Wednesday, March 27, 2019

How Then Shall We Live - Scott Parsons

The book of Colossians is Paul’s treatise on the preeminence of Christ.  Having spelled out in chapter 1 how Christ is supreme over everything, he spends the rest of the letter explaining how we should live in view of this fact.  The passage we will look at Sunday, Colossians 4:2-6, is Paul’s summary of how we should live in view of our new life in Jesus.

Ordinarily I would now go on to expound on the truths of this passage, but I would like to deviate from that pattern today.  While my continued role with PitCare will ensure that I will be returning to Pittsburgh (and Hebron) on a regular basis, this is the last time I will be a part of the preaching rotation.  Part of my joy in preaching this week is that I know that I will not be preaching anything new to you but will be reminding you of the gospel truths that you are already demonstrating as a church body.  I know that because you have demonstrated them over and over again in my life and in the life of my family.

For over a year we searched for a church home and had begun to fear we would not find a suitable place.  From our very first week at Hebron you did not treat us with suspicion or concern (most pastors don’t like other pastors coming in and “invading their turf”).  Instead you welcomed us and provided us with opportunities to use our gifts among you.  You also joined with us in our ministry at PitCare and have become a huge part of that work.  You embraced my family and treated Lilah with love and respect.  Most of all, when Kim died, you provided for us in ways that are still mind boggling to me.  I honestly don’t know if I could have done it without you.  Finally, Doug has not only been a shepherd to my family, but a friend to me.  I am excited about the new life before me, I will miss my church home.  May God bless, strengthen and encourage you as you serve him in the years to come.



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Rich Living - Doug Rehberg

For 13 years Larry Bird played for the Boston Celtics. During his professional career he was a 12-time NBA All-Star. Three times he won the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Twice he won the NBA Finals MVP award. And three times in 13 years the Celtics won the World Championship. Fellow NBA great and fierce competitor, Irving “Magic” Johnson, said of Bird, “In all of my playing career there was only one player I feared, and that was Larry Bird.”

One of the reasons Magic feared Bird was because Bird had a total command of the basketball court. Larry Bird always knew where everybody was on the court regardless of the speed of the game. The truth is, like all great athletes, the game “slowed down” for Bird. It was as if he could see everything moving in slow motion; thus his ability to always be at the right spot at the right time.

If you remember watching Larry Bird play basketball you will recall the blind passes he was able to make to open teammates. You may recall how in a championship game he caught a ball that was headed out of bounds under the basket with his right hand and then transitioned it to his left hand; and while he was still in the air he made the shot! It seemed like no game was too far out of reach for the Celtics when Bird was on the court.

Do you know one of the reasons Larry Bird was such a dominating force on the basketball court? It was because he was as equally good with his right hand as his left. Though he was right-handed, he could go left or right with equal prowess. And the reason for that was when he was young, junior high school age, he tied his right arm behind his back for months at a time. Think of it. Though he was born right-handed he made himself ambidextrous! In every way he could use his left hand as well as his right.

Remember “Sweetness” Walter Payton? Like Larry Bird, Payton’s professional career spanned 13 years. For 13 years he played as a premier running back for the Chicago Bears. Payton was one of the greatest players in NFL history. He was selected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He was an All-Star 9 times. For a time he gained the most yards of any running back in history. He was poetry in motion.

You know how he got that way? The hill! There was a hill he would run over and over again during the off season. He described it as “killing himself”. In the history of professional athletes no one out-trained Walter Payton.

Why do I bring all of this up? It’s simple. In the case of Bird and Payton what made them so accomplished on the court or the field was their ability to transfer their respective training regimens to the situations they faced every time they played their game. In other words, their practice perfectly prepared them for the game.

It's called “praxis”. It’s the ability to bring knowledge and theory to bear on practical life situations. And that’s exactly what Paul is saying at the end of Colossians 3. He’s talking about praxis.

For the past 2 weeks Henry has been bringing to light what Paul has been saying to the Colossians about their identity in Christ. In Colossians 3:1 he says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above…” And for 17 verses he shows us what that looks like. He tells us what the Holy Spirit can enable us to take off, as in our old pre-Christ selves, and put on, as in our new selves in Christ.

