Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Serious Security" - Doug Rehberg

This week, before moving on to chapter 3 of Galatians, we will spend some time feasting on some leftovers from chapter 2 – specifically Galatians 2:17-21.

This is a sermon I’m inserting into our series, “The Rescue”, not out of a concern raised by others, but out of a concern that arises within me. The simple truth is Galatians 2 is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ where Paul sets out in an economy of words the essence of our justification and sanctification. It’s all here; and yet, as we get into chapter 3 we will see Paul focusing on our sanctification as a direct result of our justification.

Here’s the issue that biblical justification always raises: If my standing with God, my acceptance and identity is fixed by the finished work of Christ – where does obedience come in? Why can’t I just live any way I want to, without regard for the law of God? That’s the question Paul answers at the beginning of Romans 6. The truth is; it’s the question that justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, always elicits. And while Galatians 3 details the answers, Galatians 2:17-21 establishes the foundation for the answer.

Walking in step (orthopedeo) with the truth of the Gospel means avoiding two errors that lurk on either side of the Gospel – legalism and lovism (or antinomianism).

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Serious Security”, I’d like to cite a hymn written nearly 250 years ago by a man named William Cowper. The hymn’s title is “Love Constraining to Obedience.” It goes like this:

Chorus: To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, 
To hear His pardoning voice, 
Changes a slave into a child 
And duty into choice.

No strength of nature can suffice 
To serve the Lord aright 
And what she has, she misapplies, 
For want of clearer light.(Repeat chorus)

How long beneath the Law I lay 
In bondage and distress 
I toiled the precept to obey, 
But toiled without success.(Repeat chorus)

Then to abstain from outward sin 
Was more than I could do 
Now if I feel its power within 
I feel I hate it too.(Repeat chorus)

Then all my servile works were done, 
A righteousness to raise 
Now, freely chosen in the Son, 
I freely choose His ways.

What shall I do was then the word,
That I may worthier grow?
What shall I render to the Lord?
Is my inquiry now.

William Cowper (1731-1800) had a sad life. His mother died when he was 6. At the same time, he was sent to a boarding school where he was bullied and beaten.

Later in life he fell in love with his cousin, but her father didn’t approve of the relationship and neither he nor her cousin ever married.

He studied law and earned the position of special counsel of Parliament, but he became so stressed by the assignment that he nearly attempted suicide. As a means of coming to grips with his raging depression he was institutionalized for a time in a private asylum.

After a time he moved to Olney, England, where his pastor was none other than John Newton, the former slave trader and author of Amazing Grace and scores of other hymns. (On Newton’s tombstone in Olney is the following inscription: “John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the Faith he had long labored to destroy.”) Newton soon became alarmed over Cowper’s sadness and depression so he suggested that they work together on writing hymns that illustrated Newton’s sermons. Immediately, Newton discovered Cowper’s extraordinary talent for poetry, imagination, and grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In many of the hymns Newton wrote, Cowper made significant contributions. What’s more, William Cowper wrote many hymns of his own that were complied, along with Newton’s, to form several Olney Hymnals.

Interestingly, as he neared death, Cowper became increasingly convinced that he had been predestined to damnation. All confidence of his justification faded as doubts assailed him. In 1800, as discouraged and depressed as ever, he died of heart failure.

Someone has said of Cowper, “It always fascinates to read of a man like Cowper, who is so gifted in writing poetry and composing hymns that uphold the wonderful doctrines of the Christian faith, and yet, struggle so deeply to live them out. However delightful heaven must be for him as he basks in the freedom, acceptance, and love of Christ with no depression or darkness to haunt him.”

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Serious Security”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How do you define legalism?
  2. How is legalism anti-Gospel?
  3. How do you define antinomianism?
  4. How is it anti-Gospel?
  5. How would you define a Christian?
  6. How does Paul define a Christian?
  7. Why is our identity in Christ the necessary ingredient for true obedience?
  8. How is living as a justified sinner more demanding and far-reaching than living by the law?
  9. Someone has said, “The Gospel goes where the rules don’t.” Do you believe that is true?
  10. What does Paul mean in verse 20 when he says that “Christ lives in me”?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Dead Men Walking" - Doug Rehberg

He wrote the Foreward to my book, Leadership Jesus Style (which has received a flurry of interest lately), and nine books of  his own. But among all of Steve Brown’s writings, his latest work is arguably the best – Hidden Agendas (dropping the masks that keep us apart).

