Grand Opening Weekend - HD Faith
What a great day this is. Not only is this our forty-fifth anniversary as a church, we have the unique privilege of formally dedicating this wonderful worship center, adult classrooms, amazing foyer, and staff office space to the Lord. It has been a long time coming, but we are finally here and it is a humbling honor to ask God to now come and bless this facility to His eternal glory. I am glad you have joined us. I’m sure it is a day you will not soon forget.
How did we get here is the question, is it not? Simple answer. God providentially guided us here over all the ministry trials and triumphs over the span of many years. And He is providential and sovereign.
“A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Prov. 16:9 NKJ)
“21 There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD'S counsel-- that will stand. (Prov. 19:21)
We do not sit here because of our mental acumen, extraordinary talent, superb marketing ability and so forth. No, we sit here because, first and foremost, God determined in the counsel of His purposeful will to bless this church in a magnanimous fashion. That blessing, in my view, comes with a sober responsibility to use it to advance those purposes of God, while also giving Him the praise and the glory due His magnificent and beneficent greatness.
God, as we know, has not acted alone in moving greatly in and through this church from its humble beginnings. On the contrary, God used great, godly visionary pastors like Mike Winship, Paul Hasen, John Doresh, and Jack Elwood to shepherd the little flock from its birth on July 27, 1975 with some 83 people to its present size today. These shepherds did not act alone either as they cast a big vision for the fledgling church. Countless others, who shared in their desire to build a church deeply committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, the gospel, and sound doctrine and teaching, joined them. Yes, we have been blessed with people with a big vision; however, that is not the whole picture. You can cast a lofty vision for God and the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) and never realize it if you do not have people with what I call High Definition Faith.
High Definition is wonderful, isn’t it? When Liz and I moved here twelve years ago from California, we acquired our first TV with this capability. Believe me, it made my old analog Sony look blurry. We still use this set as our main television; however, I must say it is tempting to switch it out for one of those new crystal clear, vivid, and highly colorful ones you see as you walk into any Costco. To see one of these is to visually witness High Definition at a whole new level.
By way of analogy, this is like High Definition Faith. It is faith like you have never seen before, faith which is a beautiful thing to behold in a day of so much uncertainty, faith which has a crystal clear view of who God is which motivates it to trust God to do amazing, off-the-chart things despite naysayers. It is faith which believes that God can take a small church plant in a sea of other, more established churches, and use it to accomplish bigger, bolder things for God.
Sure, today we pause to rightfully recognize God’s providential and perfect leadership over the year in this body; however, we also fittingly turn to consider the answers to the question of all questions:
What Is High Definition Faith Like?
Why is this the question? Because the living God calls us to be people of this type of faith. High Definition, focused, unshakeable faith in God has brought us to this juncture, and it will the same type of faith we will need to continue to foster as we look to the next forty-five years. Where do we go to get a handle on this kind of faith? The go-to place has got to be Hebrews 11, which is historically classified, and rightly so, as the Hall of Faith chapter of the entire Bible. Here, the unknown biblical author takes us through a history of people of great, unshakeable faith from Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, to the likes of Joseph, Moses, and Jeremiah . . . to name just few. No doubt, we cannot cover all the great men and women of faith listed here in one sermon; however, can pause and consider a few snapshots of stellar saints in order to how their faith has been the faith of folks at this church, and to also be challenged today to go out and live likewise to God’s glory.
So, let’s open the album of faith up right now and take a hard, honest look at what constitutes High Definition Faith.
Snapshot #1: High Definition Faith Is Rational Not Irrational (Hebrews 1:1-3).
With verse one, the divinely inspired author, who has just contextually challenged the saints he wrote to to stay faithful to God no matter what (Hebrews 10), turns and describes what great, abiding, God-honoring faith is grounded and founded on:
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Heb. 11).
The Greek word for substance, hupostasis ( ὑπόστασις ), literally refers to a title deed in your possession after you paid something off. When you have, say, paid off your home (is that possible in Northern Virginia?), you have the “confident assurance” it is paid off as you hold that wonderful note/deed in your hand. Faith is like that. It is the confident, unshakeable assurance in your heart and mind that the evidence the living God has built in to you and in to the cosmos of His existence is absolutely trustworthy.
