Sunday, November 29, 2009

 

Truth on Trial: John 18:25-38

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called 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. A few weeks ago I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on November 29. The lesson is on John 18:25-38 and is entitled "Truth on Trial." If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!


Truth on Trial
John 18:25-38


Introduction
Struggles with truth
I am a philosopher by nature, and a skeptic as well
I like to pursue truth, but often find myself in a struggle to know what it is in certain situations (e.g., news stories, sermons, personal testimonies)

Our society has a problem with truth as well
Barna Research
Politics
Even university education

Today’s lesson looks at a time when truth was on trial
The end of the story is that Truth put everyone else on trial

Three views of truth are expressed in our passage for today:
1. Truth is Relative
2. Truth is Pragmatic
3. Truth is Absolute

John 18:25-38

When truth is on trial, what is our testimony?

1. Truth is Relative
Peter and the Jews (John 18:25-32)

Discussion Questions
a. When confronted with a true statement, how does Peter respond?
b. Why do you think Peter responded this way?
c. When given a chance to tell the truth, how did the Jews respond?
d. The Jewish leaders would not enter Pilate’s court to avoid being defiled. Would lying defile a person at Passover?

Peter and the Jewish leaders seem to relate to truth as a malleable substance subject to their own interpretation
a. They deny it outright (Peter)
b. They spin it (Jewish leaders)
c. They only use part of it for their own ends (Jewish leaders)

The Problem with Relative Truth
a. It creates a situation where bad cultural ideas become in some sense “true” or “good” (e.g. Nazi Germany, genocide, etc.)
b. It can be very contradictory (My truth and your truth may not be THE truth), and in fact it is self-contradictory
c. It claims absolute authority (all truth statements are relative to the person(s) making the statement)
d. It doesn’t fit with how we live out lives everyday (we make decisions based on an idea of absolute truth or objective reality—e.g. we don’t buy the green meat at Wal-Mart)

“In the absence of truth, power is the only game in town.” Richard John Neuhaus

When truth is on trial, what is your testimony?
Do you spin it to fit your own terms, or do you stand for God’s truth (the absolute Truth)?

2. Truth is Pragmatic/Power
Pilate (John 18:33-38)

Bear with me in a bit of speculation here
a. Scholars are not sure why Pilate asked his infamous question
b. It is not clear exactly what Pilate may have thought about truth
c. Pilate certainly spoke some truth in his encounter with Jesus
d. Pilate finally decides to give up one man to preserve the peace of a nation (pragmatism)

Pilate’s experience with the Jews shows that he often operated from a pragmatic stance in which he understood truth to be determined by the person with the most power or by the idea that seemed to work the best

Let’s take a closer look at Pilate’s dilemma
a. He had a bad history with the Jews
b. He had to please his superiors and keep peace with the Jews
c. It was early in the morning
d. He had problems accepting the story of the Jewish leaders
e. It was Passover, a high holy day for the Jews
f. Jesus didn’t look like much of a king or a threat for that matter
g. He had to make a choice that would please the most people and cause the least problem

Pilate questioned the Truth as it stood before him, but failed to stay and listen when he asked the most important question—”What is Truth?”

Truth often confronts us in silence before it screams to us

Jesus stood before Pilate as the revelation of Truth, and Pilate simply turned away and chose a pragmatic or practical route instead
But pragmatic truth has some of the same problems as “relative” truth, doesn’t it?

When truth is on trial, what is your testimony?
Do you simply do what works, or do you stand for God’s Truth?

3. Truth is Absolute
Jesus (John 18:33-38)

Look at what Jesus says to Pilate
a. He gets to the heart of the issue by asking Pilate a question (v. 34—Do you really want to know?)

b. In response to Pilates’ question “What have you done?”, Jesus responds with a definition of his kingdom
His kingdom does not have a worldly origin
Doesn’t mean that it won’t have influence in the world
Means that the authority of Jesus and his kingdom is higher than the authority of worldly kingdoms

Jesus defines his kingdom by its testimony to the truth
a. Jesus’ kingdom is true
b. Jesus’ followers listen to him
c. Jesus’ kingdom is characterized by people who speak and live the truth

Jesus seems to promote a view of truth that corresponds to what is real, to reality

Jesus’ view of truth is an absolute one
a. Truth is defined by a reality outside of the observer
b. Truth corresponds to actual or absolute reality
c. Something is either true or false as it describes what is real or actual
d. Truth is not simply an “it,” it is a person
e. Jesus came to testify to the Truth of God and his relationship to humanity (John 1:9-18; 14:6)
f. Jesus is Truth

When the Bible speaks of truth, it speaks of that which corresponds to reality, that which is factual and absolute

What is Truth? Truth is Jesus, everything that does not correspond to his character is false

When truth is on trial, what is your testimony?

