that God’s wrath poured out on Jesus was enough for most people, but not for me. That’s not the Gospel. The Gospel says that when you have received by faith this gift of redemption (we’ll get to that one), there is not one ounce of wrath left for your sin because it has ALL been poured out on Jesus already. Those who are in Christ can live free from the fear of God’s wrath because Jesus took it all on your behalf.

2. Redemption

Back to Romans 3:24 For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Redemption is defined by the PDTT as “The process by which sinful humans are ‘bought back’ from the bondage of sin into relationship with God through grace by the ‘payment’ of Jesus’ death.

Throughout the Bible we are described as slaves to sin, in bondage to sin, etc. The metaphor is designed to show that as sinners our destination for destruction is set and we are owned by our sin. Redemption shows the work that God did in Jesus Christ, that with Jesus’ death, God actually “purchased us” with the blood of Jesus. Because of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, we are no longer destined for destruction, but rather, for glory.

The Gospel implications of redemption are summarized in the truth that you are valuable to God. Redemption shows us that we were “bought with a price” and that price was the “precious blood of Jesus Christ”, God in the flesh. Any temptation to think that grace was cheap or that we don’t matter to God should be crushed in light of the price that God paid to purchase us from our destiny of destruction. Paul helps us see the implications by saying “You are not your own, you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:19-20 When we say “I’ve been redeemed”, we are acknowledging the price that was paid to buy us from our destination of death and destruction, it causes us to praise God, to be thankful and, as Paul said, to live differently knowing our true value and cost.

3. Sanctification

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Thessalonians 5:23

Sanctification is defined by the PDTT as “From the Hebrew and Greek, ‘to be set apart’ from common use, ‘to be made holy’. The nature of sanctification is twofold in that Christians have been made holy through Christ and are called to continue to grow into and strive for holiness by cooperating with the indwelling Holy Spirit until they enjoy complete conformity to Christ.

You might hear us talk about how were “are sanctified” (past tense) and we are “being sanctified” (present, progressive tense). Both are true. Because of our justification (we’ll get to that word…) in Christ, we are declared righteous at the point of salvation. We actually receive the righteousness of Christ and we are declared “holy and blameless” by God. In that sense we “are sanctified”. There is another sense to it though. You may notice that Christians still sin. It is an unfortunate reality, but it is the truth. While we are sanctified, we still live in these “mortal bodies” as Paul likes to call them. We live in a world where sin reigns. We are surrounded by it, tempted by it, and frequently fall into those temptations. Our progressive sanctification is the process throughout the rest of our physical lives of becoming “like Christ.” We actually grow, through the power and work of the Holy Spirit, to become more like Jesus. We grow in righteousness and holiness in our decisions, our relationships, our actions and our thoughts. We are being “holy-fied” as we sometimes say at Anthem. The way that we have talked about it is that we are declared righteous, now the rest of this physical life is about growing to become the righteousness that God has already declared in us–we are becoming what we are.

The Gospel implication to Sanctification is that as we understand the Gospel our desire to reflect the righteousness of Christ grows. The more we apply the Gospel to our lives, the more we grow in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We learn to think with the “mind of Christ”, we learn to see the world through the “eyes of Christ” and we learn to feel with the “heart of Christ”. The Gospel becomes less and less of a head-knowledge thing and more and more of a life-transforming reality that affects every aspect of our being.

4. Reconciliation

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” -2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Reconciliation is defined by PDTT as “A change in relationship or attitude from enmity to peace; the cessation of hostility in attitude or action.”

Our status as sinners places us in the category of “enemies of God”, “hostile to God”, and “rebellious towards God”. We, apart from Christ, are not in a right relationship with God. Reconciliation is the work that God did in Christ to make peace between him and us. An aspect of redemption is that because of the righteousness of Christ being given to us, our sin is not held against us, therefore we are able to be in right relationship with God.

