Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Train Wreck" - Doug Rehberg


Abraham Lincoln said it, “We must plan for the future, because people who stay in the present will remain in the past.” Robert Fulmer famously said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Indeed, one of the clear ways we reflect the image of God is when we exercise our capacity to plan. Bruce Cook, a management consultant to Christian organizations, once observed, “Success for the Christian can be defined as determining what God wants to accomplish and then getting on with it.”

Years ago LeRoy Sims wrote a book in which he told the story about how he imagined Jesus arriving in heaven after His ascension. The story goes something like this: When Jesus appears in heaven the angels quickly gather around Him anxious to question Him on His plans. “What are your plans?” they ask eagerly as they surround the Lord. Without hesitation the Lord responds, “My men, they are my plan.” Immediately the angels are alarmed, for they have watched this motley gang of men disburse under pressure during the events that led up to the Lord’s crucifixion. “And what if they fail?” asks an angel with concern. Again, with quiet confidence, the Lord responds, “I have no other plans.”

If the Lord had brought in a consultant there’s no way there would have been agreement. No human or angelic consultant would ever have recommended such a plan. Men are prideful, rebellious, and insubordinate. They have little faith and their priorities are twisted. Their selfish desires often overrule all other desires. As the former Englishman John Guest often cites, on his first trip to Philadelphia his eyes were open to this new land he would call home. When his eyes fell upon a sign printed in the early 1770s: “We Serve No Sovereign Here!” And it’s that point that James is highlighting in Sunday’s text: James 4:13-17.

Following upon his observation in Chapter 3:18, James details three things that war against the peace that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give. In 4:1-10, it’s following the selfish passions of our heart. In 4:11-12, it’s harboring a judgmental spirit that seeks to elevate us over everyone else. And in Sunday’s text it’s our propensity to live our lives without reference to the sovereign will and the leadership of God. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster.

This Sunday’s message, “Train Wreck”, is an exposition of the last 5 verses of Chapter 4. Our companion text is Luke 12:16-21. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

  1. What was the worst Amtrack wreck in American history?
  2. What does such a wreck tell us about ourselves and God?
  3. What change did James experience in his planning after he met the resurrected Lord?
  4. What is James doing in verse 13?
  5. How is this analogous to Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus in John 3:10?
  6. How does the cross prove that we stink at autonomous planning?
  7. On what grounds does James cite our insufficiencies in verse 14?
  8. What does he mean in verse 15 when he says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills.’”?
  9. How does looking into the mirror of the perfect love (1:25) help?
  10. In verse 17 James seems more concerned with sins of omission than commission. As you reflect on the words of Jesus, would you say He is too? If so, how does obedience produce peace?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Living According to the Law" - Scott Parsons


In Sunday’s passage, James tells us not to speak evil of or judge a brother. This seems counter-intuitive to many professed Christians today, because the law of God clearly points out evil, and it seems as if it is our duty to apply the law by passing judgment on those who do not keep it. Others point out that we no longer live under or by the law, but rather by grace. Therefore they really don’t focus on the issue of sin, but celebrate the goodness and love of God. These two views represent opposite sides of gospel understanding. James tells us that both are wrong.

James states that speaking evil of or judging a brother is not simply unkind, but is actually a violation of the law. In fact, he says it is “speaking evil of and judging the law.” Why is that? It is helpful to remind ourselves of the purpose of the law. The law was not given as a means of righteousness.That is a common misconception among Christians. Many think that Old Testament children of God were saved by obedience to the law and the New Testament child of God is saved by grace. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one could be saved by obedience to the law because no one was able to keep it. That is why the Bible says that “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” It was not his works, but his faith that evidenced his salvation. It is also the reason that David said: “You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” 

So the law was given to show us how glorious God is (He is the standard, not the law), and how far short we fall of His glory. The law was also given to show us the scope of our sin, show us our need of a Savior and bring us to repentance. That is why James says that speaking evil of or judging others is so wrong. In doing so we are not only violating the purpose of the law by setting ourselves (rather than God) up as the standard of righteousness, we are also being disobedient to the commandments in the law. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He answered; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But then He added, “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So speaking evil of and judging someone is breaking the law’s command to love. 

