Inspiration for Today's World

Category: Studies (Page 3 of 7)

Gaining Joy and Strength Through Christian Fellowship

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?

~1 Thessalonians 3:9

Lesson33-image001Materials Needed: Whiteboard or easel.

Notes to the Leader: This study is about human characteristics that set the Christian apart from the world. Through these characteristics, we witness, share, love, help, grow and receive joy and strength. Everyone in your group has these characteristics but they may be undiscovered. Use this time to open a dialogue on familiar topics to encourage sharing. Not all studies should be intended to impart some special wisdom. Sometimes, it is just nice to discuss familiar and comforting topics.


What to you do, where do you go, to whom do you seek when you need to find joy and strength in your life?

  • Work with your group to build a list of the things, activities, people, etc. that bring joy and strength when they are down.

Now read Psalms 28:7 to your group. This verse points us to the true source of joy and strength, the Lord.

Who are the teachers you have had in your life that you still remember by name. What were the characteristics of those who had a positive impact on your life?

  • Competent
  • Caring
  • Always willing to help you when you needed something extra
  • Had a true interest in you

Have someone in your group read Philippians 1:3-10 The Apostle Paul shows us another source of joy and strength, Christian fellowship.

What are some of your own personal joys you receive from other Christians? How do they give you strength?

  • Notice that the Apostle Paul’s joy and strength emanated from the discernment (growth) received through the sharing of the gospel.

Section One: Gaining Joy and Strength through Action

Have someone in your group read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5. The Apostle Paul shows us five key attributes: affection, anxiety, help, joy and prayer.

Attribute I – Affection

Can we affect the lives (win over for Christ) people who we dislike?

  • While it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and Christ who saves, each one of us is given the responsibility to share the Gospel. The Apostle Paul shows us that he did more than just tell people about Christ, he had a genuine love and concern for them.
Attribute II – Anxiety

What should our attitude be after we have shared our faith with someone?

  • On-going interest, caring, concerned, anxious to follow-up.

Notes: The training by the Apostle Paul was done but did it take hold? Did the people of Thessalonica change as a result of their exposure to the Gospel? These were the concerns of the Apostle Paul.

Attribute III – A willingness to Help

Once someone hears the story of salvation, how do they change their lives?

  • The Apostle Paul sends Timothy not to check up on them alone, but to help them. Isn’t that one of the attributes you respect in people?
  • In addition, the Holy Spirit works in them to convict and to create a hunger for Christ.

How do we react when we are criticized for our failings?

  • Discouraged, angry, loss of interest.

How do we react when we receive help?

  • Thankful, successful, develop a bond of closeness.

Have someone in your group read 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10

Can a new believer grow in faith isolated from the lives of other believers?

  • No – This is one of the fundamental tenants of the Reformed Faith. Fellowship with believers is a requirement.

Read James 2:17-19 to your group.

What type of action do you think the Apostle James was talking about?

  • Sharing of our faith to non-Christians, stewardship, compassion both inside and outside our church, love of one another, charity, forgiveness, etc.
Attribute IV – Joy

Have you ever watched someone you love come to accept Christ into their lives? How did you feel?

  • This was the joy of the Apostle Paul. Joy was something genuine. When he saw people begin to understand the Gospel’s message and to change their lives, he felt sincere joy in his heart for them.

Have someone in your group read 1 Thessalonians 3:10

What did the Apostle Paul pray for?

  • More opportunities to strengthen their faith.

Why is it important to have follow-up with people who are new in their faith?

  • Hebrews 11:1-3 To turn what is invisible into something visible. This is done by the reflections of our own lives back to the new believers.
Attribute V – Prayer

Is there something each person regardless of gifts, biblical understanding, time, etc. can do in the execution of Christ’s call for the Great Commission?

Have someone in your group read 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

The Apostle Paul prays for the new believer. There are three parts to the prayer.

The Apostle Paul prays for a way to open up so he can come to Thessalonica. He prays for “opportunity.” This prayer is for ordinary guidance.

Why is it that human nature brings us to God more often in crisis than for ordinary daily guidance?

  • Safety breeds contentment
  • We are still trying to hold on to the reins of our lives rather than turning them over to Christ
  • We have not strengthened our own faith (Read Hebrews 11:6, Romans 10:17).
The Apostle Paul prays that the Thessalonians will “love” one another.

How do we grow in love with one another (e.g. your church)?

  • Understand each other
  • Share joys and sorrows
  • Pray for one another
  • Interact within each other’s lives.
The Apostle Paul prays for their “safety”.

What type of safety is the Apostle Paul praying for here?

  • Safety from this world so that they would be preserved for their meeting with Christ at the Second Coming.

Why pray for this?

  • Revelations 21:6-8 Hell is forever!

Bible Truth Being Taught

The Apostle Paul was not a “loaner,” but that he served the Lord in fellowship with other believers and, thereby, discovered a source of joy and strength.

Our Response

To seek the fellowship of other believers and to share our lives as Christ shared Himself.

Love’s Security

How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful.

~Song of Songs 1:15

Lesson46-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: Among the many contributions of Solomon to the Bible, Song of Songs provides a foundation for understanding the proper relationships between a man and woman in love. This study walks through the emotional insecurities and the attitudes that lead to a secure relationship between two people. Solomon’s true love contributes to this advice also. It is an excellent study for those preparing for marriage and a great refresher for those who have weathered the test of time with their relationships.

As a youth lesson, it can help establish the proper behavior between a young boy and girl with respect to God’s plan for men and women.


The name Shulammith gives to Solomon is literally “You whom my soul loves.” “My soul” is a Hebrew idiom that includes the whole of the life and person of the individual.

What type of insecurities exist between a bride and groom?

  • The intimacy of marriage removes all that makeup and clothing can hide. One’s true nature, both physically and emotionally as well as one’s personality is quickly exposed.
  • Today, the verses in Song of Songs reflect thoughts and feelings of the bride and groom on their wedding day, memories of the wedding night, and flashbacks to their courtship.

Section One: The Bride

Have someone in your group read Song of Songs 1:5-6.

What kind of feelings and concerns do you see coming from Solomon’s bride?

  • She is from a small town, now thrust into the limelight. She is sunburned because she labored in the fields, unlike the more sophisticated women of the city.
  • She feels out of place and vulnerable. She is not sure if her groom will find her as attractive as the other women of Jerusalem.

Notes of clarity: The original Hebrew “I” in the “Dark I am” is an emphatic pronoun, indicating the intensity of Shulammith’s feelings of insecurity. The Hebrew word shehor, translated dark (NIV) or black (KJV) is meant to be a contrast to fair or white. She had a dark suntan. The “tents of Kedar” refer to the Kedarites, a Bedouin tribe, descended from Ishmael (Genesis 25:13), who lived in tents made of the skins of black goats. Finally, the curtains dividing Solomon’s tent were also black.

Re-read Song of Songs 1:6 to your group.

Besides her dark skin, What else is causing Shulammith to be insecure?

  • Although she is the king’s fiancée, she is not from the privileged class.
  • Her home life has been less than ideal. Her “mother’s sons” is thought to refer to her stepbrothers or half-brothers. It may also be that her stepbrothers had refused Solomon’s initial request for here hand and, as a punishment, sent her to the vineyards to work, only to provide permission later. This possibility exists because she hadn’t the normal time to prepare herself as was accustom in those times.

What are some of the typical insecurities between marriage partners today as viewed from the woman’s perspective?

  • I’m pregnant and I feel ugly.
  • I’ve had a baby and I’m fat. My belly hangs over my pants.
  • I’ve had a terrible day and look a mess.
  • My picky mother criticized my hair, the way I raise my kids, etc.
  • I can’t compete with the beauties at the office.

How is it that marriage partners help one another overcome their insecurities?

  • Showing love, concern for each other.
  • Remaining committed to each other regardless of circumstances.
  • Helping each other with the tasks of living and raising a family.
  • Supporting each other’s differences as part of one’s uniqueness and beauty.
  • Providing honest praise.

Section Two: Finding Time For Each Other

Have someone in your group read Song of Songs 1:7-8.

Can you find several other insecurities Shulammith has with regard to Solomon?

  • Concerned that his affairs of state will keep him away. She is concerned that even if she wanted to be with him, she would not know where to find him.
  • Shulammith may also feel insecure with regard to all of the other women at the palace.

What type of connotations go with the term “a veiled woman?”