The Gospel implication of this is that the one thing that was keeping us from being in a right relationship with our Father and Creator was our sin and that thing was erased by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus (we’ll explain that more later too). Now, rather than being “far from God”, we are in an intimate relationship with God our Father. We often tend to feel distant from God, the implication of reconciliation is that the feeling of distance is not reality. If we are in Christ we have been reconciled to God. If we have been reconciled to God there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We believe that Satan will try to capitalize on our human frailty and emotion, he wants us to feel far from God, to wonder if God exists and to question our salvation and reconciliation. We can be certain that the death of Jesus was sufficient to reconcile us to God.

5. Salvation

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” -1 Thessalonians 5:9

Salvation is defined by PDTT as “A broad term referring to God’s activity on behalf of creation and especially humans in bringing all things to God’s intended goal. More specifically, salvation entails God’s deliverance of humans from the power and effects of sin and the “fall” through the work of Jesus Christ (on the cross) so that creation in general and humans in particular can enjoy the fullness of life intended for what God has made.”

Basically, salvation is the the reality that we were on a path towards death and destruction. Sounds chipper, right? Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”, Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death…”. Those are two realities that humanity is up against. All have sinned and the consequence of sin is death. Salvation is what God did to deliver us or “save us” from that destination of death. He saves us from death to life.

Gospel implications: Salvation is at the very core of our story. We were destined for wrath, but God, rich in mercy, saved us from that destination and gave us a new destination of life eternal. As you live your life there will be times that you feel condemned for your sin or you might feel like your sins are too big to be forgiven. The beauty of salvation is that you have truly been saved from the consequence of your sin, Jesus literally received the punishment that you deserved and now there is no punishment or consequence left for you, you have been saved. The second part of that is that you have been saved into new life. We are now saved to a life of sharing the power of God for salvation with those that God has put in our lives.

6. Justification

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” Romans 3:23-24

Justification is defined by PDTT as “A forensic (legal) term related to the idea of acquittal, justification refers to the divine act whereby God makes humans, who are sinful and therefore worthy of condemnation, acceptable before a God who is holy and righteous.”

God, in his holiness, is the perfect judge of all creation. His holiness is the standard by which all of creation is measured. Justification is the status change that takes place of our souls where God changes us from guilty and unrighteous to innocent of all charges and righteous. There is another huge verse that goes with this:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21

Even though that verse doesn’t mention “justification” by name, it is what is happening here. God put our sin on Jesus and put Jesus’ righteousness on us. We are “declared righteous” by God’s grace (gift) through faith in Jesus.

Gospel implication: Our justification is God’s incredible and undeserving gift to us. We didn’t deserve it, we did nothing to earn it, yet God gave it to us. That is the power of the Gospel is that it takes us in our brokenness and declares us to be righteous. The challenge is that often times we don’t feel righteous because our lives don’t really look righteous. This is where justification (being declared righteous) and sanctification (becoming righteous) go hand in hand. Our status has been permanently changed to righteous, when God sees us, he sees the righteousness of Christ rather than our sin. Now, because of justification, we are free to grow in the righteousness of Christ.

7. Justice

“It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” -Romans 3:26

Justice is defined by the PDTT as “The practice of giving reward or punishment for what is rightly due to a person or group of people. Because God is sinless and holy, the justice of God demands that all persons and nations receive punishment because of their sin.”

Basically, justice is one of the scariest concepts in all of Scripture. The reality of the justice of God is that the standard is perfection and we all fall short. Justice demands that all who fall short of God’s perfect holiness are subject to expulsion, punishment, wrath, etc. It is less about God being “angry” or “frustrated” with sin and more a component of character. If God truly is holy then all violations of that holiness are to be justly treated, i.e. punished.

To understand it a little better, if a person breaks into your home and steals your valued possessions, justice is not shrugging your shoulders and saying “oh well”, justice is holding that person accountable for their violation of the law.

The Gospel implication of God’s justice is simply this, we all deserve punishment. We have all sinned, we are all sinners and we all have violated God’s perfect standard. The justice of God is the very reason that we all need a savior!

