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Vision Sunday

March 27, 2022

Vision Sunday

Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:10

Vision Sunday

Today is our Spring Vision Sunday. We do Vision Sunday twice a year, one in the Spring - usually the last Sunday in March, and in the Fall the week after Labor Day. Those are not randomly scheduled – they are intentional and a little bit unique, and here’s why. 

The Spring version lands right on our Anniversary as a church. After several months of practice gatherings, we officially launched public weekly gatherings in April of 2019, so today we are celebrating our third birthday, come on! 

Fall Vision Sunday is pretty much always the week after Labor Day, because believe it or not, once school routines start up again and your last long weekend break is in the rearview mirror, that’s when people come back to church. Even more so than in January. So that Sunday is a great time to start a new sermon series and present some vision for where we as the Leadership team see things going in the coming church calendar year. 

The problem is, there is always a lot to cover on days like this, so we’re going to dive straight in. Our theme verse as we were planning how River City would look is 2 Cor 5:20. We’ll get to that in a second, but I want to look at the verses right before it to set it up. 

If anyone IS in Christ, he or she IS a new creation. What makes a person a new creation? What is it that determines whether or not a person is a new creation? It’s right there in the verse. If anyone is in Christ.  A new creation is someone who is IN Christ. So this is how the NT speaks of salvation and life as a believer, as being IN Christ – united to him, joined together with him in his life, death, and resurrection. And here’s what that means:

    1. In Genesis 1 & 2, we see a world where God and humans walk together in the Garden with harmony and wholeness all around. It looks like we might be inherently good, but then chapters 3-11 more or less prove otherwise. The conclusion the Bible reaches pretty quickly is that, despite our wonderful beginnings, all have sinned. All have turned aside. Together, all have become corrupt. When Adam bit the fruit, we all died. 
      1. Now, we’re not as corrupt as we could be, thanks to God’s gracious restraint, but we’re all born sinners by nature, and apart from Christ’s intervention, we don’t mind it a bit. We’re not only tempted to sin, we choose it. As much as we’d like to say our sinfulness is a result of our sinful nature, how we were raised, physical or mental limitations or what have you, that argument won’t hold up in court because we are held responsible for our actions and reactions. As a result of our choice, sin doesn’t make us bad, it makes us dead. That’s Ephesians 2. 
      2. Jesus, the fullness of God himself, shows up on the planet, born without a sin nature, makes himself fully human, and led by the Spirit successfully manages to live 33 years of life on earth absolutely sinless. Perfectly righteous. Spotless in every way according to God’s standards. Tempted to sin, but refusing to do so. Jesus does what no one else in history before or since has been able to do: Obey God completely without missing a single step. And there was a reason for it.
      3. 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us why: In Christ (there it is again), In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses or sins against them. Verse 21 tells us how: “He (God) made the one who did not know sin (Jesus) to be sin for us, so that (here it is again) in him, we might become the righteousness of God. If that’s a little heady to make sense of, here’s what it means: We all were failing the holiness test miserably, and God had every right to be angry about it, to sentence us to nothing but death from here on out. But God, Ephesians 2 goes on, who is rich in mercy, and with the great love that he had for us, made us alive together with Christ. In other words, without asking your permission, God put Jesus’ name at the top of our miserable holiness paper and instead gave you credit for Jesus’ perfect 100% A+. 
      4. But to do so was costly. 
  • Jesus didn’t come to earth to live here forever. His living had one eventual goal: dying. See no matter how good of a person you are, no matter how well or successful or influential you live your life, in the end, you lose to a much bigger opponent called death. All the anti-aging cream in the world doesn’t stop you from having more birthdays. All the exercise in the world doesn’t stop your muscles from eventually deteriorating. All the health food diets, protein shakes, intermittent fasting, vitamins, and multi-level marketing products, as great as they might be, cannot keep you from your date with a funeral home. Death is the Goliath that stood undefeated, winning 100% of the time. 
    1. In our series on Luke, we’re going to see next week Jesus begin to talk about his own death. We’re going to see him predicting it twice, and then something amazing. In Luke 9:51, the whole progression of Luke changes. To this point Jesus is bringing good news to the poor around the region of Galilee. But in 9:51, it says “when the days were coming to a close for him to be taken up, he set his face like flint, to journey to Jerusalem.” 
    2. Most of us spend our lives trying to avoid death. Jesus spent his life determined that when his Father gave him the green light to die, you weren’t going to stop him. Why? 
      1. At creation, God gave humans his breath in order to carry out his purposes and design for flourishing in his good world. But since we have become corrupt, in effect, God is not being unfair to ask for his breath back. The payout for sin is death. But, again in his mercy and grace, he allowed substitutes. Animals. Sheep, bulls, calves, doves, pigeons, goats, could be killed instead of the sinner. Their blood would be sprinkled on the altar at the Temple in front of God, some of it sprinkled on the sinner bringing the sacrifice, and their sin would be “covered by the blood.” 
      2. The only problem is, the blood of animals only “covered” sin, it didn't remove it. So Jesus willingly allowed himself to become the once and for all sacrifice that wouldn’t just cover our sin, but actually remove it. 
      3. So we are invited to confess and believe - oh yeah, I’m one of those sinners who deserves to have God take my breath back. I’m one of those who on my own stood filthy in front of a holy and pure God, and it is only by the death and blood of Jesus in my place, as my substitute – Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, allows himself to be tortured and pinned to a Roman cross, so that I can be clean again.
      4. But to this point, death still wins. Goliath defeats even the perfectly sinless Jesus at the cross when he dies. If this is the end of the story, we as Christians have our sins taken away, sure, but if death still wins what does it matter? 
  1. Jesus was dead, placed in a sealed tomb, guarded by elite soldiers. He was dead. Buried for good. But on day three, Jesus didn’t waste any time. God raised him back to life in that sealed and guarded tomb, just as alive as he was the day he took his first breath back in Bethlehem 33 years earlier. 
    1. Jesus was so alive that he took the time to fold up some of the clothes he was buried in. He didn’t need them anymore. He wasn’t going to die ever again.
    2. Goliath was defeated. Jesus had already proven power over death in raising a few people to life, but nothing like this. This time, Goliath’s head was cut off. No one is afraid of a headless giant. No longer would death be powerful enough to strike fear in the heart of anyone IN CHRIST. Now death simply is a doorway we all walk through into what is next. 
  2. To be joined to Christ’s life means his perfect A+ life is applied to you, and he takes your sin on himself. 
  3. To be joined to Christ in his death means when he died, you died. That’s the middle part of verse 17… the old has passed away. That filthy unholy you didn’t get sent to detention or timeout – our sin is thrown to the bottom of the ocean, and as an old saint named Corrie Ten Boom said, “God put up a no fishing sign.” That sinful record that stood against you is gone. The sentence of death was served not by you, but by him. 
  4. To be joined with Christ in his resurrection means that when God raised him from death, you were right there with him being raised to life as well. Death isn’t the end of your story. You are a new creation in Christ united to him, joined with him, not because you are an awesome or even a good person, not because you prayed a certain prayer or you give some money to the church. You are a new creation by God’s grace through your faith – which he gives you as a gift. God’s grace; your faith. 
  5. And then here’s the best part: Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days later. And when he did two things happened. 
    1. It opened the door for him to send us the third member of the Trinity, his Holy Spirit to live inside of those who believe, so that not only are we IN Christ, he is IN us!
    2. A human is once again in the presence of God. Jesus didn’t leave his earthly body here – he took it with him as proof that his work restores humanity literally to the presence of God. You don’t need to add anything more to what Jesus did in order to get to God. If we are IN Christ, since he’s already there in the presence of God, you are as secure as Jesus. If you are IN CHRIST, joined to him in his life, death, and resurrection, the only way for you to become “unsaved” is for God to change his mind about Jesus. Not gonna happen. 
    3. So what do we do now?
      1. The end of verse 18… he has given us the ministry of reconciliation
      2. The end of verse 19…he has committed the message of reconciliation to us
      3. And, verse 20, Here is the theme verse for River City Church: 

[20] Therefore, (because we have been entrusted with a ministry and a message), we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: "Be reconciled to God." [6:1] Working together with him, we also appeal to you, "Don't receive the grace of God in vain." [2] For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation! 

In other words, the message of the church is that the only way to be made right with God is to be in Christ, and the fact that he hasn’t angrily crushed us because of our sin is proof of his grace, and his patience, and his desire that none would perish apart from him, but that everyone would know the glorious truth of the gospel. So don’t take that grace for granted. Verse 2, while the time is right, I’ll listen to you and save you. And that time is right now! 

Listen, if you’re here today and this is the first time you’ve heard about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in this way, and your eyes have been opened to see that God is calling you from death to life, from a life of choosing your own way forward in life to obediently following the one who died for you, then I invite you to not wait a second longer, but right where you are, spread your hands in front of you and receive this great salvation by faith. There is no magic prayer you must pray to get God’s attention. There are no hoops you have to jump through – Jesus jumped through all the hoops for you. Will you believe that and receive it? 

If you are doing that right now, or if you’ve done it recently, or you are close but you need to think about it – great! Your first step is to tell someone about it. Come tell me, tell someone in the band, if you see a guy with a walk-in talkie earpiece stuck in his ear, tell them, the leadership team will be up here at the end. The second step then is baptism. 