  • While she searches for him, she could be mistaken as a prostitute (see Genesis 38:15).
  • Without Solomon, she will be as sad as a woman in mourning (see Ezekiel 24:17, 22).
  • She will not be special to him, just another sheep among the flocks.

Read Song of Songs 1:8 to your group as if Solomon was writing the line.

What would he be telling Shulammith?

  • She is incomparably beautiful and in his eyes, no other woman compares. Therefore, come and search for him.

Read Song of Songs 1:8 to your group again as if it was coming from the “daughters of Jerusalem.” The daughters of Jerusalem was thought to refer to all of the women in Solomon’s palace or other women of noble class who did not have to labor.

What advice would they be giving her?

  • She need not fear their stares because the see here as supremely beautiful. Throw caution to the wind, and be with Solomon.

Section Three: Mutual Admiration

Have someone in your group read Song of Songs 1:9-11.

What do you see here in Solomon’s words?

  • Solomon has laid all else aside. He has given her his ultimate concentration in communicating his appreciation and affirmation in honest, thoughtful, deliberate praise.
  • Assuming that Pharaoh’s chariots only had stallions harnessed to them, What imagery do you see in Solomon using this example?
  • To place a single mare in the company of a group of stallions would probably cause an equestrian riot. Solomon, however, is telling her that she is as desirable as if she were the only woman in a world of men.

Have someone in your group read Song of Songs 1:12-14.

How does Shulammith respond to Solomon’s praises of her?

  • She responds back with her own imagery.
  • Spikenard is an expensive and fragrant plant oil imported from the Himalayas. She is no longer insecure.
  • Myrrh is an aromatic gum from the bark from an Arabian balsam tree. Hebrew women often carried a bundle next to their skin. She expresses her comfort with intimacy.
  • Henna blossoms are from a Palestinian shrub (cypress or camphire). The flowers in her picture and from a romantic getaway called En Gedi (fountain of wild goats), a spring-fed oasis west of the Dead Sea. Shulammith is contrasting how he stands out like a cluster of blooms in a desert oasis.

Have someone in your group read Song of Songs 1:15-17.

While both Solomon and Shulammith could be describing their bedroom, What other vision could this represent?

  • Some think that it represents possibly a special place they met at, with grassy green fields, under the bird-filled skyline of cedar and fir trees.

Section Four: No More Insecurity, Just Love

Have someone in your group read Song of Songs 2:1-7.

How did Shulammith begin her discourse in Song of Songs?

  • With many insecurities.

How would you say this discourse ends?

  • With full reassuring love between two people.

Note: Shulammith describes herself as nothing special or exotic: A Rose – the Hebrew word indicates this flower grows from a bulb, so it is more likely a crocus, iris, or daffodil, common meadow flowers growing wild. A Lily – probably not “lily of the valley” but a swamp lily or lotus common in Israel.

How does Solomon respond?

  • You are the only lily among the thorns.

How do we know that Shulammith is no longer insecure?

  • Her response is: “Compared to all the other trees [men], you are an apple tree – a rare, sweet find. You are the best!”


In all of this poetry, What is the lesson that we should take with regard to building and strengthening relationships between husband’s and wives as well as others in our lives?

The power of honest, deliberate praise to remedy insecurity and foster trust and freedom in relationships runs through this Song. This has practical applications in our lives today. Mutual appreciation aimed at developing trust is essential if the romance is to be kept alive “til death do us part.”

Bible Truth Being Taught

Marriage partners give one another a sense of security in their relationship by the practice of honest, thoughtful, deliberate praise.

Our Response

To learn to use honest, thoughtful, deliberate praise to build up the security of our loved ones and to develop lasting, mutually satisfying relationships.

Relationships and the Gospel’s Message

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

~Timothy 5:1-2

Lesson15-image001Materials Needed: None

Notes to the Leader: This lesson addressed one of the more formal aspects of the Christian church, the selection and ordination of officers. It also reviews the roll of each Christian with respect to the elderly and widowed. While the topics may seem to be quite diverse, the Apostle Paul found it important to group them together in his letter to Timothy.


Why don’t we share our most intimate and private feelings with our friends and family?

  • Human nature is not trustworthy.
  • We ask others to share their most private feelings in response to our own selfish interests.
  • Confidentiality is a rare thing to find.

What can we do about it?

  • Recognize that our relationships with our family and friends are under God’s watchful eyes. We are to hold private those areas of sharing held in confidence. When we ask someone to open their soul, we must also accept the responsibilities that go along with our request. Knowledge, information, even shocking truths collected under the auspices of Christian love and shared indiscriminately are against God’s will.
  • How many of you meet regularly, as a friend would meet, with someone over 65, with someone who is single, with someone who is divorced, someone with a handicap, or with someone who is a widow by death? What is it that we all fear from these types of relationships?
  • There is no answer to the questions above. Our God holds us responsible for such relationships. Yet most people have a compelling list of reasons why they cannot maintain relationships similar to those described above. The Apostle Paul is telling us that this is not acceptable. Each one of us is to look at each other with a new eye, the non-judgmental, loving, forgiving, and accepting eye of Christ.

Section One: Our Families

Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 5:1:2

What is the difference between a member of a family and a member of a group?

  • The depth of the relationship. As group members, we are given rules and excluded when we fail to adhere to them. However, as members of a family, we find support in failure, not condemnation.

Do you think that our society today respects the elderly? Why or Why Not?

  • Society has relinquished the value of experience to the worldly standards of power, position, wealth and pleasure. In essence, we have given up on God’s standards and measure success on worldly standards. All this says that our goals are wrong. We should not be in pursuit of pleasure, position, or power. This is the folly of the young.

Section Two: Widows of Today

Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 5:3-16

How would you describe the biblical definition of a widow?

Re-read 1 Timothy 5:5 The term “left all alone” reflects the true New Testament meaning of “deficient” or “destitute.” A widow of today is someone who has been left all alone, whether by death or by divorce.

What are the two key points of our relationships with widows that Paul is trying to tell us in these verses?

  • Each of us has a responsibility to make a widow part of the Christian family.
  • The widow, if young, has a responsibility to assure that she does not separate herself from the Christian family in pursuit of the world.

Note to the leader: If you have a brief history of Timothy and Ephesus, a review would provide background information to add clarity to this next section of the study.

How do you think that the times and problems of Ephesus and Timothy relate to today’s society?

  • The mixture of worldly religions (faiths), false gods, and Christianity no doubt placed great pressure on the family. Many of these same trends can be seen today, manifested by the ease and availability of abortion, the high divorce rates, crime and abusive relationships within many families today.

Section Three: Dealing with the Elderly

Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 5:17:25

The word used for elder is the same as for older man. Do you think that Paul is suggesting that our church leadership be filled with only older people?

  • Paul describes a spiritual maturity not a physical maturity. We are being instructed to appoint only those who know God’s word and have experienced the struggle of faith in life’s journey.
    Why do you think that Paul discusses widows and elders in the same chapter/verse of the Bible?
  • Both are to be respected and cared for.

Read the following statement to the group: “Through good works, man earns his way into Heaven.”

What do you think about it?

  • It is not correct. Men/women do not earn their way into Heaven. Our faith in Christ, His work on the cross and God’s grace open Heaven’s gates.

What is your responsibility when you hear a church leader make a statement that you believe is not correct?

Read Galatians 6:6 to your group.

How do you interpret this Bible verse?

  • We are not to be quiet about what we hear. When in Bible study, we are encouraged to share our knowledge and experience with not only the class but the instructor. Paul knows that while the intentions of teaching may be noble, often the road to knowledge is rocky. If you do not understand what you hear in a Bible study class, or you disagree with what you hear, our Bible tells us that it is our duty to interact with our class leader.

What happens when you are faced with real conflict over an issue of Church doctrine as presented by an elder or other church officer?

Have someone in the group read 1 Timothy 5:19-20, Deuteronomy 19:15-20. Re-ask the question.

  • Paul’s advice of verification is first and paramount. One witness is never sufficient. Be sure that several others (of Christian maturity) agree with your conclusions. Notice that Paul is not against public disclosure of the error.
  • However, Paul’s objective is the education of others, not revenge. Confrontation is best handled via the steps outlined in Matthew 18:15-20.
  • Confront the brother with the truth;
  • If he will not listen, take one or more with you and confront him again;
  • If he refuses to listen to the two or three, tell the Church;
  • Let the Church decide what to do; and
  • If he still refuses to make the changes (accept the truth), consider him an outsider who needs to be loved and won back to the Lord.