***Side note on justice*** The world likes to look at God as peaceful, forgiving, and kind. Those things are all true, but they must be seen in their context. God is also just. The wrath of God is the right response to sin. God is not unfair when he punishes sin, rather, he is perfectly fair. It’s his fairness that should generate fear in those outside of God’s grace (we’ll get to that asap).

8. Mercy

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:4-7

Shockingly, the PDTT does not have a definition for mercy… So we’ll have to define it without their help. Mercy is the undeserved grace and kindness that God has shown us. It is the character quality of God that has enabled the Gospel to be a reality.

The truth of humanity is that we are sinners, separated from God, “unrighteous” and “unholy”. Since we just learned about “justice”, let’s put it this way. We have nothing to offer God that can satisfy his holy demand for justice. Therefore, any grace that God has shown us, any love that God has shown us, any kindness that God has shown us IS mercy. It is the undeserved gifts of God toward humanity.

The Gospel implication of mercy is that it is truly God who saves us. We can’t earn his grace, we can’t earn his love, we can’t do enough things to avoid punishment and the consequence of our sin. We are unable to save ourselves from the wrath of God. “But God, being rich in mercy…” That’s the Ephesians 2:4 verse that we put at the beginning, it is also the verse that will serve as the foundation for our Easter Sunday message at Anthem. “But God, being rich in mercy…”. You have nothing to offer God, but God loves you regardless. So, rather than trying to continue to earn God’s favor, grace, love, kindness, etc. you need to simply receive the mercy of God and with a heart of gratitude, serve your merciful creator and king.

9. Sacrifice

“But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” -Hebrews 9:26

Sacrifice is a tough concept for many people outside of Christianity or Judaism to understand… truthfully, it is a hard one for many Christians to understand. We are so far removed from the Old Testament culture of sacrifice that it just doesn’t connect. So let me try to connect it.

We’ve already talked about God’s justice. Why is it that in God’s justice he doesn’t simply eliminate all sin and sinners immediately upon sin? Well, it is because God is also patient (see Romans 3:25 that talks about his “divine forbearance”). Humanity has been involved in God’s “redemptive plan” from before the world even began, as strange as that sounds.

So, as God initiated a relationship with his newly fallen people, namely, Adam and Eve after they had sinned and been banished from the garden of eden, God promised a Messiah. God, speaking to the serpent, Satan, said “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This is the first promise of the one to come who would resolve the problem of sin.

That promise of a Messiah continues throughout human history. God calls Abram to move from Ur to Canaan and then promises that his offspring will be like the stars in the sky. Abram believed God and “he counted it to him as righteousness.” This is God’s divine forbearance, faith in the promise of redemption. Anyhow, the story goes on. God’s promise to Abram (aka Abraham) is actually the promise of a Messiah who will bring salvation to the nations (the world). The nation of Israel began with Abraham, who’s son Isaac had a son named Jacob who was named Israel. His 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel and the nation grew from there. God had a special relationship with Israel because through that nation he was going to bring the Messiah, the savior of the world. He called them to be a set apart nation, a holy nation, that would declare to the world the presence of Yahweh (God).

So what does this have to do with sacrifice? This is a long story… but a good one. Here you go. As God continued in a relationship with his people, Israel, he required them to offer sacrifices for their sins. There was an animal sacrifice that served as a blood offering (I know… trust me, I know) that was offered to God as atonement for sins (we’ll get to atonement, but basically an offering to God to satisfy his wrath, albeit temporarily). Hebrews 9:22 tells us that “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

BTW, well done if you’re still with me on this one, but trust me, it’s important to understand. So Israel participated in a system that year over year offered up sacrifices to God to satisfy his wrath toward their sin helping them to maintain a relationship with him (that is a super short explanation of the Old Testament sacrificial system).

