Thursday, October 31, 2019

Greater than Moses - Doug Rehberg

It was the first sermon I ever preached. It was entitled, “Encounters of the Closest Kind”. It was a riff on an immensely popular Hollywood movie at the time—“Encounters of the Third Kind”. But it was more than that. The title fit the text—I Kings 18 and Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal.

Ahab, the King of Israel, had ordered all the people of Israel to gather together at Mount Carmel for a showdown between the prophet of God and the 450 prophets of the false god, the god of the Canaanites, Baal. It seems that, in the opinion of the King and his prophets, Baal was more to be worshipped than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So there’s a showdown.

The terms are simple. Both the prophets of Baal and the prophet of God (Elijah) will set up altars. They both will sacrifice animals and place the carcasses on the altar. They both will call out to their god, and the one who answers with fire will prove he’s the one and only god.

Now it’s interesting to observe in this account that while the prophets of Baal follow the established procedure, Elijah adds a significant degree of difficulty to his setup. The Bible says that after putting the wood in order, and placing the offering (the bull carcass), he commands that four jars of water be poured all over it. Not once, not twice, but three times! In fact, the Bible says there’s so much water that it fills a trench that Elijah had dug all around the altar. Even without reading further you can guess what happens. After spending a whole day crying out to Baal and cutting themselves, Baal fails. Baal, the god of the false prophets fails to bail them out!

But not so with the true God. The Bible says that when the fire falls from heaven it not only consumes the whole sacrifice, but it “licks up” all the water standing in the trench!

And the question that prompts all of this is a simple one—which god is worthy of our worship? In other words, who is the real God? The answer is crystal clear—the God of Elijah is the one and only God. It’s an encounter of the closest kind!

When you come to the end of John 5, John gives us a similar encounter. Think of it. Jesus has just healed a man who’s been paralyzed for 38 years. He’s just healed a man who’s totally unable to help himself. And yet, the reaction of the Jewish leaders is to want to kill Him. And the reason is clear, He’s making Himself equal with God. Whereas, at other times, Jesus slips away from His antagonists, this time He stands and challenges them.

What we have here, in John 5:18-47, is a comprehensive defense of the deity of Jesus. In fact, He cites 10 proofs of His deity here in this text. But instead of detailing all 10 of His claims, we will examine Jesus’ defense by using His words to the Samaritan woman in John 4:13. We will look at the THIRST, the TAP, the TEST, and the TRAGEDY. Just like the prophets of Baal, these religious leaders are blind to the identity of the One true God who’s no longer sitting in heaven, but standing before them. And what question is, “Are we?”

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

1. What prompts the Jews’ anger in chapter 5?
2. How is Jesus guilty of the charge that He’s making Himself equal with God?
3. What does Jesus mean in verse 19? How does this relate to His words in John 15:5?
4. What is the essence of the Jews’ problem as pinpointed in verse 39?
5. What is Jesus saying about the purpose of the Scriptures?
6. What’s Jesus’ message to the Jews in verse 24?
7. What is the proof of Jesus’ deity in verse 30?
8. What’s Jesus saying about Himself in verses 46 & 47?
9. What do you think of Jesus’ charge in verse 44?
10. What’s Jesus saying to you about yourself in this text?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Obedience When It Doesn't Make Sense - Henry Knapp

All too often we forget the “human element” when reading Scripture. These were real people, in real-life situations with real feelings, hopes, and desires. And, contrary to what we might think, they were not so different from us. Yes, of course, they didn’t have technology like we do. Yes, their culture was vastly different from ours. Yes, we certainly have more information than they did. But still. They were human; and together we share basic human thoughts, desires, and emotions.

So imagine: what would it have been like to be told to march around an armed, hostile city for seven days? And then, on the seventh day, to march around it a lot, and then… scream loud! No other battle plan, no siege works, no military preparations, just… march and scream. I can’t imagine what must have been going through the Israelites’ minds as they marched around an enemy-infested Jericho (Joshua 6). What kind of lunacy was this?

It is possible to suppose that the people back then were just so superstitious that it was easy to believe their God when He told them to do something nutty. Or, it’s easy to imagine that ancient peoples somehow didn’t realize how improbable it was that their actions would have any effect. Or, perhaps folks back then were simply easily duped.

Or, could it be that, by and large, they were just like us; and when told to do something by God that sounds, well, simply outrageous—they struggled spiritually to do what God has commanded.

Certainly, I know that is my experience. So many times throughout my Christian life, my Lord has directed me one way or another, and I’ve thought… “No, He can’t mean that! That makes no sense whatsoever!” Honestly, taking that job? Helping that person? Denying myself that desire? I can’t see why God would insist on that; He must mean something, anything else but that!

Oh, the Christian faith would be so easy if it just meant doing what I want, thinking what I already think, acting according to my way of living. Obedience would be so much easier if I’m obeying what I already think I should do. But, what about when it makes no sense? What about when acting obediently means doing something that I really disagree with? Or, think is the wrong, unwise step? Come to think of it, is it really obedience in faith if I’m only acting on what I think is right?

Wouldn’t a much better sign of my obedience to my Lord be when I follow His command when I can’t make sense of it?