Faith is not blind and it is far from irrational. It is quite the opposite. From verse 3 we learn the seen world was created by the simple and all-powerful word of God himself. Science gives us a plethora of vacuous, ultimately unsustainable, and frequently illogical theories concerning the origin of this highly ordered, extremely complex, and very predictable and rational cosmos. What science cannot answer, however, are the bigger philosophical questions of life:
- Why is there something rather than nothing? How did something come from nothing?
- How did complexity happen to arise from chaos?
- How did the rational come from the irrational?
- How did non-eternal matter cause itself when there is no such thing as self-causation?
- How could specified complex systems, wherein the various components of the
- system rely on each other for life, have ever occurred in stages?
- How could that which is only potential, viz., a vast, intricate, and highly complex cosmos, actualize itself? This is illogic personified.
- How did value-based people come from a completely valueless system? Did they originate from a mindless, lifeless, unthinking, unfeeling process wedded to nothing?
Since cause and effect cannot, by definition, stretch backward into infinity because there, at some point, has to be a first cause, which, by the way, cannot cause itself, then how do we account for cause/effect?
All of these metaphysical questions are answered definitively and logically by verse 3. God, who is uncaused, eternal, highly complex and creative, and all-powerful brought everything into being with His creative word just as Genesis 1 states. Many thinking, highly educated people, like Oxford University professor and mathematician John Lennox, have no trouble believing this premise. As he states, “Indeed, faith is a response to the evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence.”1 Faith is a logical inference to the best and most plausible explanation. It is not a blind embrace of the lack of any viable evidences. Far from it.
What’s the evidence there is a divine being who did this? This is entire sermon series, and it is one we engaged in a few weeks ago in our study of the Psalter. Let’s review the basic points.
- Cosmological argument: Since the chain of cause/effect cannot start itself, there has to be, by definition, an uncased One, God, who set this all in motion.
- Teleological argument: Design speaks of a designer, and since the cosmos has design built into it there must logically be One, God, who crafted all this intricacy.
- Moral argument: Behind every law there is a lawgiver, hence there must be lawgiver, God, who gave us law(s) and instilled into us the concept of right and wrong. Honest scientists recognize this reality. Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize recipient, said this much when we remarked, “Even the greatest forces and abilities don’t seem to carry any clear instructions on how to use them. As an example, the great accumulation of understanding as to how the physical world behaves only convinces one that this behavior has a kind of meaningless about it. The sciences do not directly teach good or bad . . . Ethical values lie outside of the scientific realm.”2 Indeed, they do. They lie in the realm of the God, the lawgiver.
Evidence for God’s existence? It is all around you. It’s even in you. Consider the brain you are using right now to process what I’m saying to you. Donald Mackay, a brain research specialist puts the complexity of your brain in perspective:
In order to form a realistic idea of the structural complexity inside your head, imagine that one cubic millimeter of your cerebral cortex were magnified to the size of a lecture hall. In this magnified on millimeter cube we might expect to find something of the order of 100,000 nerve cells. If each of these had 1,000 to 10,000 connections, each connection adjustable in ways that might be functionally important, then with this one hall we would have a tangled structure containing up to a thousand million functionally significant elements. Depicted on the same scale, the nerve fibers running from the brain to other part of your body would extend for distances up to a thousand kilometers. Now let us take the arithmetic a step further. The human cortex is about 2,000 square centimeters in area, and on average about three millimeters thick. In order to complete our imaginary model of your brain on the same scale, then, we would need something like 600,000 of these lecture halls stacked side by side and three deep. That is the kind of complexity that challenges the scientists s he contemplates your brain, ticking peacefully away inside your head as you sit in your chair.3
1 John Lennox, Against The Flow (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2015), 11.
2 John Lennox, Gunning For God (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 99.
3 Donald M. Mackay, Brains, Machines and Persons (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 23-24.
How do we, as people of faith, account for the complexity of our brains? We realize that the seen, and all of its complexity, had to logically come from the great unseen One, who is the epitome of mind and thinking. Our faith, then, is not irrational but highly rational based on the evidence(s) at hand.
