Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Rest from Your Labor" - Tim Williams

On a recent road trip through Ohio my grandson and I pulled into a couple of rest areas.  The facilities were appreciated along with the opportunity to stretch, take a break from driving and check out the vending machines.

Periodic rest stops on a trip are often helpful as are rest periods in our lives.  They can take the form of vacations, slowing our schedules, or just taking a nap.  Preaching on Mark 6:31 (KJV), "Come ye yourselves apart and rest awhile," evangelist Vance Havner said, "Come apart or you'll come apart." Rest periods are important even in the Bible!

In Genesis God rested on the 7th day after 6 days of creating the world.  I don't believe God was tired, but in doing so He set a pattern for us.  In the 4th Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) the Israelites were told that the Sabbath day was holy and no work was to be done.  God intended that no person or work animal should labor on that day but have a day of rest.  Travel and meal preparation were limited as well to insure rest.  Extremists took the point of Sabbath rest too far in that they wouldn't even allow emergency help or acts of compassion to be performed.  (Jesus rebuked such misunderstanding with His teaching that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath).  God even required the Israelites to give their farmland every 7th year off for rest. (Exodus 23:10)

Not only do we need physical rest periods but emotional ones as well.  The Bible speaks of "being still" as we lay our fears and frustrations aside and rest in the love, wisdom, and power of the Lord. (Psalm 37:4; 46:10)  Emotional rest can also come as we pause from concentrating so hard to figure it all out and take a moment to do something we purely enjoy or appreciate a moment of beauty, quietness, or humor.

In our text today, Jesus speaks of spiritual rest for our souls.  What a joy to realize we can't earn our salvation but that we can rest in the finished work of Christ to save us. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:25)  What a delight to know that even when we don't know the future or life brings the unexpected, that we can be led of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:14)  What a peace to know that even when the world seems to be "out of control" that God's Word teaches us of His sovereign plan. (Proverbs 19:21) What a blessing to know that following the will of Christ brings greater rest to our heart, mind, and conscience than any worldly pathway. (Matthew 11:30)  What an encouragement to know that our future in Heaven provides permanent rest from the heartaches, hurts, struggles, and sins of this life. (Revelation 21:4)

See you Sunday.  (Just don't rest too much during the sermon!)

1.      Read about that first day of rest.  Genesis 2:2-3
2.      What is the intended result of rest?  Exodus 23:12
3.      Ancient Israel often failed to give the land the rest God commanded in Exodus 23:10. What was the final result of that?  2 Chronicles 20:21

4.      Where can we find peace and rest?  Jeremiah 6:16; Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6-7
5.      Note some of the rest periods of Jesus.  Matthew 14:13a; Mark 4:38; John 4:6
6.      In our text Jesus speaks of wearing His yoke (worn by an animal working to pull a plow or wagon) and yet having rest for our souls rest.  How do these 2 concepts work together?

7.      How does Jesus indicate completion of His work of salvation?  Hebrews 1:3

8.      Study Hebrews 4:1-11...a fascinating passage about spiritual rest.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"The Pharisee, the Publican, and the Prophet" - Doug Rehberg

One of the great servants of Jesus and His Gospel was Jack Miller of Philadelphia.  Jack taught practical theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and was founder of World Harvest Mission and New Life Presbyterian Church.  Someone has summed up Jack’s theology this way:  “Cheer up; you’re a lot worse than you think you are, but in Jesus, you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined.”

I have a lot of friends who run in conservative political and theological circles, including one man who describes himself as “right of Genghis Khan”.  Back in the 1990s he was speaking to a large crowd of conservative Christians and he was saying how angry the exploits of President Clinton had made him.  As soon as he said it the audience erupted in applause.  “No, no,” he said.  “You don’t understand.  I’m not talking about Monica.  The thing that really bothers me about the President is the way he has given so many Christians the opportunity to be self-righteous.  We had a great opportunity to say, ‘Given the right opportunity and that much power, it could have been me.  I’m just like the President – seriously needy and sinful.  But let me tell you about Someone who loves me anyway.  In fact, He loves me because of my failures and failings.  He came to save me because of all my junk.  And the good news is that he came to save you for the same reason.’  You see, we blew a wonderful opportunity big time!”

