January 3, 2021 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Becoming Mercy Fellowship

Topic: New Testament Passage: Hebrews 12:1–2, James 2:12–13

Christopher Rich – January 3, 2021


VISION Sunday | 


Introduction | We are and are becoming Mercy Fellowship

Good Morning! Merry Christmas! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today is a little different from our normal routine. We are spending some time reminding ourselves who we are, dreaming about what we could be, and relying on God as we look to the season ahead. As we enter a new year can we all acknowledge….. 


We are not a satisfied people. We show this at the conclusion of one year and the beginning of the next we intuitively assess aspects of our lives and find areas we want to see change in, or achievements made. These are sometimes very specific ie: run a marathon, get out of debt, etc and relatively easy to see progress, achieve our goal, or admit defeat. Other times we set vague ethereal goals like “laugh more” be a “better” spouse, parent, friend, or employee with no real understanding of what this will look like or how we should get there. We know we’re not the best version of ourselves. We want more. We want to be different that we currently are. Therefore, each year we make resolutions grow our budget or to shrink our beltline. We again go through a cycle of great effort followed by less discipline. Why do we fail to achieve what we want? We are driven by our desires. Our deepest desires will always overcome our efforts of self- discipline. What we want will drives us to what we do. Our desires are usually very immediate, temporary, and selfish so we regularly act driven by these desires which bring us short term pleasure even at the expense of long-term joy. We seek immediate comfort over long term correction. True flourishing cannot be found without looking beyond right now, outside of ourselves, and ultimately to things that are eternal. What we need is not greater discipline but greater desires. We need our attention and affections directed towards things that can stir us to strive for contentment over surrendering to compliancy.  We need to be capable of being joyfully uncomfortable in the present for the purpose of greater rewards both in the near term and for eternity.


PART I | We are all Runners | Hebrews 12:1-2

Hebrews 12:1-2 | Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


Apathy is easy. It requires no effort, but the consequences are more than merely dulled affections. Apathy robs us of experiencing the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Our apathy needs to be replaced with action. The Christian life does not promise us immediate comfort but rather propelling us to grace fueled change.  As such we are called not to walk in our old life of apathy but run a new race of holiness and discipline with life granted us in Jesus. This is not an individual race. We are surrounded by past, present, and (Lord willing) future saints who have run, are running, or will run. We are part of a team, part of a holy heritage. There is no individual language in these verses. The image is not one of a runner on a lonely road. Since WE are Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (plural) these brothers and sisters whose race is over but they are with us watching and cheering for us! Let US lay aside sin, let us run the race set before US, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of OUR faith. We do not run alone, but we do run! 


But there is a problem.  Sin. Our sin weighs us down and clings to us keeping us from running our race properly. Sin keeps us from being who God has designed and desires us to be. It keeps us separated from the source of life and strength. Sin does not help us run but hinders us. Because of sin we can grow weary and our resolve can wane. We keep running, from sin, to holiness, as we look to Jesus who ran the perfect race for us in our place. We are free to run without fear of the consequences of failure because we know Jesus took our defeat on the cross. Our race is won because Jesus already ran it for us on the cross. 

Jesus was (and is) driven by desire. Jesus was resolved by our definition to endure being uncomfortable for the purpose of a greater reward. There was pain, punishment, death, destruction, but what Jesus saw through the excruciating trial of the cross was what? Joy set before him. Joy of saving His people. Joy of enduring the wrath we all deserve for sin but that we cannot survive. Joy of self-sacrificial purchasing His people back from slavery. Joy in being in our place for us. Joy of conquering death, joy in the resurrection, joy in being seated at the right hand of the Father. Joy in His promised return. Joy drives Jesus to despise shame. 



James 2:12-13 | 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mercy is strength because God is Rich in Mercy. As we consider what Mercy is, means, calls us to do and be, we need a comprehensive understanding so we can be inspired to embody mercy and be a place inviting others to experience Mercy. Mercy is a mega theme in scripture across generations and genres. Epistles, Gospels, Prophets and Psalms there is a constant theme of God meeting our sin with His mercy and then calling us to respond to sin in the world with Mercy. Mercy isn’t easy, it is costly. In the Bible, the concept of "Mercy" is not getting the just consequence we have earned as a result of our sin, it can also be as simple as extending or experiencing "kindness". We have been set free. Jesus has fulfilled mercy perfectly, He has fulfilled the law perfectly since we are unable to. So we have been given pardon from our sin, we’ve been given position in the kingdom, and we’ve been given purpose in our life now. God has granted us life under the Law of liberty. (Jesus work in our place) So we don’t stand in judgment over others, but remind them there is a God who does judge. One who we are all accountable to. We are conduits mercy (mercy comes to us and through us) not conduits of condemnation. If you’re merciless to others you’re not living the law of liberty, you’re rejecting mercy and you shouldn’t expect mercy. Live as one who has had Mercy invaded and occupy our souls.  We all deserve justice and alone are defeated and condemned in our sin but James 2:13 simply tells us "MERCY triumphs over judgement."  To triumph is not only to win but to win BIG, to boast over to taunt. When we come to God in Christ we do not have to fear judgment because judgement has been so roundly defeated that Mercy stands over it and declares I HAVE WON! Mercies victory is ours. We embody and embrace Mercy as conduits who receive from God and live and give mercy to others.


