Friday, June 18, 2010

Colossians 2:1-5 The Frog and the Ducks

Colossians 2:1-5

1. What is your favorite frog story? Consider this one:
The story is told of two ducks and a frog who lived happily together in a farm pond. The best of friends, the three would amuse themselves and play together in their waterhole. When the hot summer days came, however, the pond began to dry up, and soon it was evident they would have to move. This was no problem for the ducks, who could easily fly to another pond. But the frog was stuck. So it was decided that they would put a stick in the bill of each duck that the frog could hang onto with his mouth as they flew to another pond. The plan worked well--so well, in fact, that as they were flying along a farmer looked up in admiration and mused, "Well, isn't that a clever idea! I wonder who thought of it?" The frog said, "I did..."[1]

2. Read Colossians 2:1-5. The Apostle Paul obviously has some deep concerns for the church at Colosse. Paul did not found this church and had not met most of its people. Yet he felt an ardent connection, responsibility and exhibited a shepherd’s protective heart in his feelings for the Colossian Christians. Upon the first reading of this passage what may have been the nature of his concerns?

3. According to this section of Scripture, where is true wisdom and knowledge found?

4. What is the nature of Paul’s concerns in verse 4?

5. Paul was concerned because the church at Colosse faced a serious theological threat[2] in the form of a heresy. Webster’s 1913 Dictionary gives this definition of heresy: Religious opinion opposed to the authorized doctrinal standards of any particular church, especially when tending to promote schism or separation;…”[3]

The form of heresy facing the Colossian church came in the form of Gnosticism which claimed a exclusive knowledge and special spiritual experience. People caught up in this heresy were proud of how much they thought they knew, looking upon themselves as spiritually elite. The point was to make other believers feel inferior in their faith. According to I Corinthians 8:1 what is the outcome of knowledge simply for knowledge’s sake?

6. Why is spiritual pride so dangerous?

7. Read II Corinthians 12:1-10. The Apostle Paul was given a special spiritual experience from the Lord. According to verse 7, what else did the Lord give Paul and why?

8. Author F. F. Bruce tells us, “Paul learned to accept this physical affliction, whatever its precise nature, as a prophylactic against the spiritual pride that was prone to beset those who had made the heavenly ascent. If ever he was tempted to rely on the “abundance of revelations” received then, the thorn in the flesh would remind him to rely on the Lord alone, apart from whose grace he would be useless.”[4] Why was it important that Paul stay humble? What might have happened if Paul fell into spiritual pride? What would the impact of that pride have on his personal ministry relationships? His shepherding of the churches? The growth of Christianity?

9. Another quote by F.F. Bruce tells us of the dangers of spiritual pride today. “Some people today, as then, love to make a parade of exceptional piety. They claim to have found the way to a higher plane of spiritual experience, as though they had been initiated into sacred mysteries which given them an almost infinite advantage over the uninitiated. Others are all too prone to be impressed by such people. But Paul warns them against being misled by such lofty claims. Those who make them, for all their lofty pretensions, for all their boasting of the special insight which they have received into divine reality, are simply inflated by unspiritual pride and are out of touch with Him who is the true Head and Fount of life and knowledge.” Explain in your own words what you think could happen if influential individuals who are out of touch with the heart of Christ were allowed to gain control in a church?Does your answer give you insight to the concerns of Paul?

10. Pastor David pointed out in Sunday’s message that the false teachings were poisoning the early church at Colosse. What in his message and in this study give you insight into the concerns of Paul for the Colossian church and the concern that pastors, leaders and shepherds have for the believers entrusted to their care?

11. Read II Timothy 3:16-17. Since warnings against heresy and false teachers are clearly spoken about in Scripture, what is the application today? Why do you feel it is important to study and understand the Bible? Why is it important to gather with other believers in a church setting and study the Bible together? What impact does humbly seeking God’s truth through His Word have on your relationships? Your role in the body of Christ? The growth of Christianity in this community?

[1] Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 34.
[2] Melick, Richard R. Jr. The New American Commentary – Philippians, Colossians, Philemon 170;
[4] Bruce, F. F. Bibliotheca Sacra – July-September 1984

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ministry and Suffering - Colossians 1:24-29

1. Are you more talkative or quiet? What is your most comfortable form of communication? Face-to-face private conversations, back and forth conversation in a small group of people, “having the microphone,” talking on the telephone, e-mail, texting, facebook or something else?