Application
“What is Truth?” asks Pilate, while Jesus reminds us that his kingdom and his very existence is to testify of the Truth. Jesus further says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears (or listens to) my voice.”

Do the lives we live give evidence that we hear the voice of Christ, that we live his truth?

If God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17), and if that Truth produces holiness, then what should our response to Truth be?

To be “true” followers of Christ we must be “true” to his word

This week:
a. Examine your life for “truth.” What in your life corresponds to the character and teaching of Christ and what doesn’t?
b. Spend at least 15 minutes every day reading the Truth, the Word of God
c. List at least one thing you can do in response to the Scripture that will show you are living God’s Truth, then go out and do it
d. Speak the truth of God’s redeeming love or encouraging grace to someone who needs it this week—show them God’s love by sharing with them his Truth

When truth is on trial, what is your testimony?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

 

Some things to be thankful for from a psalm of David

Psalm 138

1 A Psalm of David. I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods. 2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name. 3 On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. 4 All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O LORD, When they have heard the words of Your mouth. 5 And they will sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD. 6 For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. 8 The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.


Since this is the season of Thanksgiving, and since I seem to hear more complaints lately (most of them coming from my own heart), I decided to post a list of things I am thankful for based off of some words from David about Thanksgiving. Psalm 138 above describes a Hymn of Thanksgiving. With David, I'd like to remind myself to be thankful for the following:

1. There is no god like the God of the Bible. The Triune God is not a part of his creation, nor is his subsistence dependent on it. He is above all things, and by him all things exist. In fact, Paul tells us in Colossians 1 that Jesus holds all things together and is the author of creation. There is nothing outside of God's authority.

2. God's lovingkindness and truth are available to all of us. Jeremiah reminds us that God's mercy is new every morning. The Psalmist reminds us on numerous occasions that God is patient and longsuffering, showing mercy and lovingkindness unto many generations. His love is such that he gave us what he treasures most: Jesus, his only Son. His lovingkindness not only gave us life, but it also provides us with all we need to live this life and to obey his ways. His mercy is amazing! His truth is convicting. God does not lie. He reveals truth inside humans, but he also makes truth known in nature itself. Even God's very attributes are observable in nature around us. God has made Truth known, and he is the very essence of Truth. All truth points to him, and he alone knows all truth. His truth and lovingkindness lead to salvation.

3. God has given us a Word that will never fail. He has magnified, valued, advanced, enlarged, even exalted his Word above his own name. If the name of God is the name above all names, then his Word must be the Word above all words. He has revealed himself in Jesus who is the Logos, the Word of God in flesh, the exact representation of the image and character of God himself. The Word God has provided for us is active, alive, and powerful. It can bring knowledge, life, and salvation. God has given us his Word!

4. God answers prayer. When we call on God, he is faithful to respond. And his response emboldens us and gives us courage. Conversation with God leads to conversion of our souls. His response to our requests shows his presence, his love, and his great kindness towards us. He hears when we call, and he responds.

5. God is friends with the humble, but he is an enemy to the proud. I am grateful that even though our God is so exalted, yet he finds it satisfactory to dwell with those who are humble and lowly. He is not at home with those who think too highly of themselves, but he chooses to dwell with those who humble themselves to him.

6. God will be with me in trouble. There is no obstacle or problem that can separate me from God (Romans 8:28-39). His love for me is never ending and his reach cannot be blocked. No matter the circumstances in my life, God is faithful and will be my closest friend. He will walk with me in the midst of my problems and provide me what I need to live a life of godliness even in hard circumstances (Psalm 23). He does not always deliver me from trouble, but he never abandons me in it. Like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, God is with me in the midst of my trials, troubles, or problems. He bears them with me, he walks with me, he gives me his joy in spite of my trouble, and he never fails.

7. God will complete the task he has begun (Phil. 1:6). He will not forsake the works of his hands. He will accomplish all those things that pertain to me. He will not fail. He is constant, kind, considerate. He will finish what he starts and will bring to pass all that he has promised (Isaiah 66:9). His Word is true and he is faithful to complete it. Not a single stray mark of his Scripture will fail to happen. If God speaks it or if God begins it, it will be done in his time and by his outstretched hand. There is nothing too difficult for God, and he is worthy of my praise.

Because of these things and so many others, I want to develop a grateful and thankful heart. May we all find comfort in God's character, Word, and love this season. May we give him the thanks and praise he deserves!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

 

Just One Thing: Hebrews 10:11-18

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called 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. A few weeks ago I started posting these notes on the blog too so as to keep the blog a bit more active. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on November 15. The lesson is on Hebrews 10:11-18. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Just One Thing
A Lesson in Contrasts
Hebrews 10:11-18

Introduction
The tyranny of the urgent
Swimming in a sea of “things to do”
Going through the motions just living life
The straw that broke the camel’s back
The negative impact of “just one more thing”
What if "just one thing" could have a positive impact?

