Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Grace to the Barren", Part 2 - Doug Rehberg

“’Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LordBehold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 23:1, 5-6

Here the Lord is speaking hundreds of years before Paul writes to the Galatians. Yet, they are dealing with the same issue – the scattering of the flock. Now what is it that characterizes those who scatter? It’s their message of self-reliance and self-righteousness, rather than total dependence on a righteousness that comes to us in Christ.

Listen to what Charles Spurgeon says about Jeremiah 23:6:

It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ. How often are the saints of God downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would be if they could always see their perfection in Christ. There are some who are always talking about corruption and the depravity of the heart and the innate evil of the soul. This is quite true, but why not go a little further and remember that we are “perfect in Christ Jesus”.

It is no wonder that those who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks; but surely if we call to mind “Christ Jesus, whom God made . . . our righteousness,” we shall be of good cheer…On the cross he said, ‘It is finished!’ and if it is finished then I am complete in Him, and can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, ‘Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – a righteousness that comes from Gad and is by faith.’ You will not find a holier people this side of heaven than those who receive into their hearts the doctrine of Christ’s righteousness. When the believer says, ‘I live in Christ alone; I rest on Him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus,’ then, motivated by gratitude, these thoughts occur – ‘Why shouldn’t I live to Christ? Why shouldn’t I love Him and serve Him, seeing that I am saved by His merits?’”

Sheep scatters know nothing of this! They are too possessed of themselves and their self-importance (masking rampant insecurities) to dare to surrender themselves to the righteousness of Christ. For them the work is not finished until they breathe their last breath.  And it’s in response to their scattering efforts that Paul comes to the climax of his argument – Galatians 4:19-31.

If you were at Hebron last Sunday, or listened to the podcast, you know that Scott expertly led us into this text in his message, “Grace to the Barren”, Part 1. This week we’re back in this same text to mine some additional gems. We will start in verse 19 and work our way through verse 31 and observe the Relationship, the Responsibility, and the Reality of our position in Christ.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “Grace to the Barren”, Part 2, you may wish to consider the following:

  1. What is the meaning of Paul’s address in verse 19 – “my little children”?
  2. How often does Paul address others like that?
  3. What would prompt him to use that address?
  4. What does it mean to say that you are letting God love you?
  5. What is the nature of Paul’s anguish? (verse 19)
  6. How does the metaphor of childbirth bring you peace and joy?
  7. How is the story of Hagar and Sarah a perfect picture of spiritual slavery and spiritual freedom?
  8. What is it that makes us revert to depending on our own acts of righteousness?
  9. What does Paul mean when he says that the Jerusalem above is our mother? (verse 26)
  10. How does his use of Isaiah 54:1 relate to his address of them in verse 19?
See you Sunday as we gather around His table.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Grace to the Barren", Part I - Scott Parsons

A man went for a hike one day, and as he was approaching the summit of the hill he was climbing, he paused by the edge of a cliff to rest and take in the view. As he was standing there enjoying his break, the dirt under his feet gave way and he found himself helplessly sliding over the edge of the cliff. As he began to fall his body slammed into a small tree that was growing out of the face of the cliff. He instinctively reached out and managed to grab hold of the tree.  As he dangled from the tree, he quickly realized that there was no way for him to climb up, and no way down except to fall. Even though he had seen no other people on his hike, he cried out in desperation hoping someone would hear him. To his great surprise, he heard a voice respond to him. “Who is there?”, cried the man. “It's God” came the response. “I want you to let go of the tree and trust me.”  After a moment of silence, the man, in a much weaker voice called out, “Is there anyone else up there?”

While the story may cause us to smile, the message of it hits terribly close to home. While we very much like the idea of grace, we are also very much afraid of it. Without question, one of the most powerful driving forces of the human mind is the need to be in control. We fiercely cling to the right to control our own lives even when we are making a terrible mess out of it and things are spinning out of control. Hence the problem with grace. Receiving grace requires that we acknowledge that we are helpless and that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves good enough for God or earn his pleasure. All we can do is do is throw ourselves at his feet, cry out for mercy, and trust his love, his sacrifice on our behalf, and his promises. In our passage for Sunday, Galatians 4:21-31, Paul says that when we try to remain in control by adding our own efforts to God’s grace, we remain enslaved to sin and the law and that we haven't experienced grace at all. Could this be you?  Have you experienced the freedom and joy that comes from surrendering everything (even the control of your life and destiny) to Jesus, or are you afraid to let go and trust him?  Think about it. Pray about it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"The Heart of the Shepherd" - Scott Parsons

Sunday I will continue looking at the passage Doug started for us last week, Galatians 4:8-20. Doug walked us through the theological and personal issues of the Galatians denying grace and seeking to secure salvation through our own efforts. This week we are going to focus less on the hearts of the Galatians and look at the heart and desires of Paul for them.

