Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Joy in Serving" - Doug Rehberg

It is said that Albert Einstein couldn’t speak until he was four-years-old.  He couldn’t read until he was seven.  And when he was a freshman in the university it’s said that he flunked an introductory math class.

As a young man Beethoven’s music instructor said, “As a composer, he’s helpless.” 
As a boy Thomas Edison’s teachers said that he was so stupid he couldn’t learn anything.
When F.W. Woolworth was 21 he got a job in a retail store, but they wouldn’t allow him to wait on customers because they said he didn’t have much business sense.
Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor because he was thought to have no good ideas.
Harry Truman was 38, in debt, and out of work.  Twenty-three years later he was the leader of the Free World.
Such stories make us shake our heads.  How could so many people be so wrong about such luminaries?  Miss such potential?  How could they be so wrong?  The answer turns, in large measure, on one’s definition of success.  How do you define success?  What make someone successful in your eyes?
I remember, years ago, coming to Hebron and meeting many people who had adult children who had moved away. When people would speak of them, they’d often tell me how successful they’d become.  One was the CEO of a major American energy company.  Another was the national sales director for a multi-national chemical corporation.  Still another was an industry leader in software development.  The stories went on and on, with a knowing nod of the head when the adjective “successful” was applied to them.
But were they? It all depends on how we define success.  What’s the proper definition?  What’s the right measuring rod?  Moreover, what are the fruits of success?  Are they material?  Are they relational?  Are they spiritual?  Isn’t it true that every one of these questions on the surface seem simple to answer, but when you dig a little deeper they are confounding?
This week we come to the final verse of Philippians 2 where Paul shifts gears a bit.  From the outset of chapter two he’s addressed the apparent conflict that is rife in the church at Philippi.  But beginning in verse 19 Paul turns personal, revealing his hopes and dreams. It’s in verses 19-30 that Paul refers to two men – Timothy and Epaphroditus – who are to play a key role in the Philippians further growth in Christ.  Timothy, as many of you know, is Paul’s protégé in the faith.  At an early age the Holy Spirit linked Timothy to Paul.  Timothy’s name means “one who honors God,” and after being linked with Paul he lives up to his name.  Timothy first appears in Scripture in Acts 16 (the same chapter that details the origins of the Philippian church).  His mother was a believer, but his father was a Greek.  He was a third generation Christian after his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois.  His spiritual father in the faith is Paul.  Epaphroditus is a leader in the Philippian church.  He was sent to Rome during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment to deliver gifts to the apostle.
When you examine both men in light of all of chapter 2, and all that Paul says about them, you discover the apostle’s insight into the proper definition of success.  Indeed, Philippians 2:19-30 gives us a whole new way of looking at success that links Paul’s description of Christ’s work in 2:5-11 with all of chapter 3.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Joy in Serving”, you may wish to consider the following:
1.      Read Matthew 25:14-30.

2.      How would Jesus define success in this parable?

3.      What does the statement, “Well done good and faithful servant mean?”

4.      Do you agree with this statement: “Today, more than any other idol, personal success and achievement lead to the belief that we are God”?

5.      What is personal success?  Is success personal?

6.      From verses 19-30 can you glean any defining characteristics of real success?  (Hint: There are at least five of them.)

7.      How does Paul’s description of success here in these verses differ from what you normally think success is?

8.      How far did Epaphroditus travel to get to Paul?

9.      Why does he stay in Rome for a time?

10.  What does it mean to “honor” him?  (See verse 29.) 

See you Sunday!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Joy As Testimony" - Doug Rehberg

A monk joined a monastery and took a vow of silence.  After the first 10 years his superior called him in and asked, “Do you have anything to say, my brother?”  The monk replied, “Food bad.”  After another 10 years the monk again had an opportunity to voice his thoughts.  He said, “Bed hard.”  Another 10 years went by and again he was called before his superior.  When asked if he had anything to say, he replied, “I quit.”  “It doesn’t surprise me a bit,” said his superior. “You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here.”

Next week we are going to talk about “Joy in Serving” as we look at what a man named Epaphroditus did for Paul when the Philippians sent him to Rome as an encouragement for the Apostle.  But this week we look at the text immediately preceding it, and here Paul is talking about a problem among the Philippian Christians.  It’s clear that Paul’s concern has come from Epaphroditus’ report.  There is grumbling and disputes in the church.  He’s already spoken of the general conflict that exists in the church, but in Sunday’s text, Philippians 2:14-18, he gets specific.  They are grumbling among each other.  Actually, the Greek word translated “grumble” is better translated, “grudge-bearing”.  It’s the same deadly sin that ancient Israel committed time and time again in the wilderness.
Remember the children of Israel?  The Lord delivered them from Egypt and took them through the Red Sea; and yet, it isn’t long before they start whining and complaining.  As you may remember, the murmuring is not just against Moses, it’s against God, and here in Philippians 2:14-18 Paul draws heavily upon his Old Testament understanding of it.

