Thursday, November 16, 2017

"How to Ask" - Doug Rehberg

One day Rabbi Barukh’s grandson, Yehiel, was playing hide-and-seek with another boy. He hid himself well and waited for his playmate to find him. After twenty minutes he peeked out of his secret hiding place, saw no one, and pulled his head back inside. After waiting a very long time, he came out of his hiding place, but the other boy was nowhere to be seen. Then Yehiel realized that his playmate had not looked for him from the very beginning. Crying, he ran to his grandfather and complained of his faithless friend. Tears brimmed in Rabbi Barukh’s eyes as he realized that God says the same thing: “I hide but no one wants to seek me.”

Such was the painful tone of God’s voice when He spoke through the mouth of His prophet Hosea:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they buried incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (Hosea 11:1-4)

The truth is that our God can remain quite hidden until in prayer we discover He is what our hearts seek above all.

One time during a conference on prayer, Thomas Merton was asked, “How can we best help people to attain union with God?” His answer was stunningly clear: “We must tell them that they are already united with God – prayer is nothing more than coming into consciousness of what is already there.”

It is with equal directness that Jesus addresses another command to His hearers in Matthew 7. Last week Ken masterfully led us into a clear understanding of what Jesus means when He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It’s the opening command of chapter seven, and a negative one at that! 

But beginning in verse 7 He issues a pointed positive command that is actually three commands in one. He says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Like His Father speaking through the prophet Hosea, Jesus speaks to us, His people, and He says in effect, “Ask, seek, and knock, and you will be rewarded.”

This Sunday we will be digging into Matthew 7:7-12 to see all that the Lord has to show us in this well-known charge of Christ. In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following;
  1. What condition(s) can you find for the promises Jesus is setting forth here in this command?
  2. On what grounds does Jesus promise these “good things” to everyone who asks, seeks, and knocks?
  3. How common is the title “Father” for God in the Old Testament?
  4. How common is it for Jesus to use this title in the gospels?
  5. What’s the relationship between “pateras” in Greek and “Abba” in Aramaic?
  6. Why is “Abba” inserted into the Greek New Testament on three occasions?
  7. How common was the title “Abba” in ancient Jewish literature?
  8. What two things can we discover from the verb tense Jesus uses in verse 7?
  9. Are “ask”, “seek”, and “knock” synonyms or something else?
  10. What does this command tell us about the God we serve?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Of Twigs and Timbers" - Ken Wagoner

I have been following most of the sermons in this current series, and see up to this Sunday every scripture has come from the book of Matthew.  I also see most of the scripture selections are from Matthew 5-7.  Most of you know Matthew 5-7 is known as the Sermon on the Mount.  I, like most of you have read this section many times, have heard much more than one sermon from this portion, and have used these texts for Bible studies.   I have become convinced we are not to read this portion of Matthew  as an opportunity to pick and choose what quality we want to emulate in our life, or to believe we do not need to spend much time in worry about those issues in which we have room for improvement. Instead, this section is a unified description of the privilege we who have been redeemed and rescued by the work of Jesus Christ so that we can experience right now the Kingdom of Heaven.  As this sermon series describes, these commands are “A Charge to Keep,” not a choosing of what I want to do but what God wants to do in and through me.

For those who do not identify themselves as followers of Jesus, it would not be uncommon to hear them say if they examine the Bible at all it is to try to find the commands they cannot accept.  While for the follower of Jesus, we read the Bible to examine God’s Word and ourselves, and refrain from practicing the things God cannot accept.  Those in the world who look for those commands they cannot accept would probably have to say what they read in Matthew 7:1 is right along with their view of understanding and living in this life.   In their understanding “do not judge” supports the idea that if we are to love others we must be tolerant and even develop an attitude of acceptance of their ideas, lifestyles, and actions without criticism or disagreement.  I would suspect when this same person reads Matthew 7:6 they would conclude this is the most narrow minded, legalistic, overbearing view of a treatment to another person.  How could any person express one view in verse 1 and the same person express an apparently completely different view in verse 6?   

I would venture even we who follow Jesus have had some struggles with understanding how verse 1 and verse 6 fit together.  We are not to flip a coin between verses 1 and 6.   These are not options for us to choose, these are commands which help us to draw closer our Lord, and are used by Him in our reaching out to others whom we love.  Prayerfully, our hope this Sunday is to find some things which will help us grow more to be like Jesus, and give us a distinctive difference in living than those who do not know him.  

