Month: August 2018

The Commands of Christ (Lesson Three)

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The Obedience Jesus Commanded

Keeping the commands of Christ without ever actually becoming born-again will not save anyone! That is, just because someone lives a “good” life doesn’t make them a Christian. Because, when someone becomes a Christian, God takes out their heart of stone and gives them a new heart where he writes his laws. One of the proofs that someone is a Christian is that they keep the laws of God, not because they have to, but because they want to.

“…and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” Hebrews 5:9

  • Based on Hebrews 5:9, why is obedience to Christ necessary?

(So that we may receive eternal salvation.)

“For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Matthew 7:14

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30

  • Is Christianity easy? How do we reconcile Matthew 7:14 with Matthew 11:30?

(Christianity is not easy. It’s an active, rather than passive faith. It is also a faith of submission. As humans, we don’t care to submit very much. However, it’s in our submission to God that the burdens of artificial man-made religion are released from us.)

FALSE PROPHETS

A prophet is someone who speaks on behalf of God. While James warns us not to presume to be teachers of God’s Word, because there is greater accountability for teachers, the accountability for prophets is even greater.

In the Old Covenant, the prophet was also regarded as an “intercessor” (one who prayed for others and communed with God in prayer). In the New Covenant, the prophet is described as someone who also encourages believers. Ephesians 2:20 says that Christ builds his Church upon the foundation of Prophets and Apostles. In one sense this refers to the foundation of Scripture given to us by the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles, but there is also a sense of this being an ongoing building program where each generation is given its own apostles and prophets by Christ to the Church.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15

  • Why is it sometimes hard to quickly identify a false prophet according to Matthew 7:15?

(Because they say all the right things and act the right way in public. It’s hard to know what’s really in their hearts.)

There is a difference between someone who thinks they have heard from God and are wrong, and someone who simply falsely declares something as being from God. One of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in First Corinthians 12 is prophecy. This gift will be done away with once “that which is perfect has come.” Until then, the Bible says we prophecy in part. This means that we can sense what God is saying at times only in part (not fully). We may at times get this wrong. But it doesn’t mean that we are false.

“You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.”  Matthew 7:16-20

  • How did Jesus say we could identify a “false” prophet? (Matthew 7:16-20)

(You will know them by the fruit they bear.)

DEPART FROM ME!

There is coming a day when we will stand before God and be judged. This first judgment is whether we will be with the Lord for eternity, or whether we will be separated away from Him eternally. It is this Judgment that Jesus now refers to. Christ links obedience to His commands with eternal consequences.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 7:21

  • How does Jesus link obedience to him with eternal judgment? (Matt. 7:21)

(It’s not enough to profess your faith in words or even in deeds. We must recognize with our lives that Christ is our Lord and submit our will to his.)

“Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”  Matthew 7:23

It is possible to be doing things for Christ without ever knowing him. But even worse still is to be doing things for Christ and not be known by him! Just as in a healthy marriage, intimacy, or knowledge of a person, comes when feelings, hurts, fears, disappointments, triumphs, dreams, ideas and needs are shared with each other. When we share at that level with another person, they get to know us.

  • How does this explain what Christ said in Matthew 7:23?

(A true relationship with Christ involves our hearts. We have a bond with him. We love him. It’s not doing something for him so that we can look good to others or even get to heaven. It’s loving him and others simply out of love itself.)

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”  Matthew 7:24-27

  • Based on what Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27, how should we follow him?

(We should follow him by allowing his commands to take action in our lives.)

The Faith Jesus Commanded

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“And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God.’”  Mark 11:22

The Jewish people did not have a concept of “faith” in God. In fact the word doesn’t even appear in the Old Testament. What does appear is faithfulness. To the Hebrew, you demonstrated faith.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6

Jesus spoke of the necessity for faith in him when he said, “Believe in God. Believe also in me.” To believe is not just to agree that something is true, it is also to have a change of convictions based on the trust being put in someone. Paul describes faith as a “mystery.” Perhaps this is because it is something God requires of us and yet gives to us. We are told to “have faith,” but this faith is actually given to us as a gift from God.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!”  2 Corinthians 13:5

  • What does this verse encourage us to do?

