The Church

Confession: Responding to the Light Scripture Shines on our Darkness

blog 1.8.19.png

By: Brad Rogers

When Christians read the scriptures and pray, we want to grow closer to God in our relationship with Him. A great way to do this is to use the A.C.T.S. model of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, & Supplication) as a way to engage with God through the Scriptures.  Last week, I wrote about how we can write down God’s praise worthy attributes as we read Scripture in order to utilize those praises in prayer back to God when we have completed our reading (Adoration).  This week, I want to share some thoughts using Scripture reading to help us identify and confess sins to the Lord.

 

Confessing our Sins to Grow in our Relationship with God

Confessing sin before the Lord is not something that brings most of us great excitement (nor does writing about it) – at least not on the surface.  While we might say confessing our sins to God is not a “fun” part of being a Christian, it is a vital aspect of growing closer to God just as taking responsibility for how we hurt others is critical to the well-being of any relationship in our lives.  When we recognize that following Jesus as our King is relational and that our disregard for his commands is personally offensive to Him, it is not difficult to see the need to confess our sins to Him.  Since it is part of sin’s very nature to deceive, we won’t know so many of the ways that we offend the Lord unless He reveals it to us.  In His grace, God works by His Holy Spirit to bring the light of His word to our darkened hearts that we might see our sins for what they are and turn from them.  God tells us in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Since God promises to forgive, there is no need to fear admitting our wrongs to Him.  Confession of sin allows us to address the relational wedge our sin introduces between us and God so that we can grow in our intimacy with God. 

 

A Word of Caution

When we confess our sins to God, we need to do so with a heart that forsakes the sin itself.  Mere acknowledgment of sin won’t lead to transformation nor will it lead to greater intimacy with God.  We need to see our sin as God sees it so that we actually hate the sin itself that dishonors God rather than just feeling sorry for ourselves for sinning.  This can lead to confessing our sins simply in the hopes that God will be gracious with any consequences stemming from our sin, which is really a just a form of self-interest rather than seeking to reconcile with the God we have offended. The goal of confessing our sins is ultimately a closer walk with Jesus (growth in our love for God and his honor).  We need to recognize that our sin dishonors God and hinders our fellowship with Him so that when we confess sins to God we actually hate the sin itself. Then we can rightly receive His forgiveness anew in a way that our enhances our intimacy with God and grows our love for Him.  This helps produce the kind of heart change that truly honors God and makes less vulnerable to the sin in the future.    

 

Confessing Sins from your Scripture Reading in Practice

As I read a Scripture devotionally, I ask myself, “Is there any sin that this scripture reveals in my life?”  You might find certain commands in the text you have read that you don't keep.  You might find that you have the same sinful attitude as someone in a biblical story that you are reading.  You might also find an exemplary attitude of a biblical character that you don’t possess.  You might see that you are lacking some of God’s attributes in His actions towards people that God calls us to imitate.  It might be His love for His enemies or His concern and care for the poor.  As I discover sins in my Scripture reading, I write them down so that when I am finished with my reading, I can take the time to reflect on them before confessing these sins to the Lord in prayer.  Here are some questions that come from pastor and author Tim Keller that help you reflect on the sins you write down:

  • What are the dangers of this sin?

  • What is the specific nature of the guiltiness of this sin (what aspect of God’s character does it offend, ignore, or deny)?

  • What do I learn about God’s grace by the fact that He redeems this sin? (This last question leads us nicely into thanksgiving which we will consider in next week’s blog.)

 You certainly don’t need to use these additional questions; but when I do use them, I have found that I am well prepared to confess my sins to the Lord in prayer.  Regardless, the point of writing down sins to confess while you read Scripture is to actually confess your sins to the Lord that you might know His forgiveness and love afresh, so don’t leave this step out.  May we all honor the Lord by listening to His words to us in Scripture and rooting out the sin which so easily entangles us all through confession so that we might draw closer to Him who has drawn near to us in love. 