All of this is background to Doug's sermon on Sunday. As we look at James 4:10-12, we are going to examine how we are to interact with each other in view of the commands of the law. Pray that God will give us the grace to allow the law’s reflection of God’s character to shine brightly through us.

Blessings,
Scott

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"The Courage to Submit" - Barrett Hendrickson

Covenant. God's relationship with His people is based on Covenant. I'm counting at least 43 times the Bible uses the Immanuel Principle, "I will be your God and you will be My people" or some derivation of that. He promises to be with us, His people. God loves His people and calls them His bride. Sunday, we're going to take a look at how we are to be a faithful and loving bride, knowing that He is unfailing in His love for his people.

We'll take a look at what being that faithful and loving bride means. But until then, read The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7 on God's Covenant with man.

1.       The distance between God and his creation is so great, that, although reasoning creatures owe him obedience as their creator, they nonetheless could never realize any blessedness or reward from him without his willingly condescending to them. And so it pleased God to provide for man by means of covenants.1
1. Is 40.13-17, Jb 9.32-33, 1 Sm 2.25, Ps 100.2-3, 113.5-6, Jb 22.2-3, 35.7-8, Lk 17.10, Acts 17.24-25

2.       The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works.2 In it life was promised to Adam and through him to his descendants,3 on the condition of perfect, personal obedience.4
2. Hos 6.7, Gn 2.16-17, Gal 3.10, Rom 5.12,19, 1 Cor 15.22,47, Gal 3.12.
3. Rom 5.12-20, 10.5.
4. Gn 2.17, Gal 3.10; Compare Gn 2.16-17 with Rom 5.12-14, 10.5, Lk 10.25-28, and with the covenants made with Noah and Abraham.

3.       By his fall, man made himself incapable of life under that covenant, and so the Lord made a second, the covenant of grace.5 In it he freely offers sinners life and salvation through Jesus Christ. In order to be saved he requires faith in Jesus6 and promises to give his Holy Spirit to all who are ordained to life so that they may be willing and able to believe.7
5. Gal 3.21, Rom 3.20-21, 8.3, Gn 3.15, Is 42.6, Mt 26.28, Heb 10.5-10.
6. Mk 16.15-16, Jn 3.16, Rom 10.6,9, Gal 3.11, Acts 16.30-31, Mt 28.18-20, Rom 1.16-17.
7. Ez 36.26-27, Jn 6.37,44-45, 5.37, 3.5-8, Acts 13.48, Lk 11.13, Gal 3.14.

4.       This covenant of grace is frequently identified in Scripture as a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance and everything included in that legacy.8
8. Heb 9.15-17, 7.22, Lk 22.20, 1 Cor 11.25.

5.       This covenant was administered differently in the time of the law and in the time of the gospel.9 Under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances given to the Jewish people, all foreshadowing Christ.10 For that time the covenant administered under the law through the operation of the Spirit was sufficient and effective in instructing the elect and building up their faith in the promised Messiah,11 by whom they had full remission of their sins and eternal salvation. This administration is called the Old Testament.12
9. 2 Cor 3.6-9, Heb 1.1-2.
10. Heb 8-10, Rom 4.11, Col 2.11-12, 1 Cor 5.7, Col 2.17.
11. 1 Cor 10.1-4, Heb 11.13, Jn 8.56, Gal
12. Gal 3.7-9, 14, Acts 15.11, Rom 3.30.

6. Under the gospel Christ himself, the substance13 of God’s grace, was revealed. The ordinances of this New Testament are the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper.14 Although these are fewer in number and are administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet they are available to all nations, Jews and Gentiles,15 and in them the spiritual power of the covenant of grace is more fully developed.16 There are not then two essentially different covenants of grace, but one and the same covenant under different dispensations.17
13. Gal 2.17, Col 2.17.
14. Mt 28.19-20, 1 Cor 11.23-25, 2 Cor 3.7-11.
15. Mt 28.19, Eph 2.15-19, see under figure 11 above, Lk 2.32, Acts 10.34-35. 
16. Heb 12.22-28, Jer 31.33-34, Heb 8.6-13, 2 Cor 3.9-11.17. 15.11, Rom 3.21-23,30, Ps 32.1, Rom 4.3,6,16-17,23-24, Heb 13.8, Gal 3.17,29, see context and citations under figure 10 above, Heb 1.1-2.