Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Essentials: "The Person and Work of the Spirit" - Henry Knapp

 He’s a busy Spirit!

 In my nightmares, I am terrified that many of my Christian friends at Hebron would agree with the sentiments of Acts 19:2. When asked about the work of the Holy Spirit, these baby disciples respond with the observation, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Not even heard of Him! Egads! The dream gets worse when I think I might be part of the problem: that I haven’t shared enough about what the Bible says about the Spirit, what He has done in my life, what I know to be true of His Presence. And then I wake up, and pray…Lord, fill us with your Spirit!

 When the Bible speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, it describes His actions in various ways—His actions in creation, in God’s providential guiding of this world, in writing the Bible, in convicting and judging sin in this world, and in applying Christ’s salvation into our lives. With all this and more, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in Creation.

 I want to focus on the Spirit’s work of “applying Christ’s salvation into our lives.” We believe that Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from our bondage to sin. But, how do we become aware of that? How does what Jesus did work into our lives? This is part of what the Spirit does in the life of the believer.    

  • Conviction:  The Spirit brings to mind the presence of residual sin in our lives—having forgiven us, the Spirit draws us to confession (John 16:8).
  • Regeneration: Through the ministry of the Spirit a person is born again, receives eternal life, and is renewed (John 3:3-8).
  • Indwelling: The Spirit abides in the believer (Romans 8:9-11).
  • Sealing: God seals believers with the Spirit, marking us with ownership and the promise of final redemption (Ephesians 1:13).
  • Filling: Believers are “filled” with the Spirit, strengthened to spiritual growth, maturity, and faithfulness far beyond our natural abilities (Ephesians 5:18).
  • Guidance: We are to walk in the Spirit and be led by the Spirit, avoiding legalism and sin, providing discipline and direction (Galatians 5:16).
  • Empowering: The indwelling Spirit provides victory in the Christian life (Romans 8:13).
  • Teaching: Jesus promises that the Spirit will lead believers into the truth, illuminating the mind, and restoring God’s will through the Word (John 14:26)

And, the best of all…

  • Transformation: The work of the Spirit is the means by which we are transformed more and more, day by day, into the image of Christ Himself (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 Well, I guess I don’t know if “transformation” is the best or not, since, really, all the works of the Spirit are life to the believer!

 I hope and pray that your awareness of the Spirit’s presence and work deepens, grows, and matures more and more every day. Join us this Sunday as we worship our Triune God!

 In preparation for worship this Sunday, read John 14:15-18 and 16:7-15.

 1. In 14:16, the Spirit is referred to as “another Helper.” Another than who? What does that tell us about who the Spirit is? He is also referred to as “the Spirit of truth.” What might that imply?

 2. In verse 15, Jesus speaks of love and keeping commandments, then immediately speaks about the Spirit. What connection might there be between the three?

 3. In 16:7, Jesus says that it is better for Him to go away so that the Spirit might come. Why might that be hard to believe? What confidence does the list above inspire?

 4. Read verses 8-11 carefully. What sense can you make of these? How does the Spirit convict the world of sin? Of righteousness? Of judgment?

 5. Verse 13. How might the Spirit lead you into all truth? Have you had any experience of this work of the Spirit in your life?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Essentials: The Sacrificial Death of Christ - Henry Knapp


 Onomatopoeia. I just like saying the word. Onomatopoeia.

 I don’t exactly remember when I first learned the word, “onomatopoeia,” but the same twisted sense of joy I feel today about the word started back then. An onomatopoeia is a word or phrase that sounds like its meaning: Bang! Pop! Meow! Whoosh! Learning about onomatopoeias started me thinking about words themselves and has led to some interesting (at least to me!) observations.

 Take the theological term “atonement.” Atonement means “a reparation or making amends for a wrong or injury,” and in biblical use describes the reconciling of God to man through the sacrificial death of Jesus. But what I like about the word “atonement,” word-wise, is how we got it as a theological term to begin with.

