Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Just Say No" - Doug Rehberg

Years ago I was sitting in the library at Princeton when a guy waved to me from the sidewalk outside. I waved back, not knowing who he was; and minutes later he was sitting right across the desk from me.

It was an old college roommate who I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. Maybe it was his beard. Maybe it was seeing him in Princeton, rather than Boston. Maybe it was the years and the miles; but it wasn’t until he opened his mouth that I recognized him.

He led with multiple questions about my life and what had transpired since leaving college. I spoke briefly of my time in D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, and Princeton. Then I asked him about his last decade, and he spoke of New Brunswick, N.J. and Calcutta, India. It seems that Jim had traveled to Calcutta to spend a few months with Mother Theresa.

When he arrived he tried for three days to see her, but to no avail. Each time he was told that “the Mother” was busy. Finally, on the fourth day he sneaked into the back of the mission, and found Mother Theresa carrying a bedpan away from the bed of a leper. “Mother”, he said, “I’ve been trying to speak with you for three days; and each time they say you’re too busy. What have you been doing?”

“This”, she said. Jim stared at the bedpan and said, “This? Why? Don’t you have enough servants?” She smiled and said, “My dear, I am a servant.”

Now that’s exactly what Jesus is talking about in this fourth week of our series, “A Charge to Keep”.

This week’s text is Matthew 16:13-24. The command we will be digging into is found in verse 24, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” This is one of the relatively few commands that finds its way into all three synoptic gospels. There’s a good reason for that; it’s the essence of coming to Jesus and taking upon yourself His yoke (last week’s message). It’s the essence of living out the Great Commission (the first message in our series).

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Just Say No”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What prompts Jesus to take His disciples to Caesarea Philippi?
  2. What sign does He give His disciples to prove His identity? (See the difference between Matthew 11:1-4 and Matthew 11:21f.)
  3. What was this site, the foot of Mt. Hermon, known for by the Romans and the Greeks?
  4. Had the disciples confessed the identity of Jesus as the Messiah prior to this?
  5. What does Jesus’ response in verse 17 mean?
  6. How does Peter’s behavior and rebuke in verse 22 set up Jesus’ command in verse 24?
  7. Why does Jesus attribute Peter’s remark to Satan?
  8. What does “denying yourself” mean?
  9. What does “taking up your cross” mean?
  10. Why does Jesus follow the words of verse 24 with three “fors” in verses 25-27?
See you Sunday as we gather around the Table of the Lord.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"The Way Forward" - Doug Rehberg

Bruce Manning Metzger was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and earned a BA from Lebanon Valley College in 1935. Metzger had strong training in Greek before entering Princeton Theological Seminary, having read through the Bible twelve times prior to his matriculation.

In 1938 after receiving his first seminary degree he began teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. Two years later he began instructing in the New Testament and earned his PhD from Princeton University with a thesis entitled, Studies in a Greek Gospel Lectionary.

Among his many distinctions Metzger was the chief editor of the 1952 Revised Standard Version of the Bible. He was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge and Wolfson College, Oxford. In 1971 he was elected president of both the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and the Society of Biblical Literature. In 1978 he was elected corresponding fellow of the British Academy, the highest distinction for persons who are not residents of the United Kingdom. In his career he wrote twenty-six books, offered five translations of the Bible, and produced scores of scholarly articles.

These are just a few of his distinctions. When he retired at age 70 it was said that, “Metzger’s unrivaled knowledge of the relevant languages, ancient and modern, his balanced judgment, and his painstaking attention to detail has won him respect across the theological and academic spectrum.”
The reason I mention all of this is because this week’s sermon, “The Way Forward”, the third in our series, “A Charge to Keep”, reminds me of him. You see, when I was at Princeton Theological Seminary (1982-1984), Dr. Bruce Metzger was not only a frequent professor of mine, but my academic advisor. The year I graduated was the year he retired from Princeton. (Maybe I did him in!)

But you know what I remember most about Dr. Metzger? More than his fame and erudition was his extraordinary humility, evidenced most clearly in his prayers. Unlike many other professors, Metzger would never begin a lecture without prayer. Rather than a stern, high-brow prayer, he’d stand before the class, bow his silver-haired head and begin, “Father, we give you humble and hearty thanksgiving this day…” And from there it was as if every one of us was given total access to his private prayer closet. I remember with wonder the intimacy of those prayers. It was as if no one was with him, but Jesus.

If you have read this Sunday’s text then you know where I am going with all this. The second command of Christ, the one we will consider this week, comes directly out of the intimate prayer life of Jesus. It’s one of the few places in all the Gospel where we have a verbatim of Jesus’ prayer. And it’s in this prayer that Jesus utters some of the most precious words ever spoken to the believing heart. It’s an extraordinary invitation and command.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What prompts Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 11:25-30?
  2. What is Jesus declaring about His Father?
  3. What is He saying about Himself?
  4. What is He saying about those to whom He chooses to reveal Himself?
  5. Why does Jesus call His Father’s will “gracious” in verse 26?
  6. What is necessary for us to have in order to accept Jesus’ invitation in verse 28?
  7. What is this “rest” of which He speaks?
  8. What is the connection between “coming to Him” and taking on His yoke?
  9. What is His yoke? Why does He call it “easy” and “light”?
  10. What does wearing His yoke look like?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Changing Your Mind" - Doug Rehberg

