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.’” It was this commanding observation of Christ that got President Jimmy Carter in trouble with the media back in 1976.

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?

Blessings,

Scott