Unveiling the beauty of Christ.
Trinity Presbyterian Church INTRODUCTION TO TRINITY
Session 2 What Do We Believe?
Session 2 â€“ What Do We Believe?
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SESSION TWO What Do We Believe? The first two Membership Vows you take to become a member of Trinity asks about your Christian experience and doctrine. 1. Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure and without hope except through His sovereign mercy? In other words, do you admit that you are a sinner? Do you know that because of your sin you deserve death (separation from God’s love & mercy forever)? Do you know you cannot fix your sin problem, only God can? 2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God , and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel? In other words, have you repented of your idolatry of money, power, fame, approval, and comfort, and placed your hope for a happy future in Jesus’ work alone? Do you believe that Jesus lived the life you could not live and died the death you should have died for you? In order for us to understand and affirm these two questions, it’s necessary to look at our doctrinal commitments. We’ll start with what all Christians believe, then look at what Evangelical (Protestant) churches affirm, and finally, what Reformed Evangelicals Churches believe.
THREE CIRCLES OF DOCTRINE Historic Christian churches Evangelical Protestant churches Evangelical Reformed churches
A. WHAT CHRISTIAN CHURCHES HISTORICALLY BELIEVE By Christian Churches we mean the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” The faith of the Church is expressed in the words of the Apostle’s Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell (death), The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. (*that is, the true Christian church of all times and places) Session 2 – What Do We Believe?
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Areas of fundamental agreement between all Christians: 1. Who is God? a. Unique (Exodus 3). b. Incomprehensible yet Knowable - Infinite and Personal (Job 11:7; Isaiah 40:18; John 17:3; 1 John 5:20). c. Trinity God is One God (Deuteronomy 6:4; James 2:19). God is Three Persons (Matthew 28;19; John 5:23; 14:15-26; 16-27; 20:22). 2. Who is Jesus Christ? a. Fully God (Mark 2:10; Matthew 28:20; John 8:19, 58; 5:18). b. Fully Man (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 2:10-18).
B. WHAT EVANGELICAL (PROTESTANT) CHURCHES HISTORICALLY BELIEVE 1. What is the Bible? a. Revelation – the very words of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21). b. Canon – Scripture alone is our final standard; traditions that conflict with scripture have no authority (Matthew 15:6) . c. Clear for all believers – for understanding, interpretation, application (2 Tim 3:16-17). 2. Who is Humanity? a. Created in God’s Image – original and continued glory (Genesis 1:26 31). b. Fallen – overcome by guilt and shame (Genesis 3). c. Sinful – both by nature (Mark 7:21-23; Ephesians 2:1-10), and by choice (Rom 3:23; 6:23). 3. What does it mean to be Saved? a. Reconciliation – answers the sin nature problem − Though we are sinners, God seeks us out in love (Romans 5:6). Jesus came to rescue us from the sin dilemma (Matthew 1:21; 1 John 4:14). − On the cross, Jesus took our place. He became our sin-bearer (1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). − Through Christ’s work we are reconciled to God, and have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2; 8:1-2). − Salvation is freely offered to all: by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Session 2 – What Do We Believe?
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b. Restoration – answers the ongoing sin problem − God enables us to hate our sin and turn away from it (2 Tim 2:25). − He sends His Spirit into our lives to restore us into His image – to make us like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:18-21). − Sanctification is the process of renewal in time; Glorification is the finished product (Romans 8:28-29).
C. WHAT REFORMED EVANGELICAL CHURCHES BELIEVE 1. What did Christ do for us? The centrality of the gospel as Christ’s work on our behalf Reformed evangelical churches have several key distinctives: •
a commitment to the centrality of the gospel as Christ’s work for us;
a commitment to God’s sovereignty and
viewing Scripture through God’s promises (covenants).
The gospel says – You are more flawed and lost than you ever dared believe, yet you can be more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope because Jesus lived and died in your place – Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Legalist/Moralist/Religious
Truth without grace
Grace without truth
Truth with Grace
We must obey the truth in order to be accepted by God
We are accepted by God regardless of what we do
We are unconditionally accepted by God
Repent of sins (actions)
There’s no such thing as sin; so no need to repent
Both sins and best deeds are ways of avoiding Jesus as savior
Sorry for sins, but sins are simply the failure to live up to standards by which they are saving themselves.
No repentance at all; at most sorry for the bad consequences of their sins which go against their ability to enjoy life to the fullest
Repentance is turning from selfjustification to reliance on Jesus’ record for a relationship with God
The effect of hearing the gospel
Without a knowledge of Christ’s completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin crushes us or moves us to deny and repress it.
