Share some ways in which you have been involved in helping to alleviate the suffering of others. (Don't include only "official," organized relief efforts, but also personal, individual ones.) How did it feel? Are there other ways you would like to become involved?
Becoming involved in a "big issue" such as discrimination is one thing. Quietly standing up for one person, as in the example of the girl who was being ridiculed in this session, is another. It can be harder. How are you at doing that? Can you share a story of a time someone stood up for you and what it meant to you?
Has the time you have spent with your group in this session made any difference in your ability to stand against negative peer pressure?
Did you and your accountability partner try any of the exercises suggested? What were the results?
Session 14 helped us understand the purpose of Scripture and examined tools that will help us interpret spiritual truths in a balanced manner. Discuss.
Did you try the exercise about the four purposes for Scripture given in 2 Tim 3:16, 17? Share the results in your heart and in your life.
Share some ways in which Bible study has helped you and enriched your life.
Are there difficulties or questions you would like the group to help you with?
How can reading the Bible help you understand God more?
Do you think the Bible can help you define your purpose in life?
developing christ-centered relationships in the church by tracy morgan
understanding that god has provided for my redemption by debbonnaire kovacs
supporting the ministry of the local and global church by debbonnaire kovacs
helping believers live a contagious, holistic christian life by calvin roberson
debriefing session by debbonnaire kovacs
READ THIS FIRST!
INFORMATION FOR SESSION 17:
UNDERSTANDING THAT GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR MY REDEMPTION
Grace or Works?
Christians have been trying to tease apart the specifics of what might be called “the grace/works conundrum” since not too long after Jesus went back to His Father. But in fact, the debate began long before that. We could go back to any of the prophets, alternately preaching works: “keep the Sabbath, pay your tithe, make honest sacrifices, be kind!” and proclaiming grace: God loves even the unregenerate sinner and would do anything to restore that one.
Or we could move earlier, to Moses, who spent pages and pages and pages on instructions for every detail of life (works) and yet kept insisting that God’s love (grace) was the basis of everything and that our response to it should be to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5).
We can see it beginning already in the story of Cain and Abel--making the wrong sacrifice in the wrong spirit is rebuked (works) but God comes in person to speak to the erring one and urge him back into the way of truth (grace). Or earlier still, when Adam and Eve sinned and promptly hid (the immediate result of sinful actions), but God hunted them down and offered redemption (always His immediate response to sinful actions.)
Is this as far back into history as we could go? No, there’s still the terrible story of Lucifer, that great mystery. How could a perfectly beautiful, perfectly loving being, so surrounded by love and grace that he and his friends didn’t even know there was a law (ref), possibly decide to turn away from that? Here’s the really incomprehensible part--Satan claimed God was unfair and harsh and demanding, and that he could run the universe better, with more freedom. His modus operandi ever since has been to come up with works systems that are increasingly unfair, harsh, and demanding, ever since! You have to crawl on some sort of pilgrimage on your knees to get God to love you. You have to sit on a flagpole for weeks, or beat yourself, or lie on nails, and maybe you might be able to get God to love you. You have to burn up your child in a fire on the arms of a leering idol!
Alternatively, you could choose the “fun” route. There is no God anyway, so do whatever you want. Drink, take drugs, eat anything, read, watch, and say anything. End up in chains of addiction you can’t break, and call that “freedom”!
Have we now moved back as far as we can? No, never. There is still God. God was, is, and will be. God was there in the silence, there to see the first wave/particles of light, there to hear the first whispers of waves on a rocky planet. And God was always all about grace. God is love, all true love comes from God, and love is grace. Love and grace are forgiving above all. God had a heart for forgiving before anyone ever sinned and needed it.
God is the source of life, and knows what kinds of actions, or works, will keep us physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially healthy. And if you add up all those adverbs, you get “spiritually.” The Bible doesn’t teach that we have a spirit or soul, but that we are one, and all those divisions we like to make, mostly for quite practical and useful reasons, add up to one healthy spirit. This healthy spirit, or person, does the acts or works of righteousness because that is what living the life of grace and love is all about. This healthy soul knows what it means to mess up, fall down, be picked up by God, cleaned up, forgiven, and taught better.
And this healthy soul knows how to pass that spirit of love, grace, and forgiveness on. Praise the Lord!
Session 16:Developing Christ-Centered Relationships in the Local and Global Church To develop Christ-centered relationships in the local and global church as a member of the body of Christ, I am:
being supported and nurtured by the community of believers.
praying with and for fellow believers, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and caring for those who are in need.
loving and serving the church’s children, continuing to disciple them as they mature into adults.
treating others redemptively when they are disciplined or shunned by church or society.
keeping informed and responding to news and stories of the world church.
As members of the body of Christ, we must be willing to accept others where they are and help lead them to a redemptive relationship with God.
Look: Romans 12:9-21, Acts 9:1-31
Memorize: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:15-16, NIV).
