Saturday, September 26, 2009

 

Time to Get Serious, James 4:7-12

Hello all:

For those who were unaware, I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Our group is the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. I thought it might be a good thing to share these on the blog too so as to keep it a bit more active. So, with that introduction, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on September 27. The lesson is on James 4:7-12. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Time to Get Serious
James 4:7-12

Introduction
When I was a child, I learned that if you made people laugh they would remember you
I tended to do silly things to get attention
My favorite part of Veggie Tales is still “Silly Songs with Larry”

However, I soon learned that there was a time for fun and a time to be serious
1. Coaches rarely appreciate humor during the big game
2. Bosses tend to want serious workers instead of office clowns
3. Baggage check personnel don’t like jokes about explosives
4. Generals want soldiers who are serious about duty and honor

“Three eternal truths: things are not what they seem, the world is at war, and each of us has a crucial role to play.” John Eldredge

When it comes to our walk with God, the letter of James reminds us that it is time to get serious

Get Serious with God, Part 1
James 4:7-10

Ten Commands are found in these verses
1. Submit to God
“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” C. T. Studd

2. Resist the devil
If we are properly submitted to God, Satan will not be able to stand because we use God’s armor to resist him (Ephesians 6)

3. Draw near to God
A command with a promise: “And he will draw near to you.”
Coming to God provides an opportunity for him to work in you, but such drawing near requires the next two commands

4. Cleanse your hands
Be careful what you do
We cannot draw near to God and hang on to sin at the same time
The two are mutually exclusive

5. Purify your heart
Be careful what you think (Phil. 4:8-9)
We cannot think the thoughts of God if we are still working on the enemy’s side

6-9. Be miserable, mourn, weep + Laughter to mourning (joy to gloom) = Repentance (cf. Jer. 31:13-14)
To repent means to reverse direction
“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” Augustine

10. Humble yourselves (another command with a promise)
"It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment." Bernard of Clairvaux
Phil. 2:5-8

Get Serious about Each Other
James 4:11-12

Jesus’ two great commands (Matt. 22:36-40)
Love God
Love your neighbor

James’ view of loving your neighbor is represented in the negative
Treating fellow Christ followers with disrespect
Gossip, speaking ill of one another, misrepresenting another’s position or word

Note the connection
To speak against your fellow believer is to speak against God’s Word/Law
Why? To some degree we are the “word” of God to each other and the world
We must be doers of God’s Word, not judges of it
Servant evangelism involves living God’s Word in our daily lives

Application
This word of God has been properly applied if it leads to repentance in personal relationships. This repentance will include several components:

1. Self-examination. We must cut through self-justifying claims and accepted patterns to look beneath the surface. We must scrutinize the way we relate to others. How are our relationships functioning? What are our underlying attitudes and motives toward each other? We need to learn to talk to each other, not about each other.

2. Evaluation by God's standards. We need to seriously evaluate our lives according to God’s standards of holiness. What in our lives measure up to God’s expectations?

3. Change. If we don’t measure up to God’s standard, then we need to pursue genuine repentance. Repentance should lead to change. There should be an increasing evidence of God’s standards in the way we treat each other and in the way we live.

4. Grace-reliance. We need to learn to rely on God. We need to move from self-reliance to complete abandonment to God and his ways. Remember, God gives grace to the humble. We must learn to humble ourselves and build up others. If we rely on God, we will not rely only on our own abilities.

Discussion Questions
Where do we need to get serious with God? Are we living intentionally submissive to God’s Spirit? What does it look like to submit to God?

Where do we need to resist the devil? Where do we need help in our resistance? How do you feel when you think of Satan fleeing?

Why and how does someone “move away” from God? Is there a part of your life out of which you have pushed God? Perhaps, in your singleness, relationships, parents, work or education? Are you serious with God in all those aspects, or do you just “say it”?

Describe a time when you drew near to God and/or when God drew near to you.
James tells us our hearts need to be purified. What got in our hearts that made them unclean? Think about a time something crept into your heart and analyze how that affected your life, decisions and relationships.

What would the church look like if we took serious the command to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts? What kind of impact would it have on our neighborhoods?

How is repentance a form of humility? What would happen if every Christ follower was as humble as Jesus?

Where do we need less judgment and more living of God’s word? Will you be the one to do it? Who could benefit from your acceptance?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

 

A Matter of Heart: Who is the Greatest?

Hello all:

For those who were unaware, I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Our group is the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. I thought it might be a good thing to share these on the blog too so as to keep it a bit more active. So, with that introduction, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on September 20. The lesson was on Mark 9:30-37. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

A Matter of Heart
Who is the Greatest?
Mark 9:30-37

Introduction
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a hero
Win the big game
Save those in distress
Defeat the “bad guys”

Few people are born with a desire to be less than best
In our hearts, most of us want to be champions, to be the greatest

Questions
When you think of the word “greatest,” what comes to mind?
What did you dream of being when you dreamed of being the “best”?
Who represents best what it means to be the “greatest” in your life?

To be great requires great heart
Let’s look at a situation in Jesus’ life that reveals a contrast between someone great and someone “not so great”
Mark 9:30-37

1. Committed or Confused
Mark 9:30-32
Notice the contrast in these verses

Jesus is clear about what will happen next
This is now the third time he predicted his own passion

The disciples are confused
They are even unwilling to ask questions anymore
They are poor “learners” or disciples because they are apparently comfortable with their confusion

Jesus is committed to the plan set before him
He knows this is why he was sent, he does not need false publicity or recognition by others to spur him to complete God’s plan

The disciples have not even “heard” him
They refuse even to speak

The committed heart is focused on what God wants and refuses to be confused by outside concerns

2. Haughty or Humble
Mark 9:33-37
Notice the contrast here

Jesus discusses his death, and it falls on “deaf” ears
The disciples discuss who is greatest, while they miss the point

Jesus speaks straightforward truth, he is honest
The disciples’ confusion/shame causes them to stay silent

Jesus exalts the humble
The disciples discuss who is the best (behind Jesus’ back)

The humble heart serves others regardless of status

True greatness is
Honest
Doesn’t look for honors
Willing to serve the “least of these”

Are you great?

3. Application
To be great requires an honest and humble heart

We’ll never attain to Jesus’ high expectations
If we refuse to be honest about ourselves
If we refuse to humble ourselves

We must be willing to speak the truth about our lives, our selves, and our circumstances
It is time to be like a child, take off our masks with our brothers and sisters
This will require a commitment to love and to serve each other regardless of what we discover

If we are to be the men and women God intends, we must be “in each others’ lives”

This week, give serious thought to the relationships in your life
Look at where you are truly committed, ask yourself what (or who) you are “sold out to”
Ask where you have been less than honest or where you have thought more highly of yourself than you should
Humble yourself and ask forgiveness where needed
Follow Christ’s lead and speak truth where needed
Find a way to serve or to accept someone with childlike trust

4. Questions
Why do you think the disciples of Jesus were so intent on talking about their status than about what He had just been talking about?

Why might they be arguing now about who is the greatest? How does Jesus handle their conflict? Where do you tend to defend yourself the most? What causes arguments among us?

What do you find yourselves discussing "along the way" of life with fellow believers as you walk with Jesus Christ? Are you being honest with each other, or are you trying to look “best” and save face?

What does Jesus say about greatness?

Did you demonstrate a child-like faith when you came to trust in Christ for your salvation? Are you continuing to show that same trust as you walk with him? Why/why not?

What has been your experience when you submit yourself to the will of God and say "I am yours. I am your humble servant, ready to do your will"?


Thanks for reading!

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