The truth is, it doesn’t take much for any of us to move in the direction of self-righteousness.  And it’s against self-righteousness that Jesus railed time and time again. The reason is plain – there’s always a choice – will I trust in His righteousness or my own?

For weeks this summer we have been exploring the implications of Jesus’ post-resurrection Bible study; it’s the one in which He said, “All the Scriptures speak of me.”  And we’ve seen Him in  the story of David and Goliath and in the story of Joseph and his brothers.  We’ve seen how the words of the law and the prophets speak of Him.  But what about the writings in the Book of Proverbs?  For most, they are simply a compendium of moral statements and axioms.  How do we see Jesus in all the Proverbs?

This week we’ll focus on Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”  If I had to guess I’d say that everyone who reads those words immediately has the same thought – “It’s talking about the crooked scoundrels who call evil good and good evil.  It’s talking about what we see all around us today – defining deviance down.  Anything goes these days.”

But to see only that is to miss Jesus.  In fact, when you take this proverb and place it against  Luke 18, you suddenly discover that the words of the proverb are the best good news you’ve ever heard!  It’s just as Jack Miller said!  It’s just as Bill Clinton proved.  And this Sunday we’re going to talk about it.

In preparation for Sunday’s message and the Lord’s Table, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      How do you measure the purity of a church?

2.      What are the links between the two parables Jesus tells at the beginning of Luke 18?

3.      Why does the judge finally relent to the widow’s demands?  (Luke 18:4-5)

4.      What does the Bible tell us about our responsibility to widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor?

5.      What is the connection between the Pharisee in parable # 2 and the judge?

6.      How does the Pharisee display self-righteousness?

7.      How does the tax collector display a lack of self-righteousness?

8.      How is the tax collector justified?

9.      What do you think is a bigger problem in the church today – cheap grace or cheap law?

10.  How does the cross demonstrate the truth of Proverbs 17:15?

See you at the table this Sunday!

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Taking Another Look at Our Joseph" - Doug Rehberg

What do Paul Azinger, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, R.C. Sproul, the Egyptian Pharaoh, and Joseph have in common?  Answer:  Sunday’s sermon.

The late Mexican novelist, Carlos Fuentes, though no friend of Christianity, wrote of the “epochal shift” in the theology for native cultures in the Spanish Conquest:  “One can only imagine the astonishment of the hundreds and thousands of Indians who asked for baptism as they came to realize that they were being asked to adore a God who sacrificed himself for men instead of asking men to sacrifice themselves to the gods, as the Aztec religion demanded.”
The good news of the Gospel is such stupendously good news because God completely and perfectly fulfills what His holiness requires.  Christ sacrificed Himself for men and thus God’s law which required perfect, unremitting obedience was thoroughly fulfilled.  The law of the Holy God allowed no exceptions, no mitigating circumstances, no discounts, no rebates, no compromise, no grace.  The law bluntly pronounces the bad news: blessings if we obey and curses if we fail to obey (Deut. 27-28).  And we all miserably fail to obey.

But that’s where the good news comes to our rescue.  Paul declares that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Rom. 10:4).  Christ took our place.  He paid our legal debt.  He bore our guilt and punishment on Himself.  He gave to us (imputed) what God’s holy perfection required of us, what we were utterly incapable of offering – perfect obedience.  And all of this is based on Christ’s perfect performance, not ours.  As Tim Keller writes, “It’s not only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance.”  By the grace of the Gospel, performance will follow, but in justification the verdict is already in: we are forever righteous in Christ.  And that’s immeasurably good news!
Now many of us know these things with our head.  Many of us have heard this truth of the Gospel for years.  And yet, what is clear to me, in my own life, is that what’s comprehended by my head often dissipates substantially before reaching the heart.

Last week Tim preached a message entitled, “E is for Evangelist”.  And in it he talked at length about the role of the evangelist in presenting the good news of the Gospel by which we are saved.  And yet, for so many Christians the trouble is not that they’re unsaved, the trouble is that they haven’t gone very far in realizing just how much!
Someone has said, “The principle problem for Christians in living the Christian life is their inattention to the goodness of the Gospel.  They fail to grasp the amazing scope of His grace because they fail to hear of it, to read it, to think of it.”  This Sunday I want us to read, hear, and think about the magnitude of His grace by taking another look at our Joseph.

