Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Great Struggle - Henry Knapp

I am not sure where I developed the habit, but I can be a bit of a contrarian. A “contrarian” is one of those annoying individuals who start every third sentence with “yea, but…” and proceed to point out the opposite side of every argument.

In my most self-charitable moments, I suspect that I act that way because that’s the way I learn. If I want to understand something, I learn not only what that thing is, but also what it is not. I’m always looking for the boundaries—how far this way, or that way, can I waver and still be “in the right?” And, so it is with my faith—if I want to understand something, learning about the opposite helps me a lot. When studying about, for instance, the resurrection of Jesus, it helps me to read others’ thoughts who would reject that teaching. Learning about their wrong-thinking, helps to solidify my own thinking. Few folks have been more helpful in this than a particular pastor who often blogs thoughts that defy description.

In one such blog, this pastor described how it is appropriate to describe himself as a Christian even though he doesn’t believe God exists. “What??" you ask. “A pastor who doesn’t think God exists?” Yes, he thinks “God” is a useful metaphor and thinks that acting morally qualifies him as a Christian pastor. Reading his thinking helps me see what is wrong with a faith that loses sight of Jesus. Now, I grant you, he is an extreme case. But still, there is a lot of Christ-less Christianity going around… and perhaps there is some in our lives as well.

The thought of a Christ-less Christianity should strike us as an impossibility. After all, what could be more central than Christ to Christianity? But, Christ-less-ness doesn’t just mean that one denies Jesus. It just means that Jesus is no longer the center of one’s faith. Something else—often something good—takes the place of Jesus in our universe. There are a lot of wonderful things in this world. There are a lot of good ideas in this world. There are a lot of good deeds to do in this world. But all that good-ness can actually distract us from what is truly central in our lives—Jesus Christ.

As we have been working our way through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the centrality of Jesus (His supremacy and sufficiency) should be clear to us all. Paul is writing this way because the Colossians are struggling with the same temptations that we have—temptations to get distracted from Christ and toward something else, anything else. How do we fight this temptation? How do we keep from getting off-course in our lives and our faith? Paul’s answer to the Colossians at the beginning of chapter 2 is to share the struggles and the goals of his ministry. By doing so, his readers might reach the full knowledge of Christ, and not be deluded by any other good-sounding thing.

If you too find yourself often in “Christ-less” situations, tempted toward Christ-less goals in life, dig in! For in the Word of God you will find Jesus, the incomparable Christ.

See you at worship this Sunday as we study together Colossians 2:1-5.

1. Why would Paul want to share with others how much he struggles in ministry? Why would that be a good thing?

2. Paul says that he struggles even for those who he has never met. Why is that important? What does that say to you and your ministry?

3. Why do our hearts need to be encouraged? Why do we need to be knit together? Is this a message only for those who are down-hearted and feeling separated from others?

4. In verse 4, Paul is concerned about “plausible arguments”. Where do you think those are coming from? What do you think makes them “plausible”?

5. What brings Paul joy in verse 5? Why does “good order” bring him joy? What might “good order” look like?

6. How do you know if you have a “firmness of faith in Christ”? (vs. 5) How does Paul expect you to get it?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Hidden Mystery - Doug Rehberg

It’s one of the greatest lines ever uttered, from one of the greatest characters of human history—Winston Churchill.

It came during one of his earliest BBC broadcasts to the British people during the early days of World War II. It was Sunday night, October 1, 1939, and Churchill said:
The British Empire and the French Republic have been at war with Nazi Germany for a month tonight. We have not yet come at all to the severity of fighting which is to be expected, but several important things have happened.

First, Poland has been again overrun by two of the great powers which held it in bondage for the last 150 years, but were unable to conquer the spirit of the Polish nation. The heroic defence of Warsaw shows that the soul of Poland is indestructible and that she will rise again like a rock, which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains a rock.

What is the second event of this first month? It is, of course, the assertion of the power of Russia. Russia has pursued a cold policy of self-interest. We could have wished that the Russians armies should be standing on their present lines as the friends of the allies in Poland, instead of as invaders. But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace.

When Herr von Ribbentrapp was summoned to Moscow last week it was to learn the fact, and to accept the fact, that the Nazi designs upon the Baltic States and upon the Ukraine must come to a dead stop.

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key, that key is Russian national interest.

There it is – “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” That’s what Paul is talking about in Sunday’s text.

He’s writing from prison, to a group of Christians he’s never met. And here he speaks of a mystery far more significant and substantial than Mother Russia and her political pursuits. He speaks of the grand mystery of God that’s been hidden and unknown from the beginning of time. Paul says it this way, “the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed to the saints.”

In other words, from Adam to Jesus, God had a singular mystery that remained hidden. Adam didn’t know it, nor did Abraham, Moses, David, or any prophet. It was a riddle, a mystery, an enigma. But now, says Paul, every Christian knows it. It’s been thoroughly revealed.

What is this divine mystery? Paul tells us—“It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

This Sunday we will examine Colossians 1:24-29 to discover four great aspects of this revealed mystery.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled “The Hidden Mystery” you may wish to consider the following:

1. What does Paul mean when he says that his sufferings are filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? (see verse 24)

2. Why is he rejoicing in his suffering for their sake?

3. How does Acts 9:16 relate to Colossians 1:24?

4. In light of verse 26, how does Paul see the Old Testament Scriptures?

5. How does Galatians 4:1-7 relate to what Paul is saying in our text?

6. What do you learn when you compare Colossians 1:2 to Colossians 1:27?

7. See I John 4:1-4.

8. How is every believer “the new tabernacle”, “the new Temple”?

9. What are the implications of verse 27?

10. What do the pronouns in verse 28 tell us about Paul and you? (see II Corinthians 12:9)

See you Sunday!