Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Our Covenant" - Doug Rehberg

Ralph Erskine was a Scottish churchman who lived from 1685 to 1752, 300 years too early. As I prepared this week’s message “Our Covenant”, I thought of several famous statements he made – all connected to Hebrews 8; the heart of this sermon we call the Book of Hebrews. Listen to these wise words:

“The Law could promise life to me, if my obedience perfect be.”

“A rigid matter was the law,
Demanding brick, denying straw,
But when with Gospel tongue it sings,
It bids me fly and gives me wings.”

There’s another statement he made that unmasks us all. He said, “Faith, without trouble or fighting, is a suspicious faith; for true faith is a fighting, wrestling faith.” So what is it that we fight and wrestle most often in the faith? OURSELVES!

As one man puts it, “You might as well face it, you’re addicted to the law.” In other words, we are all addicted to religion. And nowhere is that addiction more visible than in the church today. We may not use those terms, but listen closely, and what you’ll hear, almost without fail, has to do with rules and judgment. As Walter Marshall put it, “By nature, you are completely addicted to a legal method of salvation. Even after you become a Christian by believing the Gospel, your heart is still addicted to salvation by works (your works)…You find it hard to believe that you should get any blessing before you work for it.”

Against the conditionality of religion comes the glorious and mostly un-apprehended Gospel that says, “By grace are you saved through faith and this is not of your own doing.” (Eph. 2:8) Grace is the gift that has no strings attached. It’s what makes the Good News so darn GOOD! And if there’s anything our basic human nature hates, it’s the truth that we can’t do anything, we can’t earn anything, we are helpless, hopeless, weak, and needy without grace. Thus, the fight.

This Sunday we celebrate communion at Hebron; and God’s timing is impeccable. This Sunday marks the halfway point in our series, “Full Disclosure, a Study of Hebrews”. And the preacher is right on cue for he says, “Now the point in what we are saying is this…” In other words, “Everything I have said to this point is a precursor, a set-up, to what I am now about to tell you.”

You know what he’s going to tell us? He’s going to tell us that religion, all religion, has ended in Jesus. All of the stipulations and requirements of the law have been set aside by a new covenant that the prophets (especially Jeremiah) knew was coming. To these weary persecuted Christians who are asking the question, “If God loves me so much, why is life so hard?” The preacher answers with another facet of Jesus’ incomparable beauty – He is Our Covenant!

The question is: “If God loves me so much, why is life so hard?” But the answer is just as plain: Life’s a long journey and the only way you are going to get home joyfully is by fixing your eyes on Jesus. Do you know what that means? It means that every fight is an opportunity to get your eyes off your circumstances and onto Him. And again the preacher helps with another picture of Jesus – Our Covenant.

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

  1. Why do you suppose the preacher begins Chapter 8 as he does?
  2. Does what follows warrant his summational words in verse 1?
  3. What does Jesus’ location and posture say about Him as our great High Priest?
  4. Where else in Scripture is a priest described as being seated on the throne of God?
  5. What does the preacher mean when he says that Jesus ministers in the true tent set up by the Lord? (verse 2)
  6. What covenant is he referring to in verse 7 as being less than faultless?
  7. What is the significance of the preacher quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34 almost verbatim?
  8. How is Jesus the end of the law?
  9. What is the conditionality of the new covenant?
  10. What difference does the preacher point out in verses 10 & 11 between religion and the Gospel?
  11. How does the new covenant help us fix our eyes on Jesus?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Our Advocate" - Doug Rehberg

Did you hear about the couple that was about to get married, but just before the wedding they were tragically killed together in a car accident? When they arrived at the gates of heaven they explained to Peter that they were about to be married when they died and they would still very much like to be married in heaven.

Peter said to them, “While our Lord has said that no one is married or given in marriage I heaven, we’d like to make an exception for you. Please wait in the reception room while I go find a priest to do it.”

And so they waited there for several months. When Peter returned the couple said, “You know Peter, we’ve been thinking. Eternity is a long time to be married. We were wondering, if the marriage didn’t work, could you arrange a divorce?”

Peter was stunned, “What?” he said. “Look, it’s taken me three months to find a priest, how long do you think it will take me to find a lawyer?”

This week we’re going to talk about Jesus as our lawyer – our advocate. I was talking with a man recently whose wife is in the hospital. He said, “I stayed overnight with her two nights in a row, because without an advocate in the hospital, you’re really sunk.”