Section Four: Appointing Church Leaders

Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 5:22

What caution do you think Paul is giving us in this verse?

  • Do not be hasty in appointing Church leadership. Take time to get to know them.

Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 5:24-25

What further advice does Paul give us?

  • While some people’s good qualities and spiritual problems are obvious, some are not so easy to detect.

How should we make our decisions on Church leadership?

Read Acts 13:1-3, 14:23 to your group. Re-ask the question.

  • With prayer
  • Fasting, and
  • They should be full of the Holy Spirit.

Use 1 Timothy 3:6-10 as a reference guide. This is a list of attributes to look for in church leadership. Any one of the attributes can be used to open up discussion.

Do you think that fasting has a place in the modern Church?

  • All of God’s words and advice has a place in the modern Church. Fasting removes worldly distractions and causes one to focus. Fasting, however, should be done only by those who are healthy enough to do so.

Why do you think that Paul put a discussion of family, the elderly, widows, and church leadership in the same chapter/ section of his letter to Timothy?

  • While Paul did not specifically tell us the answer to this question, we might conclude that all three of these topics are somehow related.
  • We are a family, just like the blood of our ancestors links our genetic past, Christ’s own blood ties us to each other.
  • Age has no significance, only the maturity of our faith.
  • Whether a widow or not, all have equal stature in the Church. We are all called to serve, be served, uphold the purity of our faith and chose responsible leadership for our Church.

Bible Truth Being Taught

God sees the human heart without gender, color or age and that each of us is given the opportunity to grow in faith and trust.

Our Response

To develop loving, responsible, mutually helpful relationships with other Christians regardless of age, sex, or circumstances while upholding the truths of our faith.

God’s Word – Our Bible

So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.

~Jeremiah 36:32

Lesson21-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: Billy Graham once said that each person will face two critical decisions in life: (a) Will they accept Christ as their personal savior? and (b) Is the Bible really God’s words to mankind? It is the second of these two questions that is addressed by this study. You will be asking the members of your study group to discuss, think about and decide whether to be selective, choosing those parts of Scripture that suit their ideals or to embrace each word as God’s own.


Think back over Christmas’ past, birthdays, anniversaries, any gift-giving occasion, or any other time when you were given something that you found precious and still have in your possession. Consider bringing them into the class and share these items along with their stories.

What was it about these items that sets them apart from the many “things” we have been given only to be discarded at some later date?

In our household, most of the items considered of value have been handed down as special family treasures. Books about family heritage, a porcelain figurine, a piece of jewelry belonging to someone we loved. I have an old wooden Craftsman machinists tool box that belonged to my father. To most it would be of little value but to me, it defines who my father was and frames a lifetime of memories for me. We often define the true value of an object to the source, history or prior owner.

Using a similar thought process and assuming this discussion is about those who profess to be a Christian, ask the next question.

What is it that makes the Bible a history book for some, a mountain to be climbed for the intellectual, or the very power to direct one’s life by and to live by for others?

One’s opinion of the . If we are those who believe that somehow, man has captured and interpreted his own wisdom through the ages, Scripture is no doubt just an interesting book. However, to some, Scriptures are Words directly from God Himself. Value, therefore, is closely tied to our opinion of the . You can tell a Christian’s true colors by the value they place on God’s Holy Words.

Section One: God’s Written Words

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 36:1-3.

God, through the Holy Spirit, has the power to pass His wisdom and counsel on to people directly. That, of course, is how the very Words of God were formed into what is called Scriptures today. So why do we need God’s Words in writing?

  • God knew that we are a multi-media society. 2,500 years ago, verbal and written communications were both very necessary. Today, we have TV, radio, newspapers, churches, Bible studies, books, the Internet, music on CDs, computer software, etc. all capable of enhancing our understanding of God’s Words.

What is the purpose behind so many different media with respect to God’s Words?

  • God used the written word as another warning to the people of Israel. Jeremiah was removing excuses by providing his prophecies both verbally and in writing.

With all of the types of media we have access to today, do you think mankind can claim any excuses for not knowing the content of God’s Word?

  • Hardly. All of mankind, especially those of us blessed with resources, has no good excuse for not knowing the Holy Words of our God.

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 36:4-7.

The mere existence of the scroll would guarantee nothing. What two key elements was Jeremiah hoping to accomplish by his documenting of the prophecies?

  • Jeremiah intended for his scroll to be read in the temple. God’s Words do nothing if they are not read.
  • Jeremiah intended for his people to repent. Lives must change through hearing and obeying God’s Words.

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 36:8-15.

Notes: Gemariah’s father Shaphan, had been King Josiah’s secretary, the official who read the Law to the king when it had been found 17 years before (see 2 Kings 22:3-10). A reading from Gemariah’s chamber may have reminded the people about the reading his father had once done. The historic site may have prompted listeners to recognize Jeremiah’s words as coming from God. Baruch read the scroll.

Was the message written in the scroll any less important because Baruch read it rather than Jeremiah?

  • Of course not. God’s Word is God’s Word.

What are the mistakes today’s Christians make with regard to hearing God’s Word?

  • We place too much emphasis on the quality of the presentation and presenter than God’s very Words.
  • Without some prior knowledge of Scripture, the message is easily misunderstood or falls on deaf ears.

Section Two: To Deny the Word of God

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 36:16-26.

What are the ways that people today try to, “Burn up the Bible?”

  • Intellectualize its message to cover up Scripture’s call for repentance.
  • Claiming it has errors, therefore, ignoring all of Scripture.
  • Just plain ignoring God’s Words.

Read 2 Kings 22:11 to your group.

How would you contrast Josiah’s response to hearing the Word with Jehoiakim’s response?

  • Revival followed repentance of King Josiah
  • Judgement followed Jehoiakim’s disregard for God’s Word

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 36-27-32.

What are the good and bad consequences of defending and sharing God’s Word?

  • There are times that this world of ours conjures up hatred and causes great pain for telling the truth.
  • There is always a consequence from God for ignoring His Words.
  • There is the promise from God of His protection, not from pain but from destruction.
  • There is the reward of an eternal relationship with our God.

Notes: King Jehoiakim’s son, Jehaichin spent a short three months awaiting his coronation but was removed; and no son or descendant of his was ever permitted to reign as king thereafter on the throne of David.

Section Three: To Be Imprisoned for Telling the Truth

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 37:1-21. Jeremiah was imprisoned but retained his message that the Babylonians would be back.

Now read Jeremiah 38:1-3 to your group. This is a short story about running your kingdom through opinion polls. However, the noted point is that when the opinions are not of the king’s liking, then the king disavowed them.

Why did Jeremiah hold so steadfast to his message? Was he a traitor as the king’s officials stated?

  • Truth is truth. Jeremiah did not change his opinion to help his government. He knew God’s Will, God’s message, and held firm in that conviction.

What current events can you find in our own country and society that have similar tones?

  • Because our economy is typically good (self-centered view of things), our nation is not particularly interested in truth, honesty, integrity, honor, or any other Godly trait in it’s leaders. We are often called to be forgiving (by either political leadership or the media), to look above such traits because every thing is still OK.

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 38:4-9.

How would you describe Jeremiah’s punishment and his predicament? What was his mood?

Read Lamentations 3:53-54 for the answer. Even the great prophet Jeremiah could get depressed. The cistern was to be a horrible, suffering death.

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 38:10-13.

What would be the significance of Jeremiah’s removal from the cistern coming at the hands of someone like Ebed-melech?

  • One would have thought that a Jew would have stepped forward first.

What did Ebed-melech show us?

  • One person with compassion can make a difference.

Section Four: Ruling by Fear

Have someone in your group read Jeremiah 38:14-28.

Notes: Zedekiah once more asked Jeremiah for advice. When told to surrender, Zedekiah ignored Jeremiah again.

Today, we have people who do the same thing but to the Bible. What is it?

  • Selective Scripture. I am not talking here about the non-Christians. It is the Christian community that is selective.

Can you believe in just part of the Bible?

  • You can but the part you don’t believe in may very well be the part that you need most in your life to know God and seek his saving Grace. No Christian should ever think that growth means mastering the “picking and choosing” of Scriptures so that one’s life is pleasing and comfortable.

What evidence should there be that one’s life is based upon the “FULL ACCEPTANCE” of the Bible?