Praising the God of the Bible

By: Brad Rogers

blog 1.8.19.png

Here at Redeemer Presbyterian in Raleigh, we are using a Community Bible Reading plan complete with a handy journal as an aid to help us personally commune with God, know the Scriptures, and grow in community.  The journal is laid out in such a way as to help us pray the Scriptures back to God.  As such the A.C.T.S. model of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, & Supplication) is utilized as a way to engage with God through the Scriptures.  The idea is that as one reads a particular text; he/she writes in the journal things for which they find God praiseworthy (adoration), sins the text reveals they may need to confess (confession), aspects of God’s saving work the text reveals for which to be thankful (thanksgiving) and any requests that one would like to make to God in response to what they find in God’s word that day. A person can then take what they have written in each of these four sections of the journal and pray them back to God. This model of reading and praying the Scriptures can be a little clunky and awkward at first, but I have found that pushing past that initial uncomfortableness has yielded much fruit in my life personally. In the humble interest of helping those on this plan and anyone else desiring a closer walk with Christ by praying the Scriptures, I am beginning a 4 part series today taking each aspect of the A.C.T.S. model of prayer one at a time.

Adoration: The Importance of Praise

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, the first thing he modeled for them was asking that our heavenly Father’s name might be hallowed. He was showing us that we should pray that God’s name would be revered, or regarded as holy. It is praying that all people everywhere would praise and adore God.  Over and again in the book of Psalms we find God calling His people to praise His name.  We don’t need to get bent out of shape as if this is some other human asking us to give them honor. 

God has revealed who He is to us, and He is a God infinitely beyond us in holiness, power, and glory.  C.S. Lewis has helpfully pointed out that failing to admire that which is truly admirable is a flaw in itself and causes one to miss out on the full experience of something wonderful.  In his Reflections on the Psalms, he writes that if God is the great object of admiration behind all other beauties and magnificence, then to praise and admire him would be “simply to be awake, to have entered the real world … but not to do so would be to be deaf, blind and bedridden with respect to the real world.”   It is important not to merely think God is worthy of praise, but to actually praise him for those attributes for which He is worthy as this honors Him and moves us beyond knowledge of facts about God into a loving relationship with Him that changes our hearts.  James K.A. Smith says that “we are what we adore” (and maybe we can say that we are becoming that which we adore). 

Practicing Adoration through Bible Reading

As you are reading any text of the Bible devotionally, it is good to jot down those attributes of God you see in that Scripture that are worthy of praise as a means of understanding the text itself, but also so that you can take those praises up in prayer once you have completed your Bible reading.  Throughout the Bible, God is redeeming people prone to wander in sin back to himself.  When we are thinking through the category of praise it’s helpful to ask ourselves as we read, “What is it about God’s nature and character that leads Him to the redeeming work that I see in this particular passage?”  In a paper, I was told New York City Pastor Tim Keller wrote that he asks these questions of the Scriptures to help identify particular attributes of God worthy of praise.  What does this (Scripture) teach me: of God’s excellence? Of his majesty/greatness? Of his grace/tenderness? Of his wisdom/symmetry?  In sum, in the adoration section of your journal, you are looking to write down what kind of God the passage in front of you reveals. 

I tend to write out praise worthy attributes down as I read the text.  You might prefer to read through the whole text for the day (or for a section at a time) and then write down praise worthy attributes you notice about God.  It could be one word, or it could be several words. I tend to write down something short that I can expand on when I begin to actually praise God in my prayers. Looking through recent entries into the adoration section of my journal I find words and phrases like: healer, the holy one, Lord over the fish in the seas, searcher of hearts, Authoritative One, Creator, Mighty One, supplier of food, revealer of truth and one for whom nothing is impossible.  Even if you don’t journal or don’t have a journal with you, it’s still possible to make mental notes of things regarding God’s character that you can then reflect back to Him in prayer.  In these times, I find myself praying such things back to God as I read rather than waiting until I finish.  The journal is aimed at helping you engage with God and commune with Him as He speaks to you in the Scriptures.  The Community Bible Reading Journal is just a tool and a means towards this end, so I wouldn’t get overly concerned with the particulars.  The ultimate goal is to become more comfortable with the method so that you better understand, appreciate, and adore God as He reveals himself to us in the Bible so that we become more like the God we praise.

