Sunday Recap Vol. 2.2

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

 

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

How should we “negotiate” Christian identity and difference in the midst of cultural change? Christian identity is established not primarily by denying and combating what is outside but by embracing and highlighting the center of what is inside—Jesus Christ as the Word who took on flesh and became the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world…. Difference matters because and to the extent that identity matters. Put slightly differently, properly understood Christian identity is not reactive but positive; the center defines the difference, not fear of others, either of their uncomfortable proximity or their dangerous aggressiveness. – Miroslav Volf

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: Jonah 1:1-3

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Adoration
Jesus, Cast a Look on Me - Confession
The Gospel is Good News Indeed - Grace
O Love that Will Not Let Me Go - Response
Come, Holy Ghost - Communion

Suggested Resources:
What is the state of the church in America? In a 3-part series Ed Stetzer, a pastor, researcher and Christian Missiologist, explains the basic data that gives texture to the current state of the church in America. I think these kinds of data points and perspectives are particularly helpful as we think about our "Place" here in Birmingham. Part 1Part 2, and Part 3

Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)

All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name
Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, 
Ye ransomed from the fall, 
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, 
And crown Him Lord of all. 
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, 
And crown Him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe, 
And crown Him Lord of all. 
To Him all majesty ascribe, 
And crown Him Lord of all.

Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)

Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, we need to be forgiven. We have tried to work off our guilt and shame; to pile up good deeds that outweigh our sins. We have tried to change through our own efforts. When this doesn’t work, we turn to denial and distraction, leaving some of us arrogant and the rest of us anxious and depressed. Forgive us for thinking we could save ourselves rather than resting in the merits of Jesus Christ. Forgive us for our pride. Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
 
1 Peter 2:21-24

Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)

Sunday's Sermon: "Identity & Difference"

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 2:9-12
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
 
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Sermon Outline

  1. Who we are: Gospel Identity (v. 9-10)
  2. What we are called to do: Gospel Engagement (v. 11-12)
  3. Where we find the help to do it: Gospel Resources (Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 1 Peter 2:4-5)

Sermon Summary
This week we concluded our vision renewal series by looking at the idea of "Place." The importance of "place" has characterized Red Mountain Church from its earliest days. And yet a lot has happened at RMC in its first 15 years leading one to wonder, how flexible or malleable is the idea of "Place"? As important as such a question is, I want to focus on what has not changed in order to provide us with what we need to love and serve the "place" God has planted us. In short, I want to focus on the gospel to rediscover who we are, what we are called to do and where we find the resources to do it.

So first, who are we? In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter gives a rich picture of Christian identity drawn exclusively from the ways God identified his people in the Old Testament. Remarkably, Peter picks up this same language to define our identity in Christ. Just to mention a couple points, Peter says we are a royal priesthood. Priests were mediators between God and his people. On the one hand they experienced the closest, most intimate relationship with God. On the other hand, they were deeply involved in the lives of the people as they came to offer worship and sacrifices to God. In other words, Peter is telling us the church in Christ is the primary means by which people outside the church will discover God and the beauty of his grace. We are called to be mediators as it were, a kingdom of priests, connecting the glorious riches of God's grace in Christ to the realities of peoples lives. So we (corporately) are a royal priesthood. But Peter says we are also a holy nation. Holy in the bible means set apart or distinct. The church belongs to God as his treasured possession. As a holy nation, the church is called to hold fast to its distinctive identity while being deeply involved in the world. In other words, Peter is saying we are called to be in the world, different from the world and yet for the world! We are called to proclaim the excellencies of God's grace: the gift of new life (out of darkness into light); the gift of new community (once you were not a people but now you are God's people); and the gift of bottomless mercy (sin's penalty and power has been conquered in Christ) (v.10).

If that is our identity, how are we to be engaged in the world? Peter refers to the church as sojourners and exiles (1 Peter 1:1). Such language harkens back to the journey of God's people from Egypt to the promised land and the status of God's people while in Exile in Babylon. Taken together they describe the church as a "contrast community." God's people are not yet home, but are to treat their current place as home. To be a contrast community doesn't mean a community "against" our place. Rather a contrast community derives its identity from the Gospel and how the gospel shapes our love for and service in this place. Peter gives us two basic directions. Our gospel engagement must be self-critiquing (v. 11) and outwardly compelling (v. 12). In other words, the gospel calls us to "relational integrity" towards those outside the church. We need to be like, unlike and engaged. We need to be people who participate fully in the life of our neighbors. We need to look like them, dress like them, eat like them, participate in social and civic affairs like them. To do so gives unbelievers and skeptics a live example of what they might look like if they were to become a Christian. But at the same time we are to be unlike our unbelieving and skeptical neighbors. The church (as a body and as individuals) should be known for its integrity, generosity, hospitality, sympathy, and willingness to forgive. It should be known for it's commitment to God's word in how we approach sex, power, adversity, justice and mercy. It's not enough to be "like" but not "different" or to be "different" but not "like." We must be both with a willingness to be visible and engaged in our "place."

Now if you are anything like me, what God teaches us here, sounds overwhelming and exhausting. Which is why we must know where to find the resources to do what the scriptures call us to as the church. In the book of Hebrews we find the answer. Jesus became like us in every way (2:17) and yet was without sin (4:15). Jesus came into the world to be like us in all the ways we needed him to be (fully human). He also came into the world to be unlike us in all the ways we needed him to be (sinless). You see the pattern and power for our common life together toward our "place" is found in Jesus Christ who came into the world, was different from the world, and yet was for the world even to the point of dying on the cross. That's how engaged Jesus was. That is gospel engagement. The good news is he makes his grace and power available to us through faith as "we come to him and are built up into a spiritual house" (2:4-5) for God's glory and the good of this place.

Reflection Questions

  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. Based on our Gospel identity, we are called to be in the world, different from the world and yet for the world. Which part of our calling as a "royal priesthood" and "holy nation" (like, unlike, and engaged) do you struggle with the most and why?
  5. According to Peter what does relational integrity look like? (re: vs. 11 "abstain from the passions of your flesh, which war against your soul"; vs. 12 "keep your conduct among the gentiles honorable," beautiful, attractive)
  6. What is the difference between a "contrast community" and a "community against" the world?
  7. Why do we need Jesus and his gospel if we are to be a community for our "place"?

Q&A: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 85. What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?
 
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.

Acts 4:11-12
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”