FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
There's A Wideness In God's Mercy
There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood,
there is healing in his blood.
Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap!
The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? 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!
Neither self-denial (a repudiation of our sins) nor self-affirmation (an appreciation of God’s gifts) is a dead end of self-absorption. On the contrary, both are means to self-sacrifice. Self-understanding should lead to self-giving. The community of the cross is essentially a community of self-giving love, expressed in the worship of God and in the service of others. It is to this that the cross consistently and insistently calls us. – John Stott
Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. – John Owen
Confession of Sin:
Prayer of Confession
We confess, our Father, that we do not live up to the family name. We are more ready to resent than to forgive, more ready to manipulate than to serve, more ready to fear than to love, more ready to keep our distance than to welcome, more ready to compete than to help. At the root of this behavior is mistrust. We do not love one another as we should, because we do not believe that you love us as you do. Forgive us our cold unbelief. And make more vivid to us the meaning and depth of your love at the cross. Show us what it cost you to give up your Son that we might become your sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our only righteousness. Amen.
Words of Grace
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:2-3
Confession of Faith: Apostle's Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
I believe 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.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living 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.
Sermon Text: Mark 9:30-50
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
1. The cross-shaped life: what it isn't
2. The cross-shaped life: what it is
3. The cross-shaped life: how do we get it
Sermon SummaryReflection Questions
The middle section of Mark's gospel (8:31-10:52) is about discipleship, following Jesus. It is punctuated by three pronouncements (8:31-33; 9:30-31; 10:32-34) Jesus makes telling of his coming death and resurrection. Therefore, the only way to truly grasp what it means to follow Jesus is to do so in light of his cross. Christian discipleship is not a moral self-improvement program. It is a life shaped by the cross of Jesus. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
So what does a cross-shaped life look like? How would you know if the gospel of Jesus is taking root in your life? Jesus teaches us three marks of the Christian life in this one conversation with his disciples as they journey toward Jerusalem and to his cross.
First, the cross-shaped life is fundamentally other-oriented. It is not concerned about status or position or greatness. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (vs. 35) In the face of the disciples' argument about who is the greatest, Jesus teaches them the meaning of true greatness. To do so he gives them an object lesson. He brings a child into their conversation and takes him in his arms. Jesus is not being sentimental here. He is teaching us the upside down values of the kingdom. The child here represents those lowest on the social scale. The child represents those who require much and can give nothing in return. What Jesus is teaching us is our response to the least and the lowest is our response to God. (v. 37) Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matt. 25:40) You know the gospel is taking root in your life based on who you are drawn to serve!
The second mark of the cross-shaped life is a gospel-centered ambition. It is not selfishly ambitious. John, speaking for the disciples (v. 38), reveals their selfish ambition as they object to the ministry of another done in Jesus' name. Their pride is only further exposed when we remember, they, the twelve-disciples of Jesus, were not able to do the very thing this other follower of Jesus was doing...casting out demons. (re: 9:28) In response Jesus says, "Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us." The disciples had forgotten what all this kingdom stuff is really about. It is about Jesus and his glory, not our abilities or success! Have you ever envied the success of someone else? The way you know the gospel is taking root in your life is you no longer covet the success of others. You begin to celebrate it and pray for it!
One further comment on this point. The disciples seem to think they have exclusive rights to the Kingdom of God and its ministry. But notice, Jesus works through an ordinary follower of his to do something not even the disciples could do. That ought to encourage you! Do you feel weak, useless, like you don't have much to offer others? Let this story encourage you. Jesus is at work through ordinary people like you and me to bring the blessings of his kingdom to people who desperately need him. Even the most simple acts of faith done in Jesus name do not go unnoticed! (v. 41)
The third mark of the cross-shaped life is it takes sin seriously. Sadly the disciples are a picture of what it looks like when we fight more for status and success than holiness. Two key features stand out. First Jesus teaches us thatsin is dangerous. Its consequences are real with eternal significance. For Jesus sin is a life or death, heaven or hell matter. The point is this: either you must kill sin or it will kill you. Second Jesus teaches there is no sacrifice too big to turn from sin. The reference to cutting off your hand, your foot, or plucking out your eye is not meant to be taken literally. Rather Jesus is teaching us that grace is not cheap. The way you know the gospel is taking root in your life is you are committed to universal obedience, that is, you are committed to rooting out sin in every area of your life - what we do with our hands, what we gaze at with our eyes, where we go to on our feet. As John Owen once wrote, "You cannot [cut off] a specific sin that is troubling you, unless you are seeking to obey the Lord from the heart in all areas."
How do you get this cross-shaped life? First you must not remain silent like the disciples. (v. 34) You need to be honest with Jesus about what you don't understand, what your fears are. (v. 32) You need to admit what you most want: status, success, cheap grace. But second you need to be convinced the cross-shaped life is worth it. “If we are thinking that by following Jesus we will enhance our own prestige, our sense of self-worth (so highly prized today, but so easily leading to a narcissistic sense that the gospel exists to make us feel good about ourselves), or even our bank balance, then we’re very unlikely to be able to hear what God is actually saying.” (N.T. Wright) How then do you become persuaded the cross-shaped life is worth it? By looking to Jesus and discovering he has lived it first, for you, and was victorious over it! [L]et us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Heb. 12:1b-2) When we do so we also find the help we need to endure.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Heb. 12:3-4) We are right back where we started...the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. (v. 31)
Why do you need this cross-shaped life? Because it means Jesus is at work in your life, reproducing his life in you! These are marks of supernatural grace! A life oriented toward others, that cultivates a gospel-centered ambition, and takes sin seriously is proof the gospel is taking root in your life! Remember these marks are not techniques to earn God's favor or get him to accept you. No! These are marks left on you, in your heart, from time spent with Jesus, from his life rubbing off on you and changing you from the inside out!
- 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?
- In what ways do you relate to the disciples?
- Which mark of the cross-shaped life do you see the most of/least of in your life/in the life of Red Mountain Church?
- What steps do you need to take to get this cross-shaped life?
Suggested Resources & The Week Ahead
I intended to tell you last week what I did over my study week and forgot to. I thought perhaps some of you might be interested to know what I did. Study week is first of all an opportunity for me to exhale and take stock not only of Red Mountain Church but my own heart. In some ways I never stop doing that. But it is good and helpful, from time to time, to stop and try to see the forest for the trees. So study week always involves reflection, brain-storming and planning. In addition I visited the Civil Rights Institute for the first time and read several articles and book chapters on worship. I also read C.S. Lewis's little book called The Abolition of Man, in which he states his case for the existence of universal values, "the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are." I also spent time studying and preparing for sermons. It was a good week and I am very thankful for the time.
One last thing. The end of February marks the end of nominations for the office of elder or deacon. Thank you to those of you who submitted nominations. I am excited about the future of RMC and look forward to working with the nominees over the coming months.
Songs for this week:
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
The Church's One Foundation
Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners
Come, O Come Thou Quickening Spirit
Come Ye Souls By Sin Afflicted
Until next time,
There's A Wideness In God's Mercy
There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than in heaven;
There is no place where earth's failings
have such kind judgment given.
There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head,
in the sorrows of the Head.
For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord,
for the goodness of the Lord.