 

 

 

 

Communicating Hope Amidst a Sexual Revolution

Redeemer_ Social Media 8 (1).png

Often when I am pushing an article out via this blog I let you know that the article I am sending is not very long with the hopes that you will be willing to read it among all of your other life responsibilities. 

 

This article by Sam Allberry is long - well, at least significantly longer than most I recommend. It needs to be long for it addresses significant issues in our culture regarding sexuality with grace. Unfortunately, I find many of the things written by Christians on the topic of sexuality to be lacking in clarity, deep thought, or grace.  I think you will agree that this article suffers none of those errors even if you disagree with his views. 

 

The first part of the article is written to help Christians understand why the historical Christian views on sexuality have come to be viewed as dangerous to society in Western culture.  I think it’s important for everyone to have a greater understanding of the items he draws to our attention in order to have reasonable conversations around the issue of sexuality itself. 

 

The second half of the article is meant to help Christians think through how they might respond to people with opposing views.  One of my favorite sentences is, “Rebuttal isn’t persuasion.” He directs this towards Christians to say that stating a biblical position is not enough.  He invites Christians to understand the Bible’s sexual ethic as a whole and learn to explain it clearly with humility and love.  I think it’s well worth your time.  You can read it here.

I don’t want Redeemer to be a friendly church….

I don’t want Redeemer to be a friendly church even though guests often say we are.

I want Redeemer to be more than a friendly church.   

I want Redeemer to be a place where people find friendships.

I want us to be a church where people find friends that enrich their lives as we help each other follow Jesus. 

More than that I want people to find family at Redeemer.

Scripture is Relevant

Bible.png

By: Sean Scott

There are often sermons, seminars, or other talks that I listen to that hit me as profound in the moment, and even hours afterwards, but slip away from memory and I’ll never revisit them again… Does that sound familiar? Have you ever listened to anything and thought to yourself “I need to write these things down because I resonate with this and ought to use this in my daily life!”

This is an exercise of revisiting a series of sermons from our high school conference this past summer. Reverend Russ Whitfield, who is the director of Cross-Cultural advancement for RUF, was the keynote preacher for the RYM Colorado conference, and spent the week exploring various passages to drive home the larger point that “Scripture is Relevant”. Below, I will link to each talk and provide a short overview of what Russ covered in each passage.

At first, this post was simply aimed at providing a series of sermons in case you were interested in the topic “Scripture is Relevant”, but it has been more than that for me as I went back and listened to these talks. I find myself distracted by how busy my days are, wrapped up in work tasks, preparing a baby room at home, spending too much time on twitter, and often letting valuable resources like these fall to the side. Although these sermons are preached to high school students at a summer conference, I find myself scribbling furiously as he energetically explains and illustrates the ways in which God’s word speaks to our daily life as followers of Christ.

Talk 1: Jesus as the Benediction of God (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:1-4)

Russ begins by introducing the series “Scripture is Relevant”. As he moves into Hebrews, he makes the point that “God speaks to different people in different situations, but he is always on target. We need to lift our expectations for what God can do in our lives.”

Ultimately, the truth we find in Hebrews 1:1-4 is that the author was most concerned that the audience heard their need of Jesus. Russ shares that “the most relevant thing to their situation is a reminder of the truth of who God is for us in Jesus.”

Have you ever wondered, specifically, how all the events in redemptive history led TO Jesus and all events thereafter only exist in the light of Him? Russ gets into that as well!

Talk 2: True Healing (John 5:1-17)

It’s hard to leave the life we know. It is hard to develop habits of running to Jesus for absolutely everything, and yet we know intellectually we are to do exactly that! This story in John’s gospel about the healing pool at Bethesda represents a story of a man seeking healing in the wrong places. Some of the questions Russ addresses: Where do we run for healing? Is the truth about who Jesus is at odds with who I want Jesus to be? Am I open to actually receiving true healing mercy?

