Citizens is a San Francisco church
near Haight/Ashbury and Golden Gate Park.
We are a community striving together to follow Jesus because of who He is and what He's done.
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The Rhythms and Habits of our Community
We live out of who we are in Jesus, and yet who we are in practice is significantly shaped by how we live.
At Citizens, we are striving for a way of living that shapes us into who God created us to be. For us, that way of life is marked by three sets of rhythms.
"We are not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation for all who believe."
At Citizens, we wholeheartedly embrace the Christian gospel as the defining story of our community -- the good news of salvation from sin and death through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This good news does not arrive out of nowhere. The first-century announcement of Jesus sounded in the middle of a grand story that stretches from eternity to eternity, revealed to mankind in God's Word. This story answers all the big questions of life: Who is God? What is man? What is wrong with us? How can we be made right? What is the point?
The Bible begins with a bang: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) God, the main character of this story, is the personal, all-powerful being who made everything that exists. He is the true ruler of the universe — lovingly providing for all that is under His care.
In five days, God masterfully set up a physical kingdom that was separate from Him, yet uniquely and personally cared for by Him. At the end of each day, God reflected on his work saying, “It is good.” On the sixth day, God created the first people. God said, “Let us make man in our image,” and He formed the dust of the ground together and breathed into it the breath of life. Thus, the first humans were created and placed in a perfect garden where they could enjoy the good reign of this God. The people were decidedly different than the rest of creation in that they alone were called God's children and given the responsibility of caring for his creation. They were created with the great task of reflecting the King’s goodness and greatness throughout the creation.
Then on the seventh day God rested and reflected on the goodness of His creation. This was not the end of God’s relationship with His creation, but rather was only the beginning. Adam and Eve were able to enjoy both the goodness and greatness of their Creator and His creation. They worked faithfully in the garden, cultivating it and developing its potential to bring glory to God. They lived in perfect harmony in their relationships with God, His world, and each other. This truly was a good Kingdom!
When God first created Adam and Eve, he pointed out two trees in the center of the garden. One was the tree of life, to be enjoyed and eaten just like the rest of the fruit trees. The other tree, known as the knowledge of good and evil, was the only tree they were not to eat from. Their obedience on this count was an expression of their trust in God. If Adam was to eat of this tree, he would surely die.
One day a deceitful, lying serpent approached Eve and asked her a question. He asked, “Did God really say that you couldn’t eat of any of the fruit in this garden?” Eve told him, “No, that’s not what God said. We can eat from any tree in the garden. It’s only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that we are not allowed to eat from—or even touch—or we will definitely die.” (But why did Eve add to God's command?)
Still trying to trick Eve, the serpent lied, “You won’t die! God just knows that as soon as you eat from that tree your eyes will be opened, and you will become just like Him. You will be able to determine what is right and wrong.”
“Hmm. I would be able to decide what is right and wrong?” Eve thought. She looked at the delicious fruit, contemplating the decision, and she believed the lies of the serpent over the words of the good God. No longer content to be with God, she wanted to be like him. So, she reached out her hand and ate some of the fruit. Then she gave some to her husband, Adam, who was there with her, and he ate it as well.
In that moment their eyes were opened, and they became full of shame, quickly tying fig leaves together to cover up their nakedness. They had rebelled and chosen to live outside the good reign of God and immediately experienced the devastating effects of that choice. Later on that day, Adam and Eve heard God walking in the garden (as He always did that time of day). When they heard Him, their shame caused them to hide behind some of the nearby bushes.
After hearing what happened, God spoke to the serpent, “You are cursed because you have done this. You will now be the enemy of the woman and her offspring. You will bite at his heels, but he will crush your head!”
Then God turned to Adam and Eve. He knew that His good creation would be drastically affected by their choice to live outside His good reign. He knew that they would be subjected to sickness, pain, suffering, and even death now as a result of their decisions. Because He was just and good and cannot allow injustice or rebellion to remain in His presence forever, He had to punish them for their rebellion.
He told them the consequences of their sin:
- Women will have great pain in bearing children.
- Men will struggle, toil, and sweat while trying to cultivate the land—only to get a little bit of food from it.
- They would both struggle for power in their relationship.
- They would return to the dust from which they were formed. Even though He punished them with the consequences for their rebellion, God still loved and provided for them. He gave them clothes made from the skins of some of the animals that they had previously named and cared for.