Obedience is simply my doing what I want, if all it is, is what I want.
Faith is simply faith in me, if all it is, is believing what makes sense to me.
Christianity is simply Henry-anity, if all it is, is… well… me!

But, true obedience, true faith, true Christianity is not me; it is Him! It is doing what He desires, if I understand it or not. It is believing His Word, if I like it or not. It is following Him, if I like where He is going or not.

Join me, as we strengthen our faith, seek to be obedient in all situations, and faithfully follow our Lord in every situation.

This week in preparation for worship, read John 5:1-17.

1. Jesus once again goes to Jerusalem. Why (vs. 1)? Why do you think more information is not given here about which feast is in view?

2. What significance is there to the pool? What would this look like for a Jew?

3. What happened to verse 4?

4. In verse 6, Jesus “knew” that the man had been there for a long time. How?

5. What is the man’s attitude toward Jesus? How do you read his “tone” in verse 7?

6. Break Jesus’ command in verse 8 into three separate parts. What might each imply?

7. Why would the Jews be so obsessed with the Sabbath day? What is right in their concern? What is wrong?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Value of the Second Sign - Doug Rehberg

Marvin Gaye was an American singer-songwriter and musician whose career spanned more than two decades. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., he was the son of a store-front minister of a local Pentecostal church. He grew up singing gospel music in his church and in area revivals.

As a teenager, Gaye branched out into secular music, as did so many Motown artists. After serving in the Air Force he joined the doo-wop group “The Marquees”. Following the band’s separation in 1960, Gaye went to work as a session drummer for the Detroit music label, Anna, then signed with Motown Records in 1961.

On July 17, 1963 Motown released the first of Marvin Gaye’s many hits, “Can I Get a Witness”. It was written by others, but Gaye was the first to record it. Since then numerous big name artists have remade it, like Dusty Springfield, Lee Michaels, The Supremes, The Temptations, and The Rolling Stones.

Though the song is about a lonely man and an inconsiderate woman, anyone who has even a passing familiarity with old-time revival meetings and Pentecostal worship will know that the phrase, “Can I get a witness,” means more than securing an indictment against a boorish lover. When a preacher is warming to his task, he often calls out, “Can I get a witness?” He means, “Can I get somebody to confirm what I’ve just said?”

Now, often this elicits a hearty “Amen” or “Preach it, brother”. But often the call is for more than that. The call is for someone to come up to the front and give a testimony of what the Lord has done in a life that confirms the truth of what’s just been expressed. In the best circumstances, it’s the testimony of someone in whom the Holy Spirit is actively engaged. This person comes forward and confirms the truth of what has just been said based on their own experience.

Long before Marvin Gaye, the Bible affirmed the need for a witness. In the Old Testament a witness could be a person, a monument, a memorial that signifies that a testimony or an agreement was genuine. In the courtrooms of Israel an individual’s testimony was insufficient to prove the validity of something. A witness was needed. In fact, the number 2 is the number of witness in the Scriptures. This is the point Jesus labors in John 8 when He’s talking to the Jews about His own identity. He says, “I am the one who bears witness about me.” The Pharisees had charged that He’s simply bearing witness to Himself, by Himself.

Now all of this relates to our text this Sunday—John 4:43-54. Here John tells us of a third person Jesus encounters in the opening chapters of his gospel. First, it’s Nicodemus. Then, it’s the woman at the well. And now, it’s a nobleman from Capernaum who travels 15 miles to Cana in a desperate search for Jesus. In each encounter we learn so much about the Gospel. But it’s in this third encounter we learn something more. This is the second miracle or sign performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John (John’s only got seven of them). It’s the second and final sign Jesus performs in Cana (Cana’s only mentioned three times in the New Testament, and every one is by John). And as you dig into this miraculous encounter you find a clear witness of who Jesus is and what He can do in any life. It’s a rich text that we will study together in a message entitled, “The Value of a Second Sign”.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1. Why does Jesus spend nearly 3 whole days in and around Sychar, Samaria? (see verse 43)
2. What is John intimating in verse 44 about the people of Galilee?
3. Where is Jesus most welcomed in chapters 3 & 4? Judea? Galilee? Or Samaria? What’s that tell you?
4. Why is verse 46 so important to John?
5. How far is Cana from Capernaum?
6. What does John want us to know about this man who comes to Jesus?
7. What similarities are there between Jesus’ two encounters in Cana?
8. Why does Jesus say what He says in verse 48?
9. What do we learn about this man in verse 49?
10. What more do we learn about him in verse 53?
11. What does this second sign say to us about our relationship with Jesus?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Evangelism - Henry Knapp

“Evangelism.” A word which often strikes fear into the hearts of many faithful followers. Fear—because it is hard. Fear—because we are worried we will do it wrong. Fear—because we know that we should be doing it far more than what we are.

Evangelism means simply the process of sharing the Gospel. But there is nothing “simple” about it. Not, mind you, because sharing the Gospel is complicated. No, evangelism is not simple because of the challenges around doing it. The challenge of being faithful and true to the biblical Gospel message. The challenge of finding the right time, the right place, the right people to share the Gospel with. The challenge of having the right attitude and heart when sharing.