 When translating the Bible from Greek and Latin into English in the early 1500s for the first time, William Tyndale was faced with a problem. The biblical authors use a word which in both Greek and Latin has a rich, deep, and comprehensive meaning. It means some mixture of “being reconciled one to another,” with “paying a price” and “freedom and forgiveness” all stirred together. For instance, something marvelous is going on when the Bible describes the sacrificial system in Exodus and Leviticus—“forgiveness, redemption, cost, reconciliation, sacrifice.” Paul has this same complex of ideas in mind in Romans 5 when he talks of Jesus’ death on the cross. The problem confronting Tyndale was that there was no single English word which did justice to the breadth of the biblical idea.

 How, he asked, could you describe in one word, the means whereby humans are reconciled to God, forgiven of their sin, the penalty being paid, God’s wrath satisfied? Having sin removed, peace and holiness restored, all by means of the blood of Jesus on the cross? How in English can you talk about the process of becoming one, reconciled to God, all in one word?

 Without an appropriate word, William Tyndale simply made one up! At-One-Ment. The ending “-ment” means “the process of…” (so, “refreshment” is the process of being refreshed). Atonement, then, was Tyndale’s attempt to capture the process of being “at one” with God: At-one-ment.

 More than just reconciliation, more than forgiveness, or sacrifice, or freedom, the work of Jesus is the very work of restoring our fellowship with God in all its depth and splendor. It is atonement.

 At Hebron Church, we often talk about the death of Jesus, and what He accomplished on the cross. While we don’t often use the term, “atonement,” that is what we are talking about. And, if we are to be true to the fullness of the biblical witness to the cross, we need to see the work of Jesus in its totality—capturing our forgiveness from sin, the reconciliation of God to His wayward people, the joy of the redeemed, and the praise to the Redeemer.

 In worship this week, we will try to capture the essence of atonement—celebrating the completeness of God’s salvific work in and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 In preparation for worship this week, read 1 Peter 2:21-25.

 1. Notice that we are jumping into the middle of an ongoing argument. Peter is addressing what it means to live under authority. How do our particular verses factor into that discussion?

 2. In verse 21, Christ’s suffering is to serve as an example. How so? What are we to learn from His example?

 3. We are told that we are “called” to this (verse 21). What are we “called” to? Can you give an illustration in your own life of that calling?

 4. Describe Christ’s example in verses 22-23. How is this an example for you? Is there a situation where you can apply this today?

 5. How does verse 25 connect to Peter’s argument here? Why does he mention sheep and the Shepherd?

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Essentials - The Nature of the Triune God - Henry Knapp

 Essential, Yet Beyond Understanding

I’m not a cat-guy. Now, I realize that in admitting that publicly, I’m inviting all you cat- aficionados to flood my email box with silly cat-thingies. Please…don’t. I mention not being a cat-guy because I do tend to identify with one quality of the cat, it’s curiosity. Of course, we have heard that curiosity killed the cat, and that’s because the cat is naturally curious. Well, so am I. I have this strong desire to understand what is happening, to explore anything odd, to investigate that which intrigues me.

This is true in all areas of my life—including my faith. How does this work? What does that mean? When might this occur? Where is that happening? I want to understand what I believe, make sense of what I’m taught and satisfy my curiosity in all things spiritual.

And, then I run into the Trinity. “One God who eternally exists in three different and distinct Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—all of whom are fully God, and all of whom are fully equal.”

Curiouser and curiouser. I want to explore, to learn, to understand. But, no matter how hard I look, no matter how much I study, I simply cannot grasp that which is beyond the finite brain. And the history of the Church is filled with failed attempts to explain the Trinity, botched efforts to grasp the ungraspable.

But our faith is not built on what we know, it is built on what God has revealed to us, what He has shown us of Himself, and He has shown us the Trinity (biblical support easily available on request!). So, by faith we grasp what we cannot know. We trust, not in our own ability to understand, but in His willingness to tell us. Often, that leaves us unsatisfied intellectually. That’s ok, for faith comes from hearing the Word of God.