Without a knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the gospel seems trivial and does not electrify or transform us.
Sin’s overwhelming load has been taken by the one who could bear it; we are freed to respond in love. The truth of this transforms the Christian’s life
A Christian is someone who has adopted a whole new system of approach to God. He realizes that his entire reason for either irreligion or religion has been essentially the same and essentially wrong! Christians realize that both their Session 2 – What Do We Believe?
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sins and their best deeds have all really been ways of avoiding Jesus as savior. “... the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.” (Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood, 22). Luther says, the Christian is simul iustus et peccator – simultaneously accepted, yet a sinner. When the gospel dawns on the soul, it becomes a transforming power (Romans 1:17). A Christian says: “though I have often failed to obey the law, the deeper problem is why I was ever trying to obey it!”. Our effort to obey it is just a way of seeking to be our own savior. In that mindset, even if we obey or ask for forgiveness, we are really resisting the gospel and setting ourselves up as Savior. To “get the gospel” is turn from self-justification and rely on Jesus’ record for a relationship with God. “Lay your deadly doing down, down at Jesus’ feet. Stand in Him, in Him alone – gloriously complete.” (Unknown) All this is based on the work of Jesus Christ who, on the cross, took our sin upon himself and transferred His righteousness to His people. Christians are in “union with Christ,” according to the New Testament. Jesus perfectly fulfills for His people the role of Prophet, Priest and King: Prophet – He is the Word, the Truth, He represents God to us Priest – He is the Sacrifice and Advocate, interceding for us to God King – He is the eternal Lord, enthroned and ready to return in glory. In Jesus we behold the glory of the one full of grace and truth. De-emphasize or lose one or the other of these truths, and you fall somewhat into legalism or into license, and you eliminate the joy and the power of the gospel. 2. Why am I a Christian? The centrality of God’s sovereignty. a. Because God chose you unconditionally •
God chooses whom He will save.
His decision is not based on anything we have done, good or bad (Romans 9:11-13).
He doesn’t “foresee the good guys” because there are no good guys. We are all guilty (Romans 3:10-12).
If election were based on merit no one would ever be elect! (Deuteronomy 6:9; 1 Corinthians 1:27; Romans 9:23).
God shows His mercy to people who neither want nor deserve it.
Why did God choose you and me? The answer is a mystery. It was for His own glory, and because in His mercy He was pleased to do so. Not fair? (Ephesians 1:1-14; Romans 9).
b. Because Christ died for you personally
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Christ’s atonement is personal. He died for His church (Ephesians 5:25-27). He “laid down His life for His sheep” (John 10:15, 26-29).
He came to give His life for “all the Father had given Him” (John 6:39; 10:29; 17: 2,24), and promised to raise all of them up on the last day (John 6:39 - 40). Introduction to Trinity (2012 Edition) 5
c. Because God made you alive when you were spiritually dead •
We have free will, in that we are free to do whatever we desire; however, no one naturally desires to love or obey God (Romans 3:23; 8:7; 1 Corinthians 2:14).
We are not sick with sin - we are dead in it! (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Our only hope is for Christ to make us alive (Regeneration), for Him to draw us to himself (John 6:44).
Just as God created the world out of nothing by calling it into being “Let there be” - so He calls us into life out of death (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
The ability to repent and place our faith in Christ is a gift (2 Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8-9).
God acts first in our salvation - He is its author (Hebrews 2:10; 12:2).
Regeneration (God’s action) must come before faith (our response), or faith wouldn’t be a gift and our salvation would be ultimately based on our good works.
We must be born again to see the kingdom (John 3:3), and that new birth comes from God (John 1:12-13).
God’s grace is the only reason one person is a Christian and another is not. “For who makes you different than anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
d. Because God wants you forever and will preserve you •
God begins our salvation and promises to carry it through to completion, i.e., complete restoration to the image of Christ (Philippians 1:6; John 10:27-30).
Our growth is a matter of cooperation with God’s Spirit (Romans 6:11-14; 12:1-2; 13:12-14; Ephesians 6:10-18),
But God is the ultimate source of our growth (1 Thessalonians 5:23 -24; Ephesians 2:9; Philippians 2:12-13).
e. How do I know that God has chosen me? •
John 6:37 says “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
We know that those who truly come to Christ (believe in Him) do so because God has made them alive, Christ has died for them, and God has chosen them.
Q & A ...............................................................................................
