Vol. III (Spring 2013)
Session 13 – “Consummation”
I’ll be using the “Braveheart” opening and drawing attention to the idea of “looking to something”; we’ve not only been saved from hell, we’ve been saved to heaven with Jesus. That’s the two-fold message we have to share. I’ve shortened/changed the point titles and reduced the Revelation texts to 1-2, since there is so much to unpack in the full 1-8.
I. Embracing Christ’s Return (I Thess. 1:8-10)
- Turn-our hope is in Christ personally, not a system of belief
- Serve-we’re to be proactive, not passive in our service
- Wait-we’re to maintain a resolve in His plan and timing
Discussion: “What idols subtly tempt us to look away from God and what do they offer in the short-term?”
II. Rejecting the Adversaries of Christ (2 Thess. 2:1-4)
- Stand firm and remember who is ultimately in charge
- Trust the scriptures by focusing on what we know, not what we don’t
- Assess leaders according to biblical truth
Discussion: “What potential dangers are involved when a leader says things like ‘God said to me’ or ‘God revealed to me’?”
III. Stepping up the Pace While Waiting (Jude 20-23)
- If we’re “in the love of God” (v.21) then we will love what He loves (John 3:16, 1 Peter 3:9)
- Look for opportunities to share with those who are near “the fire”.
Discussion: “What are some circumstances that present opportunities to share about our hope in Christ?”
III. Envisioning God’s Renewed Earth (Rev. 21:1-2)
- “New” is the operative word. Not upgrade, change or any other lesser word. God will make everything NEW (as in never seen before).
- “Prepared” means there has been great care and personal touch before presentation.
Discussion: “How should a realization of heaven’s splendor affect our attitude in this life?”
Something to pray about this week: Pray for opportunity and boldness to have a conversation with someone about Christ and eternally significant things.
Something to do this week: Read Revelation 21:1-8 and prayerfully consider/meditate on our incredible home to come.
Session 12 – “Perseverance”
To me this lesson is applying the promises of God to framing “present-tense” life, within “future-tense” reality. God has provided all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I like the opening illustration of the 1988 World Series (by the way, the Dodgers won the series in 5 games). I’ve chosen to change the three point titles to better reflect my approach.
I. God positions us to glorify Him in trials (I Peter 1:3-9)
- We are birthed into a “living hope” not religion (v. 3)
- Our inheritance is a “done deal” (v. 4)
- We are kept eternally secure by His ability not ours (v. 5)
Discussion: “How has “living hope” made a difference in your life during difficult times?”
II. God’s people are to be forward looking (2 Peter 3:8-13)
- God’s timing is perfect, but often different from ours (v. 8-9)
- The day will come when justice will ultimately prevail (v. 10-13)
- We should reflect God’s desire for people to repent and avoid destruction (v. 9)
Discussion: “How should/does a “forward looking mindset” affect our approach to those who cause us frustration or pain?”
III. God’s people are to demonstrate His values on earth (1 John 2:15-17)
- Our love for Him must surpass our love for His creation (v.15)
- We should proactively seek to be obedient (v. 17 & 2 Peter 3:14)
Discussion: “It’s been said the things listed in verses 15-17 can be summed up as “passion, possessions and position”. What are some ways your mindset has changed concerning them?”
Something to pray about this week: Pray for the opportunity to share what “living hope” means to you.
Something to do this week: In light of this lesson, have a conversation with your spouse, children or friend about “things hoped for” in the future.
Session 11 – “Following”
The Biblical imagery of shepherding is a great reminder of how God cares for us, and how we should care for those we lead. As followers of Christ, we’re all in the role of sheep, and simultaneously should aspire to be a shepherd to some degree. It may be as parent, employer, manager or mentor. Here are some guiding principles for following and leading:
I. Shepherds serve by modeling truth (I Tim. 4:11-16)
- A good shepherd is proactive (v. 15-16)
- All “sheep” need to see scripture actually applied
- Credibility in “small” things determines credibility in “big” things
Discussion: “What are some examples you’ve observed or experienced of long-term benefits/damage from a shepherd’s influence?