If you are one who is desperate for application of the Scripture to your life, and you find it difficult to listen to a sermon and find “the take-aways”, this Sunday’s message is for you!  We are going to dig deeply into these five verses and examine the pain of complaining and the joy of conquering it.
Sunday’s message is entitled “Joy As Testimony”, and the companion text is Numbers 11:10-15 where Moses is moaning and groaning to God.  Grumbling and disputing is a sign that our “old man”, that our old natural human mind is fully in charge.  To humble yourself and have the mind of Christ is to eschew grumbling and embrace rejoicing.

We will start in Philippi this Sunday and end at the cross, which is fitting, seeing that Sunday is communion at Hebron.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Identify the four types of grumbling that we commonly engage in and are found in the Scriptures.

2.      How does Paul’s command in verse 14 relate to his command in verse 3?

3.      How is selfish ambition and conceit, or striving for glory, the seedbed of grumbling?

4.      What does Paul mean in verse 15 when he says that they “may be blameless and innocent”?

5.      What is the penalty for Israel’s murmuring in the wilderness?

6.      How is the penalty for Israel’s grumbling analogous to the penalty for Christian’s grumbling?

7.      How apt is Paul’s link between ancient Israel’s complaints and the Philippians?

8.      Where does Paul get the expression “a crooked and twisted generation?”  Does it referred to the same people?

9.      What is Paul’s biggest problem with grumbling and disputes?

10.  How is the cross the perfect antidote to grumbling, grudge bearing, and the like?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Joy in Humility" - Doug Rehberg

In many ways Philippians 2:5-11 makes up the greatest and most moving passage that Paul ever wrote about Jesus – certainly the most descriptive.  As we mentioned last week, no one can begin to understand the person and work of Jesus without gaining an understanding of these seven verses.  But not only is this a vivid description of who Jesus is, it’s a call to us.  Thomas Langford of Duke Divinity School once wrote:

“In Jesus we find embodied the self-giving of God to persons and the self-giving of a person to other persons.  Jesus is Lord who is servant, and Jesus is servant who is Lord.  As the Lord who is servant, Jesus identifies with human life so as to establish a redemptive relationship.  As servant who is Lord, Jesus calls us to acknowledge His lordship through our servanthood.  The grace of God in Jesus Christ calls us to a graciousness which is a self-abandonment to the love of God and the love of neighbor.”
And it’s in all of this that a great paradox of the Christian faith emerges.  The paradox is this.  The last becomes first.  The humble are exalted.  The servant becomes the leader. The poor becomes rich.  In fact, the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-11) are Jesus’ catalogue of the way things are turned upside down and inside out in the new economy of God’s kingdom.  So Jesus’ enumeration of the humble being exalted (Mt. 23:12) was gloriously fulfilled in His own case.  “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

And it’s the example of His finished work that Paul carries over to the next paragraph in his thinking.  In fact, Paul links Jesus’ obedience to our obedience when he says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”
I can think of few statements in the entire Bible that have been taken out of context more often than this one.  For some it’s an indication that salvation only begins with regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and it’s up to the saved person to “stay saved”.  For others it’s a club that’s used by the legalist to pummel believers into “holy living”.  They reason that if Paul says, “work it out”, he means it’s up to us to insure our own sanctification.  And yet, nothing could be further from the truth!
So how are we to understand this statement? And how in the world does Philippians 2:1-11 fit with the 12th verse?  These and many other questions will be addressed this Sunday in a message entitled, “Joy in Humility.”  Our text is composed of only two verses:  Philippians 2:12-13.  Our companion text is Exodus 14:21-29.  As you prepare for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1.      What is the “therefore” there for in verse 12?

2.      How did Jesus humble Himself?  (See 2:8)

3.      What does obedience mean?

4.      How do humility and obedience fit together?

5.      How does Paul’s address of the Philippian Christians in verse 12 signal his intention in telling them to work out their salvation?

