Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Joy in Identifying with Jesus" - Doug Rehberg

Samuel Rutherford, the Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author was often described as the “Prince of Letter Writers.”  Spurgeon used to describe his letters as the nearest thing to inspiration that can be found in all the writings of mere men.

Andrew Thomson, in a biography of Rutherford said, “The letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form.  Individual sentences that supplied the germ thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.”

Well, here’s a portion of a letter Rutherford once wrote that sets a perfect context for our study this coming Sunday, Palm Sunday, 2015.
“If God had told me some time ago that He was about to make me happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that He should begin by crippling me in arm or limb, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing His purpose.  And yet, how is His wisdom manifest even in this!  For if you should see a man shut up in a closed room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps, and then throwing open the shutter to let in the light of heaven.”  So it is in the life of Paul, and every believer who comes to recognize God’s purpose in suffering. We will see His purpose vividly on display this Sunday as we consider Acts 16:11-24 in a message entitled, “Joy in Identifying with Jesus.” 

What we will examine this Sunday is the uncanny parallel between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as recorded in John 12:12-19 (and Luke 19) and Paul’s entrance into Philippi. We will look at four key points of similarity as seen in Acts 16, verses 14(b), 15, 17, 18, 20, & 21.  Just as Jesus determines to ride into Jerusalem the week of Passover, He compels Paul and Silas to abandon their plans to travel to Bithynia (Acts 16:7) and head to the Roman colony of Philippi.  Why does He make these determinations?  He makes them for the same reason – that through extensive suffering, spiritual healing will come to those He’s chose to receive it.  There is so much here, especially when you consider how much we struggle and chafe against pain and suffering in our lives and the lives of those we love!
I confess that so many times I’ve read Acts 16 and focused almost exclusively on the jailhouse incident.  It’s a fantastic story of divine grace that we will examine on Easter.  But what I’ve so often overlooked is all of the grace that Jesus employs to get Paul and Silas to that city and into that jail.  Indeed, what happens in that jail is a direct result of the call, the cry, the command, and the concern we find in Sunday’s text.

In preparation for Sunday’s study you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What do you make of Jesus’ decision to interrupt Paul’s plans?  (See Acts 16:6-10)

2.      Why does Luke (the writer of Acts) emphasize the woman Lydia?  What do we know about her?

3.      How is the testimony of this young demonized girl similar to that of the crowd in John 12:12-19?

4.      How is the action of her owners similar to that of the Pharisees in John 12?

5.      What is the foundation of their worry?

6.      How is the treatment of Paul and Silas similar to that of Jesus during Holy Week?

7.      Do you think Jesus knew all this would happen to Paul and Silas when He altered their course?

8.      How long after Paul writes II Cor. 11:24-33 does this Philippian incident occur?

9.      How does Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:10 address all his suffering?

10.  How is suffering the gateway to true joy?

See you Sunday and then again on Thursday, April 2 for a message entitled “The Joy of the Cross”.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Joy in Pressing On" - Doug Rehberg

The man had just turned 50 and we were gathered at his home for the party.  After the meal it was time for him to open his gifts.  The first one was in a box, and when he opened it, out came a baseball cap with an inscription on the top.  Above the bill  in big, bold letters it read: “Press On.”  Now why Press On?  Because he turned 50?  Because the next half-century would be tougher than the first half?  No, it’s because he’s a Christian and Pressing On is the essence of that to which every Christian is called to do.  But what’s it mean?
Now remember the context.  Paul has just panned his own resume.  He’s just said that everything he ever achieved prior to his conversion was not a gateway to joy, but a brick wall.  All of his gains were impediments to that which he desperately needed – the righteousness of another.  He says it this way, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the super thing – being found in Christ Jesus my Lord.”

As we mentioned last Sunday, Paul the scholar  is unabashedly euphoric.  It’s an odd thing for a scholar to be so expansive, and yet he is!  Instead of relying on his own self-righteousness, he now rests assured of the righteousness of another; the perfect One – Christ Jesus.  But lest the Philippians misread what he is saying (believing him to be espousing what they have heard the false teachers say about themselves), Paul adds verse 12 and following.
Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…”  You see, there were those in Philippi who were claiming perfection either through their baptism or their keeping of the law, and Paul wants to be clear – “I’m not perfect.”  Indeed, Paul contends that the further one grows in the faith, the more aware one is of his /her own imperfection (e.g. “I am the chief of sinners.  I Timothy 1:5).  Paul knows perfectly well that this side of heaven no one is perfect, but Christ alone.  But that’s only the beginning of his argument.  It is because of Paul’s imperfection that he says, “but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me.” (NIV)

Now, as we will see on Sunday, there are several interesting words that Paul uses in verse 12 that set the stage for all of what he says in the balance of chapter 3.  But the fulcrum of his argument is verse 12.  That’s why we will be focused on it almost exclusively.  You see what Paul is saying is this – “I’ve been seized.  I’ve been taken hold of and therefore I will do everything I can to take hold of the One who’s taken hold of me.”  He’s talking about a singular focus.  He’s talking about one holy and consuming passion.  If you are one who sees your faith in Christ as an aspect of your life, you’re in for a surprise.  Paul is advocating an “all in” abandonment to Christ as the principle means by which joy is gained in this life and the next.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Joy in Pressing On”, and Hebron’s celebration of the six confirmands who will be recognized as full members of Hebron Church at the 11:00 am service, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      The word “press” used in verse 12 is the same word translated “persecute” in verse 6.