2. Read Colossians 1:24-29. When confronted by the risen Christ, Paul absolutely and completely embraced the Lordship of Jesus. “His thinking about Christ is vast, majestic, overpowering, dynamic.”[1] “Paul’s sense of mission and center of thought were transformed utterly by his encounter with the Christ of the Christian proclamation. The persecutor-preacher of Jewish persuasion became the persecuted preacher of Christ.”[2]

What do you think of when you hear the word “preacher?” What dynamics in our culture have created an image of someone who is a “preacher?” Do you think being persecuted and preaching go together? Why or why not? Is there any Scripture you can point to that would validate your answer?

3. Read Acts 9:1-16. From the beginning of his conversion and ministry Paul understood that unique suffering would be a part of his life.[3] How might this knowledge have strengthened Paul?

4. When Paul was converted, instead of a self-righteous murder, he became a lover of people who willingly suffered, most likely to the point of martyrdom, to bring many to a saving knowledge and eternal redemption in Christ.[4] Paul, the former angry enforcer of legalism became a dynamic apostle of grace reaching out to people of all backgrounds with no prejudice, becoming “all things to all men” in order to have the privilege of sharing God’s plan of salvation to many.”[5]

Paul was not only willing to suffer but rejoiced in his sufferings for the Colossian church (Colossians 1:24)[6]. Why do you think he could rejoice in suffering?

5. Paul had a special mission of inclusion for the Gentile believers. Paul planted churches in Gentile, pagan territory.[7] How might this have made Paul a target for persecution?

6. Paul mightily exercised the powerful communication tool of the spoken word. We find two diverse viewpoints on the power of Paul’s verbal abilities. One fact is certain - Paul talked ‘all the time’. While for some people this attribute might be considered a weakness, perhaps even an annoyance - for Paul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, it was a magnificent strength. Paul did not consider himself eloquent, yet he seemed to take every opportunity to speak to, implore, reason with and persuade individuals, as well as crowds, concerning His Lord Jesus Christ and His power to give everyone who confessed their sins and expressed belief in His deity, eternal salvation.[8]

According to Colossians 1:28 what was Paul’s motivation?

7. Read I Corinthians 2:4-5. Paul’s preaching provoked his listeners to action. “The normal response to the preaching is that listeners are called to decision; they either believe or refuse to believe.”[9] Paul’s self-perceived lack of eloquence was not a weakness and actually a positive factor in his spiritual life for he rightly understood that the gospel’s power did not come from a polished delivery, but from the Spirit’s supernatural power.[10]

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being terrible and 10 being fantastic, how do you think Paul would rate himself as a speaker? Do you like to speak publicly?

8. Read Exodus 4:10-12. Jill Briscoe tells us, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that all God’s heroes were very ordinary people. The thing that made the difference was that they had a relationship with an extraordinary God living within them, and this is a privilege accorded to every one of us who recognizes our need to know God in a personal way.”[11]

In the case of Moses and Paul, why do you think God chose to use spokesmen that didn’t feel very positive about their speaking abilities to communicate God’s message?

9. Paul said, “I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church…” “Clearly Paul expected the willingness to work hard to be a normal characteristic of the Christian leader. Human hearts are the soil where the Christian leader sows the seed of the Word of God and where the fruits of his labors are produced. While never easy work, it is for the sake of the harvest that the Lord’s husbandman gladly engages in the demanding toil.”[12]

When we consider what Paul’s “share” was for the church, how might that understanding cast a light on what our “share” might be? After considering Sunday’s message and this study, how is your level of passion for the things of God, and in what area do you feel God stretching you?