Here’s where sacrifice fits in to the story of the Gospel–Hebrews 10:3-10

But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take aways sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'” When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

The Gospel implication of sacrifice is that because of God’s justice, there had to be an object of God’s wrath, a sacrifice to be offered for sin. While God had established a relationship with Israel through an old [covenant] sacrificial system, that was not sufficient for the removal of sin and the imparting of righteousness. But as we’ve already learned about “propitiation”, God put Jesus forward as a propitiation, a sacrifice once for all that actually could take away sins. Now, our sacrifice is not one of blood, that has been fulfilled, our sacrifice is our life as an act of worship to God (Romans 12:1-2). We offer ourselves to him knowing that death is no longer required, Jesus’ death, his sacrifice was sufficient to take away the sins of the world. 1 John 2:2 says “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus’ sacrifice took away the sins of those who receive that gift by faith.

Long story, necessary story. God has been at work redeeming humanity from before the creation of the world. Sacrifice is a hard to understand, but necessary component of that story. I hope this helps you understand it a bit more.

10. Depravity

Depravity is a concept that comes from the collective teaching of Scripture, but is not a term that is used regularly in the Scripture (kind of like the Trinity).

PDTT says “Depravity refers both to the damaged relationship between God and humans and to the corruption of human nature such that there is within every human an ongoing tendency toward sin.”

The concept of depravity is one that we have even covered already in this blog, but it is the reality that because of our sin we have nothing to offer God and we are unable to do anything to obtain salvation. Total depravity means that humans are totally incapable of saving themselves.

Depravity is an important part of the Gospel story because it highlights the absolute need for the Gospel and the work that God has accomplished in Jesus. We couldn’t do anything. As Paul puts it, we were “dead in our trespasses and sins”.

Gospel implication: Stop trying to earn your salvation! Stop trying to DO more religion! Stop trying to simply BE a better person! The only thing that we can do is respond to the call of God by falling on our face in humble repentance admitting that we cannot save ourselves! If your life is filled with sins of all kinds, be humbled and repent seeking forgiveness and mercy from God. If you think you’re doing ok and you’ve got it together, be humbled and repent seeking forgiveness and mercy from God. We are ALL sinners and we ALL fall short of God’s glory therefore we ALL need Jesus to save us from our sin.

11. Curse

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hanged on a tree’–so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

The curse that is being referred to here is the overarching reality of sin and its consequences. When Adam and Even sinned a just separation from God took place. That separation is by and large the curse of sin. Paul calls it the curse of the law because the law reveals our depravity, it shows us how far we are from living according to God’s perfect standard. There is no one who lives up to the righteous expectations of the law.

Gospel implication: Jesus redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. This is another way of revealing what took place on the cross. Jesus became our sin (2 Cor 5:21), Jesus died our death, Jesus became our curse. What this means is that you are no longer under the curse of the law because Jesus has redeemed you from that. You don’t have to perform to a certain level to attain the forgiveness of God, it has been fully granted to you. Now we are free to be transformed by the power of the Gospel and the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives.

12. Forgiveness

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will, according to the purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Forgiveness is the actual act of our sins no longer being held against us. It is our debt being squared away. All of this talk about depravity and justice, it is our sin that has separated us from our creator. Forgiveness is God removing our sin and thereby freeing us to be in a right relationship with him. As we see in the above-mentioned Ephesians passage, it is through the blood of Jesus that the forgiveness of sins happens according to the grace of God.

Gospel implications: Forgiveness is one of the most difficult concepts for us to grab ahold of. There are two sides of this struggle. The one side is that we have done too much and God cannot forgive us. There may be one sin that stands above all others. We tend to hold on to those things and feel as though we can’t be forgiven because that one time we went too far… or something like that. The other side of the struggle is to actually receive forgiveness. We can read that God has forgiven us in Christ, but we still experience the shame and guilt of our sin. We may feel that God has forgiven us, but we need to continue to punish ourselves to truly wallow in the guilt of the things we’ve done. The reality of forgiveness is so complete that God calls us holy and blameless. If a person is in Christ and they were to stand before God today, he would see the righteousness of Christ in you, not all of the sins you’ve committed. The simple challenge here is for you to be forgiven. God in Christ has forgiven you, so be forgiven. Release the guilt and shame to him and accept the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.