I beg you, watch this four-minute video—hilarious! And, at the same time, a great teaching on the Trinity. {Note for joke at the end: Legend has it that St. Patrick chased all the snakes from Ireland}.

For worship this week, read Exodus 34, especially, verses 5-9.

 1. From the opening verses, what is the connection between the Law of God and meeting with God?

 2. Verse 5. Descending from a cloud could mean a couple of things. What is implied about God in saying He descended in a cloud?

 3. Verse 5 says God proclaimed His name, then in verse 6, He says a lot about Himself. What does that say about the “name” of God?

 4. Make a list of the qualities God claims here. What do we learn about Him from each? How do they speak about God’s “god-ish-ness?”

 5. What is Moses’s reaction in verses 8 and 9? How is that an appropriate reaction? Why is that not the reaction that we have every day?

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Essentials: The Authority of Scripture in Our Lives - Henry Knapp

 Essential   /e sen(t)Shel/ adj.  absolutely necessary; extremely important

I spent a lot of time early in life in the water. I grew up near a lake and went swimming as often as possible, some fishing, sailing, and water skiing. My “training” began early.  As a young boy I was in the water often, sometimes by myself, but most frequently with family and friends. And, when you are young, sometimes the decisions you make are not always the brightest…like, for instance, wrestling bigger kids than you while underwater. More than once, I gulped too much water when I couldn’t get up for air. Scary times.

I suspect if you had asked the 5-year-old me if air was an essential to life, I probably would have looked at you like you were a weirdo. But after some thought, I might have agreed that it was essential. But, did I really believe that it was? Was air essential to my life as a 5 year old swimming in the lake? Well, certainly I could not do without it, but I suspect the “essential character” of air for my body was only important to me when I was likely not to have any.

What makes something essential? According to our dictionary, something is essential if it is absolutely necessary or extremely important. We are going to embark on a journey this fall in exploring “The Essentials of Our Faith.” Our focus will be on illuminating those key aspects of our faith that are essential, necessary, important. We will look at key theological and biblical ideas that are crucial to the Christian faith—and, if essential, then necessary—without which you do not have Christian faith.

But, think of the different ways we use the word “essential.”

Gravity is essential to everyday life on this planet. Honestly, no one gets away with life without gravity. But, when was the last time you thought about gravity? If we want to use the term “essential” then shouldn’t it be more front-and-center in our lives? Surely, gravity is necessary for everyday life, but if you never think on it, how “essential” is it to you? In other words, some things can be essential, as in necessary, without much conscious thought, and therefore, not very essential.

For many Christians a lot of “essential” doctrines are simply not that important in everyday life. Sure, the Trinity might be something that the Church has always stressed as an essential teaching; but many in practice, if not in theory, deny its importance every day. The return of Christ in glory for the Judgment Day and for heavenly blessing might be acknowledged in theology class, but it is hardly “essential” to how we live, right? If I can ignore it every day, if I can practically disregard it, then it can’t be very essential.

We think it should be otherwise. If something is “essential” to our faith, it should impact us, change things, influence thought and actions. If essential, then important, and if important, then influential. The “essentials” we will explore are not only important in theory, they are essential to life—essential, important, necessary. If indeed these teachings are essential, then they will change the way you live every day.

For this coming Sunday, please study Proverbs 3:1-8.

1. Notice that these verses break into two parts—verses 1-4 and 5-8. How would you give a subtitle to these verses? What is the common thread between them?

 2. What would it look like to “lean on your own understanding”? (verse 5)? How can you catch yourself from doing that? What is particularly wrong about it? Why would the author try to keep us from doing it?

 3. In verse 1, the author commands our “hearts to keep my commandments.” How might one’s “heart” keep a commandment? What is behind this encouragement?

 4. Verse 3 is a very vivid verse.  What ideas are present here? What is the benefit of binding something around the neck?

 5. In verse 7 a contrast is mentioned: being wise in one’s own eyes is contrasted with fearing the LORD and turning from evil. Why would being wise in your own eyes be the opposite of fearing the LORD or turning from evil?