(Examine ourselves. It’s hard! We have to continually be looking at ourselves and what it is that’s motivating our actions.)

FAITH AND ACTION

“And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’”  Matthew 9:2

  • Faith is something that can be “seen.” How and why?

(We live our lives in a way that we know Jesus is making a difference in us and can still do great things in those around us.)

When someone has faith in Jesus, they live differently.

“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20

  • What is the promise associated with faith in Matthew 17:20?

(All things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.)

The Kingdom Living Jesus Commanded

The “Kingdom of God” was the subject of Christ’s preaching and the only topic that he commanded His disciples to preach. It constitutes the main topic of what the New Testament records as Christ’s teaching. Christ’s original audience had built up certain expectations of what they thought God was about to do that affected how they understood “the Kingdom of God”. These Jews expected their “messiah” to be a military ruler who would conquer the Romans and once again make Israel a world-power. But Jesus presented a radically different concept about the Kingdom of God.

“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”  Luke 17:20-21

  • How does Christ’s statement in verse 21 give a different understanding about the Kingdom of God than what the Jews expected?

(The kingdom of God is here and there. It’s everywhere. When we receive Christ as our savior, we become a continuing part of the kingdom of God.)

“And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell”  Mark 9:47

  • How important did Jesus say entering the Kingdom was?

(It’s so important that we must put aside whatever it is that could keep us from entering it.)

Entering the Kingdom of God is a matter of eternal life or death! The greatest thing you can do with your life is to enter the Kingdom of God! The greatest thing you can do with your life is to help others enter the Kingdom of God! The greatest thing you can do with your life is to represent the King of the Kingdom to those outside of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God, Jesus said, was the place of peace with God where those who enter it have been forgiven by God. This then demands that people realize their need for God’s forgiveness in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  John 3:3

  • What did Jesus say was necessary before entering the Kingdom of God that is, what was necessary to see the Kingdom of God let alone enter it?

(Being born again. Meaning put away the old life and embracing the fullness of life in Christ.)

The Kingdom of God is represented by the Church. It is the church’s mission to extend the Kingdom of God on earth. We do this by leading people to Christ so that He reigns in their hearts. While the Church can give itself to many worthy causes, our main cause is His cause: to extend the Kingdom of God on earth through the preaching of the Gospel and the establishment of Kingdom communities (called- churches). If someone gave me a billion dollars, I would dedicate it to this cause. In the meantime, please join with me to dedicate our existing time, talent, and treasure to strive for the Kingdom of God to conquer lost souls with Christ’s love.

The Religion Jesus Commanded

Religion consists of rituals, ceremonies and observances. In one respect, Jesus did not come to establish another religion, He came to reveal God and how we can know peace with God. Christ was very critical of the Pharisees who had invented many religious practices.

“Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.”  Matthew 23:3

  • Jesus had some stern words for religious leaders. Based on this verse what does Jesus expect of his followers?

(Do what is right, even if those who are over you don’t do as they say.)

The religion that Jesus condemned was hypocritical, oppressive, and guilt-ridden. Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for imposing religious burdens on people.

“The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted”  Matthew 23:11-12

  • Rather than religion being used to belittle people and boss them around, what did Christ command his followers to do?

(Be a servant and humble ourselves.)

But the New Testament doesn’t just condemn religion—it begins to redefine it!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  Matthew 23:27-28

  • Christianity is not merely about behaving, being nice, or looking good. In Matthew 23, what did Jesus say was about people who were only concerned about how they looked to others?

(They are hypocrites!)