This type of faith energizes us to have hope that we are not alone and they we are accountable for how we live our lives (Ecc. 12; 1 Cor. 3; 2 Cor. 5:10ff). This type of faith tells us that there is a God who has a redemptive plan to help us with our sin problem (John 3:16; Rom. 5:1-2). That plan, of course, was the sacrificial death of His Son, and our Savior, Jesus, the Christ. This type of faith tells me that history and time is going to a good and greater place as God has foretold to the prophets with great precision (Isaiah 2; 9; Matthew 18, 20). Yes, this type of faith excites and motivates us because we know God will, as He foretold to Daniel (Dan. 2), replace all the inferior and sinful worldly empires with the Davidic empire known for peace, justice, and righteousness for all God-fearing, Christ-embracing people.
Do you have this kind of faith? If not, it is but a confessional prayer away, as Paul relates in (Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”). We do and it is what has propelled us courageously forward since our humble beginnings in 1975.
Skipping down to verse eight, we quickly and readily pick up another snapshot of faith worth not just remember, but fleshing out in your own life:
Snapshot #2: High Definition Faith Gives Up, Goes Out, and Gains Bigtime (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Read with me and you will see what I mean:
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11).
Abraham was quite a spiritual man. We do not know exactly how this Chaldean, living in the Mesopotamian area near the Euphrates just a few miles northwest of the tip of the Persian Gulf, received a special revelatory word from the living God, but he did. How he, a man steeped in a polytheistic culture, responded is educational and motivational.
When God told him to follow Him into the unknown, he wasted no time in so doing, even though he really didn’t know where he and his family were headed until they departed from Haran . . . their first stop off point some 150 miles northwest of his hometown of Ur. Here God told him his destination was Canaan, and that He would give him and his innumerous decedents this land (Genesis 12:6-7). He was seventy-five when he left the “familiarity” and security of Haran for Canaan, an unknown land and people some 200 miles southwest of Haran. Would you have jumped on a camel and made that journey? Abraham did.
From the very beginning of God’s call on his life, Abraham gave up his life to go out after God with an eye on the fact that God would, in due time, give him great spiritual and physical blessings. Many of us, who understand this dimension of High Definition Faith, know the drill:
- You give up the familiar for the unfamiliar.
- You leave friends to live among strangers.
- You change the predictable for the unpredictable.
- You leave behind safety for possible danger.
- You trade security for insecurity.
- You trade ease for a life of possible hardness.
- You trade leaning on yourself to leaning on God whom you cannot see.
Many can relate who are associated with this church. Some of you are here because purposefully passed on a dream job with the military so you could be a viable part of this church. Some have left a church you attended for many years, but knew you had to leave as that church you once loved embraced godless cultural thinking or started to water down and compromise on biblical teaching and doctrine.
Some of you were part of the original group which started this church on a wing and proverbial prayer. But you did it because you had a word from God that a Bible-teaching, culture impacting, fearless church was desperately needed in the nation’s capital.
Some of you drive a mind-boggling amount of miles to worship here (I know, I’ve been to your homes), but you do so because you know that mature faith is all about giving up, going out, so that eternal gains are realized.
Some of you could have easily retired elsewhere, somewhere where it is more affordable and not so congested and busy; however, you strategically chose to remain here based on the call of God.
Many of you have sacrificed a portion of your finances to follow, by faith, God’s leadership to build this house of worship to His glory. The end result was we raised $3 million above the $9 million we needed for a down payment. The giving was magnanimous even when folks moved away because they, like Abraham, knew God called them to follow what He was, and is, doing.
Saints like you, in the spirit of Abraham, are willing to live sacrificially on your earthly sojourn, knowing that the living God will most certainly bless this church and your lives as you await, like Abraham, what God has in store for those who love Him.
Abraham. He was quite a man of High Definition Faith, especially in his golden years. He did, in fact, live in Canaan, the land of promise over which the Messiah would one day rule and reign over; however, he never owned any land here, save on little spit of land he purchased at Machpelah near Hebron for his dear wife’s burial plot. God might have promised him the land, but he never became a citizen, living the rest of his life like a stranger as he awaited, by faith, the promise of God to bring the Messiah in and through His people (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1ff; 17:1ff), and to also allow him to see God’s magnificent heavenly home. Think of it: he left for Canaan at 75 years of age and when he died at 175, he had spent 100 years living in tents in a land God said would be his and his descendants. Would you have done that? Would you have complained? Not Abraham. He knew from his exposure to God’s revelatory Word that giving up and going for God would ultimately terminate in the best place possible. What faith!