But when we come to 3:18-4:1 Paul shifts the focus from practice to the game. Here in 9 verses Paul talks about three different relationships in which our “raised with Christ nature” can and should be seen. What’s it mean to “put on love” and live a “raised” life as a husband or a wife? What’s it mean to put on love and live a raised life as a child or a parent? What’s it mean to put on love and live a raised life as a servant or a master?

Over the history of the church there are many who have railed against Paul as a slavery justifier or a complementarian or an equalitarian, etc. But all of that misses the mark. All such criticism discounts the things Paul says in the verses that precede verse 18; “the practice”.

This Sunday we will pick up where Henry left off in verse 14 and read down through 4:1. In a message entitled “Rich Living”, we will seek to discover all that Paul is saying about how we are to play the game.

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

1. What does Jesus mean in Mark 12:17 when He says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”?
2. How does Jesus equate that coin to our lives?
3. How is the image of God recaptured by the resurrection of Jesus?
4. What is Paul’s definition of love in verse 14?
5. How does he apply it to his command to wives and husbands?
6. How do Paul’s commands in verses 18 & 19 differ from the extent Jewish household code?
7. What does Genesis 3:16(b) mean?
8. What is shocking about Paul’s admonition in verse 20?
9. Why single out fathers in verse 21?
10. Why doesn’t Paul rail against slavery in 3:22 through 4:1?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Dressed for Success - Henry Knapp

Do you remember “streaking”? The fad, that is, not actually “streaking.” I’m just SURE that none of you ever participated in such a thing…

(“Streaking,” in case you are wondering, was a silly fad in the 1970s of running around naked. Yep. Naked.)

Along with just being creepy, those participating in the fad had a very distinctive view of the role and purpose of clothing. For most of us, clothing is simply a way to accomplish two necessary goals at once—to keep warm and to cover up certain parts of our bodies. Some people are more conscious of fashion and such, and consequently do the clothing-thing much better than others; but overall, clothing is a necessity against the cold and against the eyes of others.

Of course, there is a minor strain that argues that “the clothes make the man,” that somehow what you wear helps define you and/or shape you. I suspect everyone has had the experience of “feelin’ good” when dressed up. To “dress the part” actually makes some sense.

The Scriptures too speak of clothing—actually, probably more than you have realized. Most of the time, the description of clothing is a tip-off of what is coming. Samuel is first described as wearing a linen ephod—the dress of a priest. Saul wears armor (as a warrior) or a robe (as a king). Elijah passes on his cloak to his disciple, Elisha, so he too might carry on the work of the Lord. The people of Nineveh wore sackcloth to express their repentance. Clothing so frequently in the Bible is used as a literary device to tell us more about the person than what is explicitly stated.  

But, occasionally, the biblical authors use clothing as something more. Sometimes, the clothing really does make the man. God often uses clothing, not simply as an indicator of one’s job, but actually as conveying status. The robe the father puts on his prodigal son is not an indicator that he is somehow worthy of blessing; rather, the father declares, through the robe, that his son will be treated as the prodigal no more. As Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden of Eden—surely a powerful judgement on their sin—God nevertheless clothes them. This is not simply an act of kindness, keeping them warm. Rather, God is marking them as His own. When Ruth asks Boaz to cover her with his cloak, she is asking that he would claim her as his own. On the cross, our Lord is stripped bare, reflecting His separation from the Father. In these and other examples, one’s clothing identifies you as you really are.

In Colossians 3:12, Paul commands that we “put on… compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” The verb he uses here, “to put on”, can also be translated as “to clothe yourself.” Paul is exhorting us to dress according to what we really are. If we have been redeemed by Christ, if we are His and His alone, then we must wear appropriate clothing. We must “look the part”, for we have been claimed by Him; and so we must look like Him—demonstrating His compassion, His kindness and humility.

In short, our “outside” should look like our “inside”. If Christ is in your heart, if you have been united with Him in His death and resurrection, then let us clothe ourselves with His likeness, so that all may see and know of our incomparable Christ!