II. Shepherds serve by teaching truth (2 Tim. 4:1-8)
- Good shepherds go to the scriptures first for answers
- Shepherding always involves some uncertainty
- Speaking truth requires patient consistence
- Commitment to truth will cost
Discussion: “What are some of the challenges/costs incurred when we lead in a way committed to Biblical truth?”
III. Submission is required to facilitate shepherding (Titus 2:11-14)
- True sheep know Jesus’ voice (John 10:3-5)
- True sheep are eager to produce fruit (v. 14 & Matt. 7:15-20)
- True sheep should look beyond this present age (v.12-13)
Discussion: “How does the truth of Psalm 23 help us in fulfilling our role as productive sheep?”
Something to pray about this week: For clarity to see the potential in our role(s) as shepherd and sheep.
Something to do this week: Make the effort to encourage someone in a shepherding role over you through a note, text, email, or word.
Session 10 – “Justification”
Justification is a core truth of the Gospel. In Christ, we are declared righteous not rewarded for righteousness. I’ve chosen to stay with the 3 lesson points (although simplified), but swap the Hebrews 9:11-14 text for Romans 12:1-8 to continue with Paul’s systematic discussion. Here are the sub-points/questions I’ve included:
I. All people are born guilty “in Adam” (Romans 5:12-14)
- Spiritual death effects everything
- Spiritual death didn’t kill God’s love for us (Romans 5:8)
- The Law revealed the need, it didn’t fix the need
Discussion: “How does this truth help us have productive conversation with someone yet to trust Christ?”
II. Those “in Christ” are declared righteous (Romans 5:15-21; 8:1-2)
For points II & III the Passover events are very helpful as they describe being spared by the sacrifice’s blood, instead of the individuals’ merit. For those of us in Christ, we should remember:
- Salvation is a gift God chose to give
- There is nothing in us to be prideful about
- Humility and gratitude should be our life’s disposition
Discussion: “What practical daily benefits come from really understanding that we don’t/can’t earn salvation?”
III. Grace frees us to serve the Living God (Romans 12:1-8)
- Our service should be motivated by God’s love for us
- Our values will often seem odd to a spiritually dead audience
- The same grace helps while using our gifts to serve
Discussion: “Paul said in Romans 12:1 that we are to be living sacrifices. How can our life ‘as living sacrifices’ help display and point people to Christ?”
Session 9 – “Our Unity”
Unity is NOT uniformity. The words sound alike, but are very different. Just as a biological family has differences, so is the case in the church and we are called to live in peace with each other.
I’ll be using the 3 points as written with these bullets to keep me on track:
I. The Foundation of Unity (Ephesians 4:1-6)
- Walk worthy (me attending to me)
- Accept in love (me receiving others)
- Diligently keeping unity (me being peacemaker)
In membership classes at our church, we use this quote to help with discussing unity:
“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.” Peter Meiderlin circa 1627
Discussion: “How do we work through what is essential and non-essential while also applying love?”
II. The Exercise of Unity (Philippians 2:1-4)
- Focus on one goal
- Display a selfless attitude
- Fight the enemy with our backs to each other
Discussion: “Why is it important to understand a common mission?”
III. The Example of Unity (Philemon 15-18)
This passage shows the first two points in action:
- Request for Philemon to “walk worthy” & demonstrate acceptance
- Paul being peacemaker
Conclusion: Obedience is the key and pursuing unity is rarely easy. Passivity and tolerance are tempting substitutes, but the real thing takes work and the Lord’s leading.
Session 8 – “Our Mission”
An official Ambassador is bound by certain expectations from the country appointing and sending them. Along with the pleasantries of banquets and meetings, there is the more gritty aspect of working to further the interest of home. For this lesson, I plan to open with a question:
“What does it mean for people to be reconciled (relationally) and how can other folks be involved in it?”
Then, building on the concept of reconciliation, follow with the points (I’ve tweaked the titles to reflect a more personal “us” instead of the more general term of “God’s people”).