Fellowship – What does” Fellowship” mean? Greek is Koinonia - Rich word. It refers to a participation and communion with God and His people sharing, contributing for a common purpose. A "Fellowship" is a group of people brought together for a purpose.  In the New Testament God's people, the church, were defined and described as a partnership for the Gospel because of the Gospel. A fellowship is more like a team to play on than a club to join. In Acts 2 we see “fellowship” identifies the idealized state of unity and purpose that should exist within the church. Created by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone was invited to experience this community and encouraged to actively participate rather than passively consume.  True Fellowship exists when it is from and for God.  Fellowship runs deeper than our superficial differences. God created Fellowship binds us together with those whom we have nothing in common but Christ deeper than those with whom we have everything in common but Christ.  


IDENTITY | WE ARE: “Saved by Jesus’ Work.” | Doctrine of Gospel Salvation

Ephesians 2:8-9 | For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Because of Sin we are spiritually dead, and our just destiny is judgement and wrath. We need to be “saved” from our sin. Our souls are corrupted, and our will is inept to be able to save ourselves through some self-improvement plan, so we need to be saved from ourselves. God, being Rich in Mercy has made us alive through Christ. It’s Christ life of obedience that we are given our right standing before God. It’s Christ’s work on the cross in our place that pays for our sin, satisfies God’s justice, and secures our place in His kingdom. Jesus is the Hero of our Story!

"Changed by Jesus' Grace." | Describes Gospel Transformation

Titus 3:4-6 |But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, Being saved from the consequence of our sin and having our eternity secure is amazing! But we want more, and God in His mercy and loving kindness has given us more. We are not simply pardoned sinners, or promised future glory, we are privileged citizen saints now who have been regenerated and are being renewed. Changed is both past and present tense. I am no longer who I was, and I am becoming who God has created me to be. Not perfectly but progressing. 2 Cor 5:17 | Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Jesus made and is making us New!


"Living on Jesus' Mission." | Defines Gospel Purpose

John 20:21 | Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” The resurrected Jesus in his first meeting with His disciples reminds them of His purpose, of the purpose of the Gospel. He was sent by God the Father on a mission of peace to restore the broken relationship between God and people. To preach repentance of sin and receiving the kingdom of God. Jesus was sent, lived, died, and rose for His people. We are sent by Jesus. Jesus gave us life, so we live for Him! Our Identity implies our mission, but if we are "Living on Jesus' Mission" we need to know what Jesus has said we are to do. Jesus has given us clarity in his teaching to His disciples and we have attempted to summarize two big charges given by Jesus that impact all that we do as a church. So “Why do we Exist?” 



Mercy Fellowship exists to make Disciples of Jesus Christ who Love God and Love People.

We EMBRACE the Great Commission and we EMBODY the Great Commandment.

Matt 28:16-20 | 16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We are here because of the Great Commission. We are here for the Great Commission. 

Go, Therefore - (What is the therefore, there for?) In this case, because Jesus is the king, because Jesus has all authority in Heaven and on earth, now go and actively live out the mission of Jesus. He has authority over us and over our mission field. He will empower and equip us to fulfill the mission He’s called us to. 

Make disciples of all nations - Some are called to go to all nations, some are called to stay and make disciples of this nation. What is a disciple? Disciples of Jesus increasingly submit to the authority and Lordship of Jesus in every aspect of life and encourage others to do likewise.

Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, A disciple of Jesus is no less than a convert to the Gospel of Jesus, but they are also more than a mere convert they are a new creation.

Matthew 22:36-40 | 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Love God - To love God requires us to know God and be known by God. Know completely the God you love. 

Heart – Affection – Character of God (Mercy, etc) causes us desire communion with the Goodness of God. 

Soul – Worship/Spirit – Nature of God (Power attributes) drives us to respect and revere Greatness of God 

Mind/Might –Intellect and Action. – Commands of God (instruction) directs us to obey the Lordship God.  