I am grateful for the privilege and honor to be with you this Sunday, and the following are some things for us to think about before we worship together.
  • The word “judge” has some broad understandings in the scriptures, and sometimes other English words are used to translate the original Greek word (“krino”).  Find these other words in  John 3:17, Acts 20:16, I Corinthians 6:1, II Corinthians 5:14
  • How do you distinguish what some may say is a contradiction between Matthew 7:1 and John 7:24?
  • When you think of the word “hypocrite,” what things come to your mind?
  •  Are there ways in your life where you may be seen more as a “judge” or a “hypocrite,” but not a “brother?”  How does  James 2:1-13 address this question?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Your Need for the Needy" - Doug Rehberg

For nine years Tim Keller pastored a church in Hopewell, Virginia, before heading to New York City and founding Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In his book, Generous Justice, Keller writes:

“There are many great differences between the small southern town of Hopewell, Virginia, and the giant metropolis of New York. But there was one thing that was exactly the same. To my surprise, there is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace, and his or her heart for justice and the poor. In both settings, as I preached the classic message that God does not give us justice, but saves us by free grace, I discovered that those most affected by the message became the most sensitive to the social iniquities around them. One man…Easley Shelton, went through a profound transformation. He moved out of a sterile, moralistic understanding of life and began to understand his salvation was based on the free, unmerited grace of Jesus. It gave him a new warmth, joy, and confidence that everyone could see. But it had another surprising effect. ‘You know’, he said, ‘I’ve been a racist all my life.’ I was startled, because I hadn’t yet preached to him or the congregation on that subject. He had put it together for himself. When he lost his Phariseeism, his spiritual self-righteousness, he said he lost his racism.”

Now Shelton’s transformation could be measured along racial lines. Through the power of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit convinced him that he had a view of the world that pigeon-holed people and their abilities based upon their race. But that’s only one illustration of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change one’s perception of the world. At the beginning of Matthew 6, Jesus utters a critical command. Unlike the other commands we’ve already considered, this one is more subtle and thus, more easily overlooked. What Jesus commands here is less a “what” than a “how”. Look at verse 1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…” You see, what He assumes is that we will be practicing our righteousness. He assumes that we will live lives that reflect His perspective and not our own. And what He’s saying is that there is a way to practice your righteousness and a way not to.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Your Need for the Needy”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What does “practice your righteousness” mean?
  2. What alternative translations can you find for the word “righteousness” in verse 1?
  3. What practices is Jesus referring to?
  4. What priority did Jesus put on giving to the needy?
  5. How is Jesus the fulfillment of Psalm 146:5-10?
  6. Why is Jesus concerned about our motive in practicing righteousness?
  7. What’s the greatest danger in not giving to the needy? What’s the greatest danger in giving to them?
  8. The Jews used to say, “Giving to the needy delivers the soul from death and purges it from sin.” Do you agree?
  9. From whom should we hide our giving?
  10. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you?”
See you Sunday!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"Looking for Love" - Doug Rehberg

In July of 1962 from a New York jail, Martin Luther King revised one of his favorite sermons, “Loving Your Enemies”.

Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more well-known and poorly followed than Matthew 5:43-45. Some feel that it is impractical. Nietzche contended that this command is a testimony to the weakness and cowardliness of Jesus’ followers. But, as King said, “In spite of these insistent questions and persistent objections, this command challenges us with new urgency…modern man is traveling along a road of hate, a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love our enemies is an absolute necessity for our survival…Jesus is not an impractical idealist: He is the practical realist.”

King continued, “I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy…He was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet He meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.”

From there King proceeds to answer the practical question, “How do we love our enemies? And it’s instructive to note his three answers: First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive; second, we must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses al that he is; third, we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but win his friendship and understanding.

From the practical, King moves to why we should love our enemies. And he answers with four powerful reasons – returning hate for hate multiplies it, hate scars the soul and distorts the personality, hate is just as injurious to the person who hates as the person who receives it, love is the only transforming force to make an enemy a friend.  Dr. King then ended his message with the powerful story of Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton.