Questions to ponder in Colossians 3:1-14 in preparation for this coming Sunday:

1. Verse 5 begins with a “therefore”. What is it there for? 

2. The list of bad things at the end of verse 5 looks pretty intimidating. But, assuming that God intends for this text to speak to you as well as to mass-murders, how might each description speak of your own sin?

3. Note verse 7. Does this mean that we all were all those bad things listed in verse 5? Really? 

4. In verses 8, 9, and 10, Paul uses that language of clothing we have been talking about. Notice the implications of all he says here—we are clothed!

5. How does verse 11 fit? If we all are clothed in Christ, how does that affect us in how we view one another?

6. We are to put off five things in verse 5, and five things in verse 8. How do the five virtues of verse 12 connect?

7. Before Paul commands us to “dress”, he calls us “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”. Why do you think he does that? What does each communicate to you?  

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Walking Away from Death - Henry Knapp

“Why don’t you act your age?” Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that one…

I’m not sure if I matured slower than others, or if this comment just comes naturally to every parent, but I was frequently told to act my age. Why, just the other day, Kelly said to me… well, nevermind.

Acting your age… the thought behind the idea is that one should act in accordance with your age. Immature action is at least understandable from one who is young, but with age should come a certain level of maturity which shows in what we do. While it is not impossible to find someone who acts “older than what they are,” it is all too frequent to see someone acting like a juvenile child.

When we challenge our children, or our friends, to “act their age,” we are implying an expectation that one should act according to what is true. If you are 2-years-old, then act like a toddler. If you are in your teens, then act like a teenager. If you are in your 40s, then act that way. The implication is so straight-forward that it is hard to miss—you should act according to who and what you really are.

This is the logic employed so very frequently in the Scriptures. People act according to what they are; your nature, what you are down at the core, shapes your actions. One who is a follower of the Lord will walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1). Why should you expect saltwater to flow from a fresh spring (James 3)? Of course, it is not surprising that meat spoils without salt as a preservative (Matthew 5). Dead people do dead things (Luke 9); but living people should do living things (John 11). Children of God act one way; but if you act another way, you prove yourself to be a child of the devil (John 8).

Throughout the opening two chapters of his epistle to the Colossians, Paul has been painting a picture of Christ as preeminent, supreme, and sufficient in all of life. And, he has defined what it means to be a follower of this incomparable Lord—the mystery is that Christ is in us, and we are in Christ. In coming to the Lord Jesus, we have become new creatures, something vastly different than what we were before. The change is not so much in what we think, or in what we believe, or in what we do—the change is in what we are. And, of course, Paul expects us to “act our age,” or, to act according to what we really are. If we are “in Christ” then we should, and we will, act that way. To do otherwise is inconceivable to Paul. Should we continue as believers to sin? “May it never happen!” Paul cries (Romans 6). Why? Simply because that is not who we are any longer. We now belong to Him, so we must act that way.

Once Paul has described who we truly are now that we find ourselves “in Christ,” he begins to tell the Colossians what actions are consistent with their new identity. Note carefully, Paul does not demand that we act a certain way in order to become believers. Rather, he argues that since we ARE new creations, we should ACT as new creations. We should “act our age.” We should live as we truly are—“in Christ.”

Questions to ponder in Colossians 3:1-5 in preparation for this coming Sunday:

1. Why do we often need to be reminded to “act our age”? Sure, there are lots of reasons, but how might these translate in your walk with the Lord?

2. In Colossians 2:20, Paul uses the same logic he employs in our text. What is the parallel between these two texts?

3. What does it mean to be “raised with Christ”. What does it “feel like”? How do you know if this has happened?

4. If someone were to look at your life, what would they say you were “seeking”? What does it look like to “seek” something?

5. What are “the things above”? Do you think Paul has in mind specific things?

6. If we are not to set our minds on earthly things, how can we be of any earthly help to anyone?

7. What lies behind the imagery of being “hidden with Christ”? What might that look like?

8. You will also appear with Christ in glory. How about that!