Baptism doesn’t save you, but it is a deeply powerful visual representation of what has happened as a result of joining yourself to Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. If you’re ready to be baptized, there are some books on the back table you can grab for more information, or you can just come see me after the service and we’ll set a date. 

So the first thing we remember is our spiritual history. With all of that in hand, then, 2 Corinthians 6 goes on in verse 3: 

[3] We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense, so that the ministry will not be blamed. 

We don’t want anyone to claim River City Church as the reason they refuse to come to Jesus. We don’t want anyone to be so offended by our lives or this church that they walk away from salvation. 

[4] Instead, as God's ministers, we commend ourselves in everything (this is how we prove we’re serious): by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardships, by difficulties, [5] by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, [6] by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, [7] by the word of truth, by the power of God; through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, [8] through glory and dishonor, through slander and good report; regarded as deceivers, yet true; [9] as unknown, yet recognized; as dying, yet see-we live; as being disciplined, yet not killed; [10] as grieving, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet enriching many; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. 

Paul is saying this glorious salvation that Jesus has accomplished for us is so beautiful, so marvelous, so present, so resurrecting, that you can beat us up, put us in prison, you can threaten us, you can slander us to your friends, you can take out a newspaper article or blast it on social media that we are wolves dressed as sheep, you can take our stuff, you can take our homes, you can take our lives, until we have nothing left, and we will still do whatever we can to invite you to know Jesus, because he is our everything. And by the power of God, by the word of truth, through weapons of righteousness in both hands, by patience and by kindness as the Holy Spirit works to transform us into the people we’re created to be; the world may never know our names, but if Riverside goes to hell they’ll have to step over our dead bodies to get there. That’s the vision of the Church. 

(I’m glad you like it) But I’ll be the first one to raise my hand and say that’s not always me. I read that list in verses 3-10, and think, I don’t know. Dying. Disciplined. Grieving. Poor. Having nothing. Am I willing to go there so someone else can know Jesus? Is this message of reconciliation really worth giving our lives for? Is it worth skipping a meal, or losing sleep for? Is it worth enduring suffering for? Jesus thought so, and with the same Holy Spirit in us that led him to and through the cross, we can endure hardship and suffering as well. 

So what are some practical things we are doing as a church to move the needle on Paul’s vision? 

  1. You’ve heard us talk about the Neighborhood 360 Assessment. This is an opportunity to do a deep study on this community to better understand Riverside. We’re studying the history, the demographics, and doing interviews with influential people who live here. This Spring, we will also be going door to door in Riverside, not to promote River City Church, but to get a feel for what the felt needs are in this city. To hear from the people themselves how River City can make a difference. 
  • Our goal with this assessment is that River City would be a place where real sinners find Jesus, and where real sufferers can find hope; that we wouldn’t just exist in our city but for our city. 
  • As of now, going door to door starts on April 25, so you’ll be hearing more about that over the coming weeks as the team in charge of that looks for ambassadors to help complete the survey. 
  1. Speaking of ambassadors, I have some astounding numbers to share with you. If you serve here at River City, we don’t refer to you as a volunteer. A volunteer is a name on a spreadsheet. You fill a spot, you go home. An ambassador, as we’ve read in 2 Cor 5, is a representative. A spokesperson. Someone who owns the message and the work. So if you serve here, we call you an ambassador. 
  • Since NYD, we average a little over 100 people attending each Sunday. 25 of those are children under 12. Since NYD, 74 of you were scheduled to serve. That means, of the 75 people 13 and up, 98.6% are serving once or twice a month, either in worship team, audio/visual, setup, reading scripture, KidCity, hospitality, security, greeters, welcome table, etc.  That’s pretty wild. So thank you for jumping in and taking ownership of River City by getting involved. While that might sound like we have things pretty well covered, and don’t need any more help, nothing could be further from the truth. There are still plenty of ways to get involved in any of those areas I just mentioned. 
  • To get involved, grab a connect card at the back on your way out and drop it in the offering box. 
  • Don’t hear me say you are holy or accepted because you serve. I know there are some of you here who have been deeply wounded by life, or by a church, or you might have been serving a lot here at RC and need a break. We want to be a place of refuge for you, not a place of burden. There’s a time to step up and participate in that way, but if you just need to catch your breath and rest a while, please feel free to do that. If you’re serving and need a break, that’s perfectly okay. Even Jesus got away from the crowds to rest and pray. 
  1. Speaking of praying, I don’t know if you remember anything you got for your third birthday, but we are absolutely thrilled to announce that today, on River City’s third birthday, we are finally old enough to get our very own youth group
  • This is something we’ve prayed about since the beginning and something we didn’t want to just rush into. Well, God has been faithful to answer the prayers of those who longed for this. 
  • Some of you may have noticed Andrew Brooks around River City for a little while now. He first showed up simply as the family of our worship leaders Nevin and Natalie to help corral their young kids on days they were on the worship team together. But last fall, Andrew approached me and offered to talk about getting something started here for the youth of River City. It’s a pretty cool story of how things worked out, but the plans right now are to start with Jr High, so 5-8th graders, we’re talking about you! Andrew comes with about several years of experience, so we’re happy to have him leading us. 
  • April 10, two weeks from today, Andrew is hosting a meeting for parents of jr high students here at the school at 9am before the gathering. So there are a few cards on the back table to help you remember that. 9am before the gathering here at the school. You can meet Andrew, hear his vision for youth ministry, ask questions, and all that good stuff. 
  • Over the next two months or so, Andrew will be looking to build a team of ambassadors to help with various responsibilities, and looking for homes in or near Riverside to meet in. If you’re willing to have a handful of junior highers in your home on Wednesday evenings a time or two a month, talk to Andrew afterward and he’ll be happy to give you details on that. 
  • If all goes as planned, the first junior high meeting will happen on Wednesday June 1.

