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:
Jonah, the prophet, is a very clear illustration of the principle that the fruitfulness of our lives for God is not itself a guarantee of the closeness of our lives to his will…. Beware of mistaking usefulness to God for communion with God! – Sinclair Ferguson
It is not he that receives most of the truth into his head, but he that receives most of the truth affectionately into his heart, that shall enjoy the happiness of having his judgment sound and clear. – Thomas Brooks
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 1:1-7
Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven - Adoration
Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe) - Confession
He Leadeth Me - Grace
God of My Life, to Thee I Call - Response
Jesus, Lover of My Soul - Communion
This is a really thoughtful and thought provoking piece by Andrew Sullivan in the New York Times Magazine about the impact of smart phones, social media, and the internet on us as human beings. It's a long article so I thought I would give you a few snippets:
"You are where your attention is. If you’re watching a football game with your son while also texting a friend, you’re not fully with your child — and he knows it. Truly being with another person means being experientially with them, picking up countless tiny signals from the eyes and voice and body language and context, and reacting, often unconsciously, to every nuance. These are our deepest social skills, which have been honed through the aeons. They are what make us distinctively human."
"The reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow disproved the unprovable, but because the white noise of secularism has removed the very stillness in which it might endure or be reborn."
"If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary."
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior
Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.
Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, we confess that we daily sin against you and our neighbors in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions. Our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment. Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Words of Grace
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text: Jonah 1:1-16
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.”15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.
- A sobering contrast (v. 5, 9, 10, 12, 16)
- A downward spiral (v. 3, 5-6, 9, 12)
- The need for deep, life-changing grace (v. 12; Rm. 8:1, Heb. 2:1; Phil. 2:12-13)
The opening verses of the book of Jonah are marked by great tension. God calls Jonah to go to Ninevah and Jonah says, "NO!" Instead of going, Jonah heads in the opposite direction, indicating he wants nothing to do with the God he serves or his mission. The rest of chapter 1 tells the story of Jonah's effort to run from God and the spiritual disintegration that follows. Therefore, we see in this part of the story a sobering contrast, a downward spiral, and the need for deep life-changing grace.
One of the more obvious features in verses 4-16 is the sobering contrast between Jonah and the pagan sailors aboard the ship to Tarshish. The sailors end up showing far more spiritual sensitivity and concern for others than Jonah does. First, the sailors move from fearing the storm (v. 5), to fearing what Jonah has done (v. 10), to fearing the Lord (v. 16). In other words, the sailors are transformed through this dark experience. However, Jonah remains unchanged. Second, the sailors show far more compassion and concern for Jonah than he does for the sailors and this even after they discover Jonah is to blame for their plight. Jonah doesn't even cry out to his God when the captain pleads with him to do so (v. 6).
The contrast between Jonah and the sailors raises an important question many people ask. "Christians believe all these great things and yet their lives don't match what they believe. Why is that?" Jonah says he is a Hebrew and believes in the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land (v. 9). Yet this belief doesn't come out in his character. Why is that? There is a disconnect between beliefs and character. Jonah's beliefs have not gone down deep into his heart so that when those beliefs do their "work" so to speak he is changed by them. If anything, in Jonah's case, his beliefs had produced a hardening of his heart, a spiritual disintegration.
Therefore, before we look at what's needed to bridge the gap between our beliefs and character we need to notice the downward spiral in Jonah's life in order to identify the marks of spiritual disintegration that follow running from God. We see at least four marks of spiritual breakdown in Jonah's life. First, Jonah finds circumstances to meet his desires in running from God. The text tells us that after Jonah fled from God he found just what he needed...he found a ship going to Tarshish (v. 3). As often happens when we don't want to hear God's word or follow him we look for and often find circumstances to serve our purposes and treat them as "signs" of promise. However, there is an important lesson for us as Sinclair Ferguson points out. "Do not be guided by circumstances when you are refusing first to be guided by God's word." Second, Jonah loses all spiritual sensitivity toward God and others. After boarding the ship Jonah falls fast asleep and remains utterly oblivious, even indifferent to the plight of the sailors. Not only does he show no concern for the sailors, when Jonah is awoken by the captain he doesn't call out to his God. His decision to flee from God has also eroded his fellowship with God. Third, Jonah experiences a breakdown of his identity and purpose in life. After being found out as the responsible party for this great storm, the sailors ask Jonah a flurry of questions. He answers them all but one: "What is your occupation?" He no longer was able to say he was a prophet of the Lord. That part of his identity which he was uniquely called to do and for which he was most well known was now gone. Lastly, Jonah despairs over his future usefulness. When the sailors ask, "What shall we do to you?" he replies, "Pick me up and hurl me into the sea." Jonah is trapped. He sees no other way out. He must bear the consequences of his actions all alone. His flight has left him hopeless and incapable of crying out to his God for mercy and help.
Jonah's story is a tragic story and a terrifying one. What about you? Do you see any of these marks in your life as a result of drifting away from God's word? If so, what should you do?
You need the same thing Jonah needs. An experience of God's deep, life-changing grace which can only come from turning back to what he has done in Jesus Christ. Jonah's biggest problem was that the further he ran from God the smaller God became and the bigger and darker he became. The way back is to return to the greatness of God's love freely given in Jesus Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1) Left to ourselves there is only a downward spiral of hardness, isolation, guilt and shame. However, in Christ there is forgiveness, acceptance, freedom and hope! Only the gospel can turn us back to rediscover the love, peace, and joy we crave. But the question still remains. How do you work these beliefs into your life so they begin to actually change you. You need a bridge. You need things like worship, regular thoughtful reading of scripture, prayer, spiritual friendship, the sacraments, gospel community, etc.
Perhaps you are thinking, "that's just it, I don't know how to turn back, or if I can turn back." Be sure not to miss the most significant feature of this whole story. God pursues rebellious sinners to wake us up...to turn us back to him (re: John 3:16). How is God pursuing you in the midst of your life today? How do you need him to bridge the gap between your beliefs and your character?
Perhaps you are at a loss for words. If so use these words, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart." (Psalm 119:18, 34)
- What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
- What questions does this passage raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- What contrasts do you notice between Jonah and the Sailors?
- What is your reaction to the downward spiral in Jonah's life?
- Why does God pursue Jonah in this story? What hope does it give you?
Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 86
Q. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
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.