13. Love

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

Love is defined by PDTT as “The heart of God’s character”

I love how simple that definition is. The Bible tells us that “God is love” -1 John 4:8. We only know love because God has first loved us. He is the creator of love, the definer of love and the perfect example of love. Love is at the heart of the Gospel because it was the love of God that caused God to redeem humanity. It was God’s love that caused him to offer up Jesus as a propitiation for humanity.

Gospel implication: How about this..? You are loved by the creator of the universe. He loves you. His love for his own glory and for your soul compelled him to send Jesus to die so that you could be in a right relationship with him. God has taught us how to love and now we are given the opportunity, through the power of his Spirit, to put that love on display for this world to experience. We love because he first loved us.

14. Righteousness

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

PDTT says righteousness is “An attribute of God’s being; God’s right and just character, actions and judgements.”

God is the very standard of what is right, good, holy, loving, etc. He is perfect and holy and fully righteous in all things. That’s part of the problem of sin is that we have directly violated God’s righteousness. A component of the Gospel is that not only are our sins forgiven, but we are given the righteousness of Christ. Some people have put it this way, “Jesus lived the life we should have lived and Jesus died the death we should have died.” Jesus’ perfect life and sinless nature are given to those who are in Christ.

Gospel implications: You are simultaneously righteous and unrighteous. As we talked about in sanctification, we are declared righteous (justified) and we are becoming righteous (being sanctified). We are made righteous by Christ and we can live in the confidence and hope of knowing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We can also live in pursuit of righteousness, striving to become more like Christ. We will work out our salvation, being diligent to add  the character and qualities of God to our lives in increasing measure (Phil 2:12/2 Peter 1:3-11 mashup) (is it ok to mashup scripture?).

15. Atonement

The atonement is defined as “The work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation”. The concept of atonement is heavy in the Old Testament because it was tied to the sacrificial system. It was what the Jews were instructed to do to appease the wrath of God towards their sin. They would offer a sacrifice of atonement, a peace offering acknowledging their sin and putting themselves at the mercy of God.

Simply put, the atonement is the idea that Jesus was put forward in our place, to receive our punishment, to impute (put on his) his righteousness and to reconcile us to God. It is essentially the summary of the work that Jesus did to make peace with God on our behalf.

Gospel implication: Jesus said it very simply, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6 He is our only hope for finding our way back to God. He is our salvation. He is our sacrifice of atonement that can make us right with God. Any attempt to get close to God apart from Jesus will fall short. There is no religion, act of kindness, moral system, political system or cultural mantra that can accomplish what Jesus did, making peace with God by his blood.

It is for this reason that everything, our church, our lives, our families, our friendships, our money, our homes, our time, our decisions, our worship, our affection, our marriages, our minds, our bodies, EVERYTHING is for him and to make his name known because he truly is the ONLY hope for this world.

16. Faith

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

PDTT defines faith as “A biblical word that refers to both intellectual belief and to relational trust or commitment.”

Faith is the response that God calls for, he invites us to believe the Gospel and to place our faith or our trust in Jesus for salvation. Faith is the human response to God’s work in Jesus. We believe that God even initiates faith, that he calls us and invites us to respond to him and through [regenerative] work of his Spirit, we can respond to God in faith. When we do that, we receive the gift of justification, salvation from our sins and eternal life with Christ.

Gospel implication: This whole thing is not simply about becoming a better person. That misses the point completely and breeds a “religious” heart that is not present in the Gospel (for more on that, check out this message from Anthem Church). If you are hearing the Gospel and you want to repent of your sins and be saved from God’s wrath by the power of Jesus, put your faith in Jesus. This happens when you acknowledge your sin and your need for a savior to God, you confess and repent of your life apart from God, you ask for forgiveness and trust that God in Christ has forgiven you.