**Thank you for joining in on this study.  Feel free to “like” or leave a comment.**

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The Commands of Christ (Lesson Two)

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The Love for Enemies Jesus Commanded

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

 We have seen that Christ taught a higher “law” than the Old Covenant Law. Christ’s Law is the Law of Love. Many religious teachers had taught that people should love, but the most outstanding characteristic of Christ’s teaching, which makes His teaching unique, is how He commanded enemies to be loved. Not only did Christ teach this, He lived it.

Eye for an Eye

The Law of Moses regarding an “eye for an eye” was intended to be a warning not to hurt someone else. It challenged the Israelites to be considerate of others and to know that if they carelessly hurt someone, they deserved to be hurt in a similar way. But over time, the Pharisees had interpreted these passages as a right to take revenge. That’s why Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said…”

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”  Leviticus 19:18

  • How would a reading of Leviticus 19 have showed the Pharisees that even the Law of Moses did not agree with their interpretation of “an eye for an eye”?

(The Law called for love of neighbor and to not take vengeance.)

Perhaps the first and most natural response we feel whenever someone hurts us is to hurt them. Very shortly after I became a Christian, in my high school years, I was confronted in the schoolyard with someone who had heard that I had become a Christian. This person had a reputation as the school bully. He had come to test my new found religion. He did this by mocking my commitment to Christianity, to the supporting jeers of those watching. He then pushed me and drew no response. Then with a clenched fist, he punched my face, knocking me to the ground. As I lay on the asphalt looking around at the laughter of my ‘friends,’ I looked up at the little bully who had just struck me. I felt no desire for revenge or even malice toward him. In fact, I was struck by a great sense of pity and sorrow for this lost soul. What struck me so hard was the thought that in all my school days no one had ever dared to hit me (due to my size and physique I was never a target for bullies) and that if this had happened just days before I probably would have responded by thumping the living daylights out of this kid. But something had changed. I was different. My heart had changed.

“If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.”  Luke 6:29

“But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”  Matthew 5:39

“For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face.” 

2 Corinthians 11:20

  • Consider what Christ said in the above verses. What is common in all three verses?

(Slap!)

  • What does “turn the other cheek” mean to you?

(Because the left hand is considered unclean, to strike a person on their right-cheek requires that they use the back of their right hand. This was incredibly insulting. To publicly slap a person with the back of your hand was to grossly humiliate them. Thus, Christ is saying far more than just “don’t hit back.” He just may be saying, “Offer them your other cheek to make them address you as an equal!”)

Handling Money the Way Jesus Commanded

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”  Matthew 6:19

Jesus had more to say about money and its use than He had to say about hell! Money is generally something that represents our life. We exchange money for parts of our life: our time and effort. What we do with it says an awful lot about us. As we look at this vital topic of what Jesus taught about money and the way it should be handled we will be looking at what might be one of the most important aspects of how we live. The way we handled money will either be a great source of blessing or pain for us.

“It beckons and woos us. It tantalizes and seduced us. It sucks us into its grasp and wreaks havoc in our lives. And we still deny its sinister power.”  Bill Hybels

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  • What is the last of the Ten Commandments? (Exodus 20) Describe the connection between this commandment and greed.

(“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” When we covet what others have, we are greedy and not content with what the Lord has given us.)

  • What does Colossians 3:5 call “covetousness” or “greed”? What are we to do with it based on this verse?

(“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).”  Colossians 3:5  Covetousness or greed is idolatry (putting ANYTHING before God)  We are to put it to death.)

While we live in a world that demands the use of money, and rewards fame and effort with it, we are not to make it our focus. Money must serve us rather than the other way around!

“What’s fascinating is that as our financial needs are supplied, our appetite for money tends to increase rather than diminish.”  Bill Hybels

A Matter of the Heart

Christ taught that what we do with money reveals what is really in our hearts. The love of money has the power to grip a heart.

“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.”

1 Timothy 6:18

  • What instructions did Paul ask Timothy to pass on to those who were rich?

(Do good….Do good deeds….Share their abundance.)

“Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”  Psalm 62:10

  • What did the psalmist warn us about in Psalm 62?

