Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"The Power" - Doug Rehberg

In 2015 Andrew Peterson wrote a song that appeared on the album, “The Burning Edge of Dawn.” Here are the lyrics:

I cannot explain the ways of love
Life cannot explain the grace of kindness
There’s no reason that can satisfy enough
The healing of this blindness

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection

And even in the days when I was young
There seemed to be a song beyond the silence
The feeling in my bones was much too strong
To just deny it. I can’t deny this

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
Seized by the power of a great affection

Now this is the theme of my song
Now I must forgive as I am forgiven
And even when the shadows are long
I will sing about the Son that’s risen

That His kingdom has no end
And His kingdom has no end

I will praise Him for the fields of green and gold
I will praise Him for the roar of many waters
I will praise Him that the secret things of old
Are now revealed to sons and daughters

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection

So Father I will give you thanks and praise
The Son has opened wide the gate of glory
He declared your mighty love and gave His grace
And I will tell His story
It is my story

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
Seized by the power of a great affection….

Now whether Andrew Peterson knows it or not, that’s the essence of what James is saying in our text this week. You will note that it’s largely the same one Scott preached from last week. If you were at Hebron last week or listened to the podcast, you know that Scott spoke thoroughly about the reality of sin and how it’s not an intruder from the outside, but an internal resident of our heart. That’s what James means when he says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God…”. James identifies the source of sin, it’s bred in our own hearts. If there’s any doubt about that, reread verses 14 and 15!

So what are we to do? Besides confessing our sin and turning away from it, is there anything else that we can do to see sin recede and righteousness rise in our lives? James, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Chalmers, Samuel Rutherford, and Andrew Peterson say there is, and that is what we will be examining this week.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. What does Jesus mean in John 14:15 when He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments?”
  2. Why does James use the worlds “lured” and “enticed” when he is referring to our desires?
  3. In Greek vs. 14 reads, “But each one is tempted by his lusts, having been drawn out and having been seduced by them.” Does this reading shed any light on what verse 14 is saying?
  4. How did Ulysses deal with the temptations the sirens posed? Is that effective?
  5. What is the deception James refers to in verse 16?
  6. How did Thomas Chalmers suggest dealing with sin?
  7. Why does God give us the capacity for desire and affection if it gets us into such trouble?
  8. How does verse 17 tie to verse 16?
  9. In verse 18 James speaks of the desire of another – whose? And what is that desire?
  10. In verse 18 James is alluding to a heavenly “show and tell”. Who is showing and what’s being told?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Sin and Temptation" - Scott Parsons

There are few concepts more out of style today than the concept of sin.  Biblically, sin is any disobedience (passive or active) of the commands of the sovereign, holy God. When you reject the notion of a sovereign, holy God (which much of our culture does today), the concept of sin becomes irrelevant at best, and dangerous in the eyes of many.  It is viewed as a vestige of a more primitive time that was used to provide common people with a framework to understand problems, pain and suffering, and a tool to help control the masses.

In our more “enlightened” age, the concept of a creating, sovereign God has been rejected for a scientific, man centered view of existence.  Thus, sin as an offense against God has also been rejected.  Instead, sin is considered an obsolete guilt trip that gets in the way of men and women reaching their fullest potential.  The concept of evil has been redefined as anti-social behavior that is remedied by education and rehabilitation.

Sadly, this societal shift has also affected the church.  Sin is rarely taken seriously.  Research done by one of our nation’s polling groups has concluded that “there is no significant difference in ethical behavior between churched and unchurched citizens of America.”   In other words, our beliefs regarding God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness has done little to affect how those who claim to be Christian’s live.  The lack of church discipline is evidence of this.  Historically considered to be one of the marks of a true church, rarely is personal sin addressed within the body of Christ, even scandalous sin.

James 1 has been talking about the Christian’s response to suffering.  It is critical to realize that suffering does not just come from outside sources, but it is often the result of our own sinful choices.  In James 1:13-18, James speaks to us about the reality of sin, the consequences of sin, and our hope in the midst of sin.  I know that sin is not a popular subject and that it is not something we like to think about.  But the truth is, we cannot understand and embrace grace if we do not have a clear understanding of the reality and depth of our sin.  We all have sins we wrestle with, and some that we harbor and nurture.  Please read Sunday’s passage carefully and boldly ask God to open your eyes to the presence and danger of sin in your life, and for the Spirit’s power to overcome them.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Plan for Trouble" - Doug Rehberg

There’s a blog entitled, “god blog”. In one of its recent posts, there is the heading: “C.S. Lewis is popular but wrong; we are not little Christs.”

After introducing the fact that C.S. Lewis had no formal theological training, the blogger goes on to say that while some criticize Lewis for being too loose with doctrine, “My take is somewhat the opposite. He is too literal about what it means to follow Christ. For Lewis it means to become, little Christs, which to me makes no sense at all…The part of Lewis that I don’t understand (and perhaps my understanding of Christian doctrine is insufficient) is his claim that every Christian is to become a little Christ. That the whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

Here’s Lewis’ full statement:

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: That we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call “good infection”. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” Mere Christianity, p. 177.

What trips up the blogger is the belief that what Lewis is describing is human effort applied to imitating Christ, but he’s not. What Lewis is saying is what Paul says repeatedly, as in Galatians 2:20 and II Corinthians 5:17. Rather than talking about the consequences of human effort, what Paul and Lewis are detailing is what divine effort can do in a life. And that’s exactly what James is talking about in James 1:2-12.

What is the vehicle by which God the Father and Spirit conforms us to His Son, Jesus Christ? James tells us – trouble. How did Jesus stand steadfast? He had the wisdom of God in the face of His trials. How do we know of His steadfastness? It’s through His response to those trials.