Speaking of June, (see how this is working. I’m crushing these transitions today) June 5 starts a new sermon series for us. We’ll take a break from Luke for the summer, and this summer we’ll be looking at a series called “Do You Believe?” We’ll be looking at 12 core doctrines of the global church, like Scripture, Sin, Justification, Eternity, God’s holiness, his sovereignty, and more. But beyond just looking at what we believe about each of these, we’ll also study why it matters. What does that belief look like in everyday life. That’ll run through the summer until after our Fall Vision Sunday, at which point we’ll pick back up in Luke again. 

Three more things quickly.

  1. For the last three years we’ve been setting money aside every month toward purchasing land and building our own space. Every Vision Sunday, we keep that in front of you that this is ultimately one of our goals, but not something we’re willing to rush into. I personally am not interested in coming over to all of your houses and asking you to consider giving more than you already do. I have no idea how much any of you give and I’d like it to stay that way. Additionally, I have no interest in taking out a huge loan for this. So you know where that leaves us, right? 
    1. We wait until the Lord provides enough cash in hand to build
    2. We wait for the Lord to bring about a donation. 
    3. Either way, we’d be looking for 10 or more acres as close to the city as possible. Ideally, people could walk or ride bike from downtown. 
    4. Our vision is to steward the property in such a way that the community would be able to use it throughout the week, town sports programs would have access to it, and our prayer is that even our building would be a blessing to Riverside. We have no interest in building something that sits empty 80% of the week. 
    5. Thanks to your generosity and faithful giving, we have a little over $200k in that building fund right now.
      1. So, because we completely believe that God is 100% sovereign, and that he can do anything at any time, and that he works through his people, we want to know where you all are at with the idea of building. 
      2. So we’re handing out a card today that allows you to speak up. Explain the card
      3. So thank you for taking the time to do that. You can take those home and prayerfully consider them, you can fill them out now, whatever you want to do. Just drop them in the offering box there in the back or hand them to one of us. 
  2. Secondly, we have survived three years without adding any staff, and it’s beginning to catch up with us, especially in the area of communication and administration. So we are making plans to post an official job description and application here in the next couple of weeks for a part-time Administrative Assistant position. So if that sounds like something you would be interested in, we would encourage you to start praying about whether or not that is something you might want to pursue.


  1. Lastly, because some of you are new and may not know who is leading this church, I’ll invite the Leadership Team to come up front here as we close. 
    1. Steve and Kiff Hall oversee our family ministries. So if you have questions or concerns about men's ministry, women’s ministry, KidCity, these guys are who you would talk to. 
    2. Nate and Janene King oversee all things operations. So if you have questions about finances, budget, giving, those sort of things, these are the folks you would speak to. Janene is behind a lot of our administration, planning events like the meal today, all the printing that’s done, and much more. 
    3. Jodi and I

When the team was commissioned by our previous church to start River City, myself and Toby Thompson, our pastor of counseling, were ordained as pastors. Now, Steve and Nate are going through the elder process to officially recognize them as pastors as well, so pray for these men, their wives, their families, as we do this.

If you have questions about River City, about the gospel of Jesus, or if you prayed this morning to receive salvation, come talk to one of us afterward, and we’ll pray with you and/or point you in the right direction. 

Stick around for lunch – let me pray for our meal, we’ll close in song, and get ready to eat!