Thursday, September 29, 2016

"The Truth of the Gospel" - Doug Rehberg

During the 18th Century Great Awakening, the great British columnist and evangelist George Whitefield wrote to his converts:  “My brethren, let us plainly and freely tell one another what God has done for our souls. To this end . . . form yourselves into little companions of 4 or 5 and once a week tell each other what is in your heart; that you may then pray for each other and comfort each other as need shall require. None but those who have experienced it can tell of the unspeakable advantages of such a union and communion of souls.”

That’s what Paul found in Antioch. The Book of Acts tell us that Barnabas recruits Paul to come to Antioch (the first place Christians were called by that name) to assist him in preaching and teaching. Together they spend a year establishing a church and developing a deep discipleship among the believers of Antioch. After news reaches Antioch that false teachers have arisen in Jerusalem, the Christians of Antioch send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to stand up for the truth of the Gospel.
Now the issue in Jerusalem was circumcision. The false teachers were claiming that a person had to keep the ceremonial laws of Israel in order to be a Christian. Think of it. The same laws God gives His people Israel to show them the depth of their own uncleanness, and their need for a substitute, are the same laws those teachers said had to be kept for someone to be acceptable to God. According to these men, it wasn’t that Christ’s sacrifice was ineffectual, it just wasn’t enough.

So listen to what Paul does. Earlier, in Acts 16, Paul goes to preach in a region filled with Jewish residents he takes with him Timothy, a gentile convert, who he circumcises so as not to be a stumbling block to his Jewish hearers. But later when he hears that circumcision has become a requirement for salvation in Jerusalem, he digs in his heels. He says in effect, “over my dead body.” In fact, in Galatians 5, he says to purveyors of “Jesus plus circumcision” theology, “Why don’t you go all the way and emasculate yourselves?”

Now lest you think Paul lacks boldness look who he brings with him to Jerusalem. Not just Barnabas, he brings Titus. You know who Titus is? He’s an uncircumcised Gentile convert.  He’s exhibit A. Imagine bringing along an uncircumcised Gentile convert, who’s in love with Jesus, to make a point that it’s Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

Now all of this is background to Sunday’s message entitled, “The Truth of the Gospel.” It’s based on Galatians 2:1-10 where Paul talks of this trip to Jerusalem years after his conversion and years after meeting there with Paul and James. It’s a text that’s full of wonderful truth about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1.      How important is Galatians 1:11-24 to what Paul says in Galatians 2:1-10?
2.      How important is Paul’s Arabian experience to his mission in Galatians 2:1-10?
3.      How is Paul’s trip a function of God speaking to him through other believers?
4.      What does it mean to say that the doctrine of justification by faith is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls?
5.      How do many Christians today rely on their sanctification for their justification?  What’s the problem in doing so?
6.      Why does Paul say in verse 5 that he didn’t yield for a minute to the teaching of the false teachers?
7.      Why do some point to verse 6 as the most important statement Paul makes in the entire letter?
8.      How does getting the Gospel wrong promote insecurity?
9.      How do the false teachers bastardize the law of God?
10.  How was Paul’s victory over the false teachers in Jerusalem perhaps the greatest victory recorded in scripture?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"The Gospel Call" - Scott Parsons

Sunday I will be preaching a sermon from Galatians 1:11-24 entitled "The Gospel Call". The concept of God's call is a rather nebulous one today. Perhaps it is because modern technology has changed our understanding of what a call is. Today, a call is simply an invitation to have a dialogue. First, we are notified that someone wishes to interact with us by a ringtone. Then we check to see who is calling in order to determine if we really want to have a conversation with this person. At that point we have three options. If we don't want to talk to the person, we can disconnect the call. If we would be interested in talking to them but it is currently inconvenient, we can simply not answer and trust that if it is important they will leave a message. The final option is answering the phone and having a conversation.  But even if we do answer, we do so knowing that we still have full control of the situation. If we do not like the person on the other end, or their message, or their tone of voice, we can simply hang up! The bottom line is that even if we do not initiate the conversation, we are still able to exercise control over it.
But God's call is different. His call is not an is a revelation. He places his call upon us. When he calls us, God reveals to us His glory, our sin, how wicked we are, and how good he is. His call is not an invitation, but a gift given that is gratefully received by people that have been spiritually awakened.
In this passage, Paul does not describe the events of his call (we find that in Acts 9). Instead he talks about the consequences of the call that God placed upon him. He describes how the call to be a follower of Jesus is not an invitation, but a life changing event in which our spiritual nature and our reason for living are eternally changed. As you prepare for Sunday, read our passage and ask yourself the following questions:
1) Have you been called by Jesus?
2) How do you know? How did his call change you?
3) How have your priorities changed? How is your life different than it was before he called you?
4) If you have been called by Jesus, what are your expectations of him?
5) How do others view your new life?



Thursday, September 15, 2016

"No Other Gospel" - Doug Rehberg

Years ago I remember reading an editorial at the back of “World Magazine”. It was the successor to “Eternity Magazine” that went belly-up almost twenty years ago. Anyway, the editor was talking about how much the apprehension of biblical truth is like bagging groceries. He explained that in his mid-western town there was a grocery store that employed learning disabled men and women as baggers – persons that take the groceries off the belt, after purchase, and load them into bags. He noted that every so often the store manager would have to hold a remedial class in grocery bagging when gallons of milk would be placed on top of loaves of bread. The editorialist said that it’s a lot like the Gospel in the life of a Christian. The Gospel’s not something you hear once and you’re done with it. Instead, it’s a message that must be beat into our heads daily, because it’s so foreign to what we think. And that’s the beauty of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Someone has said, “The amazing thing about Paul’s letter to the Galatians is that it is the essential message of Christianity. It’s a message not primarily for non-Christians, but Christians. It’s a family letter.”