In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller says that God, as our Shepherd, “literally lays Himself out for us continually. He is ever interceding for us; He is ever guiding us by His gracious Spirit; He is ever working on our behalf to ensure that we will benefit from His care.” I’m not sure that anyone (except perhaps for David) has ever experienced or understood that reality more that Paul. Paul understood the depth of his sin; and just not his past sin! His continuing struggle with sin causes him, in Romans 7, to lament, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Yet, Paul’s whole life and ministry was based on his knowledge that because of the grace of his Shepherd, there was “therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

Paul also understood that the grace shown and the shepherding given to him was not simply for his benefit and enjoyment. It was his calling to take the love that God had shown him and share it with others. He was compelled by love. The passage we will look at Sunday fully exposes his shepherd’s heart for the Galatians. It is a joy to watch it unfold in these verses. But the challenge before us is that, like Paul, we are not called to simply receive grace either. We are all called to share it, and to reflect the shepherding love of God to those around us. Read through the passage carefully before Sunday. Spend some time asking God to give you His view of your heart and life. Then ask Him to give you His shepherding heart. See you Sunday.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Living As Slaves" - Doug Rehberg

There’s a text in II Peter that speaks to what we are going to talk about this Sunday morning. (It’s kind of odd to put it like that because here at Hebron we always try to simply elucidate what the Holy Spirit is saying through the text in front of us.) Anyway, what Paul’s talking about in Galatians 4:8-11 corresponds to what Peter is saying in II Peter 1:16-18. Peter says:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Now Peter is writing years after this event on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17). This is before the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. This is before he receives the Holy Spirit in John 20. This is before Pentecost. Yet, he remembers it as though it was yesterday, not only in his mind, but in his heart. And what he remembers most is the glory of God.

Last week as we began explaining Galatians 4 we got into the teeth of Paul’s pastoral counseling. These aren’t some strangers, these are his children in the faith, his beloved. So he talks about two sendings – the sending of the Son of God by God the Father, and the sending of His Spirit into our hearts. We labored the point last week that it’s this second sending that enables us to appropriate all that Jesus does for us through the first sending. To put it simply – the first sending changes our status from slaves to sons while the second sending helps us know our sonship thoroughly.

This week we will continue to unpack all of this, because Paul’s not finished with his counseling. What he tells us in Galatians 4:8-11 is a powerful extension of what he says at the opening of Galatians 4, something Martin Luther discovered and gave voice to in his treatise, The Freedom of a Christian. Luther says:

To make the way smoother for the unlearned – for only them do I serve – I shall set down the following two prepositions concerning the freedom and the bondage of the spirit. (1) A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. (2) A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”

So how’s that possible? How is it possible to be both free and a servant? Luther read the words of Paul, and in particular Galatians 4. Listen to what he says:

What man is there whose heart, upon hearing these things (all that Jesus is and has done) will not rejoice to its depths, and when receiving such comfort will not grow tender so that he will love Christ as he never could by means of any laws or works?...Behold, from faith thus flows forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, of gain or loss. For a man does not serve that he may put men under obligations. He does not distinguish between friend or enemies or anticipate that thankfulness or unthankfulness, but he most freely and most willingly spends himself and all he has, whether he wastes all on the thankless or whether he gains a reward. As his Father does, distributing all things to all men richly and freely.

In other words, that’s what the Spirit of God’s Son brings to the Christian’s heart. And what does the Spirit do? He gives us ever-renewing eyes to see the majesty and beauty of Jesus. The result is as the hymn says, “The things of earth do grow strangely dim…” He changes the affections of our heart by captivating it with Jesus. That’s why Paul says to the Galatians, “Why would you choose to go back into slavery?