May the faith of Abraham continue to be our faith. May we never be afraid to sacrifice to advance God’s kingdom plan. May we never flinch at going out into new areas for Him. Sure, we have a great building, but we all know we cannot build anymore on this plot of land. We will quickly top out our land use at 3,000 people, and then what? God will move us out to using our wonderful facility to establish satellite churches in the surrounding areas, churches devoted to the living God, His life-giving gospel, prayer, and the unwavering teaching of the whole counsel of God, teaching our sin-stained, morally rudderless world so desperately needs.
Seeing High Definition Faith in action is so inspiring. It’s wedded to a firm belief in the person of God, and it unflinchingly takes radical action in order to follow where God leads, knowing that He who loves us will in time bless us beyond our wildest dreams. A third and final snapshot is worth mentioning:
Snap Shot #3: High Definition Faith Sees Obstacles As Divine Opportunities (Hebrews 11: 11-12)
God promised to not only give the land of Canaan to Abraham for an eternal inheritance, but He promised to give him a promised son in his old age. Is it not just like God to wait until the most inopportune, illogical, problematic time to move in a profound, jaw-dropping fashion? Sarah was ninety when she had Isaac, and Abraham was a whopping one hundred (Genesis 17:1, 15-17; 21:5)! Yikes.
The divine author of Hebrews puts the faith of Abraham and Sarah in bold relief when he recalls:
11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude-- innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
What an understatement. Humorous too. Who said the Bible was boring? Not I. No doubt, Sarah had her moment when she found out that God was going to allow her and her aged husband to have a promised child, a little boy through whom would come the ultimate Promised Child (Genesis 3:15), the Messiah. How did she respond? She laughed after she eavesdropped on Abraham conversation with the Lord who had come to his tent with some angelic emissaries (Genesis 18:1-12). The LORD rebuffed her lack of faith instantly, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14). Answer? No. Nothing is too hard for God who spoke the cosmos into existence. Since He did this, giving reproductive life to two very old people was, well, no problem for him. Obviously, from what we learn in Hebrews 11, Sarah grew from this experience and went on to be a woman of great faith who came to understand that obstacles are just wonderful, amazing opportunities for the living God to carry out His lofty, magnificent plan for mankind.
Like Abraham and Sarah, we have lived to see that as we live by faith God most certainly turns obstacles into spiritual opportunities to touch lives and advance His gospel and kingdom. The growing church that needed more space, eventually outgrew meeting at Burke Elementary School and then Cardinal Forest Elementary School. Needing more room, in 1978 they purchased 4-5 acres. For the next six years the obstacle of having no permanent place of worship, forced the church to meet in Lake Braddock Secondary School. Talk about nomadic living in Canaan. Everything had to be set up and torn down each Sunday. God continued to bless the faith of this church and by the mid-1980s it was apparent the 4-5 acres they had purchased wouldn’t accommodate the movement of God. So, the wise-forward thinking leadership purchased this larger parcel, believing that God would one day bring over 1,000 people to this site to worship and learn about Him. Looking back now, we are awed by the faith of our fathers for God has brought more than twice that number to showcase His glorious gospel to Northern Virginia and beyond.
And talk about obstacles. We’ve had our share as we have built this house of worship. Record rain cost us money and time. A pandemic, never heard of before in our land, really came at an inopportune time. Just when we wanted to fill this new house of worship with worshippers, the virus hit, forcing us to re-tool how and bring this many people into God’s presence. Racial tension and injustices from all angles have torn at the fabric of our lives, and the political environment could not be more acidic and threatening.
But throughout all of this, this church has not faltered. Why? Because we are people who know and live by the principles of High Definition Faith. We know there is a living God who has His hand on the wheel of where we are going so we fear not. We know that our many sacrifices will be blessed in due time for this is how God rolls. And we know that there is no obstacle God cannot and will not turn into an amazing, never-to-be-forgotten opportunity to touch lives for time and eternity.
Looking to the future with this new facility at our disposal, we commit ourselves to continue to be people of great, immovable faith in God. Really, I challenge each of us to live as saints like Abraham and Sarah lived:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11).
We have a great place to worship and learn about God, but at the end of the day let us not forget that what we do here is about where we are going. We live in the temporal, enjoying the impact this building affords for God, but we always keep our eyes focused on what lies ahead: the King and the Kingdom.