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God’s Covenant: Baptism and Infant Baptism CASE 1: BIBLICAL THEOLOGY ............................................................. Step 1: Circumcision was a sign of faith and the blessings of salvation In Romans 4:11 “Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness he had by faith.” Just as we are sinners saved by grace through believing, Abraham was as well. Does circumcision save the individual? NO! It is a sign of faith and salvation. What did the circumcision accomplish then? It brought the recipient into a covenant community. Abraham believed savingly in Genesis 15, but in Genesis 17 God makes with him a covenant (v. 7). Salvation cannot be lost, but a covenant is something Abraham must keep (Gen. 19:9: “You must keep by covenant...every male in your house must be circumcised”). A covenant is a legal accountability relationship. To be in a covenant is to have God’s name placed on you. (“You shall be my people.” It binds you to a.) obey the word of God and b.) worship and work with the people of God, those also in covenant with God. And it was a sign put not only of believers, but on the children in their household. (Genesis 17:12; Gen. 19:11 “every male in your house who is eight days old must be circumcised”). Why would the sign of faith and salvation be applied to an infant who had not yet believed? Because circumcision does not save, but it does accomplish this – it brings the children into the covenant. When Abraham placed it on his children, he was binding himself and them to have them brought up obeying God’s law and worshipping and working with God’s people. They had to some day be circumcised in heart as he was – they had to get saving faith as well. But the sign of faith and salvation upon them, bringing them into the covenant, was their continual prod and witness to them of their responsibility to grasp God by faith. Summary of Step 1 What did circumcision signify? It was the sign of faith and salvation. What did circumcision actually accomplish? It brought the recipient into a covenant community. Who received circumcision? Believers (who had faith and thus were brought into the covenant) and their children (who came into the covenant first and were led to the faith which circumcision pointed to). Step 2: Baptism is the sign of faith and salvation in the New Testament Baptism is the outward sign of inward faith and the blessings of salvation (1 Peter 3:21; 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:1-4). Does baptism save us? NO! In Romans 4 Paul refutes the idea that the sign of salvation can save us. It is a sign of faith and salvation. What does baptism accomplish then? It brings us into a covenant with God – for we are baptized “into the name” of Christ. Baptism binds us to the church, Session 2 – What Do We Believe?
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it is not merely a personal inward testimony, but a commitment to holy living and work with the church. See Acts 2:41 – to be “baptized” was to be “added to their number.” To be baptized is to commit to a holy life (Gal. 3:27). It brought into a legal accountability relationship. It bound you to a.) obey the word and b.) worship and work with God’s people And it was a sign put not only of believers, but on the children in their household. Acts 16:15; 33-34, 1 Cor. 1:16, we see that when a head of household believed in Christ, not only was he (or she) baptized, but also the “whole household.” Now the word “household” in Greek included children. It would have been a bias bordering on prejudice to assume that every one of the households mentioned in the Bible as being baptized were childless households. Such would have been very abnormal. When a householder placed baptism on children, he was binding himself and them to have them brought up obeying God’s law and worshipping and working with God’s people. They had to some day be “baptized in the Spirit” as he was —they had to get saving faith as well. But the sign of faith and salvation upon them, bringing them into the covenant, was their continual prod and witness to them of their responsibility to grasp God by faith. Summary of Step 2 What does baptism signify? It is the sign of faith and salvation. What does baptism actually accomplish? It brings the recipient into a covenant community. Who receives baptism? Believers (who have faith and thus are brought into the covenant) and their children (who come into the covenant first and are led to the faith baptism signifies). Step 3: Circumcision is fulfilled by baptism That circumcision and baptism both represented the same thing is clear from Col. 2:10-12. There we see that just as baptism represents the death of Christ which brings us our salvation, circumcision also represented the death of Christ which brings us our salvation. Circumcision is fulfilled by baptism.
CASE 2: PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION............................................ 1. All Christians admit to the unique position of the children of believers. We hold them accountable to pray and obey the Word and worship in ways we would not hold unbelievers, yet we urge them to believe and may know they are not yet born again. Presbyterians have no trouble understanding their position. They are covenant children, accountable by being brought into the covenant, with the covenant sign upon them. We have the Old Testament people of God as an example of this approach. Baptists essentially do the same thing, but without any Biblical or theological framework to account for it.