(Having our heart in the wrong place….Desire God, not wealth.)

“The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity.”  Ecclesiastes 5:10

While we all need money, it’s vitally important that we are not driven by a lust for it. Generosity seems to be the antidote to covetousness and greed. Whenever we are reluctant to share or give it should perhaps sound an alarm that we need to check the condition of our hearts.

“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.”  Luke 16:13-14

  • Why were the Pharisees so opposed to Jesus teaching about money?

(The Pharisees in question were Jewish elites. They held themselves above other Jews. They had riches and comforts that Jesus’ peasant followers didn’t have. These Pharisees might even argue against Jesus stating their wealth and status was because they were blessed by God for their piety and adherence to the Law.)

Money is a Blessing

While money can result in great misery for those who are consumed by it, it can also be a great blessing. We need to be careful not to assume that those who are rich are the ones who are consumed by money. It could well be that those who become rich have done so because they are not ruled but it! And, on the other hand, those who are poor may idolize money. Levels of wealth are not necessarily the indicator of how much money is loved.

Brian Houston notes in his book (You Need More Money) that money can be a blessing in the following ways:

  • It says to land, “I can own you.”
  • Money says to vision, “I can fulfill you.”
  • Money says to buildings, “I can build you”
  • Money says to things, “I can buy you.”
  • Money says to a missionary, “I can support you.”
  • Money says to the poverty-stricken, “I can feed you.”
  • Money says to opportunity, “I can accept you.”

Money should work for us rather than us working for it. But if we get ourselves into unreasonable debt we position ourselves to be servants of money. A sad, but typical story is of the young person who gets their first job and borrows to buy their first car. They are barely able to make the monthly payment but as soon as they get a pay rise they trade-up their car for an even larger monthly payment. After struggling for months then years to try and repay their car loan, they get another pay rise and trade-up again. Rather than using their money wisely, debt has deceptively crept in to choke what could have been a huge blessing.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”  Luke 6:38

  • Christ-followers should be generous. According to Luke, what promise did Jesus give his followers about the benefits of generosity?

(Our giving out of the love of others directly correlates with our love of God. What we give to others, God will give to us.)

The Golden Rule Jesus Commanded

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. 6 Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. 7 Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 7:1-12

Christianity is not only about following Jesus it’s also about becoming like Jesus. This involves us changing and growing. As we each become like Christ, we will reflect him in different ways. Becoming like Christ doesn’t mean we have to wander around in a seamless robe and talk with fishermen for the rest of our lives! It means that we pursue those things that Christ pursued and imitate his heart toward others.

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”  John 5:30

  • According to John, what was Jesus pursuing?

(God’s will.)

  • What are some of the things that hinder us from pursuing the same thing?

(Our own will, stubbornness, pride, self-sustaining attitude.)

  • Based on Matthew 7:3-4, what kind of attitude would be necessary for us to have to be made aware of any logs in our eyes?

(An attitude that we are no better than anyone else. We often point out others’ faults to make us feel better about ourselves, not out of Christian love or concern. We must first look at ourselves in the mirror before we can turn it on others.)

  • How might we best remove the “logs” from our own eyes?

(Confession and Repentance. Turning away from our own sin.)

  • If we really believed Matthew 7:7-8, how different do you think we would live?

(We need to stop thinking we can do it all, that we are self-sufficient. We are nothing without God and can offer God nothing. We should seek his will in all things.)

  • Based on Matthew 7:9-11 what do think Jesus wanted us to know about God?

(If our heart is right, we can have whatever we ask for. If we are seeking the Lord’s will, we will be in line with his will. (Use anchor example…not pulling us to God’s will, but aligning ourselves with God’s will) When this happens, the Lord will provide whatever we ask for.)

Perhaps if it was possible to live a “minimal” Christian life then Matthew 7:12 would be a contender for that minimum standard (In everything do to others as you would have them do to you).

**Thank you for joining in on this study.  Feel free to “like” or leave a comment.**