What he writes in chapter 6, “Dead Men (and women) Do Tell Tales” is right on target for this Sunday’s message, “Dead Men Walking”. (Interestingly the number six is the one that signifies “man” in biblical numerology and it’s always associated with human insufficiency in Scripture, e.g. 666.) In it he cites several Pauline texts including Romans 6:10-14, I Timothy 1:15, and Galatians 2:20. Every one of them speaks of the same reality. We who believe are not only taken from spiritual death to spiritual life, but we are taken from life lived in the flesh, to life lived in the spirit. In short, everything that Jesus has done is ours. To point it more succinctly, we are in Christ. So let me quote freely from Steve Brown’s Hidden Agendas, chapter 6:

Did you hear about the man in the hospital for emotional problems? He thought he was dead. They tried everything. Freud didn’t work, medication didn’t work, and diet didn’t help. The man was sure he was dead and nobody could convince him otherwise.

Finally, one of the psychiatrists got a bright idea. It wasn’t necessarily good psychology; but then, when that doesn’t work, common sense might. The psychiatrist went to the man and said, “Sam, do dead men bleed?”

“Of course not,” said Sam.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure. Everybody knows that dead men don’t bleed.”

That’s when the psychiatrist pulled out a safety pin, opened it, and stuck Sam in the hand. He began to bleed. The psychiatrist thought he had finally fixed the problem until Sam looked at his hand. “Son of a gun,” he said incredulously, “dead men do bleed!”


I got an email this morning from a man who was devastated. He understands grace and he knows that when Christ died, he died for all his sins – past, present, and future – but he said that recently someone he loved said, “Yes, God will always love you but your sin breaks his heart.” I don’t know who that “someone” was, but I hope it wasn’t his mother. I said some rather unkind things about how he had been manipulated and about the “Pharisee” who had manipulated him.

God’s heart was already broken. It has been broken from the foundation of the world. God doesn’t get shocked nor does his heart break every time he sees you sin. The God of the universe doesn’t have such high hopes for you that it breaks his heart when you don’t live up to his expectations. His “expectations” about you were accurate long before you were born. From the foundation of the world, he prepared for Bethlehem. It’s done. You’ve already broken his heart. That’s what the cross is all about. On the cross Christ died for you…but don’t ever forget that you died too.

That brings me to one of the most important memorandums you’ll ever receive. You’re dead! And just so you know, dead men do bleed.

All my Christian life I’ve heard messages on mortifying the flesh so that one is “crucified with Christ.” They told me that it’s hard to die and then suggested certain ways to make it happen – stop smoking, don’t let your mind go to places that are tempting, get rid of your idols, stay up and pray all night, sacrifice for Christ, pick up a cross and follow him, be humble, memorize Scripture, pray a lot, and don’t think of yourself first. And then there are those who go to the extreme of hair shirts, self-flagellation, or living in a desert cave. Others have mutilated themselves or even, I’m told, actually placed themselves on a real cross with friends driving nails through their hands and feet.

Not only is all of that stuff neurotic, it doesn’t work. And it’s not even what the Scripture is saying. But even more important, you’re already dead. As I said in the last chapter, Paul doesn’t give a command in Galatians 2; he is stating a fact. You are crucified with Christ.

The man who thought he was (physically) dead was in fact not physically dead yet. He was going to die (the death rate is 100 percent and the statistic is one out of one), but it hadn’t happened yet. All the hospital’s efforts sought to help him see what was true. He needed to see that he was alive. Paul wants us to see that we’re already dead. We have been crucified with Christ.

So what does it mean to be crucified with Christ? How does one live in that reality? What difference will it make?

That’s what we will be talking about this Sunday as we look at Galatians 2:14-21 and four terms Paul uses to describe our death in Christ. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How is anything but “keeping in step with the truth of the Gospel” a lapse into religion? (verse 14)
  2. What do the words “in step” mean?
  3. How does Jesus illustrate what keeping in step with the Gospel mean in Matthew 18:21-35?
  4. What is the definition of “righteousness” in verse 21?
  5. How is it true that our desire for righteousness permeates all we do as human beings?
  6. What does Paul mean in verse 19 when he says, “For through the law I died to the law”?
  7. What does “justification” mean?
  8. How is justifying something or someone a change of perspective rather than a change of facts?
  9. Do you think this is a true statement: “Every person’s problem with sanctification is really just a problem with justification”?
  10. Why is the news, “You’re dead!” good news?

See you Sunday!

Monday, October 10, 2016

"In Step with the Gospel" - Ken Wagoner

Here is what one commentator wrote about Galatians:  “The Church is always in need of hearing the message of Galatians.  No matter what we have experienced, it is our nature recurrently to fall into a system of merit, and to think in terms of achievement and reward.  But here, flowing spontaneously from his head, yet from his heart, Paul expresses the life-transforming, world-changing affirmation of justification by faith.  We are at the mercy of God’s grace, and that mercy encompasses all our sins.”  The book of Galatians is important because in every age it gives answers to these core issues of our hearts: “I have a need to love and be loved,” and “I have a need to be valued.”