I. God calls us to be on His mission (Acts 1:4-8)
- The Hoy Spirit is key
- Jesus answered their “limiting” question by pointing out two unlimited realities; power received through the Holy Spirit and the scope of the Gospel (the entire world)
Discussion: “How do we limit the possibilities regarding the Gospel’s reach through our lives?”
II. God entrusts us with His message (1 Cor. 1:18-25)
- It’s His story to be told “as is”
- Spiritual conversations can sometimes feel awkward
- We must always bring the conversation back to Jesus’ work on the cross and resurrection
Discussion: “What are some ways we find ourselves tempted to “candy-coat” the Gospel message?”
III. God calls us to be His messengers (2 Cor. 5:14-21)
- The motive behind the mission is Christ’s love for us and them
- We are stewards of the message and should carry it well
- There is no Plan B, pray for laborers for the harvest (Matt. 9:38)
Conclusion: An Ambassador has freedom and flexibility, but at the end of the day, they’re sent with a job to do. If it’s neglected, they really serve no purpose. What about us?
Session 7 – “Our Identity”
Grace (unmerited favor) is one of the toughest things to live out. It’s great to receive, but harder to give. As the writer describes in the opening paragraphs of the lesson, our concept of fairness gets in the way. I plan to open with a discussion question, “Is God fair?” Be warned though, I’ve used the question before and it can get interesting. I plan to transition with Ephesians 2:8-9 to frame the lesson:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
I like the 3 points as written. Here are some bullets I’ve included to keep me on track:
I. Works-based religion threatens the centrality of faith in Jesus (Acts 15:1-5)
- Preferences can influence doctrine
- Examples of God at work should be celebrated
- Showing grace will strain peer loyalty at times
II. God’s people are constituted by grace alone through faith in Jesus alone (Gal. 2:15-21)
- We are all equal in need of Jesus’ forgiveness
- We are justified (declared) as righteous, not recognized as righteous
- We must reckon (account) ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11)
Discussion: “This being true, how should we approach others with the Gospel? How can this become a struggle?”
III. God’s people are marked by faith in Jesus alone that results in good works (James 2:18-26)
Discussion: “What specific “life marks” come together to form a picture of our faith level? Who sees it?” (For example, acts of obedience, etc.)
- Works provide commentary on our faith
- Faith will produce action
- Faith will produce fruit
Conclusion: Prayer is vital in living these things out. Prayer for the Holy Spirit’s help with courage and boldness is a great way to finish the time together.
Session 6 – “Pentecost”
Since the Person of the Holy Spirit is an equal member of the Trinity, He is awesome in power. He came onto the seen in Acts 2 with an incredible display and has been at work ever since; pointing people to Christ. I see this lesson best in 4 points, instead of 3:
I. The Holy Spirit indwells believers (Acts 2:1-4)
- He seals us at conversion (Ephesians 1:13-14)
- He’s involved in our prayer life (Romans 8:26)
- He reveals truth (John 16:13)
II. The Holy Spirit empowers believers (Acts 2:22-36)
- He gives boldness (v.38)
- He gives recall (v.14-36)
- He gives discernment (v.40)
Discussion: With His indwelling and empowerment, what potential is there for Kingdom impact through us? Why are we sometimes ineffective?
III. The Holy Spirit prepares hearts (Acts 2:37-39)
- He breaks down resistance (v. 37)
- He reveals the need (v.37)
- He prompts a response (v.37)
Discussion: How should we specifically be praying as we share the Gospel?
IV. The Holy Spirit guides the Church (Acts 2:40-42)
- He adds to the number (v. 41)
- He raises up leaders (Matthew 9:38)
- He builds unity (Ephesians 4:3-4)
Discussion: How are the four activities mentioned in Acts 2:42 part of personal & church growth?
Session 5 – “The Resurrection”
Jesus winning over death means everything. The good works, the teaching, and the suffering were of little value without the final nail (of resurrection) being driven into death’s coffin. I’ve chosen to go with the lesson points as written and added some bullets/questions to stay focused. Here they are:
I. The Risen King is Victorious over Death (Luke 24:1-8)
- Death represented the ultimate weapon of the enemy
- Jesus accomplished what the Law couldn’t-provide new life (Romans 5 & 1 Corinthians 15)
- Jesus’ words took on new meaning to them (v.7)
Question: “Once they realized Jesus was alive, what did that do to their worries, doubts, second-guesses, etc.?”