Background for our passage
Daily sacrifices versus one sacrifice

Hebrews 10:11-18
In God’s hands, just one thing is enough

1. Contrasting Sacrifices
Hebrews 10:11-14

Questions
a. Why do the priests offer sacrifices daily?
b. What do these ongoing sacrifices accomplish for folks?
c. How is Christ’s sacrifice different?
d. How is it that one sacrifice accomplishes what many sacrifices couldn’t do?

The priests’ daily sacrifices is incomplete
a. Like a pile of dirty clothes, cleaning is temporary and must be continued as the pile of clothes grows
b. Human sin is like that, it is overwhelming
c. The priests do not have what it takes to gain complete forgiveness

Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice is complete (John 19:30)
a. This sacrifice is not partial or temporary
b. This sacrifice is singular and sanctifying (Rom. 8:1-4)
c. God finishes what he starts (Phil. 1:6)

In God’s hands, just one thing is enough

2. Contrasting Covenants
Hebrews 10:15-18

The first covenant
a. Laws written on stone
b. Many laws and sacrifices required
c. Unable to forgive multiple sins “once for all time”

The second covenant
a. Endorsed by the Spirit
b. Written on hearts, a “living” word that brings life (2 Cor. 3:4-6; Hebrews 4:12)
c. Requires only one sacrifice to forgive multiple sins “once for all time”
d. One sacrifice of Christ removes the need for multiple sacrifices

In God’s hands, just one thing is enough

3. Application
"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

If God has given his best for us, and if that “one thing” is sufficient to provide all we need for life and holiness; then how should we live?

This week
a. Determine to give God your best, not a half hearted effort, in whatever you do
b. Commit yourself to God to live in the victory and Spirit of his Son and his offering
c. Live a sacrificed life doing just one thing—Seek to please God at all times
d. Find just one thing you can do for God, and do it to the best of your ability
e. Take time this week to look for just one opportunity to share your faith
f. Find just one person who needs your help or encouragement and give it

Remember, in God’s hands, just one thing is enough

4. Discussion Questions
What point is the writer making when he stresses the repeated offerings of the Jewish priesthood? What do we do over and over again in an effort to “gain” God’s approval?

What point is being made by noting that after Christ's sacrifice he sat down?
"He sat down at the right hand of God.“ What does this infer about the status of Christ?

In what sense have we been "made perfect"?

In what sense are we "being made holy"? How are you doing in living a holy life? Where do you need God’s Spirit and Christ’s sacrifice to help?

In what sense is the law "in" our hearts and "on" our minds? In what ways do we ignore it? How can we learn to pay more attention?

What sins need forgiving in your life?

Who in your world needs to hear about God’s “just one thing” in Christ and the salvation and sanctification it can bring?

What “just one thing” will you do this week to show God’s grace?


Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 09, 2009

 

Are You All in? Mark 12:38-44

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called 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. A few weeks ago I started posting these notes on the blog too so as to keep the blog a bit more active. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on November 8. The lesson is on Mark 12:38-44. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

All in?
Selling Out or Sold Out?
Mark 12:38-44

Introduction

Questions
What comes to mind when you think of someone who is a “sell out”? Is it negative or positive?
What comes to mind when you think of the phrase “sold out”? What does it mean that someone is “sold out” to a particular cause?

The term “All in”
a. Poker term (don’t panic!): It means putting everything you have into the pot
b. This is a risky move: You’ll either win it all or lose it all!

My testimony
Mark 12:38-44
Two things in this passage: 1. The Warnings and 2. The Widow

1. The Warnings (Don’t sell out)
Mark 12:38-40
The people Jesus described had become sell outs because what they offered was only for selfish reasons

The warnings
a. Beware the desire for prominence (don’t sell out for a reputation)
b. Beware the desire for deference (don’t sell out for perks)

This is false religion!
a. False religion asks, “What’s in it for me?”

Are you “all in” with God?
Or are you hedging your bets, holding out for a “better offer”?
How much is your soul worth?
What risks will you take?

2. The Widow (Be Sold Out)
Mark 12:41-44

The Problem with Money
a. More money often leads to more worry
b. More money often leads to a wrong focus

The People and their Money
It’s not how much you give, it’s how much it cost you

The Poor Widow
a. She didn’t focus on percentages
b. She didn’t compare her gift to others
c. She gave her all—she was sold out to God’s cause

Are you “all in” with God?
What are you willing to risk?
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.“ Jim Elliot

3. Application
Hebrews 9:24-28

When God wanted to effect salvation for humanity, he didn’t offer his leftovers or a percentage of his wealth.
a. He offered everything
b. He offered his most precious possession
c. He gave his only Son--Jesus gave his all!