We are going to talk about all that this Sunday. But there’s a warning: it’s deep, very deep. It’s so deep only the Spirit of God can help us see the deepening layers of truth unfolding before us.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Living As Slaves,” you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Someone has said, “The letter to the Galatians is counseling pure and profound.” Where’s the evidence of that?
  2. How does Paul’s sincerity show itself in chapter 4?
  3. What does it mean to be “sincere”?
  4. What are the “non-gods” to which they are returning? (v. 8,9)
  5. Are they the same as the elementary principles of the world cited in verses 3 and 7?
  6. How does I John 5:21 relate to Galatians 4:8-11?
  7. Paul uses the concept of slavery throughout the first eleven verses of Galatians 4. Why?
  8. How is their enslavement different in verse 7 than in verse 8?
  9. How is the beauty of Jesus the only thing that can free us?
  10. Why does law never change us, only grace?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Living As Sons" - Doug Rehberg

This week I want you to think of a kid at Christmas who opens all his gifts, but misses one. Will he be happy? You say, “That all depends on whether he knows that there’s one more! If he does, he probably won’t.” I think you are right!!

This week we embark on a new series entitled, “Freedom”. It is, of course, the continuation of our study of Galatians, but as is the case in all of Paul’s writings, the suffix always follows the prefix and Paul’s prefix is always what Jesus has done for us. In other words, if you think that the goal of Paul’s writings is to encourage you to buckle down and start obeying commands, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Paul doesn’t suffer shipwrecks, thermal exposure, starvation, curses, arrests, and floggings to encourage Christians to start wearing their W.W.J.D. bracelets and live up to them. He endures all that he does because he’s passionately in love with Jesus. He’s mesmerized by Him and he wants others to share that same passion.

Recently I heard a man say that there are two ditches into which every Christian can fall – the ditch of law or legalism and the ditch of grace. Now by the “ditch of grace” I believe he means lawlessness, but even so, Paul would prefer the latter far more than the former. You know why? Because, he knows that if you don’t apprehend the prefix, i.e. the finished work of Christ, there’s absolutely no way you are any better off than the Pharisees or anyone else who are in the ditch of trusting in their own accomplishments.

At Christmas I read some of Spurgeon’s sermons preached to Christians. Listen to this:

It is painful to remember that, to a certain degree…we do not hear the voice of God as we ought. There are gentle motions of the Holy Spirit in the soul which are unheeded by us. There are whispers of divine command and heavenly love which are alike unobserved by our leaden intellects…there are matters within which we ought to have seen, corruptions which have made headway unnoticed; sweet affections which are being blighted like flowers in the frost…glimpses of the divine face which might be perceived if we did not wall up the windows of our soul. As we think about this, we are humbled in the deepest self-abasement. How we must adore the grace of God as we learn…our ignorance was foreknown by God…yet He has been pleased to deal with us in a way of mercy! Admire the marvelous sovereign grace which could have chosen us in the sight of all this! Wonder at the price that was paid for us when Christ knew what we should be! He who hung upon the cross foresaw us as unbelieving, backsliding, cold of heart, indifferent, lax in prayer, and yet He said, “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…O redemption, how you shine with amazing brilliance when we think how black we are! O Holy Spirit, give us henceforth the hearing ear, the understanding heart.”

That’s exactly what Paul’s talking about in Sunday’s text – Galatians 3:26-4:7. In this passage Paul begins to set forth how we can live as sons of God. But unlike the false teachers of every age, Paul never decouples his prescriptions for living as sons from the finished work of Christ. On the contrary, without Christ’s finished work, there can be no godly second imperative.
In this text Paul sets forth the necessary cause of all holy living. We will explore that “cause” and what that “cause” provides to any believer this Sunday.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What were the Distaff Gospels?
  2. What does Paul mean in 3:26, 4:5-7 when he calls Christians “sons”?
  3. How does the NIV render 4:5?
  4. In what way is 4:6 one of the most satisfying verses in the Bible?
  5. What amazing similarity is there between 4:4 and 4:6?
  6. Why does God do two sendings? Isn’t one enough?
  7. What’s the purpose of sending the Spirit into our hearts?
  8. What’s the product(s) He brings to us?
  9. What does, “Crying, Abba! Father!” mean to you?
  10. What is the key to living a holy life?
See you Sunday!