Paul’s letter to the Galatians describes the differing thoughts, opinions, and actions on what one must do/be to receive the benefits of a vibrant life with Jesus.  The book makes reference to Acts 15, an important time in the life of the early Christian church, and to the church today.  The message this week is not anything new to long term attendees of Hebron, but as the quote above reminds us, “it is our nature recurrently to fall into a system of merit, and to think in terms of achievement and reward.”

These verses of scripture are so rich, I sometimes fear any attempt I try cannot do justice to God’s intended meaning.  However, I am foolish enough to think at the very least here is a profound truth:
The Gospel governs both our beliefs and our actions.  There is gospel belief (justification by faith alone) and there is gospel action (walking in step with the gospel).  Some belief contradicts the gospel, and some actions contradict the gospel.  I need to have reminders in my life to help me keep the truth of the Gospel in my beliefs and actions.  

Here are some questions to ponder in preparation for our time together this Sunday:
  1. Galatians 2:5 and 2:14 employ the phrase “the truth of the Gospel.”  How would you describe the truth of the Gospel?
  2. Galatians 2:3 and 2:14 also use the word “force.”  What does this word bring to your mind?
  3. Acts 10 describes the interaction between Paul and Cornelius.  What do we learn about legalism, fear, freedom, and peace in this event?
  4. Luke 12:1-4 relates a warning Jesus gives to his disciples?  He describes the leaven of the Pharisees as “hypocrisy.”  Are there any ways you and I engage in hypocrisy today?
  5. Here is a quote from Leo Rosten, a playwright.  “I can’t believe that the purpose of life is to be  happy.  I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be compassionate.  It is above all to matter, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”  Do you agree or disagree with this and why?  Do you think Paul agrees or disagrees with this and why?
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday, and thank you for your partnership and encouragement you have given to me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"The Work of the Gospel" - Doug Rehberg

This week in a message entitled, “The Work of the Gospel”, we are going to see that it is not only the Gospel that can change us. Another way of saying it is that the finished work of Christ not only justifies us before a Holy God, it sanctifies us before Him as well.

In Ephesians 2 we read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works. So that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that one should walk in them.” These are familiar words to many, but notice, if you examine them carefully you will find not justification by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ alone in the first two sentences, but sanctification in the third and final sentence. Paul’s point is all the work that must be done in our lives is a work of grace.

It’s to truth that Paul points in our text – Galatians 2:6-14. In verse 14 he declares, “I saw that their conduct was not in step with the Gospel…” What Paul seems to be saying is that the Gospel sends out a line of conduct that should characterize the active grace of God in our lives.

Here’s a historic example of that line of the Gospel. It’s said that no one treated Abraham Lincoln with more contempt than Edwin Stanton. He not only denounced his policies, he called him a “low cunning clown.” Stanton nicknamed Lincoln “the original gorilla.” He used to say that explorers didn’t need to go to Africa to try to capture a gorilla, all they needed to do was travel to Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln said nothing in reply. In fact, he made Stanton his war minister because he thought he was the best man for the job. He treated him with every courtesy. When Lincoln died, one of the first people to see the dead president was Edwin Stanton who said, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.”

Now what was it in Lincoln’s life that changed Stanton? It wasn’t a scolding from the President. It was pure unadulterated grace. The grace of God in Lincoln’s life melted the heart of Edwin Stanton.
In Acts 21:20 we read that when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem there were many thousands of Jews who had believed in Christ. All Paul and Barnabas had to do was to stand up and preach to the people and excoriate the false teachers and their teaching. But they don’t operate like that. They don’t speak to the people. Rather, they meet with the leaders of the church behind closed doors. And in so doing, they absolved them of their error.

We see the same thing in Peter’s visit to Antioch described in Sunday’s text. What we see here is the dynamic force of the Gospel in the daily lives of these early Christian disciples. There’s so much here in this last half of chapter 2 that we will spend this Sunday and next Sunday unpacking it.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How is it possible to be a genuine Christian and still live in bondage?
  2. What is the root of such bondage?
  3. How do the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:27-30 relate to Paul’s argument in Galatians 2:1-14?
  4. How do you explain Peter’s behavior in Antioch, especially after the Jerusalem meeting in Galatians 2:1-10?
  5. How did false teachers in Jerusalem and Antioch demonstrate that they fail to understand grace?
  6. Why do the Christian leaders in Jerusalem ask Paul to remember the poor (verse 10)?
  7. Why does Paul say that it is something he is eager to do?
  8. What does Paul mean in verse 14 when he says that their conduct is out of step with the Gospel?
  9. How does the Gospel change the Christian’s walk?
  10. Who are you more like – Paul or Peter?
See you Sunday!