According to Dr. Merrill Tenney, former Dean of Wheaton College graduate school and general editor of the Zondervan Bible Dictionary, “Christianity might have been just one more Jewish sect and the thoughts of the western world might have been entirely pagan had Galatians never been written.”

Tim Keller says, “For years I thought what most Christians think – the Gospel is for people who don’t believe in Christianity. I thought it was primarily a tool of evangelism; the milk of biblical truth. But I now know differently. You never move on. The Gospel is the milk and the meat of biblical truth.” It is the fullest of the Full Gospel. It is as essential to the believer as it is the non-believer. If you have been a Christian for two minutes, two hours, two days, two weeks, or two decades, you need the Gospel as much as when you had not yet heard it.

If you are confused, you need the Gospel. If you are suffering you need the Gospel. If all is rosy and wonderful you need the Gospel. And if you are sliding back into old habits, old sin patterns, etc., it is the Gospel that you need. And that’s why Galatians is so crucial. It is what no growing Christian can ever neglect. And that’s why the portion of Galatians we will focus on this Sunday – Galatians 1:3-12 – is so important. For here we find four marks of the Gospel that stand as a test to determine whether we understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. After last week’s message someone sent me the following quotes: “Trust Him with your inability to trust Him.” Do you agree?
  2. How about this one? “He cannot love you more…and He will never love you less than He does right now.” Do you agree?
  3. How are both quotes compatible with Galatians 1?
  4. How many times does Paul use the word, “Gospel” in his writings? Is it more or less than other New Testament authors? Where does he get it?
  5. How does the Gospel prove that Jesus is not primarily an example?
  6. How does Paul refer to the Galatians’ abandonment of the Gospel in verse 6?
  7. What does he mean when he says God “called” them?
  8. What does the word “distort” mean in verse 7?
  9. What does this mean, “The less amazement you have about the Gospel, the more you show you don’t know it”?
  10. What is the essential reason for Paul’s astonishment in verse 6 and following? 
See you Sunday!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"The Revelation" - Doug Rehberg

Robert Farrar Capon was an Episcopal priest, author, and chef. A lifelong New Yorker, for almost thirty years, Capon was a full-time parish priest in Port Jefferson, New York.
Among his classic works are The Supper of the Lamb, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, Between Noon and Three, and The Parables of Grace. Much of Capon’s contributions to the church over the last half century has been his pithy, poignant quotes that have made a lasting impact.

I have a dear friend who wrote and delivered a sermon recently with this title:  “200 Proof Grace.” Do you know where he got that title? Robert Farrar Capon. 
In his book, Between Noon and Three:  Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace, Capon writes:

 “The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in a dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of 1500-year-old, 200 proof Grace – bottle after bottle of pure distillate of scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves (rescues) us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel – after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself  in the heaven by worrying about the perfection of your boot straps – suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved (rescued) were home before they started. . . Grace has to be drunk straight no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.”
Over the coming weeks I may refer to some of Capon’s other quotes, because they capture in miniature the astonishing, astounding, stupendous truth of what the Gospel of the Grace of Jesus is. That’s what Martin Luther discovered after studying the Book of Galatians. That’s what the men and women of the Great Awakening discovered in reading Luther’s commentary on Galatians. Of all the descriptions used to summarize Paul’s letter to the Galatians – 200 proof Grace is arguably the best. And, as Luther admonished, it is the Gospel of Grace that is needed at every moment of one’s life. To think of the Gospel of Grace as only the threshold of the Christian faith is to bastardize the Gospel. If you are a new Christian weeks into your walk with Jesus, or a Christian who’s been walking with Jesus for decades, the Gospel of Grace is exactly what you need to move forward. And that’s exactly what Paul tells us from the opening verses of this majesty letter.

Last week Dave Shrader gave us a wonderful start in his message, “The Rescue.” This week we will seek to build on that foundation with a message entitled, “The Revelation”. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may with so consider the following:

1.       Read Galatians 1:3-12 and Ephesians 1:3-10.

2.       Why does Paul forego his greeting in Galatians?

3.       What is Paul saying in verse 1 when he talks about himself?

4.       How important has this letter been in the history of the church?

5.       How were the Galatians losing touch with the Gospel?

6.       Why did Luther say that he was “wed” to this epistle?

7.       How can Christians miss the Gospel?

8.       How is the Gospel known?

9.       How are verses 3 to 5 a summary of the whole Gospel?

10.    On what grounds will you hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"The Rescue" - Doug Rehberg

The Book of Galatians has been called:
  • “A little bomb” in the center of the New Testament
  • “The Magna Carta” of the Christian Faith
  • “A Capital Epistle” used to judge the authenticity of other canonical writings

William Holland was a friend of Charles Wesley. When he got his hands on Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians and read the preface, he showed it to Wesley. They read it aloud to each other several times, and then they carried it around, reading it door to door. Holland writes:

“There came such a power over me that I cannot well describe it. My great burden fell off in an instant. My heart was so filled with love and peace that I burst into tears. I almost thought I saw our Savior. My companions, seeing me so affected, fell on their knees and prayed. And afterwards when I went into the streets, I scarcely thought I could feel the ground on which I tread.”

For Holland and Wesley, as for Luther, the Book of Galatians sets forth a RESCUE that only the God of the universe could plan and execute! What a Fall we have set before us!!

See you Sunday as we begin our series on "The Rescue".