News was spreading all over Damascus. Saul of Tarsus was coming with the authority of the chief priests to arrest Christ’s followers and take them back to Jerusalem. Everyone knew what would happen if Saul found them. His reputation for cruelty had spread as far as the fleeing members of the infant church. Ananias, one of the disciples living in Damascus, waited in dread for the knock at his door. It was just a matter of time before he was found. What about all the other believers? How long would it take the eager and efficient Saul to flush them all out? Ananias could not rest, so instead he prayed and asked God to protect his church family. As he prayed, a heavenly messenger came to him and told him to go to a nearby boarding house to minister to one of the occupants there. The angel told him the location and then told him the name of the man he was to help – Saul of Tarsus. That couldn’t be right! This messenger had to know that Saul was part of the Jewish mob that stoned the beloved deacon Stephen, and since then he had been hunting and killing followers of Jesus with a zeal that was nothing short of evil. How could he step foot in the same room as this man? It could be a trap. Saul was sure to kill him—or worse, torture him until he led him to other believers. Ananias argued with the angel, but he was told again to go to Saul.
With the words still ringing in his ears, Ananias mustered up the courage to walk to Straight Street to the house of Judas to find Saul of Tarsus. When he arrived in Saul’s room, he saw a broken, despondent, blind man lying on the floor. It was obvious he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in days. Where were his friends from Jerusalem? How could they have left him in this condition? Ananias stepped forward and placed his hand on Saul’s head. He explained that God had sent him there so he would receive sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Immediately, something that looked like fish scales fell off of Saul’s eyes and he could see again.
The first face Saul saw was that of a follower of Jesus—a man he was sent to capture and kill, but instead he found himself helpless and repentant. Since seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus and hearing His voice, he had been tormented with regret over the wrongs he had committed against the followers of the true Messiah. Now, weak and exhausted, he was completely at the mercy of this stranger. But Ananias did not harm Saul. Instead he ministered to him like the angel had instructed. Before Saul even took a bite of food or a drink of water, he was baptized. He was then fed and taken to meet the other disciples. At first there was obvious suspicion and fear, but once the Christians found out that Saul was a convert, they embraced him and protected him against the Jewish leaders who quickly turned on their former champion. The believers in Damascus even helped him escape the city so he could return to Jerusalem.
Do you think it would be hard to embrace someone who once tried to harm you or your loved ones?
Saul traveled all over the region proclaiming Jesus wherever he went. In spite of the wrongs he had done to the early church, he was accepted and nurtured by his fellow believers. Saul changed his name to Paul, and he went on to become one of the greatest missionaries of all time. Just as the angel predicted, Paul carried God’s name to the Gentiles and their rulers as well as the people of Israel (Acts 9:15). He led countless followers to Jesus and is credited with writing half of the books in the New Testament. Imagine what would have happened if the early church had shunned Saul.
What if Adolph Hitler or Osama Bin Laden accepted Christ before they died? How do you think they would have been received by your church? How would you personally treat them?
Do you think some people just aren’t worthy of forgiveness? Talk about reasons why or why not.
When Jesus was on earth, He ate with sinners and tax collectors. The Pharisees, who were always looking for a way to trap Him, asked His disciples why He would keep such company. Jesus overheard the conversation and told them “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
As Jesus’ instruments today, we have to be willing to be kind to others and treat them redemptively. If someone has been shunned by church or society, we are still to treat them as children of God. We need our community of believers to nurture and support us when we stumble, so it is only fair that we give that same care to others who are in need. When we see someone who is hurting, we are to care for them and help lead them back to the Savior.
No one was beneath Jesus’ care. Whether it was a crooked tax collector or a small child, Jesus was careful to attend to the needs of everyone. When His disciples tried to send the children away, Jesus rebuked them. He embraced the children and put His hands on them, showing His love and concern for each of them. Our churches and communities are full of children and young people who need to be discipled and mentored as well. As Christians, we can show our love to these children, guiding them in a maturing relationship with Jesus.
What are some of the needs of members of your community?
How can your church as a whole help meet those needs?
What are some ways you can minister to children and show them they are important too?
What can you do personally to reach out to those who have been shunned by society or church?
As members of a world-wide church of more than 16 million members, how can we all be part of one body? The answer is actually quite simple. If we all have the same mission, and we are united under one Savior, working toward the goal of heaven for ourselves and everyone else we come in contact with, we are one body. Whatever our gifts and talents might be, we are to work together as one on both a local and global scale. When we pray for fellow believers and share in their joys and sorrows, it draws us closer to them as a family. Those believers may live in our own home or on the other side of the world, but they are all part of the same whole.
In our technological society, it is easier than ever to stay current on worldwide news. With just a few mouse clicks or finger slides, we can find out what is happening around the world in mission fields and churches. Our Sabbath school quarterlies and mission magazines also keep us informed on what is happening. If we stay current on what is happening worldwide, we can respond by sending help and prayers when needed. We will also have the added benefit of rejoicing in the victories won in even the most remote corners of the world.
Do you have contact with believers in other parts of the world?
How can you stay knowledgeable about what is happening outside of your own local church?
DISCIPLE IN ACTION
Find the contact information for a missionary who is currently working in the field. Get in touch with them to find out what their needs are. Pray for them and work toward getting them the help they may need.