Amazingly, the story doesn’t end with this devastating rebellion in the garden. Like any good story, there is hope. And the hope of this story lies in the promise that God is still on His mission.
In the midst of the realization that all of creation was now under a curse, Adam and Eve held onto that promise that the good God would some day crush the serpent through one of their descendants — a Victor had been promised.
After many centuries of deepening wickedness and confusion, it becomes obvious that mankind was entirely unable to rescue itself. They could not crush the serpent themselves. God did not just leave the nations out there to be confused and without hope. God called one man, Abraham, and made a covenant with him. The covenant stated that God would bless Abraham and multiply his offspring so that his offspring would bless all the nations. Abraham’s family would be the means by which God would cure the world.
After many years of waiting, Abraham had a child named Isaac. In one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible, Abraham was instructed by God to sacrifice Isaac, the child of promise. But at the last moment, God provided a ram for the sacrifice instead. The ram substituted for Isaac, and the promise continued.
Isaac multiplied into a great nation called Israel. As generations passed, Israel became enslaved to the Egyptians, the strongest nation in the world. They were beaten, abused, and hopeless. They cried out in misery to God. But God was still on mission.
He heard their cries for help, and He rescued them by His mighty hand, using a man named Moses. This exodus from Egypt was the great act of God that Israel would always look back on to remember, “God is our Savior and will keep His covenant with us!”
Soon after they were saved from slavery, God spoke to Moses on a mountaintop and told him the commandments they were to live by. However, just like Adam and Eve, they didn’t always obey these commandments. Because God always does what is good, right and perfect, he could not overlook their sins and the ultimate punishment for sin was death. A life must be given to pay for each person’s disobedience. But God loved his people, so he provided a way for them to substitute the life of an innocent animal in place of their own. This pattern of an innocent life of a lamb being substituted for sin would continue long into the future. But everyone knows that the blood of animals cannot atone for the depths of human sin.
Once Israel was finally back safe in their land, you would think they would break their legacy of rebellion against God. Rather than worshipping the true God, however, they quickly fell into a devastating cycle of rebellion against God. Over the next centuries, they would fall further and further away from the God who had rescued and delivered them. But God was still on His mission.
Even though God had shown himself to be a good King, the people cried out for a human king. So God gave them kings. One such king was David. David ruled well and brought the nation together. As David was about to die, God made a covenant with David that one of his sons would reign over God’s people forever.
David’s sons did not follow after their father, and they certainly did not follow God. They turned to the many gods of the other nations and led the people away from God. Because of their rebellion, God brought other nations in to conquer and exile Israel from their land. All seemed lost. But God was still on mission.
In the midst of the exile, God spoke through prophets. He gave them a great promise that He would one day come and rescue His people. He would send a mighty, yet humble Servant to redeem them.
And so, God’s people were left, waiting, longing, and hoping for the day when God would rescue them.
On a quiet night in Bethlehem, the same city King David had grown up in a millennium before, a little child was born. The child’s name was Jesus, a translation of Joshua into the local language. On the night this child was born, a group of angels came to herald, or to welcome, this child into the world. These weren’t pudgy little baby angels with harps. These were mighty warrior angels who had come to announce the arrival of the one and true King to the world. All they could say in utter worship was, “Glory to God in the highest!”
That baby grew into a man. Around the time he was 30 years old, He began to tell people that He was the King they had been waiting for. He told people, “There is good news! No more waiting, no more longing, no more hope in false Messiahs! Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Jesus began teaching people what life was going to be like under the rule of this true King in His forever Kingdom. He not only taught people how to live in this Kingdom, but He gave them a foretaste of what the Kingdom is like:
- In His Kingdom, there is no blindness. He gave sight to the blind.
- In His Kingdom, there is no sickness. He healed the sick.
- In His Kingdom, there is no sin. He forgave sin.
- In His Kingdom, there are no marginalized. He befriended sinners.
- In His Kingdom, nature is at peace. He calmed the storm.
- In His Kingdom, there are no evil powers. He cast out demons.
- In His Kingdom, there is no death. He raised the dead.