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2. Old Testament principles are binding on the New Testament, unless repealed. Example: The tithe. The NT does not explicitly command the tithe, yet there are places where it appears to assume it (Luke 11:42). Many Christians will argue that, because the tithe is not commanded in the NT, we are not bound to it. Others will argue that because it is not repealed, we are still bound to it. Every NT teaching has its roots in the OT. This is a difficult issue of Biblical interpretation, and where you come down on it will determine your approach to infant baptism. If God would have us cease applying the sign of salvation to our children, as a way of expressing their unique place in the covenant community, why did he not plainly command us in the NT to stop it? After all, it is no small matter – if the fundamental pattern of 1700 years was to be laid aside we would expect a word from Him. However, there is no such word. Indeed, we see in Acts households baptized upon the profession of the head of the household, just as we saw in the OT.
CASE 3: HISTORICAL ARGUMENT ......................................................... We know that in the early church, infants were baptized. Irenaeus was a spiritual grandchild of St. John the apostle. That is, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (modern France) was discipled by Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (modern Turkey), who was discipled by the apostle. Irenaeus baptized infants. Now it is unlikely that in such a short period the church would have changed such an important practice in the apostolic church? And if there was a change from the earliest practice to the latter practice, why would there be no evidence of a dispute? Why no tracts or papers or letters? The ancient church may have assumed that baptism of infants was normal. It is difficult to believe that the NT church did not baptize infants when the theological grandchildren of the apostles did.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR TODAY .................................................. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians/Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Eastern Orthodox Churches all baptize infants. However, not all do it for the same reason. Infant baptism is bound to be misunderstood because, “Which infant baptism are you talking about?” Churches or Denominations who only baptize adults (Baptist, Independent, Nondenominational, Charismatic, Holiness, etc.) do it for essentially the same reason (a symbol of personal faith and salvation, Rom. 6). This lead many to assume that all who baptize children must also do it for the same reason. Unfortunately, this is not true, and adds to the confusion. For example, Roman Catholics believe infant baptism erases original sin, and Lutherans believe it grants the child faith. These views of infant baptism fall short because they underemphasize the Biblical weight of a.) sin and b.) personal saving faith. We and are our children are brought into the covenant through baptism, but we are born again on the basis of grace alone though faith alone in Jesus’ work alone. Session 2 – What Do We Believe?
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For Parents: When parents at Trinity baptize their children they are saying, “We place our hope for our child’s salvation not in our perfect parenting, but God’s grace. We declare our need for God to work in the life of this child and entreat the community to help us as we seek to show and tell the gospel to the next generation” (Psalm 78:4). Our children’s ministry at Trinity is not designed therefore to take the place of the parents, but to encourage and supplement and help parents point their children toward Christ. For Church: When children are baptized, they are baptized into the Covenant Community. Therefore, we believe that they are not satellites to the “main” ministry of our church (i.e., to those above the “age of accountability”). We don’t just age-and-stage our kids in programs to keep them out of the way so that those above the parents can be encouraged. The ministry to our children on Sundays is vitally important—as important and significant a ministry as what happens in the worship gathering since they are also part of our Covenant Community. And our desire is that as children grow, they both are transitioning into the worship service as well as transitioning into using their gifts in the church body, just like their parents. This is messy, notprogrammatic, and a gift that will bear fruit in the discipleship of every young person as they grow—they discover that the church is not for their entertainment but they are vital parts of Christ’s body. We need to not ignore this practice because we are in the minority position in Owasso, but emphasize how it shows us the comprehensive nature of God’s Covenant with His people and our responsibility to raise our children in the context and blessing of God’s Covenant People, the Church.
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Study Guide B: The Impact of the Gospel One of the basic theological premises of Trinity is that the gospel can change any one, any place. Part of the driving force behind Trinity is the conviction that most people have not heard the gospel clearly, whether they have been raised in liberal churches or conservative churches. Many people are on trajectories of reaction to either their conservative or their liberal backgrounds or experiences. But the gospel is off the continuum altogether. When people actually hear the gospel, they are surprised and brought up short. There can be neither personal transformation nor social transformation without a grasp of it. The gospel transforms our hearts, our thinking and our approaches to everything. As you read the following, consider ways that the gospel might transform your ways of thing through theses areas. Some examples: 1. Approach to multiculturalism. Owasso is a growing city, and with more people comes greater cultural diversity. Are you prepared to love your colleagues, classmates, and neighbors who are different than you? The liberal approach is to relativize all cultures. The conservative approach is to idolize some cultures. The gospel of grace leads us to be: − somewhat critical of all cultures, − morally superior to no individual, − hopeful about any individual, − respectful and courteous to each individual. 2. Approach to parenting. Child-centric families make kids into trophies—and family life revolves around the demanding schedules of sports and arts and kids’ activities, to the detriment of marriage. Parent-centric families revolve around the desires, hobbies, interests of parents at the expense of the children. The gospel of grace leads parents to be: − humble, knowing your children will not be perfectly behaved. − morally superior to no one, remembering that we too are God’s children in need of correction. − consistent, knowing how consistent God, our Father, has to be with us. − honored, viewing children as future kingdom citizens (Ephesians 6:12)—like arrows to be shot out into the world to extend God’s fame and proclaim his kingdom (Psalm 127).
