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:
Christian [community] is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: 1 Peter 2:9-12
The Heavens Declare Thy Glory - Adoration
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name - Adoration
There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy - Grace
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts - Response
Build Me Solid - Communion
I subscribe to a weekly email list with the NY Times that sends out a handful of articles from other publications. This one caught my attention as it speaks to the differences between the privileged and the poor and the plight of the working poor. It's a provocative piece. You may not agree with everything or the way it is said (e.g. a few "F" bombs). However, it will make you think and that's a good thing!
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us
Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,
Be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
God of mercy, we humbly confess our need of your pardoning grace. We shelter arrogance and pride in our hearts and believe that our efforts are good enough to secure what only you can give us. We are quick to judge and grumble when our plans, pleasures, and preferences are threatened. We are slow to offer mercy, both inwardly and outwardly, towards those people you have placed in our lives and called us to love. Forgive our self-righteousness and our self-absorption. Fix our eyes on our savior, Jesus Christ, that we may become enraptured with Him, for it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
Words of Grace
[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:1-16
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he mightfill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
- The means of growth: the ministry of the word (v. 11-12)
- The goal of growth: maturity (v. 13-14)
- The pursuit of growth: love (v. 15-16)
This week we continued our vision renewal series by looking at the third of our 4-words: Community. To do so we looked at Ephesians 4:1-16 and especially verses 11-16. Ephesians 4 marks a turning point in Paul's letter in which he transitions from expounding the good news of the gospel to laying out the new life it creates. So Paul begins in verses 1-3, "I...urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Even just a quick read reveals how difficult this calling is. So the obvious question arises. How can we live in a manner worthy of the grace we've received in the Gospel? Answer: Through the ministry of the word. Verse 11 lists gifts (not exhaustively; see 1 Pet. 4:10-11) Jesus has given to the church to equip the saints. For Paul the preaching, teaching and receiving of the scriptures is how the church matures and builds itself up in love. The word "equip" in verse 12 helps characterize the kind of community the scriptures create. It's a word that was used in the medical world of restoring broken limbs. As Sinclair Ferguson wrote, "A church in which the word of God is explained and applied becomes a hospital for the sick and a gymnasium to build up spiritual strength and stamina. Here the word of God does its own healing, cleansing, transforming work on our sinful and broken lives.”
If the word of God preached, taught, discussed and applied is how we grow up into Jesus Christ then what will that look like? Paul gives us two goals to describe what maturity looks like. The first goal is deep unity in the faith among fellow believers with Jesus at the center. Paul says, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God." Paul's point is that unity, true unity, must come from outside of ourselves, from Jesus and what he taught and did. "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph. 2:14). The second goal is to become more like Jesus, that is, "to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." How do we become full of Jesus? Letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16). What's your reaction to these goals?
Thankfully Paul gives us his reaction too. Without the ministry of the word we will continue like children tossed about in a boat among the waves of popular opinion and other "gospels" (v. 14). In other words, we will be immature and unstable. But with the Word we will grow to become stable and mature and by grace able to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel through the fiercest storms.
So how should we pursue growth individually and as a community? In one word, love! Bearing with one another in love (v. 2), speaking the truth in love (v. 15), and building each other up in love (v. 16). Why all this emphasis on love for growing in grace? Listen to Paul's reflections on the absolute necessity and priority of love in the Christian life. "And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Wow...what do you do with that? How do you get that kind of love? From Jesus who is the head of the body (v. 15) and the husband we all need. "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). Therefore, the pursuit of growth first begins with knowing yourself loved by Jesus. For it is our common fellowship with him that makes the whole body in all its parts work properly and build itself up in love.
- 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 is your reaction to the priority Paul gives to the ministry of the word in the life of the church?
- How does this passage deconstruct the notion of maturity as independence and competence?
- Thought exercise: Discuss in your group what it would look like and feel like to be in a community like the one Paul describes in vs. 11-16?
- Why is the gospel necessary to experience true community?
Q&A: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.
Q. 84. What does every sin deserve?
A. Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.
Galatians 3:10; 2:19-20
3:10 [F]or it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does notabide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
2:19-20 For through the law I died to the law, so that I mightlive to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.