Get a list of non-attending members at your church. Contact as many of them as you can and invite them back to church. Pray with them and continue to pray for them.
Reach out to the young people at your church. Make a point of saying hello and finding out their names and interests. Try to build relationships with the children whenever possible.
Start a prayer journal and write down the people you know who are struggling or in need. Systematically pray for each person on the list every day. Be sure to write down the answers to prayers as well.
Pray for those who have sinned and turned away from God—even if they have hurt you personally.
Session 17: God Has Provided Everything That is Needed for My Redemption Understanding that God has provided everything that is needed for my redemption, I am learning that:
salvation and eternal life are gifts to me through the grace of God.
Christ came to earth to reveal the character of God and to die in my place as atonement for my sin.
the love of God draws me to feel sorrow for my sin, to confess, and to repent.
God forgives sin and restores brokenness.
God loves me so much that He made me, gave His Son to save me, and walks with me daily to restore me. I don’t have to do anything to earn that.
Look: Ephesians 2:8-10; John 3:16
Memorize: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10, Today’s New International Version).
God Gives Salvation Freely
What is salvation? There are a lot of possible answers:
Salvation is eternal life.
Salvation is deliverance from sin and its consequences.
Salvation is living a right life with God.
Salvation is a gift that comes through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
These are all true. However, the definition of the word itself may surprise you. It is derived from the Latin salvus, which means “well, unharmed, or sound” (myEtymology.com). It’s a word that’s about health and wholeness, like the Hebrew shalom.
In other words, God is interested in our wholeness. He created a whole world with whole human beings on it. Everything they needed for a life that was “well, unharmed, and sound” was there—food, shelter (if any was needed), fellowship, work, play, and rest. The serpent said, “No, this isn’t all you need. You won’t be really whole until you know as much about evil as you do about good.” (He’s still saying that, by the way. You hear variations on it all the time.)
So we broke it. The wholeness of Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and with each other was the first thing broken, and the soundness of the world was close behind. Thorns, weeds, blood, sweat, tears. . . world wars, pollution, a fading ozone layer. We’re groaning together, the world and its inhabitants (Romans 8:22).
And we can’t fix it. We keep thinking we can. We keep trying. But the fact is, we’re in a hole too deep for us to get out of. If we want to work with God to save His children and His hurting world, we must first accept the hand He is holding down to us. He is willing, able, and more than eager to pull us out of the muck and give us a job helping to pull others out and put everything back together again.
Adam and Eve were in a mess. And so are we. But God has a plan.
1. How would you have defined salvation before this session? Would you define it differently now? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. What are some ways you feel broken?
I wonder what Adam and Eve thought God meant when He told the serpent, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15, TNV). I wonder how much He explained about the Deliverer, who He would be, how He would come. I wonder if they had even an inkling that it would be God Himself, coming as a human baby. I wonder if even Satan knew that. . .
Once upon a time, really truly, here in this historical world, a baby was born in a stable for animals to a real, human mother, probably a teenager, worn out from traveling for days only to find no room to stay in. There was a real (probably scared) father present (who knew, by the way, that this baby wasn’t his, and knew Whose it was, too! How weird is that?). There were likely some women to help. There was blood, sweat, and tears, just as the Fall had wrought, even “pain in childbirth.” Jesus had to come into the results of the curse, step into a world very different from the one He’d planned and crafted by hand.
We won’t even try to understand the “how” of this amazing miracle. Humans probably won’t understand that even after living in heaven for thousands of years. But why? That’s the real question. Why did He do that?
Father, Son, and Spirit loved you that much. Loved me that much.
We couldn’t climb out of the hole, and we hadn’t done very well at hearing the advice God called out to us through the prophets He sent over the centuries. The best they could do was attempt to somewhat prepare a people for a shocking invasion of reality by the God they’d been either terrified of or disrespectful to, by turns. Or both.
So Jesus came Himself. He came to say two things:
This is what God looks like. God loves you, right in your mess, and is willing to touch you even if you’re leprous, heal you no matter how you got sick, speak to you even if you’re an outcast, restore you even if you’re a really bad sinner.
You can’t do this, but I can. I can come down into the hole and still have enough strength to climb out, making a way for you on my back, as it were. Hang on!
Here is an important point about which there’s more controversy than there needs to be. Jesus did not come to say, “Here’s how it’s done, just watch Me and you can climb out by yourself.” He did come to say, “This is the way I want you to live after I pull you out.” There’s a difference.
His life, His death, His resurrection are sufficient for everyone on the planet. Say yes, and hang on! There’s more to come.
Have you ever tried spending some time really meditating on the birth of Jesus? Find a quiet place and some time, pray for insight, and let your imagination really grab hold of what it would be like to be that teenage mother, that nervous father. What would you think as you held your firstborn in your hands and marveled at His tininess and strangeness, like every other new parent in the world, but then tried to get your head around this is GOD!! Quite unlike any other parent ever? Write about your thoughts.
What are some of the specific ways you’ve helped to dig your own hole? Pray for help in plain language that helps you to understand, though God already does. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How do you explain the difference between Jesus as our complete and sole salvation, and Jesus as our example? In what ways are both true? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________