  • Constant change directed by the Holy Spirit. It is called “Sanctification.”

Bible Truth Being Taught

Submission is the proper response to God’s Word, while selection is the outcome of sinfulness.

Our Response

To underscore the choices we have between showing respect versus contempt for our God’s Word.

Rocks and Things

Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work.

~Nehemiah 10:37

Lesson22-image001Materials Needed: This material list is complex so please read carefully:

  • A clear glass container at least one quart in size with a large opening;
  • A pitcher of water; Enough large rocks to fill the glass container;
  • Gravel to fill in the spaces between the rocks;
  • Sand;
  • A pail with more large rocks, enough so each group member can receive one rock; and
  • A whiteboard or easel.

Suggest that all of this material can be purchased at a building supply (stones, gravel, sand in the garden section) and super center (glass container, pitcher and pail). All should be very dry so the gravel and sand pours freely.

Notes to the Leader: This study does not require a high component of discussion and can be used if the group is new or young. You will be trying to decompose the typical Christian response to priority setting, “God should be first.” The idea of God first, however, is more complex. You will begin your study by doing a demonstration. Instructions follow. The demonstration will then be used as the discussion topic for the lesson.

The Demonstration

Begin to fill in the glass container with large rocks. Place them carefully in to the container until it is full. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” The response of your group is not important, just move to the next step. You do not have to tell your group what you are doing. In fact, a little mystery at this point is good.

Start pouring in the gravel. Your choice of the size of the rocks, gravel and sand should be such that the rocks are large enough to leave air pockets. The gravel then fills them in. Shake and tap the container. Then ask the question, “Is it full?”

Next, start pouring in the sand. Your choice of the size of the gravel should be such that the gravel has left air pockets and the sand filters into the remaining spaces. Shake and tap the container. In order to make all this work, the rocks, gravel and sand should be very dry. Then ask the question, “Is it full?”

Now, pour in the water slowly. When you can no longer pour in any more water, ask the question, “Is it full?”

The setup for the discussion

In each progressive step, more and more of your group should have become skeptical and realized that you could keep on packing more into the glass container. At the end, take one more large rock and ask someone in your group to put it into the container. It should be so full at this time, that one more would not fit.

Section One: What’s the Point?

Now ask the question, “What is the point of this demonstration?”

Let the discussion go for a while. Silence is OK so are answers like:

  • There is always room for packing more into your life
  • You can take on so much you eventually can fill your life
  • It is an example of (my) life, etc.

The discussion itself does not really matter until they begin to get to the point of your demonstration:

  • The container represents life. The rocks, gravel, sand and water represent the choices we make and the priorities we set.
  • The moral of the story is: In order to fill the container (life) to the maximum, you must put the big rocks in first.

Ask your group the question, What are the big rocks of life?

  • Education
  • Family
  • Career
  • God (while this is a key point, do not offer it as an example unless someone in your group does)

What is the gravel of life?

  • Cars
  • Friends
  • Clothes

What is the sand of life?

  • Recreation
  • Sports
  • Hobbies
  • Crafts

What is the water of life?

Note: You are not looking for Biblical answers here, like “Jesus.” Use worldly things.

  • Movies
  • TV
  • Music
  • Books

Section Two: The Moral of the Story

The moral of the story so to speak is that God wants to be one of your big rocks and He wants each of us to put Him into our life first, before we fill our life with the other things (rocks, gravel, sand and water). The example shows that you have plenty of room for other big rocks, gravel, sand and water but if we wait until our life is full, it is very hard to find room for God.

Section Three: The Bible’s Rock Stories

Have someone in your group read Mark 10:23-27. This is the famous story about a rich man and a camel fitting through the eye of a needle.

Was Jesus telling the man that there was “no way he could go to heaven if he was wealthy? How does this story relate to our “rocks?”

  • Jesus wasn’t referring to a sewing needle when he talked about a camel going through the eye of a needle. The “eye of a needle” was referring to a small gate within the larger gate at the entrance to a city, probably Jerusalem. It was common to build an ordinary door in the huge gate so that the ordinary people of the day could go and come in the city without leaving the large gate wide open all the time. For a camel to get in, he would have to take off the burden of all he was carrying on his back, and kneel down and crawl through the door. So Jesus was comparing the rich young rulers many possessions as a burden to him. He was giving his treasure more importance than service to God. He had used his money to fill his life with large rocks. He was unwilling to put God in his life first. For that reason, he went away very troubled at what Jesus told him. He was unwilling to change his ways.

Have someone in your group read John 4:1-29

Now re-read John 4:28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I did. Could this be the Christ?”

Why would John put such an insignificant detail into his accounting of the story as “she left her water jar?”

  • In the story of a Samaritan woman’s meeting with Christ she is amazed by the fact that Christ knew everything about her life. While this is often the key point of the story that is discussed, there is an interesting and inconspicuous reference to her water jar that gives us an indication of a change in her priorities. After her encounter with Christ, and her enlightening of His wisdom, she stopped what she was doing and went to tell others. In her response lies the answer to the question of balancing God and life’s priorities. Once we understand who Christ is, it is impossible to continue life as it was. Our priorities change as we begin the process of a Christ-directed life instead of a self-directed life. We make God a rock and put Him in our water jar.

Have someone in your group read Romans 1:21-32

Now re-read Romans 1:21

How is Paul’s story similar to our rock example?

  • It is a somber story that could be the front page of any newspaper in America or, worse yet, a story about our representatives within our government. Paul is very serious here. He ties the entire depravity of mankind to the simple mistake of not placing God first into the container of life.

Paul explains the process by which mankind is deceived. It begins when God is not first. The “darkening of the heart” follows this. This is when we begin to believe the many lies of the world with respect to our God. You might want to discuss them and build a list:

  • God is too good to let someone spend an eternity in hell.
  • I can find God anywhere, like out on the golf course
  • Darwinism and the dinosaurs
  • The Bible is just a history book written by men
  • I believe in God so that is enough – I don’t need organized religion
  • Let my kids decide about God for themselves, I don’t need to influence them.

Note to the Leader: End with a personal exchange between you and each of your group members. Have a supply of large rocks in a pail. One at a time, go to each group member and hand him or her a rock. Look them straight in the eyes and tell each person that the reason you are involved in this study is that you want share what you have learned in life. “God is a big rock and true joy comes when He is put into life first.” Re-read the key verse from Nehemiah 10:37 emphasizing that God does not ask for all we have, just “firstfruits” taken from the bounty He has provided each of us.

Bible Truth Being Taught

God provides us with many choices that we can freely make but He expects to be the first one we make.

Our Response

To enjoy our freedom that comes from God’s grace by keeping our Savior and our God as one of “our big rocks.”

Restoring What Is Broken

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old.

~Lamentations 5:21

Lesson23-image001Materials Needed: Whiteboard or Easel.

Notes to the Leader: This study is best done if your group has already read Lamentations chapters 4 and 5. The questions are specific with regard to Scripture and your group can benefit from discussion on each point that might not be fully understood.

In this lesson, the concept of sin’s consequences is covered. It also provides a forum for discussing the standards to which each citizen should measure its leaders. Use contemporary examples from your newspaper to add interest with respect to punishment, government and the contemporary church. If your group members have children, consider adding further discussion with regard to the consequences of one generation and how they are passed onto the next.


What is the most serious thing you have ever forgotten?

  • For me, there are all those birthdays (my children’s), anniversaries, the occasional departure time for a flight or two causing me to miss the plane, tightening those clamps on that outboard motor of mine (it fell off); and the coat. You see, I was leaving for a month long trip in Asia, forgetting that outside of Florida, it still is very cold in March.

What happened as a result of forgetting those very important things?

  • My children still love me and I remain married so I was spared the trauma of those forgetful moments. But missing those planes did cause me to miss several very important meetings. My motor never quite worked the same after I retrieved it from 3 feet of water and I got sick on my extended Asian trip.

What, then seems to always accompany forgetfulness?

  • Consequences.

What are the things that cause us to forget God and what are the typical consequences?

  • Write the list on your whiteboard or easel.
    • Money
    • Jobs – careers
    • The struggle for power
    • Ego
    • A focus on one’s self
    • and any other priority that places God second typically gets in the way of our understanding of God’s will for us.
  • Many times consequences are not immediately clear. However, time proves that ignoring God is dangerous and leads to a hardened and darkened heart.

Section One: The Horrors of War

Have someone in your group read Lamentations 4:1-5.