If you have any questions or would like to talk about what it means to put your faith in Jesus for salvation, please email me at Matt.anthem@gmail.com. I would love to talk to you more about this!

If there are other words related to the Gospel that are confusing to you or that you are unfamiliar with, let me know and I will add them to the list (if they belong).

If I was not helpful or did not effectively explain or clarify one or more of these words for you, please let me know, I would love to work hard to bring greater clarity.

If you are in the Thousand Oaks or Camarillo areas and you would like to connect to Anthem Church, visit http://www.jointheanthem.com or come visit us on Sundays at 10:00 am in Thousand Oaks at Los Cerritos Middle School or in Camarillo at Tierra Linda Elementary School. 

March 11, 2012 / Matt Larson

Anthem at Los Cerritos

Anthem at Los Cerritos

I’ll take another pic this morning when people are here. I am really excited about the move, also a little anxious. It’s definitely going to feel different than it has for the last (almost) 2 years. I can’t wait to see everyone from the TO campus together! Come join us at 10 AM!

Los Cerritos Middle School Auditorium
2100 Ave. De Las Flores
Thousand Oaks, Ca

Anthem Kids is in the Boys and Girls Club
1980 Ave. De Las Flores
Thousand Oaks, Ca

March 9, 2012 / Matt Larson

Anthem TO is Moving! Update #2 You’re Welcome!

We are super excited about the opportunities that we get to explore with moving things around this weekend. If you haven’t heard, we are currently meeting in the Boys and Girls Club, but starting this Sunday, March 11th, we will be moving our adult gatherings next door to Los Cerritos Middle School’s auditorium. Anthem Kids will continue to meet in the Boys and Girls Club and expand their programs into the MPR that the adults were meeting in. We also be moving our two gatherings into one at 10 AM.

With the new facility comes a couple adjustments in how we go about welcoming people in. It is crazy to think about, but the Bible preaches the Gospel through hospitality: “Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Gospel-centered welcoming, I love it! Basically what Paul is saying is that we were the outcast, the unloveable, the “leper” (so-to-speak), yet Christ has welcomed us into the Kingdom of God with incredible hospitality.

He sought after us.

He sacrificed for us.

While we were still sinners, he died for us (didn’t try to clean us up first).

As we look at being a church together, our desire is to stir one another to love and good works, to grow together into maturity in Jesus Christ. The reality of being a church that does those things is that more people want to be a part of it. This is a good thing, not a bad thing (in case you were wondering). As a church, our job is to implement Romans 15:7 as new people jump on board.

In the same way that Jesus reached out to us and pursued us, we are to welcome one another in to life in the body.

So here are some of the ways that we are working to make that happen:

1. Clearly preaching the Gospel every single week. It is our mission and purpose that we would help people find their way back to God. That is done through the transforming work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So whatever is happening on any week, our desire is to make the Gospel clearly known and understood.

2. Worship Evangelism. When we worship God, those who are attracted to God (or God in us) get an opportunity to see what intimacy with the Father is like in a gathered setting. It is a chance for us to put our relationships with God on display for those who are still far from God to see. So we sing, and we sing with passion, theology, excellence and adoration.

3. First Impressions. First impressions is the category that we call all of our ministries that have an impact on preparing and welcoming people in on Sundays. This includes set up, tear down, coffee team, tow team, greeters, ushers, welcome table, and there is even some crossover with the creative team in design and sound/video/tech. These teams are an unbelievable resource to the body, but an often unknown workforce. They serve faithfully week in and week out to ensure that those who would join us on Sundays at Anthem feel welcome and any anxiety or confusion is put to rest.

In our new location, the First Impressions teams will have a few adjustments to make and this does increase the need for volunteers. If you’re up for helping out, here is a copy of our volunteer sign-up, take a look and let us know if you can help! Image