Talk 3: How fear operates, How faith liberates (Isaiah 43)

We live in a culture of fear. And even though we are the people of God, we are susceptible to being governed by fear as well. God meets us with the command “Do not fear” frequently in the Bible, and yet isn’t that far easier said than done?

Isaiah 43:1-7 is a beautiful passage, Russ will walk through this text with the two points: How fear operates, and how faith liberates. This text describes people at a different time, and yet when we dig into the needs and fears they had, it’s like looking in a mirror. This passage is relevant to us, God’s word understands us and communicates truth about him in response.

Talk 4: God’s standard for neighbor love: Everyone, Always (Acts 10:1-35)

Russ goes through this story from Acts and tackles a hard topic. Do Christians lower the standard of neighbor love so that our lives as God’s people don’t have to look much different than the what we’re doing right now? Do we take a step back and look at the decisions we make in order to not be around people that aren’t already like us?

The proposition made is that “We must begin by seeing our own hearts as they are – then we need to see the heart of God as it pertains to this topic.” God brings people from all walks, all cultures, all skin colors to himself. God is building his church and this story is a beautiful picture of how he converts the most unlikely and will use even the churches greatest enemies for that purpose.

Talk 5: How do we respond to the Gospel…Every day? (Mark 4:1-20)

“You have to get in the script in such a way that the script would get into you … The Bible is a script. It is the story of the world, the story of humanity, highs and lows, character development. We learn the kind of character we are meant to become.”

Do we view the Bible as a book of laws? Or a book of advice? In this final sermon from RYM Colorado, Reverend Whitfield takes the parable of the sower and dives into our place in God’s story through two points: Engaging the script, and Embodying the script. We are to respond to the Gospel every day, and our response to the Gospel is the ground on which we’ll have to answer to God one day. What we do with the word of God matters!

The Radical Inclusiveness of Jesus

By: Mike Newkirk

Recently, in an adult Sunday class at our church, Tim Philips was leading a teaching series on Worship in which he asked the question “Why does the New Testament talk so much about loving one another?” In the context of the discussion, we were looking at Paul writing in Romans 12:9-11 in particular:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Immediately, my mind went to the Jesus saying in John 13:34:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This was a big deal at the time. Think of the original audience, tribalistic, mainly Jewish (12 tribes there) and they have been called out to be separate from the cultures around them by Yahweh. How dissonant Jesus’ saying must have sounded to them!

But what about the law as elucidated in Leviticus 19:18b?

“..you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”

It is clear that this was a new commandment as recorded by John. A radically new commandment.

Jesus extended the Leviticus passage in two significant ways.

1.       Jesus modified “love your neighbor” to “love one another”.  Who was he speaking to? All those who are His followers. Regardless of their tribes and tongues, we are to love each other who claim Jesus as who he claimed to be. It’s no longer your tribe, your clan but all people, in all places, in all times. In their mind, my neighbor is my tribe, namely, other Jews. Thus, he is saying the New Covenant community is radically inclusive. No longer are we talking about neighbors as our kinsmen or clans, but all who believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, as God incarnate. In our modern context you can’t get any more inclusive than this. All are welcome and invited.

2.       Jesus modified from loving “your neighbor as yourself” to “love as I have loved you”. The standard of love has been adjusted from how we love of ourselves to how Jesus has loved us.  Given that Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet and that this foot washing points to his death the implication is that we are willing to lay down our lives for one another in the family of God.

Thus, Jesus’ marching orders to his disciples on the night before he gives his life for them calls them to imitate his sacrificial love and to love each other across national, cultural and racial boundaries to the point of laying down their lives for one another.  In this sense, He was calling for a profound change in their thinking that should be seen as a most radical shift in culture in their day and especially, even now in our day. The defining characteristic of our Christian witness, of our following Jesus, would be our love for each other. Jesus states this unequivocally in verse 35 immediately following:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As a brief aside, we should note that the call to love one another as followers of Jesus does not harm any of Jesus’ teaching that calls his disciples to love those who are not committed to following him.  Jesus calls his followers to love our enemies even as the Father actively loves his own enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).  This teaching has a different focus and purpose.  It’s not that we are to love those who don’t follow Jesus less, it’s that there is a call within the Christian community to love one another more. 