What does the imagery of Jeremiah paint in your mind?

  • Here was once a great and wealthy nation. Now they are just ordinary. While the people still clamor for spiritual fulfillment, no one is interested in proving the “food.”

While it is easy to see the suffering of those who have forgotten God, Who else has been hurt by the sin of the people?

  • Ostriches lay their eggs carelessly in the desert and can easily be stepped on. It is the next generation that will also suffer.

Have someone in your group read Lamentations 4:6-11.

What do you remember about the destruction of Sodom?

  • God’s judgment was carried out instantly (Genesis 19:1-29).

What was to make God’s judgment so much more severe this time?

  • No one would be spared, not even the wealthy.
  • Those who died were lucky.
  • The people would be so hungry, they would be driven to cannibalism.

Section Two: Even the Great can Fail

Have someone in your group read Lamentations 4:12-16.

How did the leaders of Jerusalem let down their people?

  • They were guilty of shedding innocent blood. Instead of leading their people to worship and righteous commitment to God, they led their people into idolatry and sin.

Read James 3:1 to your group.

To what standard does God hold a leader against, lower or higher than most?

  • Higher.

Is this higher standard still relevant today?

  • Leaders of our Church, our government, our work and our families should all be held to higher standards. It is what God will do!

Have someone in your group read Lamentations 4:17-20.

What were the people doing here?

  • They had placed lookouts in the city’s tower and watched in hope for Egypt to come to the rescue.

What is the great sin that Jeremiah is bringing forth?

  • Jerusalem’s collapse would be due to three key failures:
    • Failed prophets and priests;
    • A failed alliance with Egypt; and
    • A failed monarchy.

Anyone or anything other than God is false security (read Psalms 18:2)

[Have someone in your group read Lamentations 4:21-22.

What is Jeremiah reminding us of?

  • The enemy will be subject to God’s judgment and we, His people, will be subject to His grace, even though we are subject to our own consequences.

Section Three: The Horror of War

Have someone in your group read Lamentations 5:1-10.

Jeremiah begins his prayer how?

  • Jeremiah is pleading for God to take notice of the plight of His people and turns to prayer.
  • They had lost all of their land and possessions (v. 2)
  • They lost their power and rights as people with property and sovereign citizens (v. 3)
  • They were forced to pay exorbitantly for basic necessities like water and fuel (v. 4)
  • They were hounded and persecuted wherever they went (v. 5)
  • They were forced to beg for bread from despised neighbors (v. 6)
  • They suffered the punishment of their parents (v. 7)
  • They were enslaved by low-ranking Babylonian officials with no hope of rescue (v. 8)
  • They were exposed to attack from desert tribes (v. 9)
  • And they had to endure the constant ravages of hunger (v. 10)

It might have seemed obvious to God, that the Israelites needed help, but they still needed to initiate the prayers.

Have someone in your group read Lamentations 5:11-18.

What were the people of Jerusalem driven to do in all of their despair?

  • (v. 16) We have sinned!. Repentance is often a difficult and bitter pill. In spite of all of the pain, suffering, indignation, etc., there are always those who refuse to repent.

Section Four: Our Hope

Have someone in your group read Lamentations 5:19-22.

What is verse 19?

  • Acknowledgement of God’s sovereign, reign over this world.

Was Jeremiah’s prayer asking God not to abandon His people?

  • Not exactly. God never would abandon His people. God ordained all that was happening to the Israelites for His purpose. God’s covenants remained.

What then was the obstacle in restoration?

  • The people. Never God.

What is the main benefit of sin’s consequences?

  • It is our wake up call.

Are sin’s consequences, than, a blessing or a curse?

  • To those who understand and love our Lord, they are God’s greatest blessing. They focus our attention on repentance.

Bible Truth Being Taught

God never forgets His people; after a time of consequence for sin, God renews His relationship of love with each of us.

Our Response

To encourage us to seek humility before the Lord, to seek His forgiveness, and to experience His power of restoration.

Sex and Marriage

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you , whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.

~1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Lesson24-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: This study will look at sex, marriage, divorce and singleness. The first thing you should do as a leader is be aware and sensitive to the circumstances of each member of your group.

The verses expressed in this study are not the entire biblical perspective on marriage, divorce, or remaining single. They represent pieces of God’s puzzle for us to better understand His will for each our lives.

Proceed with an open mind and heart.


What establishes the behavior in a congregation or church?

  • Each member joins with past experiences, beliefs, motives, and needs. It is each member that forms the behavior of a congregation.

What do you remember about the city of Corinth?

  • As a trading crossroads, every nationality and religion passed through the city of commerce.
  • There were 12 pagan churches in Corinth when Paul established the first Christian church.
  • Most of these churches fostered a self-indulgent permissiveness.
  • Prostitution was made part of the worship experience and conducted within the pagan temples.

What would you speculate were some of the problems facing early Christians in the formation of their church (especially in Corinth)?

  • Leadership
  • Creating an environment for worship
  • Submission of members
  • Sex
  • and every other type of sinful activity, permitted in pagan worship.
  • There was also the tendency to overreact to sin by condoning complete abstinence.

Section One: Sex in the Modern Church

Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 6:12-13.

What does this sound like?

  • This was a slogan of the times in Corinth. It very well could be the slogan of today. It is “Just Do It,” or “Have It Your Way.”

How were people using this attitude or slogan during these times?

  • This was their license to do what ever they wanted to do.

Note: Paul was not condoning this attitude and his was not attacking it.

What was Paul’s position?

  • Paul was going beyond what was “legally” permissible to do. Paul asks:

Is the thing I give myself permission to do beneficial?

Will the thing I permit master me? (Greek word is exousiadzo, to control or enslave.)

How might this information help us judge the character of leadership, the right, the wrong of society, and avoid sin?

Two easy questions to ask:

What good is created for mankind, for people?

Is someone’s life driven by desires (whether viewed by society as good or bad) to the point of recklessness?

Re-read 1 Corinthians 6:13 to your group. Paul uses another Greed proverb. They had extended the proverb to say, “Sex for the body and the body for sex.” They were using the argument that sex is a natural act just like eating and, therefore, it was not bad.

How does Paul counter this thinking?

  • Both food and the stomach are temporal, they end at death. God did not create the body for sex outside of marriage. He created the body for Himself, an eternal purpose.

Let us assume that none of us are part of any similar sinful group. How is it that we would find ourselves convicted by the relevance of Paul’s words, “the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body?”

  • Tolerance of sin in leadership
  • The acceptance of lower standards than Christ
  • Seduction of our affluence by changing priorities away from Godly causes to worldly concerns and pursuits.

Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 6:15-17.

What should the most serious concerns be for people engaged in sexual immorality?

  • Unfortunately, the list is typically disease or getting caught. Yet, if we accept the fact that we are in union with Christ, He not only knows but we are disgracing His very presence by our actions.

Read Genesis 2:24 to the group.

What is the significance of this union?

  • Two people become one in the eyes of God. This is the miracle, not the self-gratification of the relationship. God intended something special here, beyond the physical pleasure of sex. This is the same union we have with Christ.
  • here is no room for illegitimacy anywhere.

Note: Aristotle Quote – “Friendship is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”

Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

What are Paul’s two points he is making here?

  • The use of the word “flee” is an indication of Paul’s concern over this sin. He is highlighting the danger of it all. Don’t walk away, don’t look back for a second glance, just flee.
  • Paul is also making the premise that your body is not your own, nor is it a shell for the soul. It is the sanctuary of God’s Holy Spirit. His point: “Christ died to save your soul and your body.”

Section Two: Married versus Single

Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:1-16.

Re-read 1 Corinthians 1:11 to the group. Up to this point, Paul has been responding to issues brought forward from someone within Chloe’s household. Now, as we see in 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul turns to a letter from the church.

Most of the remaining chapters 7-15 are in response to that letter.

It is with confusion that we read this section. Since in the Greek translation, it actually means good to be celibate.

Why should we be confused by Paul’s assertions here?

