Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"The Law and the Christian" - Doug Rehberg

This Sunday morning we come to the 14th and final message in our series, “The Rescue”, a study of the first half of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. At first blush it may seem strange to stop a series in the middle of a letter, but when you examine every one of Paul’s letters you find that they are always divided into two parts; and the order is always CRUCIAL!

Paul always begins with what Jesus Christ has done for the Christian. In theological parlance this is called “the Indicative”. In every one of his letters Paul begins by detailing what the Gospel indicates that God has done, through Christ, for the believer. Another way of putting it is that the indicative fully indicates our new identity as justified sinners. This is what Paul does in the first half of his letter to the Galatians. The truth is, he never moves on from the indicative until he has nailed down the truth of the Gospel in every possible way.

Once he has well established what Christ has already done for us, and he’s labored the point that we are spiritually alive and in a vital relationship with the living God through the finished work of Jesus Christ in His active and passive obedience, Paul then moves on to “the Imperative” section of his letter. Another way of describing the second half of Paul’s letters is to say that they are the “so what” or the “therefores.”  In other words, because of our identity in Christ and our inheritance in Christ, he details how we should then live. What does it mean to live out what God, in Christ, has put into us? In the case of his letter to the Galatians, this will be the focus of our next series, “Freedom”. The “Freedom” series will commence on January 8 with a message entitled “Adoption” from Galatians 3:26-4:7.

One of the bridges Paul builds between the indicative and the imperative in Galatians is the use of two words at the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 – “guardian” (Gal. 3:25) and “adoption” (Gal. 4:5). We are going to have much to say about both words in our “Freedom” series, but for now the first word – guardian (or as the NIV poorly translates it - “put in charge”) is critical to our understanding of Paul’s teaching on the law and the Christian.

Remember the question he asks in 3:21, “Is the law of God contrary to the promises of God?” In other words, “What good is the law for the Christian who’s been saved by grace?” How do the law and the Gospel fit together?

While many think they don’t, Paul isn’t one of them. In fact, in Sunday’s text – Galatians 3:19-29, Paul lays out (1) the purpose of the law for the Christian, (2) the privilege of the law, (3) the passion of the law, and (4) the pairing of the law. Unlike many commentators, the Apostle Paul upholds the law as vital in the life of every growing Christian; BUT, in a way that is entirely different than the way the law was in force prior to a Christian’s regeneration.

On Sunday we will look at the role of the law prior to our conversion. Second, the extraordinary gift God has given to every Christian to walk in step with the law. And finally, the inexorable link between the law of God and love of God that is on full display at Calvary.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What three purposes of the law did Luther teach?
  2. How can the law be comforting?
  3. What does Paul mean when he says that “the law was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come…?”
  4. What does Paul mean in verse 23 when he says “We were held captive under the law…until the coming faith was rewarded.”?
  5. What does Paul mean in verse 24 when he calls the law, “our guardian until Christ came”?
  6. Didn’t people in the Old Testament have faith?
  7. What changes in faith after Christ comes?
  8. How does Romans 8:1 & 2 inform us?
  9. Read Exodus 33:17-34:7.
  10. How does God demonstrate to all the world that He is both the God of love and the God of justice?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"The Law and the Promise" - Doug Rehberg

Do you know the name of Flossi Holloway?  Last year on November 26, 2015 she hung up her apron after a 40-year-old promise to feed the people of Farrell, PA.  For over 40 years Flossi would cook a buffet meal the week of Thanksgiving and invite her community.  Last year, at 83, with the meal behind her,  she said, “The Lord has blessed me tremendously, but when you feel under the weather, it’s time to quit.”

Last year she fed more than 70 guests, down from her typical gatherings of more than 300.  Her son Berry said, “Momma kept going even when her house burned down in 2008.  The reason she did it is simple; she had made a promise".

About 40 years ago her daughter Carlotta got sick.  Flossi vowed that if the good Lord enabled her to live she would feed Farrell on Thanksgiving week each year.  Carlotta’s condition improved and ever since Holloway’s guests said her food was even better than her vow.