Remember, two weeks ago we were looking at Joseph and his brothers at the end of the biblical account – Genesis 50.  And in that look we saw Jesus!  What Joseph does there is exactly what Jesus did for us.  He doesn’t punish his brothers he saves them by a flood of overwhelming grace.
This week I want to go back in the story to Genesis 45 where Joseph reveals his true identity to his brothers.  For here, in Joseph’s words to his brothers, he clearly and powerfully articulates some of the same features of divine grace we too have received.  Here again, Joseph is just like Jesus.  We are just like those brothers.  And interestingly, Pharaoh is a lot like God the Father.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Taking Another Look at Our Joseph,” (Genesis 45:16-28), you may wish to consider the following:

1.       Why does Paul reference Isaiah 52:7 in Romans 10:15 when he’s talking about preaching the Gospel?

2.       What is the meaning of Isaiah’s words?

3.       What would you say if you were to ask someone, “Are you saved?” and they replied, “From what?”

4.       What is meant by the statement:  “The trouble with most Christians is not that we’re unsaved, it’s that we just don’t know how much.”

5.       Why would Pharaoh extend all those privileges to Joseph’s brothers and father and all their households?

6.       What does Pharaoh mean when he says through Joseph, “Leave all your stuff behind.” (v. 20)

7.       What is the significance of the clothes and the money in verse 22?

8.       How important are the wagons or carts sent from Pharaoh to Jacob?

9.       How is every one of these benefits a response to the sin of the brothers against Joseph?

10.   How is a deeper appreciation of all our Joseph has done an antidote to every problem we have?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

E is for Evangelist

It is almost here! For the last 2 years many Christians in the Pittsburgh area have been preparing for the Festival of Hope. This 3 day event (August 15-17) at the Consol Energy Center is focused on bringing individuals into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Billy Graham EVANGELISTIC Association is the lead on the event and Franklin Graham is the EVANGELIST. Just what do the words evangelist and evangelistic mean?

The word Gospel is "euangelion" in the Greek language of the original New Testament writing and means "good news". It can be translated into English as the "Evangel". Consequently, to be an evangelist is to be a messenger of the good news. To be evangelistic is to be focused on sharing the good news and to evangelize is to actually communicate the good news.

In our text we are taught that the Lord gave some people the gift of being an evangelist. Apostles are foundational to the whole church, prophets have special messages from the Lord, pastors and teachers instruct local congregations while evangelists travel to various places to share the good news of Jesus. Often these places are where there is little or no gospel influence. Many commentators equate evangelists with missionaries. In today's Christian world the evangelist is often seen as someone who works with local churches to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers with the goal of conversion. An evangelistic church is one that has a focus not only on instructing the saints and doing good works in the community but also concerned that unbelievers come to a personal faith in Jesus.

We meet one individual in the Scripture who is identified specifically as an evangelist. This is Phillip in Acts 21:8. We see Phillip travelling from Jerusalem to Samaria to the desert to the sea coast preaching Jesus wherever he went. Though Timothy is considered a pastor, Paul instructs him to do the work of an evangelist in 2 Timothy 4:5. This would indicate that we should be sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and His saving grace right where we are.

This is what we sometimes call personal evangelism. We may not be an evangelist but we can share/show the Gospel in various ways to those around us who do not know the Lord.

See you Sunday!

1. If someone were to ask you what an evangelist is...what would you answer?

2. The church of Jesus was evangelistic early on. Read Acts 8:1-4. Who is out preaching the word? So is evangelism just for the "preachers" (compare vv.1 + 4)?

3. We see some evangelistic folk in John 1.In other words, folk who wanted their loved ones and friends to meet Jesus. Who were they? John 1:40-42; 44-47

4. What are some ways we can share the good news that Jesus saves with others?

5. What prayer request for evangelism did Paul have in Colossians 4: 2-4

6. Can we share in evangelism by providing support for evangelists/missionaries/evangelistic pastors and teachers? 1 Corinthians 9: 14; Philippians 1:5 + 4: 16, 17

7. Who shared the good news of Jesus with you as our Lord brought you to salvation? Have you had the joy and privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus in some way with someone else?