  • Paul had just affirmed God’s design for man and woman to be married (1 Corinthians 6:16)
  • While Paul was single when he wrote this, only married men were chosen for membership in the Sanhedrin (of which Paul was probably a member Acts 26:10). Therefore, Paul was probably married at one time. We do not know, however, what would have happened. God did not provide us this part of the story.
  • In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul presents a high view that marriage pictures the relationship between God and His people.
  • In 1 Timothy 4:2-3, Paul attacked teachers who “forbid marriage” as “hypocritical liars.”
  • The statement, therefore, in 1 Corinthians 7:1, appears to be another slogan adopted by some Corinthians who had chosen a kind of super asceticism (self-denial to obtain conformity with the divine). If sex were sinful, they would be right, it would be good for a man not to touch a woman. Some early Christians believed in celibate marriages.

So what is Paul saying about sex?

  • Sex is not sinful. Man should have (as his exclusive sexual property) his own wife and each woman should have (as her exclusive sexual property) her own husband. Neither with exclusive authority but shared. There is complete sexual equality in Paul’s statement here. Paul is making this statement against those who in Corinth, have somehow determined that there should be no sex in marriage.
  • Paul’s only exception with regard to a normal healthy pattern of marital sexual intimacy is (for a limited time) to set it aside for prayer. Paul even emphasizes “by mutual consent.”

Remember, Paul makes these statements to people in Corinth, a city with a thriving society, accepting of prostitutes. Paul’s alternative, a healthy marriage.

Read 1 Corinthians 7:7 to your group. In order to be a rabbi, the Law required Paul to be married. The normal age for marriage was 18. It may be his wife had died. It is also possible that when he became a Christian, she remained a Jew and separated from him permanently (Philippians 3:8). What we know is that when Paul wrote his letter back to Corinth, he was single and satisfied with the celibate life.

What does Paul say about being single?

  • It is a gift. Some can and some cannot
  • Only those who can remain single without sin should do so. Others should marry
  • It is not a badge of holiness, just a matter of personal giftedness, choice and the will of God.

Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:8-16.

What is Paul saying about marriage?

  • Marriage is good.
  • Single men and women are free to do so and should do so if there desires are strong.
  • However, once married, they should not separate from their spouses.

What is Paul saying about divorce?

  • During the early formation of the Christian church, there were a lot of divided households. Paul states that in an unequally yoked home, the believer should not initiate the divorce (vv. 12-13).
  • The unbelieving spouse and children are set apart for the Lord’s special attention and have spiritual advantages as a result of the relationship with a Christian spouse and parent (v. 14).
  • If the unbelieving spouse abandons the believer, the believer is no longer bound to that person (v. 15).

Section Three: Be Careful of What You Ask For

Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Paul is saying that when we become a Christian, that will bring changes. However, we are not to rush to change our entire life.

What is Paul’s guiding principle on this question of changing one’s life in response to God?

  • Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord has assigned to him and to which God has called him (v. 17, 21, 24)

Section Four: Advice from the Apostle

Read 1 Corinthians 7:26 to your group. There are only theories as to what the impending crisis was that Paul was responding to in the letter from Corinth. What is clear is that this crisis was one that impacted married couples and, because of some transitory uncertain nature in this crisis, it affected those who were contemplating marriage.

Have someone in your group read 1 Corinthians 7:28-38.

Paul identifies what problems?

  • Married couples face special pressures (v.28).
  • Singles face unique pressures also (v. 9, 37).
  • Getting married is no sin (v. 28).
  • Christians live in a world marked by trouble (v. 28).
  • The world is temporal (v. 29) and already passing away (v. 31)
  • We are in danger of its entrapment (v. 31).

What is Paul’s advice?

  • Christians should hold loosely to anything that is part of this world (vv. 29-30).
  • We may use the things of this world but must not become engrossed, entrapped, or to overuse them (v. 31).
  • Married believers, because of their greater need to use the things of this world, tend to cling to worldly interests (v. 33-34).
  • The challenge for Christians is not distraction but to live in undivided loyalty to the Lord (v. 35).
  • Marriage is a lifelong commitment; death alone should break it.

Bible Truth Being Taught

Being members of Christ’s Church have practical implications that affect a person’s sex life, marital choices, and personal relationship with the world.

Our Response

To understand that sexual and marital issues are to be decided in recognition of Christ’s ownership of our bodies as well as our souls.

Seeing Jesus

But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.

~Acts 9:15

Lesson30-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: One of the functions of group Bible study is to provide the opportunity to practice sharing one’s faith. This type of sharing does not typically come easy. It is deeply personal and the entire act of salvation is often confusing.

Salvation is God’s grace, Jesus’ work, and our response. We learn a lot by studying the most famous of conversions, the Apostle Paul’s “road to Damascus” experience. Yet the real learning comes not so much from what happened on that day but what happened afterwards. This study looks at Paul’s life and how his experience was molded into the productive work of our Lord.


Why does God give some people a great faith experience and others just a simple faith walk?

  • It is easy to get caught up in an exciting story like Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus. However, experiences like Saul’s are the exception, not the rule. God gives us experiences based upon His knowledge of our needs. We should never feel that somehow, our story is not worth telling. All encounters with Christ, whether dramatic or simple, are worth sharing.

This is an opportunity for you or someone in your group to share.

  • How did you come to know the Lord?
  • How did the Lord first get your attention?
  • Do you remember your decision to trust in Christ?
  • What were the first changes you experienced?
  • Do you remember the person who assured you or prayed with you?

When do you think that Saul’s conversion really started?

  • Probably before his Damascus road experience. Can you imagine the impact of Stephen’s death, praying for his killers, Stephen looking up and seeing Jesus and that experience reflected into Stephen’s face? No doubt that God was working on Saul much earlier than Damascus.

Section One: The Persecutor

Read Acts 9:1-2 to your group.

As a preface to this lesson, this is what we know about Saul:

  • Saul was a young man (between 24 and 40). Acts 7:58
  • He was a Jew and began his studies young (5 yrs) as all boys did. Acts 21:39; 22:3
  • He was born in Tarsus, and important city in Cilicia; everyone born there was automatically a Roman citizen with special privileges. Acts 16:37-38; 21:39; 22:3, 25-29
  • He spoke Greek, meaning he had a classical Greek education. Acts 21:37
  • He spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. Acts 21:40; 22:2
  • He was raised in Jerusalem. Acts 22:3
  • He was a disciple of the respected Pharisee, Gamaliel, and had been given a superior rabbinical education that probably started when he was 13. Acts 22:3
  • He was an expert in Jewish law. Acts 22:3

What was Saul’s motivation for persecuting Christians?

  • His zeal for God.

How would you describe the way Saul acted toward the early Christians?

  • Public
  • Vocal
  • Animated
  • Zealous
  • Willing to ignore Roman law to advance his cause (Stephen was killed without Roman approval).

Would the people of Saul’s time have considered him evil? Would Saul have considered himself evil?

  • Probably not. Remember, it was his zeal for God and the Law that drove him this way.

How would you respond to the use of “the Way” in verse 9:2? What does it mean to you?

  • Acts uses the phrase “the Way” six times. It has its roots in the Old Testament, which often speaks of the manner of life God expects His people to live as the “way” of the Lord or “path” of righteousness or life (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 4:11-12).

Now read John 14:6 to your group.

How does the New Testament use the term “way?”

  • Jesus personalized it by saying He is “the way” and the only way.

Section Two: Only Saul Could See Jesus

Have someone in your group read Acts 9:3-9.

How did Saul respond to the Voice?

  • His response in Greek would have been kurios, a word meaning sir. By this it is understood that Saul knew the voice was that of God’s.

What is it that happens when Saul hears the Voice that is so typical of acts of conversion?

  • Saul suddenly recognizes his sin and his erroneous logic.

What else was it that moved Saul so dramatically?

  • He clearly saw Jesus.

Afterwards, was Saul immediately an effective evangelist?

  • Hardly. Saul was physically blind, dependent upon those around him. Initially planning to enter Damascus as someone to clean up the town of Christians, he was highly dependent and redirected. Saul still needed some more work.

Section Three: A Reluctant Evangelist

Have someone in your group read Acts 9:10-19.

So far, what can you summarize about someone’s conversion of faith?

  • We know that God is working in the lives of those we may even see as His enemies.
  • An encounter with Christ can change anyone’s heart.
  • It is best to be non-judgmental when inviting those into our faith. Ananias, while reluctant, obeyed his God and administered both care and the sacrament of baptism to Saul. Saul’s conversion was not complete until his encounter with fellow Christians.

What were the changes in Saul after his three day encounter with Jesus?

  • On the road he became convinced that Jesus is Lord (vv. 5-6)
  • Through Ananias he became convinced that Jesus must be preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews (v. 15)
  • He also became convinced he was God’s chosen instrument to carry Jesus’ name to the Gentiles (v. 15)

What things happened to Saul when he was visited by Ananias?