2.      What does the words “press on” mean to you?

3.      How does the phrase “press on” relate to what Jesus says in Matthew 11:12?

4.      How about Colossians 1:29?

5.      How many “take holds” or “mades” do you see in verse 12?

6.      Is there any significance to the order of them?

7.      What does it mean when someone says, “I must take hold of myself?”

8.      Why is it that the best stories have heroes who don’t go looking for adventure, but adventure finds them?  How is that like every Christian?

9.      How is joy found in taking dead aim at Jesus?

10.  When you survey the wondrous cross, what happens to your focus?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Joy in Being Found in Him" - Doug Rehberg

This week we move to the heart of chapter 3 and the heart of the Gospel.  Have you ever wondered why so many Christians say that the reason people aren’t Christians is because of their sin?  “It’s the love of their own sin that keeps them from Christ,” they say.  “It’s the love of their own sin that drives them away from repentance.”  For many this is common knowledge; an axiom beyond question.  More than that, it is, for them, the heart of the Gospel.

Think about the prescriptions that are given by those who hold to such a view.  The essence of the prescription is this: “Leave your sin behind and start practicing godly behaviors.”  In other words, “Turn from your irreligious behavior and begin practicing obedience to God’s Word.  Go to church.  Read your Bible.  Join an accountability group.  Cut ties with the world, etc.  Simply put, leave your irreligious life and get religious!”

And yet, nothing could be further from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, Paul rejects such talk.  The truth is that such talk was the heart of the false gospel advanced by the enemies of Paul and Christ at Philippi.  Paul knew first-hand that such a view was devoid of truth and joy.  In fact, the strength of his denouncement of such teaching, here in Philippians 3, knows few parallels in Paul’s writings.  For Paul could clearly see that the religious are just as separated from Christ and the Gospel as the irreligious.  Paul knew that it’s not our “badness” that is at the root of our spiritual blindness, but our “goodness”.  He knew that sin is not the principle reason why people reject Christ, but their own righteousness.  It’s their trust in their own righteous that leads them to ask, “Why do I need the righteousness of another?”  No one understood this better than Paul, for he himself was once committed to this way of thinking.

You see, what Paul came to realize is that the irreligious and the religious are in the same boat.  Both have a strong sense of control over their own lives.  When it comes to God they believe He owes them.  That’s one of the reasons you hear so many people, even Christians, say, “I did everything right, why isn’t my life any better than it is?”  The startling news of the Gospel is that what makes you a Christian is not repenting of your badness, it’s repenting of your goodness.  What Paul discovered when he came face-to-face with Christ is that his righteousness couldn’t save him or free him from his misery, only an alien righteousness could do that.

Nowhere in all of Paul’s writings is this heart of the Gospel more clearly apprehended than in Philippians 3:4-11.  We will dig into this text this Sunday.  In preparation for the message, “Joy in Being Found in Him,” you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Why does Paul cite his own pedigree?

2.      Some have called verses 5 & 6 Paul’s resumé.  What is the purpose of a resumé?

3.      What are the five elements in his resumé?

4.      How is Paul’s “goodness” a greater problem for him than his “badness”?

5.      What does he mean when he says that he counts all his gain as rubbish?  What is a better translation of the word “rubbish”?

6.      Why does he consider  his resumé rubbish?

7.      For what reason does he lay it aside?

8.      How is righteousness our greatest need?

9.      How is righteousness our greatest problem?

10.  How is righteousness God’s greatest gift to us?

See you Sunday!

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Joy in True Worship" - Ken Wagoner

In one of the previous sermons from this series, Doug quotes from one of his favorite preachers who said something to this effect:  “Is anybody mad at you for what you think?  If not, then it means you don’t stand for anything!” Our primary scripture this  week comes from Philippians 3:1-3.  Three very short verses, but  packed full of information.  And one can be sure verse 2 made many people mad at Paul!  If you were alive during Paul’s time you would have clearly known if he was referring to  you.  We know he wrote it, and we can be confident he told those who opposed him these same words time and time again.  He is making a distinct contrast between an outward cleansing (that which has all the appearances of being Christian), and an inward cleansing (that which  deals with each person’s character and nature which cannot be easily seen by others, but eventually works its way out so it is revealed). 

If verse 2 tells us things which may make us mad, then verse 3 tells us things which should allow us to experience what it means to “rejoice in the Lord.”  When we hear the word worship we usually think of a time of the day on Sunday, a place where we meet together, or a style of music, prayer, liturgy, or expression.  Is it possible God has much more for us to experience in true worship?  Thank you for the privilege of being with you this Sunday, and I look forward to worshipping with you.

If you have time before Sunday morning, read some or all of the following verses and ponder on the questions which appear at the end:

Exodus 20:1-17;  Numbers 6:22-27; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Psalm 104; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-25; Revelation 15:3-4

For why did God create and redeem us?   What does it mean to have an affection for God and Christ?  What does an emotion of delight in God feel or look like?  What is a product of one who has confidence in God?  What would be some characteristics of worship which would be described as “worship in spirit and in truth?”