Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Plan for Trouble" - Doug Rehberg

There’s a blog entitled, “god blog”. In one of its recent posts, there is the heading: “C.S. Lewis is popular but wrong; we are not little Christs.”

After introducing the fact that C.S. Lewis had no formal theological training, the blogger goes on to say that while some criticize Lewis for being too loose with doctrine, “My take is somewhat the opposite. He is too literal about what it means to follow Christ. For Lewis it means to become, little Christs, which to me makes no sense at all…The part of Lewis that I don’t understand (and perhaps my understanding of Christian doctrine is insufficient) is his claim that every Christian is to become a little Christ. That the whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

Here’s Lewis’ full statement:

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: That we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call “good infection”. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” Mere Christianity, p. 177.

What trips up the blogger is the belief that what Lewis is describing is human effort applied to imitating Christ, but he’s not. What Lewis is saying is what Paul says repeatedly, as in Galatians 2:20 and II Corinthians 5:17. Rather than talking about the consequences of human effort, what Paul and Lewis are detailing is what divine effort can do in a life. And that’s exactly what James is talking about in James 1:2-12.

What is the vehicle by which God the Father and Spirit conforms us to His Son, Jesus Christ? James tells us – trouble. How did Jesus stand steadfast? He had the wisdom of God in the face of His trials. How do we know of His steadfastness? It’s through His response to those trials.

The fantastic truth that James sets forth in verse 12 is one we will examine this week. Simply put, the truth is this – as we ask and receive the wisdom of God our steadfastness increases and the life we live begins to parallel, more and more, the life of Christ. What is “the crown of life” to which James refers? It is to be glorified, standing in His presence, looking exactly like Him. And, according to James, that work has already begun.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Plan for Trouble”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How does James include himself in his admonition to count trials as joys?
  2. How is he paralleling the message of an orthodox Old Testament prophet?
  3. What does James tell us about the purpose of trials?
  4. According to James is the task of the Christian life to overcome trials?
  5. How does Jesus prove that trials are a blessing?
  6. How is pain and suffering a positive tool in the hand of our Master?
  7. Why does James segue into a prosperity discussion in verses 9-11?
  8. How is prosperity a great trial?
  9. How do trials make you real?
  10. What do you think the crown of life is?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Wisdom for Trouble" - Doug Rehberg

Here’s a test:
  1. Your boss comes in and tells you that your services are no longer needed. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  2. You put your child down for a nap and an hour later you find she’s dead. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  3. You’re minding your own business and a car comes along and sideswipes your car. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  4. You go to school and your best friend betrays your trust by accusing you, falsely, in front of others. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
Answer: According to James, it’s wisdom!

Throughout the letter of James, a clear distinction is made between good (Godly) wisdom and evil (natural human) wisdom. In chapter 3:13-18 James says that a person whose life reflects jealousy and self-ambition has not the true wisdom of God, but is earthly-minded and unspiritual. But true God-given wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” In other words, Godly wisdom is the possession of God and it is something for which His children can seek and find. That’s why Luke could say what he does about Jesus in Luke 2:52.

That’s what we are going to be talking about this week as we dig into James 1:5-8. So many come to verse 5 and try to apply it to all kinds of understandings. But James is specific. He’s talking about “counting” or “considering” all trials a joy (v. 2). What he’s saying is that there’s only one way to do that and that’s to have a new perspective that only divine wisdom can give us.

Last week we talked about what positive things trials can provide us. This week we’re going to talk about how we access them. In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Wisdom for Trouble”, you may wish to consider the following:
  • What does James tell us about wisdom in verse 5?
  • How does verse 5 flow directly from verses 2-4?
  • How does his meeting with the resurrected Jesus in I Corinthians 15:7 relate to what James is saying?
  • Do you think it’s cruel in the face of someone’s pain and anguish over a trial, to tell someone they don’t know enough?
  • How is the severity and effect of a trial defined by our perspective?
  • Why does James put a condition on our prayer in verse 6?
  • What does it mean to ask for wisdom while you have doubts?
  • The Book of Proverbs says that a fool is not aware of his foolishness. Is a wise man aware of his?
  • How is outrage at suffering a sign that there’s eternal life?
  • Did Jesus ever pray for wisdom in the midst of His trials?

See you Sunday as we gather at His table!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Getting Started" - Doug Rehberg

In the 4th century Pope Gregory the Great wrote a commentary on the Book of Job in which he famously observed:

“Scripture is like a river, broad and deep,
shallow enough here for a lamb to go wading,
but deep enough there for an elephant to swim.”

And interestingly, the “here” and the “there” can be the same text. Nowhere are Gregory’s words more apparently true than in James’ letter to Jewish Christians dispersed throughout the known world.

Years ago I remember listening to some recordings of “end times” dispensationalist teacher Hal Lindsey. I’m not sure I ever knew where he was teaching or the identity of his audience, but when he introduced his series of messages on the Book of Daniel, wild applause broke out. It was as if he was finally giving them what they were paying him for – a view into the future!

As I have been studying the Letter of James over the past three or four months, I have been fascinated to see how much like those Hal Lindsey listeners many commentators are and how shallow they make James’ message to be! For them James presents a set of practical hints and habits that, when appropriated, put the doer in good standing with God and others. It is this type of interpretation that drove Martin Luther to seek to banish the book of James from the New Testament canon. He saw such an interpretation as simply a re-tool of the law; another play of the Judaisers to lead people away from the Gospel. If Luther could read some modern interpretations of James, he would surely feel vindicated.

But, the truth is, the Letter of James is so much more than a place for lambs to wade. It’s not a legal re-tool. It’s not a compendium of “handy-dandy tips” for Christian living. It’s not an appeal to the human will. It’s a heater for the heart. It’s a letter that the Holy Spirit has used throughout history to move Christians out of their complacency and into a fully equipped ministry that reflects the character of Jesus Christ.

For years at Hebron we have taken seriously what Paul sets forth in Ephesians 4:12 as the goal of the ministry: “To equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Today Hebron’s even more committed to that goal by actively seeking to ENGAGE people with the Gospel, EVANGELIZE those who have been engaged, ESTABLISH them in the faith, and EQUIP them for the work of ministry which is Engaging, Evangelizing, and Establishing others in the faith. And the Letter of James is a perfect tool for the job. It’s full of admonitions and applications set against the backdrop of Christ’s finished work.

This Sunday we begin where James begins in 1:1-4. After issuing a single greeting, James dives in and so will we.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Who is this James? (If you were at the 7:00 pm service on Christmas Eve you may remember.)
  2. How is this James like the younger son in the “Prodigal Son” story Jesus tells in Luke 15?
  3. Who are the twelve tribes of the dispersion?
  4. What amazing confession does James make in verse 1? And why is it so amazing?
  5. What does James tell us about trials, troubles, and temptations in verse 2?
  6. On what grounds should they bring us joy?
  7. How do trials test our faith?
  8. What is steadfastness?
  9. How does steadfastness make us perfect and complete?
  10. How does steadfastness make us lack for nothing?
See you Sunday!