  • He was accepted into the family of God (v. 17). The term “brother” was the assurance of forgiveness.
  • He was filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 17).
  • He was healed – his eyesight restored (v. 18).
  • He was baptized (v. 18).
  • God commissioned him as an apostle to the Gentiles (v. 15).

What was the significance of Saul’s baptism?

  • This was his initial open confession of faith.

Section Four: Seeing Jesus

Have someone in your group read Acts 9:19-31.

What are some of the points of Saul’s conversion that seem to stand out to you?

  • A single encounter with Jesus redirected his entire life.
  • The entire spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles can be traced to this event.
  • Saul dedicated all of his life and resources to evangelism.
  • No doubt there may be many more.

Can someone be a Christian without sharing their own story of how Christ came into their lives?

  • It is hard to imagine how anyone could comprehend the value of God’s grace, the cleansing of Christ’s work on the cross and the value from being guided by the Holy Spirit and not share their story. If someone struggles with this, even after their road to Damascus, it could be they just haven’t met their Ananias yet.
Close with this thought:

You could be someone’s “Ananias,” the brother or sister who can help someone move into a productive life for Christ. Please never forget that Christ does the saving, but we have been given an important role to play in the fulfillment of God’s will.

Bible Truth Being Taught

When a person really comes to see who Jesus is, they begin to live a new life, and are bound to tell others what they see, even though it may be costly to do so.

Our Response

To see who Jesus is, to live a new life, and to tell others about Christ no matter what the personal cost.

Empty Religion

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in most marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.

~Mark 12:38-40

Lesson28-image001Materials Needed: Whiteboard or easel.

Notes to the Leader: It is amazing to see how quickly Jesus was proclaimed the King and within just a few days, hung on a cross to die. With this study, you will look at the last week of Christ’s life and try to understand our Savior’s impassioned pleas to His people. The study concluded with a format of open discussion centered around what it means to be a Christian. If you are looking for a study to open up your group and practice sharing opinions in a constructive and open forum, then you might want to consider this study.

Section One: Christ Makes His Triumphant Entry

Read Mark 11:1-11 to your group. Christ was now only eight days from the cross. He would literally go from being praised as King to cursed, condemned and crucified. This must be the world’s record for the fastest drop in popularity.

Now read Zechariah 9:9. They knew He was their Messiah (vv 9-10).

Why was their joy and faith so shallow and short lived?

  • They had the wrong idea of what the Messiah would bring. They expected worldly victory, Christ was bringing victory of another world.
  • The people did not understand God’s word directly. As a result, the Pharisees were able to turn them against Christ.
  • Mankind’s history is to pursue the God he wants rather than the God that is.
  • Help your group understand Passion Week. Have your group read selected Scripture verses from Mark. Then discuss the events as you draw a form of the following information:
  • Day of Week Scripture Events
  • Sunday Mark 11:11 Triumphal entry, visit to temple
  • Monday Mark 11:12-25 Fig tree cursed, temple cleansed
  • Tuesday Mark 11:27-13:37 Controversy in temple, Olivet discourse
  • Wednesday Mark 14:1-11 Anointing in Bethany, plot of traitor
  • Thursday Mark 14:12-72 Passover & Last Supper, Gethsemane, Jewish Trial
  • Friday Mark 15:1-47 Trial before Pilate, crucifixion & burial
  • Saturday Mark 16:1-14 Resurrection

Now lets look that some of the events of that week.

Section Two: A Nation Without Fruit

Have someone in your group read Mark 11:12-14.

Christ is God and, therefore, must have known the fig tree had no fruit. It wasn’t even the season for figs. To curse it was not a petty action on Christ’s part. It was to be symbolic of Israel (who’s symbol was often a fig tree). Israel was a nation abounding in religious profession, but it was barren of the fruit of righteousness.

How is it that we the “Church” today can avoid this same kind of problem?

  • Each of us must first remember that today, we are the church. If each of us works to keep our lives focused upon Christ, He will make sure we bear fruit (John 15:1-2).
  • To measure ourselves by the same criteria Christ used, fruit.
  • To quote William Barclay: ” Christ’s condemnation was for:
    • Promise without fulfillment; and
    • Profession without practice.

Section Three: What is an Effective Prayer?

Have someone in your group read Mark 11:20-26.

Christ used the withered fig tree to teach each of us key elements necessary in prayer. What are they?

  • Faith, belief that God can do all things. (vv 22-24)
  • Forgiveness, both for our sins (forgiveness of God) and the sins of others against us (our forgiveness of others). (vv25-26)

Why do you think it is so important to forgive others?

  • It demonstrates our realization of what Christ did for us on the Cross (Ephesians 4:32).
  • It is necessary to obtain our own forgiveness from God (Matthew 6:14-15).

Section Four: The Defiled Temple

Have someone in your group read Mark 11:15-19, 27-33.

While we can see why Christ was so upset at the merchants, many churches today use bazaars, bingo, raffles, etc. to raise money.

How should we use this story of Christ and the money changers to avoid making similar mistakes?

  • Motives, motives, motives (Proverbs 21:2).
  • Seek God’s view for your plans (Proverbs 2:1-6).

Section Five: Christ’s Plan

Have someone in your group read Mark 12:1-12.

Christ defines His plan. What others were about to reject, Christ would build into His church. Because of our faith, it is hard for us to understand the rejection of Christ. However, Christians all over this world continue to reject Christ in other ways. Using a whiteboard or easel, work with your group to build a list of answers for the next two questions.

What are some of today’s excuses used for not attending church?

  • Too busy;
  • Church is boring;
  • Churches are full of hypocrites;
  • Churches are only after money.

What are some of the excuses used by non-Christians for not becoming a Christian?

  • I’m a good person;
  • Christians don’t have any fun;
  • I am happy with my life the way it is;
  • If God is love, He will welcome everyone.

Do you think that the people who use these excuses understand what Christianity really is? What is it to you?

  • My personal thoughts: “That I am loved by God and He has a plan for my life. But because I am, by my nature, a sinful being, I am separated from God. Christ is my only way to know God’s plan for me. Therefore, I have accepted Christ as my Lord.”

Section Six: Tricky Questions

Have someone in your group read Mark 12:13-37a.

While Christ’s opponents were trying to trap Him in a mistake of doctrine, Christ gave us some important lessons. What were they?

  • Government is recognized by God as necessary. We are, therefore, called by God to be good citizens and to be lawful in all we do. (vv14-17)
  • Do not search for full understanding within man’s intellect. We have a God of power that is beyond human understanding. In all things, remember God’s power is supreme. (vv18-27)
  • Christ simplifies all of the Law. In these passages are the essence of living a fruit-filled life. Christ was not redefining the Law, only re-focusing on God’s original commands (see Deuteronomy 6:4, Leviticus 19:18). (vv28-34)

Section Seven: The Warning

Have someone in your group read Mark 12:37b-44.

Christ was now focused on the followers of empty, formal, ritualistic religion. From His message discuss the following lessons for us:

What relevance can you derive from Christ’s words?

  • The leaders didn’t walk their talk. (v38)
  • Long prayers are not necessary. (v40) How do these affect others?
  • These were for the benefit of ego only, and not for communication with God. Therefore, they were of no value.
  • This discouraged others from praying.
  • Giving large amounts of money to the church to impress people or to gain favor and position is of no real interest to Christ. He was much more impressed with penny’s from the poor (vv 41-42).

Notes: This is a good point to shift your discussion to a current state of events. You may wish to use your group’s experiences at other churches or even your own church. Keep the discussion positive by focusing on what each person can do to minimize the problems that are discussed.

Discussion Points: Empty religion is of no interest to Christ. His measure is of the fruit, not the size of the tree but in how sweet the fruit is.

What are some of the ways spiritual dullness and hypocrisy could manifest themselves in a church?

What can each person do to prevent it?

  • Insulate ourselves and become a self-serving social club. Christ wants us to be active in the community and the world.
  • Let worship become entertaining rather than our humble response to the generosity of our great God.
  • Consider all other churches beneath us and wrong in their pursuit of Christ.
  • Fail to establish the Bible as the Word of God.
  • Believe that bigger means better.

What “fruit ” does God expect of us?

