FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Words For Reflection:
“The principal point…of the law…is to make men not better but worse; that is to say, it shows unto them their sin, that by the knowledge thereof they may be humbled, terrified, bruised and broken, and by this means may be driven to seek grace, and so come to that blessed Seed [Christ].” – Martin Luther
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Romans 3:21-31
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name - Adoration
God of My Life to Thee I Call - Confession
Jesus is Our Great Salvation - Grace
Nothing but the Blood - Response
Into Thy Gracious Hands I Fall - Communion
Doxology - Tallis Canon
The Bible Project:
As a way to help you grasp the over-arching story of the Bible, I am going to include each week a link to one of The Bible Project videos that summarizes in a few minutes one book of the Bible.
This week check out the summary of James.
If you are looking for help to read the Bible in a more regular way, you may find this approach and this app helpful.
One of our Core Values at RMC is "City Focus." We've described this value in the following way: The city includes the very best and worst of human endeavor. As a congregation located in the city of Birmingham, RMC longs to be a community of people in need of change helping people in need of change. With a long, painful history of racism, classism, injustice, and inequality, Birmingham is a place of great complexity and opportunity for mercy and justice. This kind of work is hard to talk about and hard to do. It will require lots of listening and learning, repenting and believing. Nevertheless, RMC is committed to pursuing the renewal and healing of all the people and places of Birmingham with patience and perseverance.
The long painful history and the complexity and opportunity of our city were sharply pointed out this past week in the views expressed by The Rev. Michael Jordan of New Era Baptist Church over Church of the Highlands decision to start a new church in Birmingham's West End.
Here is a video and an article. They raise lots of questions and point to a painful history with no easy answers even if you disagree with Rev. Jordan's opinions or approach. I would love to hear your thoughts if you care to share.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners
Jesus! what a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him;
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my strength, my vict'ry wins.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.
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 - Romans 3:1-20
1. The True Objects of God's Law (vv. 1-8)
2. The True Message of God's Law (vv. 9-18)
3. The True Conclusion of God's Law (vv.19-20)
The Heart of the Message
It is a natural human reflex to use whatever resources we have to our own advantage. It is no different with God’s law. The Jews of Paul’s day thought that having God’s law made them special. It showed that they were God’s chosen people for whom He would overlook sin while condemning everyone else. To the contrary, Paul demonstrates in these verses that the law was not given to keep God’s people safe from condemnation, but to convict them first that they live under the power of sin. In all the years Israel had God’s law, it made no fundamental change in the human condition. Therefore, it is necessary that God provide another way if anyone is to be made right before Him. Thanks be to God, He has provided another way, the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ that comes apart from the law (3:21ff). No one likes looking at their own sin. We tend to avoid it at all costs through ignoring it or blaming others. However, Paul teaches us that God’s law is actually a mercy in that it drives us to faith in Jesus for our righteousness. The one who is truly confronted with their own sin, is the one who is prepared to receive the grace of Jesus, and the one who is able to show others where to find it as well. The good news of Jesus Christ allows us to follow David’s example of repentance, being the first to repent rather than the last, thereby making God’s righteousness and mercy visible in our lives.
- What features of this passage stand out to you the most? What words or phrases or ideas grab your attention?
- In vv.1-8 Paul argues that God’s law is properly directed toward His own people to bring them to repentance. Why is repentance so difficult? What’s at stake in admitting we are the ones in the wrong?
- In v.20, Paul says that no one will be justified in God’s sight by works of the law. How do you tend to justify your life on a daily basis? To answer, think about what you feel a sense of pride about that makes you better than other people, and what do you feel a sense of shame about where you don’t measure up.
- If God has provided perfect righteousness apart from His law through Jesus Christ, what efforts to justify yourself could you let go of? What could God be leading you to repent of? What are you free to ask God for having been declared righteous?
Confession of Faith: The New City Catechism, 2017
Q. 19. Is there any way to escape punishment and be brought back into God’s favor?
A. Yes, to satisfy his justice, God himself, out of mere mercy, reconciles us to himself and delivers us from sin and from the punishment for sin, by a Redeemer.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.