Jesus was sold out to God’s plan
He was “all in” for salvation/He was “all in” for us

What can we possibly offer in response to that?
Can we give anything less than our best?
Can we be anything less than “all in” for God’s plan?

This week
a. Make a list of your priorities and responsibilities
b. Rate them by how important they are in your life. What role does God play in each area?
c. Where do you need to risk to reach others in an effort to be sold out to God’s plan?
d. Commit a time to pray for each of these items this week, and ask God what being “all in” for him looks like there

Are you “all in” for God?

4. Discussion Questions

Look at the warnings in Mark 12:38-40. Which one(s) do you struggle with the most? Where have you been selling out your integrity instead of being sold out to God?

What do you give to God? Money? Time? Work? Study? Relationships? Is it a mere percentage, or is it “all in” for his use?

What are your “widow’s mites”? What are the most precious things to you? Are you willing to give them to God for others?

Compare Hebrews 9:24-28 to Mark 12:38-44. What do these verses have in common? How do they complement each other? What role does “judgment” and “offering” play in each?

Who in your world could benefit from the offering Christ made in Hebrews 9? How can you (like the widow) give into their lives to help them see the importance of that gift?

Are you willing to be “all in” for God? If so, what changes will you have to make?


Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

 

Waiting for Jesus: Lessons from the Story of Lazarus, John 11

Hello all:

As noted before, I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called 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. A few weeks ago I started posting these notes 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 November 1. The lesson is on John 11. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Waiting for Jesus
Lessons from Lazarus
John 11

Introduction
Creation and John’s Gospel

Seven days of Creation vs. Seven Signs in John
1. Jesus is taking everything that went wrong with creation and making it right again
2. After the seventh day: Death enters the world
3. The seventh sign: Lazarus (Jesus is the resurrection and the life)
4. The world waited thousands of years for Jesus to come and begin the work that will ultimately reverse the effects of sin and death

The problem is the waiting

Waiting for Jesus can cause anxiety but it is always worth it
John 11

1. Waiting for Jesus can cause anxiety

The Beginning of the Story
Jesus waits even though he loves Lazarus
His friend dies
What are the results of his waiting to go to his friend?

Jesus’ waiting has an effect on others
a. The disciples
Going with Jesus now could be dangerous
They may find themselves dead as a result
Why doesn’t Jesus just “play it safe”?

b. Mary and Martha
The loss of their loved one causes grief and anxiety
Perhaps their dream has died with Lazarus
Why didn’t God stop the pain?
Why didn’t Jesus come sooner?

c. The Jewish leaders
Jesus’ actions threaten their position and authority
They want to wait for him to “mess up” so that they can stop him
Why doesn’t Jesus leave things well enough alone?

God acts in his own time to save in his own way
Waiting on God requires confidence in his character

2. Waiting for Jesus is worth it

a. Jesus waits for the proper time
He waits for God’s glory to be revealed

b. The Words of Jesus
This is for God’s glory
I am the resurrection and the life
Remove the Stone
Lazarus, Come forth
Unbind him

c. The anger of Jesus
Why is he upset?
Jesus is upset that folks are only looking at the “impossible” circumstances
Jesus is upset because others are sad
Jesus is upset because they didn’t believe his words

d. The dead man comes alive
When we wait for Jesus, dead things can be made alive
Dreams we thought had died can be renewed

e. New threats may also arise
Waiting on Jesus is living in the faith that God will act

God acts in his own time to save in his own way
Waiting on God requires confidence in his character

3. Application
Waiting usually produces anxiety, but waiting for Jesus may result in new life

Learn from the lessons of the people in our story
a. Make your waiting worthwhile by focusing on God’s character instead of your expectations
b. Spend time in God’s Word
c. Pay attention to what God says instead of your circumstances
d. Recognize that no dream is too dead that God can’t raise it
e. Obey God until he shows up
f. Love your neighbor
g. Pray for others
h. Encourage one another
i. Hold fast to the faith
j. Don’t give up

Waiting on God requires confidence in his character

4. Discussion Questions

a. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave and orders him to be unbound. What is binding you up and keeping you from new life? What caves do you need to be called out of? What are the obstacles that are in the way, in between you and life, you and God?

b. Have you ever felt dead? Lifeless? How did the life get suck out of you? What do you think would happen if the breath of God was breathed back into you? What might happen if breath was breathed back into the church?

c. Do you think resurrection is something we experience only in an afterlife, or can we experience it right now?

d. Why do you think Jesus wept for Lazarus even though he knew he would raise him from the dead?

e. What needs are you waiting on Jesus to address? How has anxiety become a part of your waiting? How does God’s character address those anxieties?

f. Who needs your encouragement as they wait for a touch or word from Jesus?


Thanks for reading!

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