Love People… specifically your neighbor (other people) as yourself! Loving people as yourself requires great curiosity to grow in self-knowledge and great compassion to maintain a life focused on others. To Love people means you have to know and be known by people. That includes (but is not limited to) knowing and loving yourself. You need to know yourself. You are a person who matters, who needs to be known and loved.


To love others, you have to know others AND be are actively engage in their welfare as your own. A fellowship centered on the truth and life of the Gospel is counter-cultural, but it is not combative with culture. It is distinct from the community around it, but it is not disconnected from the community. We cannot simply be a fortress of the faithful but a welcoming refuge to all who’s burdens are hearts are heavy laden. We have been loved by God who loves people even when unlovable, so we can and will love our city and county in tangible ways. Right now, it feels like our region is harder to love. When we remember we have been loved by God even when we are unlovable, then we can intentionally pursue and engage our community with the grace and mercy of Jesus as we seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

What will this look like tangibly as we pursue this mission? How have we been effective in this mission?


PART III | 10 YEAR DREAM – 3 YEAR PICTURE – 2021 Prayers & Plans


10 YEAR PRAYER - DREAM | Who are we in 2030?

If we are faithful to our mission in our city, county, and beyond what does fruitfulness look like in 2030?


All our efforts are completely reliant on the will and unmerited favor of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


We are an inviting, diverse, multi-generational fellowship for over 600 people reflecting our region. 


We desire and pursue both individual and communal growth with gentle Gospel patience as holistic people made in the image of God. 


We celebrate new life and new birth with dozens of Baptism and Baby Dedications each year.


We have engaging discipleship environments and pathways for every stage of life and leadership equipping and encouraging each part of the body. 


We support and send disciples into their homes, communities, and beyond with mission and mercy of the Gospel.


We are known and needed in our city and county as committed to actively seeking and serving its welfare and flourishing.


We have a culture which tangibly displays joyful generosity, wise stewardship, relational warmth, and creative beauty in our fellowship, to our community, and world.


We are a  blessing to our gospel partnerships with other churches, networks, and ministries who effectively EMBRACE the Great Commission EMBODY the Great Commandment.


We are deeply rooted in the enduring hope we have in Christ through all chapters of life, looking beyond ourselves and circumstances, building a gospel legacy in a story where we know Jesus Wins! 

3 YEAR PICTURE | What do we look like in 2023-24?

How have we laid a foundation for future flourishing? We will know we are trending in the right direction if the following has happened. What have we accomplished?


250+ people call our fellowship home, 200+ regularly attend Sunday gatherings, and 10-12 Fellowship Groups meeting across the county. 


Mercy Kids discipling children from birth through elementary school during Sunday Service, Mercy Youth gathering weekly. Men and Women each have sustainable rhythms of discipleship. 


We have identified and are actively engaging 1-3 with key opportunities to tangibly serve and bless our community (and/or beyond) each year.


Our financial giving sustains current mission, supports other ministries, and saves for future dreams. 


We have developed and shared plans to begin significant renovations to our facility to more effectively serve our gatherings and our community as both continue to grow.


Each of our key ministry functions are led by effective teams. 


2021 Prayers & Priorities | “REMAIN” (Steadfast, Equipped, Joyful, etc)

James 5:7-11 | Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

REMAIN Steadfast (v11) – That we would be deeply rooted in the truth & beauty of the mercy & grace of Jesus Christ regardless of the shifting circumstances and changing climate of our community & world. 


REMAIN Equipped – That God would use time talent and treasure he has blessed us with individual to sustain and strength our corporate mission as the church. (v7 Farmers plant they work)  


REMAIN Joyful – Unity, humility, gentleness, celebration, and health would mark us collectively and individually as we continue the mission and vision of Mercy Fellowship.  (v9 don’t grumble)


All our prayers are to the God we know is compassionate and merciful. What is your next step? 


It is to start serving?  Mercy Kids 3-5 new volunteers , Hospitality, Media (Video/Sound) , Music (Garrett). 


Is it to start giving?  Giving for the first time or trusting Jesus more with your finances to begin tithing. 


Is it to get connected? D-Group, Fellowship Group, Mercy Youth 


Is it to Trust Jesus for the first time and/or pledge allegiance to Jesus in Baptism?  

Mercifully we don't pursue this mission alone with our limited strength and abilities. God has encouraged, empowered, and equipped us (individually and collectively) with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. As we remember our identity and mission, we have great comfort and confidence in the Gospel advancing, even the gates of Hell cannot and will not prevail against Christ's church who simply TRUST JESUS!