After Carlotta died in 2000, Holloway cooked on.  When her son Armond passed in 2003 Flossi continued to keep her promise.  Though Flossi lovingly paid for each yearly feast, when others found out about her tradition, money would pour in from churches, businesses, social organizations, and individuals.  Last year donations came from as far away as California.

Last year’s dinner consisted of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni salad, sweet potatoes, tossed salads, and for the kids, crates of juice cartons. 

As the years past, Flossi’s family and friends worked the buffet line and took dinners to community members who couldn’t make it to the buffet.  Her son said, “What my mother did for over 40 years was a blessing; a gift to the community.  It’s humbling to see a woman so small with such a big heart.”

Think of it.  Cooking a Thanksgiving meal for others for 40 years with no regard for payment, or even a thank you!  It’s a lot like God’s promise to Abraham, but of course, He’s never stopped honoring it.

One of the greatest distinctions between Paul and his critics in Galatia is that those critics were propounding a religion of works that were a necessary supplement to God’s promise, but Paul never did.  They were championing a religion that required cooperative effort on the part of God and the believer, but the Gospel Paul proclaims requires no such thing.  Rather, in the Gospel it’s all God’s doing and none of our doing.

So you say, “What about the law?  Why does God give us the law, if He doesn’t expect us to keep it?”  Those are good questions.  And they were some of the same questions the false teachers were planting in the minds of the Galatians.  So what does Paul do?  Does he duck them?  No, he faces them head on in Galatians 3:10-22.

This Sunday is Communion and the first Sunday of Advent.  It’s also the Sunday we get to see how the whole Bible hangs together in Jesus Christ.  What Paul sets before us in Galatians 3:10-22 is profound, life-altering truth that we will seek to dig into deeply.

What Paul tells us is that the promise of God to Abraham in no way supplants the law He gives Moses 430 years later.  Quite the contrary, the Law of God and the Promise of God are completely complimentary.  In fact, as we will see on Sunday, in God’s perfect plan you can’t have one without the other.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “The Law and the Promise,” you may wish to consider the following:

1.      How is Jesus the fulfillment of every promise God ever makes?

2.      How many times does God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, 3 reappear in Genesis?

3.      How is the Gospel represented to Abraham as noted in Galatians 3:8?

4.      What’s the point of Paul’s use of the illustration in verse 15?

5.      How critical is Genesis 15 to understanding what Paul is saying in Galatians 3:15-22?

6.      When did God ratify His promise to Abraham?

7.      What’s the significance of the plural – (offsprings) and the singular – (offspring) in verse 16?

8.      How is God’s ratification of His promise in Genesis 15 a foreshadowing of the cross?

9.      Why does God give us the law?

10.  How do the Law and the Promise fit together?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"The Substitute" - Doug Rehberg

Eric Alexander of Glasgow, Scotland, once wrote: “There is little doubt that Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest preacher the English speaking world has seen in the 20th century. Those of us who have had the privilege of hearing him will not easily forget the sense of awe which came upon one’s soul as he was gripped by the glory of the Gospel, and God spoke with such power through him. Yet it was not the man who lingered in the mind, nor was the lasting impression one of human gifts and intellectual abilities, or personal magnetism. Rather, it was the power of truth, the greatness of God, the poverty of man, and the glorious relevance and authority of Holy Scripture which left an indelible mark on his hearers.”

In the fall of 1963 Dr. Lloyd-Jones preached a series of sermons at Westminster Chapel in London on the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.” Interestingly, in this nine-week series entitled, “The Cross”, he preached nine messages and the sixth one was preached less than 48 hours after John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. He entitled it, “He Is Our Peace”. Instead of doing what many preachers would do, he proceeded with his message rather than interrupting it to give a special address of John Kennedy and his life. He continued his series on Galatians without ignoring the events of Dallas or the impact of the young President’s death. Instead, he incorporated Kennedy’s death into his message noting that there’s only one thing that can reconcile men to God and each other and that’s the murder of Jesus Christ.