  • To be noticeably different than the non-Christian world.
  • To honor our God above all else and to do this unconditionally.
  • To begin each day with the desire to share the Gospel of Truth with someone and, if necessary, use words.
  • Place our trust, faith and hope in Christ.

What can keep us from bringing forth fruit?

  • Focusing on this world rather than the next.
  • To be unrepentant.
  • Failing to recognize the power and majesty of our great God.
  • Not turning our lives over to Christ.

Bible Truth Being Taught

You cannot worship our God with half a heart. He demands all that we are and to become to be placed in the hands of our Christ.

Our Response

To recognize that hypocrisy is abhorrent to the Lord and to avoid the pitfalls of empty religion. The Christian life is one that is constantly under construction, allowing God’s Spirit to produce the fruit within our lives.

Growing As A Christian

Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ, and go on to maturity.

~Hebrews 6:1

Lesson31-image001Materials Needed: Whiteboard or easel. Possibly note pads if you elect to break your group up for part of the lesson.

Notes to the Leader: This study is a “soft” attack on the attitude that neutrality is an acceptable place to stand in the Church of Christ. Dante states, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.” Such is the stated goal of this lesson. Not so much to move those who do not believe but to move those who do believe just a little bit faster, as if their “eternal life” depended upon it.

This is a good study for letting your group break up into teams and work together. The exercise provides familiarity with the Bible and both the Old and New Testaments.


How would you describe someone who is immature?

  • Webster: not mature, ripe, developed, or perfected.
  • What are some of the risks associated with immaturity?
  • Easily mislead
  • Makes mistakes
  • Easily hurt
  • Impatient
  • Short span of attention.

Read Hebrews 5:11-14 to your group. Have them carefully listen/look for the signs of spiritual immaturity. There are at least four:

What are signs of spiritual immaturity?

  • Slow to learn (v. 11) – Unable to listen, receive, and act on the Word of God.
  • You need someone to teach you (v. 12) – Unable to share God’s truth with others because of apathy and spiritual retreat.
  • Anyone who lives on milk (v. 13) – Unskilled in the knowledge and experience of the Gospel – resulting from lack of advancement in the Christian life.
  • Unable to discern “teaching about righteousness – Unskilled in discerning “good from evil.”

What are some of the risks associated with being an immature Christian?

  • Can be mislead by others claiming to be following Christ
  • In our ignorance, we can be disobedient to God’s commands because we don’t know any better
  • Our expectations of other Christians can leave us vulnerable to disappointment
  • We fail to lead a fulfilled Christian life
  • We are unable to help others understand the message of the Gospel.

Section One: The Evidence of No Growth

Re-Read Hebrews 5:11-14 to your group. Note the first verse 5:11 in several translations if your can by asking others to re-read their own Bibles. NIV refers to “this.” However, some translations refer to “him” in reference to Melchizedek.

How can you tell if you are not moving toward maturity?

  • Do not understand the message of the Gospel
  • Comfortable with status quo, not experiencing growth in Christian thought and life
  • Not capable of receiving deeper truths.

Can you be a Christian and not grow spiritually?

  • Salvation and leading a fulfilled Christian life are separable. However, in Hebrews, the points out that they were even loosing ground in that they needed to be retrained in the basics all over again. While we are saved through the grace of God, Hebrews points out that the only acceptable direction to our lives is forward. Neutral is not acceptable because of the risks.

Why is it important to understand the deeper truths of Scripture?

  • A mature Christian is far less likely to be deceived and led astray by false teaching than an uninstructed one.

Read Acts 21:20 to your group. These were people who accepted Christ but also retained their beliefs in Jewish law (both views conflict).

Section Two: Working Through The Differences

Read Hebrews 6:1-3 Try to build a chart on the elementary teachings of both the Old and New Testaments. Discuss each area on their differences. You may want to consider breaking up your group to work through these to save time. Assign the groups by doctrine so that each group can work through both Old and New Testament differences.

Doctrines Old Testament Belief New Testament Belief

Acts that lead to death Ezek. 14:6; Zech. 1:2-4 Matt. 3:1-2, 5:21-22; Rom. 6:21

Faith in God Gen. 15:6; Ex. 14:13; Hosh. 1:9; Isa. 7:9 Acts 2:20-21, 36-38; 1 Peter 1:18-21; Heb. 2:4

Baptisms – Washing Ex. 30:17-21; Lev. 6:27; Deut. 21:6; Ezek. 36:25 John 3:5; Titus 3:5; Mark 16:16

Baptisms – Laying on of the hands Num. 27:18, 23; Deut. 34:9; Lev. 1:4, 3:2; Num. 8:12 Acts 6:6, 13:3; 1 Tim.4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6

Resurrection of the dead Ex. 3:6; Job 19:25-26; Ps. 16:10, 17:15; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2 Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:20-22; 1 Thes. 4:16-17; Phil. 3:11; 1 John 3:2; (Mark 12:18; Acts 23:6-8)

Eternal Judgment Gen. 18:25; 1 Chron. 16:33; Pss. 9:7-8; 96:13; 98:9; Ecc. 12:14; Isa. 33:22; Dan. 7:9 Matt. 25:41; John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:31; Rev. 20:10, 15

Section Three: The Answers

Acts that lead to death:

OT – God called the people of Israel to turn from their wicked ways and to come back (repentance for sinful acts) to Him.

NT – Emphasis was on repentance for sinful thoughts as well as sinful acts.

Faith in God:

OT – People were taught to put their faith in God.

NT – People were now taught to put their faith in Christ.

Instructions about baptisms:

OT – Jews had various types of washings and taught the need for physically cleansing in order to have fellowship with God.

NT – Stressed deeper teachings, not of physical cleansing but of the heart. The washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is often thought of as remorse, sorrow for sin. The Greek word, however, means a change of mind.

Laying on of hands:

OT – Was for the commissioning of someone for a divinely appointed task.

NT – Associated with imparting the Holy Spirit and with healing.

Resurrection of the dead:

OT – Taught but not mentioned as frequently as other doctrines.

NT – Much fuller teaching because of Christ’s resurrection.

Eternal judgment:

OT – God was judge of all the earth and His people.

NT – Christ is the judge; the Cross was where judgment took place for all believers; and the wages of sin is death (eternal separation from God).

Section Four: The Life’s Consequences

Have someone in your group read Hebrews 6:4-10 This passage contains a stern warning.

How do you interpret this for day-to-day application?

  • It is difficult to interpret because we do not know whether the “enlightened” ones were believers or unbelievers. Several possible conclusions are:
  • They were professing Christians, not regenerated ones.
  • This passage is of only a hypothetical case.
  • The purpose, therefore, may very well be to shock us out of lethargy.
  • Motivation is often accomplished through both warnings and assurances. Have someone in your group read 1 Peter 1:13-21

What can happen to a church (body of believers) when they focus on only one motivating factor (joy/love versus fear)?

  • A focus on fear can drive people away, give up entirely, become overly judgmental, serve Christ for the wrong reasons.
  • A focus on assurances can bring us to seek our emotional feelings of joy rather than God’s will, loose sight of our responsibilities, become self-serving.

So what is the balance for the believer?

  • Lean hard on the promises of God when you are tempted to despair
  • Heed the warnings of God when you are tempted to self-confidence.

Re-read Hebrews 6:9-10 to your group.

How should we be comforted by this passage?

  • “God is not unjust.”
  • God is also merciful and in this we find our real comfort.

How then can full assurance and extreme warning coexist?

  • Being assured of our standing in God’s salvation is more important than a full understanding of a particular doctrine. A similar dilemma exists with the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.

Section Five: The Payoff

Have someone in your group read Hebrews 6:11-20 This passage responds to the theme of Hebrews: “We should act on the basis of what we have.”

What do we have?

  • (vv. 13-20) God’s promise of inheritance, confirmed by an oath, demonstrated by the work of Christ (sacrifice) for our benefit.

How should we act?

  • (vv.11-12) Continue diligently until the end.

Have someone in your group read Hebrews 11:1-3

How is it that we come to believe (have faith) in something that we cannot see?

  • Prayer
  • The reflection of one’s faith in their daily life for others to see
  • The study of God’s word
  • Dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

Bible Truth Being Taught

Christ does not call us to seek common ground nor neutrality with regard to our faith. You are either with Him or against Him.

Our Response

To learn that those who inherit Gods promises do so through faith and patience but gained through the faithful study of God’s Word, always moving forward to maturity, lest we slip back and fall away.


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