The Gospel is life. Pure and simple. And, without the Gospel people are lost—now and forever. Sharing the Gospel is a gift of love—love to the person we are sharing it with and love to the Lord, the Author of salvation. Evangelism is an expression of our desire to love others. It is an expression of our love for Jesus. It is an expression of thanks for our own salvation.

Yet, “evangelism” still strikes fear into most hearts.

Billy Graham was an evangelist… but, I’m no Billy Graham. Many of us will know a fellow believer who eagerly and openly shares the Gospel… but, that’s not us, we think. So, we want to love our Lord by sharing His Gospel. We want to love others by sharing life with them. We want to be faithful in evangelism as in all things; but… can we really do it?

At various places in the Scripture we see evangelism happening. Peter’s sermon following Pentecost is nothing less than a glorious presentation of the Gospel. Numerous times in the book of Acts we read of Paul’s articulation of the Gospel. Throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus communicates the message of salvation. But nowhere is it as clear as when Jesus meets with the Samaritan woman, recorded in John 4. Reading this account, we see the Master Evangelist at work—we see His understanding of the Gospel message. We see His approach to the woman. We see His concern for truth and His compassion.

Evangelism might at times seem scary; but we have the greatest message, the greatest Lord, and the greatest example in John 4.

As you prepare for worship this week, give John 4 a read.

1. In verse 7, why do you think Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water? What does that say about Jesus? Can you draw any implications for sharing the Gospel?

2. In verse 9, the Samaritan marvels that Jesus would even bother to talk with her. Why? What are the differences between the two?

3. How does the adjective “living” influence the noun “water”? In other words, what is “living water”?

4. “Water” is a popular symbol and/or metaphor in the Old Testament. Can you think of places where it is used?

5. In verse 12, the Samaritan assumes that Jacob is great. Why? Why would she be interested in if Jesus were greater?

6. Can you flesh out the metaphor in verses 13 and 14? What is a drink? How might that “well up” to eternal life?

7. What is Jesus’ point in drawing attention to her marital status? How does Jesus’ action here speak of His evangelism?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Second Time Around - Doug Rehberg

The man’s a famous Baptist minister, at a famous Baptist church, in a famously Baptist city in the south. And until some well-placed friends challenged my understanding of salvation I would have believed everything he said. His understanding of salvation is summed up in the following sermon illustration he gave years ago.

Imagine that everyone in the world is a fast-moving river headed to destruction because of their sin. In that river are people of every race, gender, and age who are being swept away toward a giant waterfall. At the bottom of the falls are jagged rocks that will destroy anyone who encounters them.

But our Holy God doesn’t abandon us. He stations Jesus on the shoreline Who calls to everyone in the river to grab ahold of a life preserver He has thrown into the river. Each life preserver has a rope attached to it, and all a person must do is reach out and grab the life preserver and He will pull them to safety.

Now that’s the story he told to a national audience. His message was simple—we’re all in trouble. We’re all headed to destruction. But rather than sitting idly by, God sends His Son into this world with the offer of salvation. All we have to do is reach out and accept His offer, and we will be saved. In other words, salvation is a cooperative effort.

That’s the message I had been taught as a kid. Like millions of other Christians it was the lens through which I read the Bible. God did His part in Christ, now we must do our part. And when I was 19 years old that lens was shattered. I suddenly came to recognize that’s NOT AT ALL what the Bible teaches.

Instead of standing on the shoreline tossing life preservers, Jesus jumps into the river! He swims to those He chooses and hauls them back to shore. They don’t cooperate; because they’re dead in the water. Then He pulls them onto the shoreline where He resurrects them. He breathes new life into them, and they are transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life. That’s the message of the Gospel. And nowhere is that clearer than in John 3 where Jesus encounters a man named Nicodemus.

When the Protestant Reformation raised the old question, “What must I do to be saved?” Martin Luther and his younger admirer, John Calvin, answered, “Nothing!” Salvation, they insisted, is entirely the result of God’s loving grace revealed to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation does not depend on our acknowledgement of our sins nor our desire to escape the consequences of them. While Americans love the “can do” attitude of self-reliance, Jesus abhors it. And nowhere is He more plain or pointed about it than in this engagement with Nicodemus.

We are going to examine John 3:1-21 this Sunday in a message entitled, “The Second Time Around”. In preparation for our study you may wish to consider the following:

1. Who is Nicodemus?
2. What does it mean that he’s “a ruler” of the Jews?
3. Why does he come to Jesus at night?
4. What signs is he referencing in verse 2?
5. Why does Jesus answer Nicodemus’ compliment as He does in verse 3 if this is a non-sequitur?
6. Why does Jesus use the term “born again” or “born anew” to describe salvation?
7. Why is Nicodemus marveling in verse 7?
8. What is Jesus saying about “the wind” in verse 8?
9. Why is Jesus biting in his criticism of Nicodemus in verse 10?
10. How do verses 1-15 inform us of the meaning of John 3:16?

See you Sunday as we celebrate our new life in Christ around the Table.