Our love for one another in the community of Jesus followers is paramount for our witness to this world. What would it say to a watching world if those who claim to love Jesus didn’t love and care for one another.  Consider then also what it says to those outside the church when they see inside the church a deep and abiding sacrificial love for one another across racial, cultural, and national boundaries. My prayer is that Redeemer Raleigh would be a place that radically loves. That we are willing to extend ourselves and push our comfort zones to extend the radical love of Jesus to one another. This is a worthy goal. A goal that our King has set for us. And that makes all the difference, because he loves us and prays for us constantly.

 

Disaster Relief and the Gospel

We just made it through a hurricane. Thankfully, Raleigh did not endure the major parts of the hurricane that was originally predicted. However, other parts of the state suffered immensely. People have lost their homes. Some are trying to survive by staying indoors and living off of what they have stocked up. Flooding has prevented students from going back to college and employees from getting to work. Some lost their lives. All that to say, we have a state in need. What can you do at a time like this? Sherry Lanier, in the article below, talks about ways that you can help those who are hurting after a natural disaster. We will be sending out information later this week on how to sign up to help those in need.

Read the article here

How Important is Community?

By: Brad Rogers

Just how important is community? As our church is preparing to relaunch our community group ministry on Oct. 7th, this is a question I find myself asking as we seek to build these smaller communities within the larger body of the church as a whole. We are not aiming for just any kind of community, but we want our community groups to help us know and follow Christ. How do you create such a community? In the linked article, Aaron Menikoff challenges readers about how community is actually formed. His thoughts on the relative importance of community as well as his practical personal hints for “when community falters” in our churches will be a corrective for some and a helpful encouragement for others. You can read the article here.

Sunday School: Slow Transformation

By: Rachel Rogers

In a culture of over-scheduled families, it is hard to think of squeezing in one more activity, especially when it happens on a day that feels like a day “off.”  I will let someone more qualified than me tackle the Sabbath topic, but I would love to challenge us to think seriously for a minute about Sunday School.  Is it an activity worth considering adding to the schedule?

Russell Moore, author and president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, makes the bold statement: “Sunday School transformed my life.” What comes to mind when you think of Sunday School? Was it life transforming? Do you think of flannel boards? (memorable maybe, but hardly transforming!)  The taste of those lick-&-stick stickers? Your taste buds may never be the same, but I don’t think that is the transformation he is talking about. When I walk the halls of my church on a Sunday morning and peek into the rooms I see good friends sharing time studying the Bible and faithful teachers who show up every week. I see lives being transformed.

A quick Google search will tell you that many consider Sunday School a thing of the past.  Call me old-fashioned, but I love Sunday School.  Ultimately, it’s one of the main ways a church can come alongside families to teach children God’s word. Sometimes the lessons are less than flashy, sometimes the teachers talk too long, and sometimes it’s even boring. But what if repetition and faithful teaching are just what we need?

In a culture of crazy busy families, I think it’s still worth our time and I am not the only one. In his article, “The Cosmic Importance of Children’s Sunday School,” Russell Moore makes the strong assertion that “…Sunday school is not just another program. It can be a matter of life and death.”  Read it here

Handling Disagreement with Grace

By: Brad Rogers

As a Christian, I think we who claim Christ as our Lord sometimes can get in our heads the very false notion that those of us who follow Jesus should never have differences with one another.  As if somehow Jesus promised us, that if we follow him, we would not ever sin against each other again, and we would all think the same way about everything.  The former won’t end until heaven and the latter would make us all boring people who never really grow.  I have oversimplified things with only these two possibilities, but Christians clearly will have strong differences with one another in this life just like everyone else.  So how do we maintain the deep and abiding unity God calls us to as Christians in the midst of our disagreements?  John Piper, while pastoring a large church, gave advice to his staff that displays the knowledge of a biblical scholar as well as the wisdom of a grace-filled, seasoned pastor as he humbly shares key principles to guide them in the midst of differences. Much of the wisdom he shares with his staff linked here is surely helpful both inside and outside the walls of the church. Read the article here.