Now you can read the entire chapter and you will not find the word advocate used anywhere. The chapter is about how Jesus is our high priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. (For more information on Melchizedek see Genesis 14:17-24). And the preacher notes that Jesus’ priesthood is like Melchizedek’s in several ways: (1) it’s perpetual; (2) it’s eternal (Melchizedek had no progenitor or descendents); (3) it’s non-levitical; (4) it’s by an oath; (5) it’s the mediation of a greater law than Moses’; (6) it’s tithe worthy; and (7) it’s kingly. But in the 21st century it’s hard to tune into blood sacrifices and the role of a priest. In the 1st century temples and sacrifices were commonplace. Everyone knew that they needed to make atonement for their sins. Today it’s quite different. Yet the guilt, the pressure, the anxiety to perform have never been greater. Every one of us wants to measure up. We all long for divine approval.

So God, in His providence, doesn’t allow the preacher to simply talk in terms of Jesus as our High Priest without talking about His advocacy.The word is “intersession” in verse 25. Nowhere else in this Scripture is a priest said to intercede for another person. Intercession was not a function a priest. But here the preacher says that Jesus intercedes all the time.

We are going to look into all of this on Sunday in a message entitled “Our Advocate”. The text is Hebrews 7:18-27, but I would suggest that you read and re-read the entire chapter. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How is Melchizedek a perfect portrait of Jesus?
  2. What is the relevance of Jesus being our high priest after the order of Melchizedek?
  3. What issue is at the heart of the preacher’s message to these struggling Christians in chapter 7?
  4. What evidence is there in your life that you don’t measure up to God’s standards?
  5. How is Jesus’ advocacy relevant to your life?
  6. How is God’s approval gained by Jesus as your advocate?
  7. What is the nature of an advocate in first century courts?
  8. What is the problem with going into God’s courtroom pro se, i.e. representing yourself?
  9. Check out a picture of the high priest in all of his regalia. How does this image of Jesus impact your understanding of yourself in Christ?
  10. How does fixing your eyes on Jesus as your advocate ameliorate all anxiety?
See you Sunday for worship and a great congregational lunch and meeting beginning at 12:15 pm!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Our Promise" - Doug Rehberg

Back in the 1950s Donald Grey Barnhouse traveled the country preaching in many pulpits and behind scores of podiums. He was one of the best expositors of God’s Word that this nation has ever known. He tells the story of the time he was studying in a hotel in Canton, Ohio where the porter knew him well. Barnhouse had stayed there so frequently that every time he’d come to stay, the porter would ask him faith questions – questions that would aid him in his growth in Christ.

On one occasion the porter asked, “Dr. Barnhouse, how reliable are the promises of God?” To which Barnhouse instantly said, “How much money do you have in your pocket?” The man reached into his pocket and found that he had $1.19. It was a Tuesday; he would not be paid until Friday, and he had to live and support his family until then on tips, slender at best.

Barnhouse placed a fifty-cent piece in his hand saying, “I give you this half dollar. It’s yours. Now how much do you have?” The man answered, “$1.69.” Quickly Barnhouse took the coin out of the man’s hand and put it back I his pocket, asking, “Now how much do you have?” Suddenly the man fell into the trap of faithlessness and answered, “$1.19.” Barnhouse said, “Are you calling me a liar?” “No, no,” said the man, “I would never be so presumptions to say such a thing!” Barnhouse said, “Didn’t I tell you it was yours?” “Yes,” said the man. “Then how much money do you have?” The man smiled and said, “I have $1.69, but fifty cents of it is in your pocket.” It was out of Barnhouse’s pocket and into his as soon as he walked out of the room. But he had far more than an extra fifty cents, He had a perfect visual of the certainty of God’s promises.

We hear a lot these days about the promises of God. I got a phone call not long ago from a Grove leader wanting to know if I had a book that contained all the promises of God besides the Bible. I said, “No, but I can get you one.” Within seconds I had located scores of “Promise” books on the internet. I think the one I got him was a couple hundred pages long.

But let me ask you a question – what’s the greatest promise that God ever gave you? You may be surprised by the obvious answer.