6.      How is the “salvation” Paul refers to here corporate and ongoing?

7.      Where else in his writings does Paul mention the phrase “fear and trembling”?

8.      What does it mean in those places?

9.      How does his statement in Philippians 1:6 fit with what he says in verses 12 and 13?

10.  How does fear and trembling produce joy?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

"Joy in Imitation" - Doug Rehberg

It was January 3, 2007 at a quarter to one in the afternoon when Wesley Autrey took the hands of his two young daughters and walked down the steps of a Harlem subway station.  They were headed 95 blocks south to Times Square where his daughters would rendezvous with their mother, and Autrey would continue on to the construction site where he worked.  But, as he reached the platform, he and two women standing nearby noticed a 20-year-old film academy student named Cameron Hollopeter, having a seizure.  Within seconds, he was on the platform convulsing.  Autrey shouted for a pen.  As soon as he got it he opened the man’s mouth and put the pen inside to keep the man from swallowing his tongue.  Within a minute or two the young man opened his eyes, stood to his feet, and began to wobble.  He tried to walk, but soon he was stumbling backwards toward the edge of the platform, and then down onto the tracks.  Autrey says, “At first I thought I could jump down and lift him back to safety, but when I saw the lights of the train I knew there wasn’t time for that.”  So, he made another decision.  He leapt down to where the fallen man was.  He rolled him into the trench between the tracks and lay on top of him.  As the man began to struggle, Autrey wrapped his arms around him, locked him down and said to him, “Excuse me sir, I’m just trying to save your life.  I’ve got two little girls up there that want to see their daddy again.  So would you just relax?”

The driver of the train had seen all of this happening, but he couldn’t stop.  He blew his whistle.  He stomped on the brakes, but he couldn’t stop the train.  Five cars ran right over Autrey’s head before it stopped.  He said when the train came to a stop all he could hear were the screams of the onlookers.  So, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “We’re ok down here, but I’ve got two little girls up there that need to know their daddy’s alive.”  Suddenly screams turned to cheers.  The power was cut.  The cars were moved manually, and Cameron Hollopeter, the 20-year-old film student, was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.  But Autrey refused medical attention saying, “There’s nothing wrong with me that a little laundry detergent can’t fix.”  You see, the depth of the trench was 22”.  Cameron and Wesley were at 21 ½”.  The only thing Autrey suffered was some grease on the top of his blue knit cap.
Now what would possess a man to lay down his life for a stranger like that?  According to Paul, it’s a different kind of mind, it’s the mind of Christ. 

If you were with us last week you know that Paul is addressing a conflict that exists in the Philippian Church.  Though the Christians at Philippi are arguably the most well-adjusted collection of Christians Paul encounters in his church planting, they nevertheless have conflicts.  We see Paul referring to that at the end of chapter one.
But in chapter two, verse 3, he expands his discussion by citing the basic pattern and motive of the human mind.  He says, “Do nothing from ‘selfish ambition’ eritheia or “conceit” kenadoxia (empty glory).  And last week we detailed both the pattern or methodology and the motive that the natural human mind always employs.  Elsewhere Paul calls this “the mind of the flesh”.  But that’s not the only mind Paul details.  In Philippians 2:5-11 Paul sets forth the elements of the mind of Christ.  He says in verse 5, “Have this mind among yourselves that is yours in Christ Jesus.”  So what is the nature of this mind?  How does the mind of Christ differ from the natural human mind?  For an answer to these questions, and more, we turn to our text this Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11.

As mentioned last week, this text is among the highest points of all Scripture.  The Christology (the study of Christ) that is on display here is breathtaking.  Anyone who struggles knowing who Christ is and what He’s done need only pause at these seven verses to see a full detailed description.  As one commentator has famously said, “To comment on these words is a high and holy privilege that no one should take lightly.  If the Bible were a mountain range, this text would be among its one or two highest peaks.”
So, in preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What do scholars have to say about Philippians 2:5-11?  Is it original with Paul?

2.      In Proverbs 3:5 we read about leaning on our own understanding.  How is that different than trusting on the Lord’s understanding?

3.      What does Paul mean in verse 6 when he says that Christ was “in the form of God”?

4.      How does the word “form” compare to the word form in verse 7?

5.      What is the relationship between the “conceit” of verse 3 and the emptying of verse 7?

6.      How are verses 7 and 8 the essence of the Gospel?

7.      Why does God exalt Jesus, bestowing on Him a name that is above every name?  (see verse 9)

8.      How is it that a Christian can choose to operate by his/her human mind or the mind of Christ?  Do pagans have such a choice?  Why or why not?

9.      How is humility the antidote to every conflict, internal or external?

10.  How is true glory a gift to be celebrated rather than a thing to be grasped?  And how does it breed love?
See you Sunday!