Lloyd-Jones concluded his sermon this way: “Stop thinking in terms of nations, think of yourself first. Is that old pride there, is this the thing that governs you? I pray that God may show us to ourselves in the light of the cross of Christ, that all our ugly pride may go, and that we may see our utter hopelessness and helplessness. I pray that we may look up to Him who loved us so dearly, that He even gave His life voluntarily in order that we might be rescued and saved, reconciled to God, and reconciled to our fellow men and women. God forbid that I should glory in anything save in the death on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This week we will seek to glory in the cross. Our text this Sunday is Galatians 3:10-14 – five verses that are said to be so offensive that many Bible commentators seek to explain them away. The problem is they can’t! To explain away what Paul is saying here is to obscure the Gospel at best and corrupt it at worst. As Joachim Jeremias once said, “It is offensive. Yet Paul meant every word of it, so we must come to terms with a passage like this.” We will see to do so this Sunday.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read II Corinthians 5:21. How does this text relate to Galatians 3:10-14?
  2. Do you agree that the cross is the single most recognizable symbol in all of human history?
  3. What was Constantine’s view of the cross?
  4. How do verses 10 & 11 set forth the “why” of the cross?
  5. How does the law bring a curse on those who are under it?
  6. How does verse 13 set forth the “what” of the cross, i.e. what takes place there?
  7. What does it mean that Jesus Christ became a curse for us?
  8. How is Jesus being a curse good news for us?
  9. How does verse 14 set for the “how” of the cross, i.e. how it relates to us?
  10. What does John Stott mean when he says, “Substitution is the essence of Christianity”?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Hearing with Power" - Doug Rehberg

Last week I heard an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. The woman being interviewed was a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and the author of a book on lessons learned from hospice patients. By definition a hospice patient is one for whom the medical community is prescribing only palliative care. The typical hospice patient lives for only a few months under such care.

So Terry Gross asks this woman, “What lessons have you learned from those who are living at the end of their lives?” And the woman replies that there are many, but among them is the incredible ability to gain peace in the midst of arguably the most difficult challenge of life.

I don’t remember too much about this interview, except when the author turns the tables on Terry Gross. The woman is recounting how many of the patients have found rest and peace in practices of prayer and the singing of hymns. In the midst of her description Gross interrupts her and asks something like, “Are you serious? Prayer and hymns?” To which the woman replies, “Well, how do you handle serious stress, Terry? How do you gain a sense of peace in the midst of withering circumstances?” Terry Gross is caught off guard - she’s usually the one who asks the questions. But within seconds she recovers and says, “I do breathing exercises.”

Now I want you to know that I’m all for breathing. You can’t last too long without it! I’ve even been to childbirth classes where we “coaches” were trained to distinguish between shallow breathing and cleansing breaths – both of which are deployed in the trials and tribulation of labor. But, come on Terry! We’re talking about the appropriation of spiritual power as you near death and you want to talk about controlling your breathing and slowing down your heart rate? Please!

If Terry Gross were a Christian and Paul had heard the interview, he might say, “O you dear idiot Terry! At a time when you should be lifting your eyes from yourself to Him and His, you’re stuck on you!”

If you were with us last week you know that we crossed into Galatians 3 and looked carefully at what Paul says in Galatians 3:1-5. Here at the beginning of chapter 3, Paul highlights two fundamental resources that the Holy Spirit makes available to every Christian – the Cross and the Scriptures. Last week we looked at what he had to say about the Cross. In verse 1 Paul says, “It was before your own eyes that Jesus was placarded as crucified.” In other words, the Holy Spirit can perfectly portray before every one of our eyes the good news of the Cross. Paul’s argument is that they’ve forgotten what He’s shown them already.

But there’s more that the Holy Spirit can do in the life of the Christian and that has to do with our ears. Look what he says in verse 2, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” You see, what Paul is saying is that the Holy Spirit not only shows us Jesus, He speaks to us all about Him.