As we continue our series, “A Charge to Keep”, we will be examining Matthew 5: 38-48 and Jesus’ command to “Love Our Enemy”. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Where would the people have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” (verse 43)?
  2. What does “love” mean?
  3. How many Greek words are there for love?
  4. What does C.S. Lewis mean when he says, “Christian love, either toward God or man, is an affair of the will”?
  5. How does Jesus’ command in verse 43 relate to what He says in verses 38-42?
  6. What does Jesus mean in verse 45 when He says, “So that you may be sons of your Father…”?
  7. What’s the purpose of describing the deeds of His Father in the balance of verse 45?
  8. How does verse 48 fit?
  9. How does Jesus demonstrate loving His enemies?
  10. Who are His enemies?
See you this Sunday – the 500th anniversary of the Reformation:

POST TENEBRAX LUX  -- “Out of darkness – LIGHT!”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Looking at Lust" - Doug Rehberg

The man writes, “When I was twenty-five I believed I could change the world, and I set about that task with all my strength. I was a go-getter. I had plenty of fuel in the tank and wind at my back. At forty I have come to realize that I can’t change my wife, my church, or my kids, to say nothing of the world. Try as I might, I have not been able to manufacture outcomes the way I thought I could either in my own life or other people’s.” Then he cites Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century thinker and writer who documented in his diary his efforts to overcome sloth by getting up early to pray. He wrote:
  • 1738: “Oh, Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.”
  • 1757: “Oh, mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”
  • 1759: “Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth.”
  • 1761: “I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again.”
  • 1781: (3 years before his death): “I will not despair, help me, help me, Oh my God. I resolve to rise at eight or sooner to avoid idleness.”

Last week we examined Jesus’ command for righteousness in Matthew 5:20. There Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will not see the kingdom of heaven.” Immediately following, Jesus does something very unusual, He describes this excessive righteousness with six antitheses, each showing righteousness to be internal, whole-hearted, and God-serving rather than self-serving. A quick summary of these antitheses is as follows: From no murder to no anger; from no adultery to no lust; from divorce to faithfulness, from oath-keeping to simple honesty; from retaliation to loving contentment; from limited love to loving our enemies.

This week we will single out the second antithesis: “You’ve heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery, but I say to you everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” 

As we can see from the balance of Matthew 5, the issue for Jesus is not just the behavior, it’s the condition of the heart. The righteousness that Jesus demands is not born of moral acts, but the purity of heart behind the external chastity. And that is why the imparted righteousness the Holy Spirit brings to the life of the believer is so critically important.

That’s what we will be focusing on this Sunday in a message entitled, “Looking at Lust,” from Matthew 5:27-32.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Biblically, speaking, what is an antithesis?
  2. Why is Jesus’ use of six of them in chapter 5 so profound?
  3. How does His use of them promote the crowd’s reaction in Matthew 7:28-29?
  4. How does His use of them fuel the religious leaders’ hatred of Him?
  5. The world says, “The man who refrains from doing bad things is good.” What does Jesus say?
  6. How is Jesus’ perspective reflected in I Samuel 16:7?
  7. How does Paul’s message in Romans 7 comport with the struggle Jesus alludes to in verses 29 & 30?
  8. What was the effect of verses 28-30 on men like Marcion and Origen in church history?
  9. What is an alternative answer to the struggle given by Paul in Romans 8, Colossians 3, and Galatians 5?
  10. The same man whose words we led with ends his thoughts this way:
"In other words, the older I get, the more smitten I become by the fact that God’s love for me, His approval and commitment to me, does not ride on my transformation but on Jesus’ substitution. Jesus is infallibly devoted to me in spite of my inconsistent devotion to Him.”

Do you agree? Are these words a cop-out and excuse for sin, or the gist of divine power?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Excessive Righteousness" - Doug Rehberg

Nearly sixty years ago when John Kennedy was running for President of the United States, he was dogged by questions about his religion. As you know, Kennedy was a Roman Catholic and as such he was thought to be a man who posed a serious challenge to the American mainstream. There were those who believed that he might receive his orders from the Vatican rather than the electorate. So, after weeks of questions, Kennedy decided to hold a press conference. He began by saying, “Reporters have been asking my opinion on the Pope’s infallibility. So, I asked my friend, Cardinal Spellman, what I should say. And he said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you, Senator. All I know is that he keeps calling me Spillman!’”