The fantastic truth that James sets forth in verse 12 is one we will examine this week. Simply put, the truth is this – as we ask and receive the wisdom of God our steadfastness increases and the life we live begins to parallel, more and more, the life of Christ. What is “the crown of life” to which James refers? It is to be glorified, standing in His presence, looking exactly like Him. And, according to James, that work has already begun.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Plan for Trouble”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How does James include himself in his admonition to count trials as joys?
  2. How is he paralleling the message of an orthodox Old Testament prophet?
  3. What does James tell us about the purpose of trials?
  4. According to James is the task of the Christian life to overcome trials?
  5. How does Jesus prove that trials are a blessing?
  6. How is pain and suffering a positive tool in the hand of our Master?
  7. Why does James segue into a prosperity discussion in verses 9-11?
  8. How is prosperity a great trial?
  9. How do trials make you real?
  10. What do you think the crown of life is?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Wisdom for Trouble" - Doug Rehberg

Here’s a test:
  1. Your boss comes in and tells you that your services are no longer needed. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  2. You put your child down for a nap and an hour later you find she’s dead. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  3. You’re minding your own business and a car comes along and sideswipes your car. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  4. You go to school and your best friend betrays your trust by accusing you, falsely, in front of others. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
Answer: According to James, it’s wisdom!

Throughout the letter of James, a clear distinction is made between good (Godly) wisdom and evil (natural human) wisdom. In chapter 3:13-18 James says that a person whose life reflects jealousy and self-ambition has not the true wisdom of God, but is earthly-minded and unspiritual. But true God-given wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” In other words, Godly wisdom is the possession of God and it is something for which His children can seek and find. That’s why Luke could say what he does about Jesus in Luke 2:52.

That’s what we are going to be talking about this week as we dig into James 1:5-8. So many come to verse 5 and try to apply it to all kinds of understandings. But James is specific. He’s talking about “counting” or “considering” all trials a joy (v. 2). What he’s saying is that there’s only one way to do that and that’s to have a new perspective that only divine wisdom can give us.

Last week we talked about what positive things trials can provide us. This week we’re going to talk about how we access them. In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Wisdom for Trouble”, you may wish to consider the following:
  • What does James tell us about wisdom in verse 5?
  • How does verse 5 flow directly from verses 2-4?
  • How does his meeting with the resurrected Jesus in I Corinthians 15:7 relate to what James is saying?
  • Do you think it’s cruel in the face of someone’s pain and anguish over a trial, to tell someone they don’t know enough?
  • How is the severity and effect of a trial defined by our perspective?
  • Why does James put a condition on our prayer in verse 6?
  • What does it mean to ask for wisdom while you have doubts?
  • The Book of Proverbs says that a fool is not aware of his foolishness. Is a wise man aware of his?
  • How is outrage at suffering a sign that there’s eternal life?
  • Did Jesus ever pray for wisdom in the midst of His trials?

See you Sunday as we gather at His table!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Getting Started" - Doug Rehberg

In the 4th century Pope Gregory the Great wrote a commentary on the Book of Job in which he famously observed:

“Scripture is like a river, broad and deep,
shallow enough here for a lamb to go wading,
but deep enough there for an elephant to swim.”

And interestingly, the “here” and the “there” can be the same text. Nowhere are Gregory’s words more apparently true than in James’ letter to Jewish Christians dispersed throughout the known world.

Years ago I remember listening to some recordings of “end times” dispensationalist teacher Hal Lindsey. I’m not sure I ever knew where he was teaching or the identity of his audience, but when he introduced his series of messages on the Book of Daniel, wild applause broke out. It was as if he was finally giving them what they were paying him for – a view into the future!

As I have been studying the Letter of James over the past three or four months, I have been fascinated to see how much like those Hal Lindsey listeners many commentators are and how shallow they make James’ message to be! For them James presents a set of practical hints and habits that, when appropriated, put the doer in good standing with God and others. It is this type of interpretation that drove Martin Luther to seek to banish the book of James from the New Testament canon. He saw such an interpretation as simply a re-tool of the law; another play of the Judaisers to lead people away from the Gospel. If Luther could read some modern interpretations of James, he would surely feel vindicated.

But, the truth is, the Letter of James is so much more than a place for lambs to wade. It’s not a legal re-tool. It’s not a compendium of “handy-dandy tips” for Christian living. It’s not an appeal to the human will. It’s a heater for the heart. It’s a letter that the Holy Spirit has used throughout history to move Christians out of their complacency and into a fully equipped ministry that reflects the character of Jesus Christ.

For years at Hebron we have taken seriously what Paul sets forth in Ephesians 4:12 as the goal of the ministry: “To equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Today Hebron’s even more committed to that goal by actively seeking to ENGAGE people with the Gospel, EVANGELIZE those who have been engaged, ESTABLISH them in the faith, and EQUIP them for the work of ministry which is Engaging, Evangelizing, and Establishing others in the faith. And the Letter of James is a perfect tool for the job. It’s full of admonitions and applications set against the backdrop of Christ’s finished work.

This Sunday we begin where James begins in 1:1-4. After issuing a single greeting, James dives in and so will we.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Who is this James? (If you were at the 7:00 pm service on Christmas Eve you may remember.)
  2. How is this James like the younger son in the “Prodigal Son” story Jesus tells in Luke 15?
  3. Who are the twelve tribes of the dispersion?
  4. What amazing confession does James make in verse 1? And why is it so amazing?
  5. What does James tell us about trials, troubles, and temptations in verse 2?
  6. On what grounds should they bring us joy?
  7. How do trials test our faith?
  8. What is steadfastness?
  9. How does steadfastness make us perfect and complete?
  10. How does steadfastness make us lack for nothing?
See you Sunday!