Many people followed Jesus. They wanted to be a part of His Kingdom. They believed He was finally God’s answer to their longings. Of the thousands that followed him, He selected twelve disciples He would train to carry out His mission after he left. They dropped everything to follow Jesus on His way to the throne. They believed Jesus was going to overturn the Romans, set God’s people free, and bring in the golden age of peace. They wanted to be near. So they followed Jesus. They loved Jesus. They served Jesus. They stayed close by the side of Jesus.
But not everyone loved Jesus. To the Jewish leaders, He was a rebel, flipping their religious system upside down after they had worked so hard to build it up. To the Romans, He was a rebel, and insurrectionist. To make matters worse, He claimed He was God. So, needless to say, not everyone loved Jesus.
After three years of proclaiming the Kingdom and setting himself up as the promised King, the true Messiah, Jesus came into Jerusalem (the City of David) to celebrate the Passover. The Passover was the holiday when the people of Israel remembered God’s great saving act of rescuing them out of Egyptian slavery centuries before. Many people welcomed Jesus into the city, believing He was the King who would do the next great saving act of rescuing them out of Roman slavery.
Some of the religious leaders made a plan to murder Jesus. They conspired with Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, exactly how it would go down. They turned Him over to the Romans calling him an insurrectionist. They demanded He, the one and true King of the earth, be beaten and killed. Not just killed, but crucified. Crucifixion is one of the most torturous, humiliating, and excruciating death ever devised.
So on a little hill outside Jerusalem hung Jesus, the one and true King of the world. Hanging on a cross was the One they had been hoping, waiting, longing for. John looked on in horror. The King willingly hung on a cross and died... according to plan.
According to plan? Surely not! How could that be? Wasn’t the plan that, as King, He would ascend to a throne, wear a crown of jewels, and every living creature would bow down before Him? The plan wasn’t supposed to be hanging on a cross, wearing a crown of thorns, and having His enemies spit and curse at Him.
The one and true King was now the crucified and dead King. He had become a victim of the rebellion in the Garden of Eden just like the rest of creation. He seemed no different. But God was still on His mission. The cross wasn’t outside of God’s plan to redeem and restore His creation. It was the white hot center of it.
Three days later, some women went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. He was gone! They told His disciples who ran as fast as they could to the tomb. The disciples found it... empty. Soon they would learn that Jesus was indeed... alive!
The crucified and dead King showed that He absolutely was the one and true King. He did not succumb to the powers and effects of that original rebellion. He rose from the grave. He defeated death! He conquered the curse! And He crushed Satan’s head in the process!
Jesus was alive. The one and true King had decisively defeated the enemies of the Kingdom. The new day had dawned. What had been lost at Adam’s rebellion in the Garden was now starting to be put right.
After His death and resurrection Jesus gathered his followers back together. He began to show them from their history and their sacred writings that what had happened to Him was all according to plan. God was still on a redemptive mission, and He was sending them out to play key roles.
Over the next 40 days Jesus showed them that His death and resurrection were needed to :
- Take the penalty for their sin on Himself.
- Defeat Satan.
- Redeem them from their slavery to sin.
- Secure the renewal of His creation.
Jesus’ friends couldn’t have been more excited. They were sitting there in Jerusalem with Jesus, the one and true resurrected King. He was teaching them. He was about to take His throne and usher in the end of history. Finally, what they had been waiting, hoping, and longing for was finally here!
Not so fast. Jesus told Peter, John and the others that it was not yet time, the story wasn’t finished yet. There were more people who still needed to hear about the King and His good Kingdom. It was not yet time for His Kingdom to come in full. Jesus’ disciples learned that they and their friends were going to be sent out into the world as ambassadors of the true King.
*Just as those angels had heralded the good news of the King’s birth so many years before... Just as Jesus had heralded the news of His Kingdom and showed people what life is like in His Kingdom....
They too, were going to be sent out to herald the good news of the true King’s life, death, and resurrection. Together their lives and their voices would be a foretaste of and an invitation into the Kingdom life. Before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples, “I am leaving you now, but I will come again one day. But for now, while you are here, I will send the Spirit of God to live in and among you. He will empower you for your mission to bring the good news of Me and My Kingdom, making new disciples of Me in every nation.” And then He left, ascending to the right hand of the Father.