A friend of mine writes, “You may not know it, but unbelievably rich spiritual power is available to you. This power is not the result of being more religious, acquiring more knowledge about God, moving to a monastery, being more obedient, or praying more often. I suppose there is nothing wrong with those things, but they don’t yield spiritual power. The source of spiritual power is repentance…Repentance isn’t what you think it is. It’s so very different from what most people think that I tried to find another word for it…When repentance comes up, most of us think of a … “turn or burn” message directed at horrible sinners to scare the hell out of them. That’s not what repentance is at all. In fact, it’s a wonderful word…Repentance is from a Greek word meaning, ‘to change one’s mind.’ It means that you recognize God is God and you aren’t…that you don’t get a vote on what’s right and what’s wrong…In short, repentance is knowing who you are, who God is. It’s knowing what you’ve done or haven’t done in light of His truth, and then going to Him in agreement with Him and His assessment.”

No one agrees with my friend’s assessment of repentance any more than Matthew, the gospel writer. For Matthew there’s no picture of Jesus standing in His hometown synagogue and saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…” (See Luke 4:16f).

The first word out of Jesus’ mouth, fresh off His tussle with Satan, is “Repent.” But it’s critical to know why Jesus says that. He tells us, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You see, repentance is not something you do to gain the Lord’s attention or favor; it’s something that occurs when His attention and favor is already on you and you have a change of mind and tell Him so.

This Sunday we continue our series, “A Charge to Keep”, by examining Jesus’ first command. Our text is Matthew 4:12-17 and our companion text is Luke 5:27-32. As we dive into the first thing He commands us to teach others to observe, it’s instructive to note how positive a command it is. There’s no conditionality to it. He doesn’t say, “Change or else”. He rather says, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance is not a necessary work to bring the kingdom near. According to Jesus, it’s already here. The question is - do we recognize it?

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What are the similarities and differences between the command of John the Baptist in Matthew 4:7-9 and Jesus’ command in Matthew 4:17?
  2. What does Jesus’ audience tell us about His view of repentance?
  3. What’s the connection between the quoted words of Isaiah in 4:15-16 to what Jesus says in verse 17?
  4. What is the common definition of metanoia – “repentance”? Why is that definition incomplete?
  5. What do you make of Paul’s words in II Timothy 2:25-26?
  6. How can repentance be considered a gift?
  7. Someone has said, “Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.” What’s that mean?
  8. How is this first command of Christ foundational to all the others?
  9. What was the first thesis of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses?
  10. Look up Question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Do you see a perfect correlation to biblical repentance? (Hint: You should!)
See you Sunday!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Having it All" - Doug Rehberg

During my lifetime I have had several mountain-top experiences, literally. I’ve been at the top of the Schilthoran Summit in the Bernese Alps. I’ve been at the top of Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. I’ve been to the top of Koolau Range on Oahu, and near the top of Mount Elbert in Colorado. And each time my thoughts would turn to the God of the Scriptures and often Psalm 121:1 & 2. Throughout the Bible mountains have profound meaning in the lives of believers and sending them back into the world with a mission.
In Genesis, Noah’s ark settles on a mountain-top where God makes a new covenant with Noah and all of creation. Generations later on Mt. Moriah, God proves His unspeakable provision to Abraham. On Mt. Horeb, God calls Moses to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt. When Israel crosses the Jordan, entering between two mountains, they receive the blessing of God.
Mountains are prime locations for God’s call and commissioning of His people. Perhaps this is why Matthew is so fond of mountains. Of all the gospel writers, it’s Matthew who begins and ends Jesus’ three years of earthly ministry on a mountain. Some commentators, in fact, think that it’s the same mountain, near Capernaum on the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee. In between these two mountain-top experiences, Matthew tells us of five other mountains associated with Jesus’ ministry.
One fascinating study is to compare Moses’ Sinai experience with the experience of those who gathered to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Instead of clouds, fencing, and veils, Matthew says “seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain…sat down…and he opened His mouth…” What a difference! What’s even more striking is to compare Matthew 28:16-20 to Moses’ Sinai experience. It’s the difference between night and day.
This week we begin our new series, “A Charge to Keep.” It flows from what Jesus tells His brothers on this mountain in Galilee weeks after His resurrection. It’s called “the Great Commission.” The words are familiar,
                “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

It’s the phrase, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” that will capture our attention throughout the series. What has He commanded us? We’ll dig into all of that in the coming weeks. This week we introduce the topic by looking at the location, the lessons, and the license Jesus reveals to us in this farewell address.
In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

1)      In Exodus 34 the Bible says that Moses had to wear a veil on his face after leaving Sinai. Why? (See II Corinthians 3:12)
2)      What does the word “commission” mean?

3)      Why does Jesus pick a mountain in Galilee as the place to issue His commission?

4)      Compare Matthew 4:8-9 to Matthew 28:16-20.

5)      What does, “but some doubted” mean?

6)      Why the differences between Matthew’s account of the Great Commission and Mark’s?

7)      What does “worship“ mean in verse 17?

8)      Find the four “alls” in verses 18-20. What is the significance?

9)      What does the word “observe” mean in verse 20?

10)   What statement of Jesus sustained David Livingstone throughout his years in Africa?

See you Sunday!