II. The Risen King is Recognized by the Disciples and Validated by Scripture (Luke 24:36-49)
- He affirmed them as followers
- They witnessed Him as physically alive
- He opened their minds to connect-the-dots
Question: “Based on Jesus’ interaction with the disciples (the remaining 11 and others) before His ascension, what’s the nature of our relationship with Him as followers?”
III. The Risen King is Enthroned and Exalted over all Creation (Luke 24:50-53, also add Mark 16:19-20)
- Jesus blessed them (v.50-51)
- Their response was on-going worship (v.53)
- Jesus sits in authority NOW -Matt. 28:18 (not an intermediate stage, pending future end-time events)
Question: “As followers of Christ, we’re sent to make disciples (Matt. 28:16-20). What difference does it make that we go under His authority and His blessing?”
Session 4 “The Cross”
The Cross is central to the Gospel. Forgiveness and eternal life through our risen King, was dependent on Him suffering the brutality of the Cross and defeating its designed result-death. I prefer to jump directly into Matt. 16:21 and teach this lesson in a “then & now” format. I’ll be looking at two realities under each point; what it meant then, and means now. I’ve re-titled each to reflect that approach.
I. The Cross Meant/Means Suffering (Matt. 16:21-24):
- Pain-The Romans had perfected the process of inflicting great pain, while prolonging the duration of the process.
- Shame-Nakedness removed any pretense of dignity or heroism of the one enduring crucifixion.
- Symbol-The Cross was reserved for non-Romans, therefore representing their power and willingness to punish anyone challenging their authority (such as rebel leaders). In the immediate context, it represented Rome and in the broader context, it represented all the sin of fallen mankind.
- Deny ourselves (v.24) – We are to give up and surrender our rights. We are not the ones in charge.
- Take up our cross (v.24) – Identifying with Christ means looking past the immediate to the bigger picture of what obedience will bring in the end.
- Follow Him (v.24) – Seek to be like Christ every day and seek the Father’s will at all levels.
Discussion Question: “Philippians 2:5-8 describes Jesus being obedient even to the point of death on a cross; what does that mean for a believer’s day-to-day decision-making?”
II. The Cross Meant/Means Sacrifice (Matt. 26:26-29):
- The Law required it-The Law was not set aside, its demand of sacrifice for sin was satisfied. Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). He was the only one perfect and worthy enough to qualify.
- We are to be living sacrifices-Romans 12:1 says we are to be living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. It also means that sin has consequences so we are to avoid sinful choices.
Discussion Question: “In an everyday-practical-way, what does it mean to live with a sacrificial attitude?”
III. The Cross Meant/Means Transaction (Matt. 27:45-50):
- Paid in Full-When Jesus cried out in John 19:30, “It is finished!” He announced the end of His mission to ransom mankind. The veil in the temple was torn in two (Matt. 27:51) and the holiest place was opened (Hebrews 10:19-22).
- Freedom-As a follower of Christ, we have the assurance of knowing our sins are paid for and we can walk daily in liberty (Romans 8:1-4).
Discussion Question: “How should this truth influence the way I see myself and tell my story?”
Session 3 “Jesus’ Miracles”
The miracles of Jesus were two-fold. First, there were obvious personal benefits to the recipients. Second, they authenticated the One performing the miracles. In the first century, false prophets were not uncommon, but Jesus’ life and work proved Him to be the true Messiah. Here’s how I plan to present:
Jesus’ Miracles Signified His:
I. Compassion (Mark 1:29-34)
Since He commanded the demons not speak and declare Him, the purpose wasn’t to make a scene, but to intervene directly into pain and suffering. His care went beyond convenience and it cost Him:
Discussion Question: “In what ways can we show genuine compassion?”