Jesus’ followers (about 120 of them) sat in Jerusalem waiting for the promised Spirit to empower them to live out the mission Jesus had called them into. They waited and prayed as days went by. Finally, on the tenth day, the Spirit arrived with a great rush of wind, and tongues of fire were seen leaping above their heads. They were united, empowered, and directed to live out the mission Jesus had given them. In order to tell all these different people, they were empowered to speak in languages that they had never spoken before in their lives—so that people could hear the good news.
As time went on, Jesus’ disciples were sent out from Jerusalem. They spread all over the known world. They told as many people as they could about the one and true King and what He had done. They set up communities of people who believed and lived according to this true story wherever they went. These were called churches, and those who followed this King were called Christians. Jesus’ followers began to orient all of their lives around this true story devoting their lives to serving each other, being a family that was not defined by cultural norms or racial boundaries but by their crucified and risen Savior, learning from the Scriptures and each other, and living as missionaries to the world.
Many of those who followed the true King were exiled, tortured, and even murdered for living their lives according to the true story. But still the good news of a risen Savior spread, bringing freedom and forgiveness to people across the world. The good news spread through the cities and out into rural communities. People of all walks of life began to see the truth of the story that these witnesses of the life and death of Jesus were talking about.
As these communities spread across the world, some of Jesus’ followers who had witnessed the risen Christ were directed by the Holy Spirit to write letters to these communities, teaching them how to live faithfully on mission. They answered their questions, corrected their errors, and redirected them back to Jesus and His mission which was now theirs to carry out.
Through the church, we see that God is still on His redemptive mission. It is as the church lives out her mission to declare and demonstrate the gospel that people are able to see what it is to live under the good reign of God and come to worship King Jesus.
This is the act of the story in which we find ourselves today. Churches in SF are a small extension of God's worldwide redemptive mission.
But the story isn’t over. One of Jesus’ followers, a man named John, was imprisoned on a small island. He sat in his prison cell and prayed to God. He wondered if and when God would rescue His people. God spoke to him through a dream, a revelation. In a sequence of stories with rich imagery, God made John aware of the reality that God was still sovereignly accomplishing His mission on the earth through the Church. Even God’s people were suffering and it seemed like the enemy was winning, all was not lost. God revealed to John that He was still actively accomplishing his purposes that would culminate in a full and final victory.
One day Jesus will return — not as the sacrificial lamb that was slain, but as the conquering Lion. John paints this descriptive picture for us with rich imagery: Jesus will return on a great white warhorse like a mighty general returning from battle. He has a great sword of righteousness coming out of His mouth. He has a tattoo on his thigh that says “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” He is wearing a crown of many jewels. And He is wearing a brilliant white robe. And the hem of His robe has been drenched in blood.
Jesus will return for one final battle where He will finally and fully defeat Satan and the powers of darkness, sending them into a lake of fire where they will remain forever.
Then Jesus will judge every person. Those who decided to choose death, who disobeyed, will be cast away, forever missing out on God’s renewed creation that is to come. Those who were a part of the redeemed community, who had been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, will spend forever with Him in what is to come...
And John saw it! He saw a picture of creation restored! He saw everything bad come undone:
- He saw all the effects of the curse, reversed.
- All the twisting of God’s original intention, untwisted.
- All the tears, wiped away.
- Death, no more.
- No mourning, no crying, no pain. All the false idols, false gods, false saviors, given up to forever worship the true Savior. He saw a picture of eternity. There were no clouds, no harps, no vague other- worldliness.
- There was a King.
- There was a renewed creation.
- There were people from every tribe, tongue, and nation bowing down and living their lives in worship to King Jesus.
Not only did he see it, but he heard it. He heard a mighty voice declare from the throne, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Behold I am making all things new!”
Seeing and hearing all these things, John was again convinced that God is still on His mission. He knew that Jesus was using His Church to accomplish his purposes in His world. And nothing could thwart that. John wrote down what he had seen and heard so that the rest of the Church could have the same hope, security, and urgency that he now had. He ended his writing with this, final words: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”
What does this ancient story mean for a small, young San Francisco church? The short answer: Everything. If this story answers the big questions of life then surely it also directs how we live! Our personal, local story finds its meaning in the Bible's cosmic, universal story.
Citizens, along with other churches in San Francisco, is not called to chart our own course. We do not aim to make a name for ourselves, but instead to call attention to the name of Jesus. We have been created and redeemed by God in Jesus Christ, adopted into God's family and commissioned as missionaries and servants for His Kingdom in this world.