[1] Shillington, George, Paul’s Success n the Conversion of Gentiles: Dynamic Center in Cultural Diversity [Direction 20 no 2, Fall 1991], 129.
[2] Shillington, George, Paul’s Success n the Conversion of Gentiles: Dynamic Center in Cultural Diversity [Direction 20 no 2, Fall 1991], 126.
[3] Melick, Richard R. Jr. The New American Commentary – Philippians, Colossians, Philemon [Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press 1991], 237.
[4] II Corinthians 11:29 (New American Standard)
[5] I Corinthians 9:22 (New American Standard)
[6] Colossians 1:24 (New American Standard)
[7] Melick, Richard R. Jr. The New American Commentary – Philippians, Colossians, Philemon [Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press 1991], 237.
[8] Romans 1:16 (New American Standard)
[9] Thompson, James W. Paul’s Preaching Ministry: Evangelistic and Pastoral Preaching in Acts [Restoration Quarterly], 22.
[10] I Corinthians 2:4-5 (New American Standard)
[11] Briscoe, Jill Here Am I Lord…Send Somebody Else! [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2004]. 4.
[12] Hiebert, Edmond D. Pauline Images of a Christian Leader. [Bibliotheca sacra 133 no 531, 1976], 220.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Brokenness - Psalm 51

Read Psalm 51

For those of us who enjoy cooking or eating Italian food, there is an important ingredient that adds incredible flavor and aroma, and also makes necessary the need for after dinner mints. It is garlic. Garlic has an analogy to our spiritual lives because an aspect of this aromatic seasoning requires it to be crushed to release the essential oils within. If we want garlic to be at its flavorful best, it must be crushed. The fiber and essence of the garlic clove needs to be broken to set free its special taste and aroma.

1. Do you like garlic? If so, what is your favorite garlic-laden food?

Likewise the Scriptures instruct us of the release and freedom in the spiritual realm that comes with brokenness. The Treasure of David Commentary tells us that “A heart crushed is a fragrant heart”.

Indeed David’s heart became crushed and broken after the prophet Nathan confronted him of his sin with David’s involvement with Bathsheba and his orders to place her husband in harm’s way, then attempting to cover it all up.

But as David recognized the deception in his heart and the depth of his offense against God and the people involved (the repercussions of which were far-reaching for David was a leader). David became broken. In Psalm 51 we not only get to be eyewitnesses to the state of his heart, we see a Biblical pattern for repentance and restoration. Though the choices he made and the choices we make when we are enticed to sin do great damage, God is absolutely ready and willing to restore broken hearts and bring good out of bad, even when the bad has been our own doing.

Some of our best life lessons are learned in seasons of brokenness. Brokenness isn’t always the result of wrong choices on our part. Sometimes we become broken by the sinful choices of others, and sometimes life’s circumstances cause a process of brokenness in our lives. We can choose by an act of our will to humble ourselves before God and become broken in attitude without encountering adversity, and that is the best choice of all.

2. What in your life has come into a proper perspective or an area in which you have more clarity because there has been a sense of brokenness in your life?

We usually consider something that has been broken to be in a state of disrepair headed for the landfill. In this information age of electronic gadgetry it is often more cost effective to buy a new appliance or tool than to have it repaired. Broken in this instance is not a good word. But Biblical brokenness is a state where we have come to the end of ourselves, and that, accompanied by a humble spirit is indeed is a good thing.

David surely sinned against some people directly and a larger group of people indirectly. But how did David sense that he had sinned? (verse 4).

Consider some of the “innocent” victims of David’s sin. They did nothing in the situation yet their lives were impacted. When someone dear to us is hurt we recognize our powerlessness and need of God. We are incapable of protecting all who are close to our hearts. Do you relate to this scenario and if so, what did you learn about trusting in God’s goodness and sovereignty in the situation?

In verse one, how does David describe God’s character?

How has the graciousness, lovingkindness and compassion of God ministered to you in possible situations of:

feeling like everyone has let me down but God alone.

being powerless over my reputation when others have spoken ill of me.

feeling like my prayers are “hitting the ceiling”.

working hard to plan something good and having it turn out bad.

seeing my dream die.

experiencing a season of loss.

facing the reality of aging and changing health.

having to depend on the goodness of others, losing my sense of independence and self-

ending up in a place I thought I would never be and in foreign circumstances with no
foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel.

behaving badly and not liking the part of me that is revealed.

What do verses 10-13 tell us about God? What is God willing and able to do with a “broken” life?

Did David believe that God would forgive and restore him? What was David’s confidence level in God and His love for him?

Was David able to receive God’s forgiveness and then forgive himself?

How about you? Can you completely receive God’s gift of forgiveness and believe that God wants to totally restore every area of your life?
Psalm 51 (New American Standard)