This Sunday we continue our series “Full Disclosure – A Study of Hebrews.” Remember the main issue here – “If God loves us so much, why is life so hard?” And in every section of this sermon the preacher of Hebrews gives these poor, suffering, alienated Christians an answer. Talk about relevance! Talk about application! Every answer he gives them is a full view of the multifaceted brilliance of Jesus. He is our Final Word, He is our Brother, our Builder, our Rest, and our Counselor. But He’s more than that. Surely we look to Hebrews 6:13-20 to find another great feature of Jesus – our Promise.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

  1. Read Hebrews 10:32-35
  2. What insight does this passage give us into the sufferings those Jewish Christians are experiencing?
  3. How is it that many call Hebrews 6:13-20 the complete ground of a Christian’s assurance of hope?
  4. Why does the preacher return his attention to Abraham? (He hasn’t mentioned him for 4 chapters.)
  5. How does God’s exposure in Genesis 15 and 22 inform our understanding of this text?
  6. What does God mean in Genesis 22 when He says,“By myself I have sworn…”? (22:16)
  7. What two proofs does God give Abraham that His promise is absolute and irrevocable?
  8. What does the preacher mean when he speaks of verse 17, God’s “unchangeable character”?
  9. What two metaphors or symbols does the preacher use for Jesus in verses 19 and 20?
  10. How is Jesus God’s ultimate promise to you?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Our Counselor" - Doug Rehberg

Brennan Manning tells of five computer salesmen from Milwaukee who go to Chicago for a regional sales meeting. All are married and each assures his wife that he’ll be home for dinner. But the meeting runs late and the five arrive at the train station with only a few minutes to spare. The train whistle is blowing signaling the imminent departure. So each salesman races through the terminal on his way to the platform when one of them inadvertently kicks over a small table on which a basket of apples rests. The basket is owned by a 10-year-old boy who is selling apples to raise money to buy books and clothes for school.

With a sigh of relief each of the five salesmen make it aboard with seconds to spare. Yet, one man has a deep sense of regret for what happened to that basket of apples and that 10-year-old boy. When the twinge of compassion reaches its apex, the salesman says to his partners, “Could one of you text my wife and tell her I’ll be a few hours later?” When they nod he turns, jumps off the train, and down to the platform. From there he heads off to find that 10-year-old. He would later say how happy he was when he found him, because the boy was blind. Seeing the apples strewn across the floor he began gathering them up. In doing so he could see that some of the apples were bruised or split. So he reached into his pocket and said to the boy, “Here’s $20 for the apples we damaged. I hope we didn’t spoil your day. God bless you.” And as the salesman turns to leave away the blind boy calls after him asking, “Hey Mister, are you Jesus?”

When you come to the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews you find one of the most famous, most comforting texts in this entire sermon.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

It’s a profound comfort for any believer who’s locked in waves of doubt and shame. But the entire passage is more than a comfort. It is a complete profile of another beautiful facet of Jesus. He is the Counselor we desperately need.

Last week we noted that the word “consider,” used by the preacher at the beginning of chapter 3, means much more than “think about”. It means to “fix your entire gaze.” It means to block out all distractions. And that’s exactly what we sought to do as we considered Jesus as our Builder. This week we will consider Him as our Counselor.

The word “counselor” is not found in Sunday’s text – Hebrews 3:12-13; 4:14-5:10, but it is implied in chapter 3:13 where the preacher says, “Exhort one another daily.” When you examine the meaning of this word, “parakaleo” you find that it’s much richer than the word “exhort” or “encourage”. It literally means to counsel. And in the balance of our text we will hear the preacher explain how we all need daily counseling and how Jesus is our perfect Counselor.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Check the definition of parakaleo.
  2. What does the preacher mean in verse 13 of chapter 13 when he says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’…?”
  3. How does sin harden us by its deceit? What’s the effect?
  4. Why does the preacher cite the children of Israel’s rebellion at the end of chapter 3? What relevance does this have to these suffering Christians?
  5. If the preacher is trying to encourage these Jewish Christians in the midst of their pain and suffering, why does he mix in so many references to judgment?
  6. Read John’s account of Martha and Mary in the aftermath of their brother Lazarus’ death (John 11). Why does Jesus respond so differently to each of these women?
  7. What qualifies Jesus to be our perfect Counselor? (See 4:15)
  8. How does His experience of temptation and sinlessness help Him counsel us?
  9. Where does the preacher say this counseling of Jesus best occurs? (See 3:12 & 13)
  10. How does Jesus’ relationship to Melchizedek help us understand Him as our unique and perfect Counselor?

See you Sunday!