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3. Approach to the poor. The liberal elite tends to scorn the religion of the poor and see them as helpless victims needing their expertise. The conservative elite tends to scorn the poor as failures and weaklings. The gospel of grace leads us to be: − humble, without moral superiority knowing you were saved by grace, − gracious, remembering your former deserved spiritual poverty, − respectful of believing poor Christians as brothers and sisters from whom to learn. The gospel alone can bring “knowledge workers” into a sense of humble respect for and solidarity with the poor. 4. Approach to difficult emotions. The moralizing say, “you are breaking the rules – repent.” The psychologizing say, “you just need to love and accept yourself.” The gospel leads us to say: “something in my life has become more important than God, a pseudo-savior, a form of works-righteousness.” The gospel leads us to repentance, but not to merely setting our will against superficialities. 5. Approach to the physical world. The moralist is afraid of or indifferent to physical pleasure and wholeness, while the hedonist makes it an idol. The gospel leads us to see that God has invented both body and soul and so will redeem both body and soul. Thus the gospel leads us to enjoy the physical and fight against sickness and poverty. This is applied to sex as well. 6. Approach to love and relationships. Moralism makes relationships into a blame-game and an never ending need to earn our love; often creates co-dependency, a form of self-salvation through neediness. Liberalism reduces love to a negotiated partnership for mutual benefit. The gospel leads us to sacrifice and commit, but not out of a need to convince ourselves that we are acceptable. So we can love the person enough to confront, yet stay with the person when it does not benefit us. 7. Approach to suffering. Moralism takes the “Job’s friends” approach, laying guilt on yourself. “I must be bad to be suffering.” Liberalism lays the fault at God’s doorstep, claiming Him to be either unjust or impotent. The gospel shows us that God redeemed us through suffering: That He suffered not that we might not suffer, but that in our suffering we could become like Him.
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8. Approach to self-control. Moralists tell us to control our passions out of fear of punishment. This is a volition-based approach. Liberalism tells us to express ourselves and find out what is right for us. This is an emotion-based approach. The gospel tells us that the free, cannot-be-lost grace of God teaches us to say no to our passions (Titus 2:13) if we listen to it. This is a whole-person based approach, starting with the truth descending into the heart. 9. Approach to ministry in the world. Legalism tends to place all the emphasis on the individual human soul. Legalistic religion will insist on converting others to their faith and church, but will ignore social needs of the broader community. On the other hand, liberalism will tend to emphasize only amelioration of social conditions and minimize the need for repentance and personal conversion. The gospel leads to love which in turn moves us to give our neighbor whatever is needed – conversion or a cup of cold water, evangelism and social concern. 10. Approach to worship. Moralism leads to a dour and somber worship which may be long on dignity but short on joy. A shallow liberal understanding of acceptance without a sense of God’s holiness can lead to frothy or casual worship. (A sense of neither God’s love nor His holiness leads to a worship service that feels like a committee meeting.) But the gospel leads us to see that God is both transcendent yet immanent. His immanence makes His transcendence comforting, while His transcendence makes His immanence amazing. The gospel leads to both awe and intimacy in worship, for the Holy One is now our Father. Summary
For further reading: “Centrality of the Gospel”, Tim Keller www.trinityowasso.com /resources/articles
All problems, personal or social, come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. All pathologies in the church and all its ineffectiveness comes from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. We believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look unique. People will find both moral conviction yet compassion and flexibility. For example, gays are used to being bashed and hated or completely accepted. They never see anything else. The cultural elites of either liberal or conservative sides are alike in their unwillingness to befriend or live with, or respect or worship with, the poor. They are alike in separating themselves increasingly from the rest of society. Learning from by avoiding the excesses of the dispensationalist, charismatic, or mainline liberal churches (who all lose the balance of the gospel truth in different ways), a gospel-centered church will break stereotypes and shine brightly in Owasso & our surrounding communities.
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Trinity Trinity Owasso (PCA) exists to glorify the Triune God by unveiling the beauty of Christ & His Kingdom in Owasso & beyond through Gos...