We are going to talk about hearing this week in a message entitled, “Hearing with Power”, based on Galatians 3:1-9. In preparation for the message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. In a word, what’s the Bible all about?
  2. Why is verse 8 so astounding?
  3. How does John 5:39 inform our understanding of verse 8?
  4. What do you make of Paul’s personification of the Scripture in verse 8?
  5. How does Paul define the Gospel in that eight-word quote spoken to Abraham?
  6. How many of Jesus’ recorded words in the Gospels are Scripture quotes?
  7. Do you think that Jesus thought the Scriptures to be man-made or God-breathed?
  8. What do you make of II Corinthians 1:20?
  9. How does Galatians 1:8 relate to our view of Scripture?
  10. Do you think it’s possible to understand the Gospel without the Scriptures? How about the Scriptures without the Gospel?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Seeing with Power" - Doug Rehberg

A few weeks ago my wife commented that my sermon that week was unusual because of the volume of quotations. She said to me, “You don’t usually have so many words from so many other people.” What I didn’t tell her was there was a long one that I left out!

It’s a quotation that I’ve cited before. In fact, it’s one I quoted at length about fifteen years ago with the disclaimer that the rule of thumb in preaching is never use a long quotation. But because these words are a benchmark in understanding the Gospel, I’ll give it to you verbatim. It’s from the great British expositor of the last century, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ commentary on Romans 6:1 where Paul says, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Lloyd-Jones writes:

There is a sense in which the doctrine of justification by faith only is a very dangerous doctrine; dangerous, I mean, in the sense that it can be misunderstood. It exposes a man to this particular charge. People listening to it may say, “Ah, there is a man who does not encourage us to live a good life, he seems to say that there is no value in our works, he says that ‘all our righteousness are as filthy rags’…. Therefore what he is saying is that it does not matter what you do, sin as much as you like.” …There is thus clearly a sense in which the message of “justification by faith only” can be dangerous, and likewise with the message that salvation is entirely of grace….I say therefore that if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the gospel. Nobody has ever brought this charge against the Church of Rome, but it was brought frequently against Martin Luther; indeed that was precisely what the Church of Rome said about the preaching of Martin Luther. They said, “This man who was a priest has changed the doctrine in order to justify his own marriage and his own lust” …and so on. “This man”, they said, “is an antinomian; and that is heresy.” That is the very charge they brought against him. It was also brought against George Whitefield two hundred years ago. It is the charge that formal dead Christianity – if there is such a thing – has always brought against this startling, staggering message, that God “justifies the ungodly”, and that we are saved, not by anything we do, but in spite of it, entirely and only by the grace of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
That is my comment; and it is a very important comment for preachers. I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you really are preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, to the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.

It’s this presentation of the Gospel Paul sets forth so powerfully in Galatians 2. With chapter 2 as his backdrop, Paul now turns to chapter 3 where he introduces the power available to every believer. 

Paul’s startling message is that He is the One who not only applies the work of Christ to our lives at the beginning of our walk with Christ (justification), but He continues to apply the work of Christ to us in our progress in the faith (sanctification). Simply put, the way a believer begins to walk in faith is exactly the way he/she must continue to walk.

In preparation for this week’s message, “Seeing with Power” from Galatians 3:1-5, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read John 16:4(b)-15. What does this tell us about the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives?
  2. How is Jesus a perfect illustration of the modern hero and the post modern hero??
  3. What is Paul saying to the Galatians when he addresses them as foolish?
  4. How have they been “bewitched”?
  5. What is the relevance of receiving the Holy Spirit (v.2)?
  6. What is the benefit of having received the Holy Spirit by hearing with faith rather than works of the law?
  7. What does Paul mean when he says that they have seen Jesus publicly portrayed as crucified?
  8. What is the principle way in which the Holy Spirit perfects the believer?
  9. How does II Corinthians 3:5-6 fit with our text?
  10. How is Jesus the only hero we need?
See you Sunday!