II. Sufficiency (John 6:1-14)
In verses 1-14, we see Jesus providing food. Afterwards (15-71) we see the crowd following Him to Capernaum looking for another buffet. He then explained that He is what they need, not just bread, and many turned away from following Him (v.66). His provision went beyond bread. It was for:
- Eternal Acceptance (v.37)
- Eternal Life (v.40)
Discussion Question: “How can we meet eternal needs while serving immediate needs?”
III. Credentials (Luke 7:18-23)
From John’s perspective, the proclamations he had made earlier concerning Jesus had not come to pass yet; warnings about judgment, the Kingdom, and the sacrifice to remove man’s sin, so he wondered about it all. As was Jesus’ custom often times when dealing with questions, He directed them to the scriptures (v.22 reference to Is. 35:5-6 and others). His mission went beyond the hype to:
- Fulfill the ancient promise (Gen. 3:15)
- Fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17)
Discussion Question: “How do we go about finding answers to questions that challenge our confidence?”
Note: I recently added a post on Luke 7:18-35 concerning doubt. Click here to read.
Session 2 – “Jesus’ Teaching”
Jesus’ teaching style in the Gospels, reveals how He presented the Kingdom and the principles He wanted to convey. I believe He still teaches us much in the same way through the Holy Spirit. The lesson points work best for me in this way:
I. Jesus has Always Been the Central Figure in the Kingdom – (Mark 1:14-15 Lesson pt.1)
- There are no other central figures, systems or paths to salvation (John 14:6)
- His agenda is primary (Matt. 28:18-20)
- Our efforts should always point to, and honor Him (2 Cor. 5:20)
Discussion Question: “How can we prioritize our time, talent and treasure to reflect this truth?”
II. He is the Authority in the Kingdom (Luke 4:16-21, Matt. 7:28-29 Lesson pts. 2&4)
- His preaching/teaching properly frames humanity’s struggles
- True freedom (from sin’s bondage) comes only through Him
- True sight (spiritual clarity) comes only through Him
Discussion Question: “How does this truth help us approach daily issues that arise in our marriages, child-raising, careers and friendships?”
III. How Modeled how to Apply Kingdom Principles (Luke 8:4-8 Lesson pt. 3)
- Speaking in ways that people can relate to (parables, stories, quoting scripture in proper context)
- Putting the principles in action (compassion Matt. 9:36, challenging Matt. 16:23-27)
- Redirected conversations to heart issues (Matt. 5:27-28)
Discussion Question: “How does this help in trying to communicate the Gospel message to others on my circle of influence?”
Session 1 – “The Incarnation”
In the first 2 volumes of lessons we’ve been looking at the grand narrative of scripture and how it all ties to the Gospel. This lesson is a tightly condensed version of THE grand narrative. In other words, we get to see just how the Apostle John would have presented the story of Jesus to people. He would have taught and preached daily and chapter 1 of his account shows what he emphasized. Let’s look and learn from the way he told it:
Point 1- “The identity of the King who has come” (John 1:1-5)
He starts with a “Genesis Part II” picture – (In the beginning…) – back at the beginning of everything, The Word (Jesus of Nazareth) was with God.
- He was the One who created (v.3)
- Life itself was in Him (v.4)
- Pure light (truth) was in Him (v.4-5)
Discussion Question – “How do people search for truth, light and life?”
Point 2 – “The witness to the King who has come” (John 1:6-18)
He puts “John the Baptizer’s” story in perspective (since he was well known) and also mentions “we” in verse 14 describing the common experience of those who knew Him personally.
- God chose to use a man to tell of His coming (as many other times too)
- They beheld His glory
- They experienced His grace and truth
Discussion Question – “Do we have a common experience to tell?”
Points 3 & 4 combined and re-titled “What the King came to do” (John 1:10-18)
He describes Jesus’ mission:
- Reconcile mankind to God (v.12)
- Be the second Adam (v.14, also 1 Cor. 15:47)
- Demonstrate grace and truth compared to the Law (v.17)
- Declare the Father (v. 18)
Discussion Question – “How are these points applicable to our own life and the lives of others?”