Years ago a British investigator was asking a woman if she had seen the man who had set a building ablaze. When she said that she had, the officer said, “Could you describe his looks?” When the artist finished the sketch and held it up, he asked the women, “Would you say that this is the man who is responsible for the fire?” Instantly she replied, “Responsible? No, I’d say he’s highly irresponsible!”

You see, words have a variety of meanings in English. Take the word “end”. Webster gives us seven different definitions of the word, “end”. “End” can be a boundary, like an “end zone”. It can be a point at which something ceases to exist, like the “end of a rope”. It can be the cessation of an action, like the “end of a war”. An “end” can be a share of an undertaking, as in “he kept his end of the bargain”. It can be a synonym for death, as in “he met his end”. An “end” can be the player at the terminus of a football line of scrimmage  like a “split end”. And an “end” can be a goal or an aim, as in “to what end are you working?” There seems to be no end to the meaning of the word “end”.

Perhaps that’s why there’s so much confusion about Matthew 5:17. You see, to abolish the law and/or the prophet’s message would mean to bring them to an end. It would mean that Jesus has terminated them, or caused them to cease. But Jesus is clear about that. He hasn’t come to do anything of the sort. Rather, He’s come to fulfill them. Now the word “fulfill” implies another kind of ending. To fulfill something means to complete it. And there are many who point to Romans 10:7 as confirmation of the fact that Jesus has completed the law. In fact, many point to the verse to say, “Jesus has set the law aside. He’s released us from it.” And the fact is that no one can doubt that interpretation until verses 18-30 are read. For in verse 20 Jesus issues a command that follows from all He’s been saying in the Sermon on the Mount up to that point. He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So how does all that work?

This Sunday in a message entitled, “Excessive Righteousness”, we will explore the depths of this clear command of Christ. What does it mean to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day? And how does this command square with the gospel of grace alone, through Christ alone, by faith alone?

We are in our fifth week of our series “A Charge to Keep.” Already we’ve looked at several clear commands of Christ from Matthew’s gospel. This Sunday is another important one!

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read Matthew 5:17-20. How does this text fit into the Sermon on the Mount? Especially given its positioning?
  2. Is verse 20 a “hard saying”?
  3. What is righteousness? How is righteousness defined in the Old Testament?
  4. How did the Jews of Jesus’ day define it?
  5. What is the connection between Moses and Jesus as evidenced in verse 17?
  6. In verse 18 the world “fulfilled” or “accomplished” is used. What does it mean?
  7. What does Jesus mean in verse 19 when He refers to “these commandments”?
  8. How is the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees described in the gospels? What are the marks of such righteousness?
  9. The Bible infers three kinds of righteousness – Inherent, Imputed, and Imparted. What’s the difference between them?
  10. What are the fruits of imparted righteousness evidenced in the beatitudes?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Rejoice and Be Glad" - Scott Parsons

This week’s sermon in our “A Charge to Keep” series focuses on Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:1-12 to rejoice and be glad. On the surface this seems like an absurd command, particularly since it is given in the context of extremely negative circumstances. Certainly there are things that all of us rejoice over; a wedding, the birth of a child, a promotion at work or a graduation. We understand the concept of rejoicing over good things in our lives, but why would we possibly rejoice and be glad over being persecuted?

I think our struggle stems from our assumption that rejoicing is the result of outside events or stimuli that affect us in a positive way. Good things happen and we rejoice over them. But what happens when the good things go away, or the circumstances of our lives are no longer following the path we set for them?  You don’t have to look too hard to see that in general our society is struggling. Terrible things are happening all around us. Our country and way of life is rapidly changing and many of the things we used to take for granted are now uncertain, including a general societal respect for biblical truth and the people who strive to follow it.

So why rejoice?  Jesus’ answer is that ultimately our joy does not flow from circumstances, but rather is the natural result of who we are. We rejoice because of our identity in Jesus. As you prepare for Sunday read through the passage and think through the following questions:

What is the nature of our relationship with Jesus?  Why are we in relationship with him and why can we be confident in that relationship?

What should our expectations be as followers of Jesus?  What is Jesus’s purpose for our lives?

What is the object of our joy?  What makes us glad?  What are God’s promises to his children?