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:
A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. - C.S. Lewis
It's all very confusing. I think I'm very honest and candid, but I'm also proud of how honest and candid I am -- so where does that put me? - David Foster Wallace
What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards [people] who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’" (2 Cor. 5:21). - J.I. Packer
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:1-16
Holy, Holy, Holy - Adoration
For All The Saints - Adoration
The Church’s One Foundation - Grace
We Will Feast in the House of Zion - Response
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us - Communion
Just a quick drive through downtown Birmingham reveals a lot is going on. New construction and historic renovations are almost on every block. Not far from us on the corner of Richard Arrington and 7th Ave S is another urban dwelling construction project similar to the one adjacent to the Avon. While Birmingham is a very different city than a San Francisco or New York it will be interesting to see what good and bad effects our renewed interest in the downtown area reveals. This recent article reflects on the potential impact of new and expensive living options in city centers.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Jesus! The Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.
He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Merciful Father, forgive us the sins of our tongues—for deception and untruthfulness in our dealings with others; for resentment, coldness, impatience, and ill temper. Forgive us for the sins of our eyes—for impurity in our glances and imagination; for pining after more beauty, comfort, status, and wealth than you have given us. Forgive us the sins of our hearts—for hard-heartedness toward you and our neighbors; for pride, self-absorption, self-pity; and above all for rebelling against you and doubting your love. Father, remove our fear, envy and pride and melt our hearts with the good news of the Gospel. Transform us by your grace to live wholly for your glory. Take away our mourning and replace it with songs of joy, for it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Words of Grace
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text: 2 Kings 5:1-19
1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD. 18 In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”
- The reach of grace...who it's for (v. 1-2, 14-15)
- The offense of grace...why we need it (v. 9-12)
- The power of grace...how it works (v. 14-19)
This week we continued our vision renewal series by looking at the second of our 4-words: Grace. To do so we looked at the story of Naaman, the leper, from 2 Kings 5. It's a story that teaches us at least three things about God's grace and the new life it brings ultimately in Jesus Christ. In this passage we see the reach of God's grace, the offense of God's grace, and the power of God's grace.
We see first the reach of God's grace in recognizing who Naaman was. Naaman was not an Israelite. He was a Syrian, an accomplished, heralded warrior who had overseen numerous raids against God's people. He was also a leper. In other words, Naaman was an enemy of God's people who was also cut off from God because of his skin disease (Lev. 14). And yet by the end of the story Naaman confesses his love and loyalty to the God of Israel (v. 15). The point: God's grace is freely given to anyone whom he chooses to give it (Eph. 2:8-9). It was this truth that most outraged Jesus' contemporaries when he mentioned the story of Naaman (Lk. 4:27-28). The story of Naaman teaches us that God's grace reaches even to his enemies. In fact the story of Naaman is a retelling of the entire biblical story beginning with Abraham all the way through to the earliest days of the church. God called Abraham and promised to make him into a great nation not to tyrannize but to bless the nations of the whole world (Gen. 12:3). On the day of Pentecost while preaching, Peter says, "the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" (Acts 2:39).
In fact it is the reach of God's grace that is most offensive to us. On the one hand it offends our pride because it says we aren't good enough on our own merits. On the other hand it offends our pride because it levels the playing field for everyone...all have sinned and fall short (Rom. 3:23). Grace takes away any reason we might conjure for looking down on other people as unworthy of God's grace...even our hated enemies. For Naaman he took offense at that fact that Elisha didn't heal him in a way he thought was befitting to his stature and wealth (v. 8-10). As a result, Naaman went away angry (v. 11-12). Why was Naaman so angry? Because he was stuck. Elisha's response to Naaman brought to the surface what Naaman didn't want to admit...and we don't either...the very best about you can't clean up the very worst about you. When you relate to God based on your best it necessarily becomes your worst. Not only that, when we come to God with our best we will miss the new life he promises and we need. The one thing Naaman needed was nothing and it wasn't until his servants pointed him back to Elisha's words did his anger relent and the path to new life begin (v. 13-14).
The offense of God's grace is a necessary part of experiencing the power of God's grace in our lives. It means you are probably paying attention and beginning to see how radical and free God's unmerited favor really is. We see God's grace do several things in this story. It brings Naaman new spiritual life. He is remade physically and spiritually. He isn't just healed of leprosy. His skin is restored like that of a little child. Remember what Jesus said? "Truly, I say to you, whoever does notreceive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." (Mk. 10:15) Naaman through his "baptism" was reborn, made like a little child (Jn. 3:3). God's grace in Naaman's life also transformed his heart, the motivational center of his life. Grace taught him who was the one true God and to whom he must give his life no matter where he was or what he was doing (v. 15-19). However, the most profound truth about grace in this story is how grace came to Naaman. It came through the servant girl from Israel (v. 2). In other words, it came through costly love and forgiveness. The little girl had lost her home, her family, her freedom. All that she knew and held dear had been taken from her. She had been carried off to a land she didn't know, to live among people she didn't know, and to serve in the very home of the man most responsible for the pain and sorrow in her life. YET, she wants to see Naaman healed (v. 3). This is a picture of the gospel. However, Jesus wasn't taken from his home. He freely left his home out of love for his enemies. He wasn't taken from his family and friends. He was rejected by his family and friends, even his Heavenly Father for his enemies. "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 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 byhis life" (Rom. 5:8,10). Do you see the power and resources available to us through the free grace of God for practicing service, generosity and peace-making? At the very heart of Christianity is a man who died for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness. Reflecting on this grace can only lead to a radically different way of relating to people very different than us, even our enemies.
This is the good news about grace: it's reach, it's offense, and it's power! Do you know this grace today?
- 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?
- If you had to define what Grace is what would you say?
- What do you find most offensive about Grace? What do think non-Christians might find most offensive about Grace?
- What do you need to look for in your life to see the power of Grace at work?
Q&A: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but does daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
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 andfor 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.