Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Real Relationships: Love Like Christ

My Life Group lesson for June 4, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

If you are addicted to social media, you’re not alone.

--- 1.9 billion people use Facebook.
--- 700 million use Instagram.
--- 328 million use Twitter.
--- Supposedly 500 million “use” LinkedIn. (Or at least signed up but never figured out what to do.)

We are more connected than ever before. You can keep up friendships from the old days. You can stay in contact with former church members. You can say hey to family who lives far away.

In some cases, however, our relationships may not be any better.

Do you ever find yourself feeling worse about yourself while reading social media?

Some studies say that if we compare ourselves to others we’ll always come out on the bottom.

Remember: We post photos of us on our best days, not of our kids throwing tantrums. We post pictures of our best food, not the bowl of Cheerios we ate on the couch while watching Netflix. We post about happy events, but not about the mundane routine of our lives.

When we see people face-to-face, however, we connect with them as they really are. As Christians we can see them as Christ sees them – and love them as Christ loves them.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** We were created for two kinds of relationships: 1. Our relationship with God; 2. Our relationships with other people. Each one affects the other.

*** For the next six weeks we’re going to examine our relationships, from forming bonds to deep friendships. We won’t just find the kinds of friends we want for ourselves; we’ll also discover the kind of friend we need to be to others.

*** Today we read in the Gospel of John where Jesus shows us how our relationship with God affects all our other relationships. This one relationship is the key that makes all the difference.

John 15:9-13

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” 12 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

*** Even scruffy-headed nerf herders need love.

--- Relationships can be fragile. Everything’s fine if two people are traveling down the same road, but what happens if those two people don’t see eye to eye? What if open animosity is evident in the relationship? The Christian’s role in a relationship—any relationship—is to love. When we live and dwell in the love of Christ, that same love seeps into all our relationships.

--- We can’t overstate the awesomeness of verse 9.

--- “As the Father has loved” Jesus, so Jesus loves us.

--- God loves Jesus a lot. Their relationship is eternal. God’s flying doves at Jesus and talking about how proud He is.

--- If Jesus loves us just as much, then we are truly blessed.

--- And with that blessing, we will be obedient to Him, in awe of wonder.

--- It’s easy to mis-read verse 10 as saying “If you obey Me then I will continue to love you.”

--- That would be a conditional love, which is empty of grace, and we know that it is God’s grace that saves us.

(If our love for our spouses and children was conditional upon total obedience then it would be a hard home to live in.)

--- We don’t keep Jesus’ commands to earn His love; we keep His commands in response to His love.

--- God’s love changes us when we believe, so that we choose obedience because it pleases Him.

*** Love like you are loved.

--- Verses 12 and 13 make it clear that God the Father and Jesus the Son love us, but it doesn’t stop there.

--- We are to love one another, and in the same way that Jesus loves us.

--- Of course we know it is impossible to love as perfectly as Jesus does.

--- After all, He laid down His life for us.

--- Verse 13 reminds us that we are to express love for others in the same way.

--- Not long before Jesus said this to the disciples, they were arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24).

--- Jesus knew their selfish ways, just as He knows we are selfish.

--- Thankfully Jesus transforms us with the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we don’t rely on our own strength.

--- You don’t have to actually die in place of another person to fulfill this command.

--- Where we apply this actually comes in tossing aside our selfishness in small, daily matters.

--- We exercise love as we serve others. We can do so by listening, helping, encouraging, and giving. In these small, daily ways, we can love others as Jesus loves.

--- Our love for Christ is seen in how we love others.

--- Do we die to self in order to serve another? Do you give up your own pursuits in order to serve someone you love?

*** Question – What are some ways we can die to ourselves to serve someone else?

John 15:14-17

14 “You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

*** Jesus is my pal.

--- What’s the reward for being with Jesus? He calls His followers his friends!

--- The blessing of obedience is intimacy with God.

--- You will come to know things that you could never know any other way when you become intimate with God.

--- (Think of the people who work around kings and queens and presidents, those who tend to their needs. They overhear many secrets, and learn about the hearts of their leaders.)

--- You can be a part of the inner circle that comes with serving Him.

--- Amos 3:7 says “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”

*** Orange you glad you get to serve Jesus?

--- In verse 16 the next step is to bear fruit.

--- Gardeners know, to grow food in your backyard you have to make sure the seeds are planted in the right soil in the ideal climate, and have to be protected from disease to flourish.

--- Just as our backyard food, Jesus provides us all we need to live fruitfully.

--- When you live in a relationship with Jesus, you can’t help but bear fruit.

--- When we walk with Jesus— remaining in Him, obeying Him, and loving as He loves—our lives will bear fruit for Him.

--- And that fruit is the purpose of evangelism and our mission to spread the gospel.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

I read a story this week about a college student who was a new believer, and she was so grateful for what God had done for her that she just wanted to know “How can I pay God back?”

Of course, while we could never properly “pay God back,” we can still show Him our gratitude.

Let His love fill you and flow out of you into love for others.

That’s when you will bear fruit in each of those relationships—fruit that brings glory to God.

*** We all want real, authentic relationships, but that starts with a relationship with Christ.

*** Remain in Jesus and watch how His love strengthens your relationships.

*** Ask God to show you who you’re not loving like Christ. Pray for them, and then reach out to them.

Our Identity in Christ: Life on Mission

My Life Group lesson for May 28, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

People around United States speak a lot of different ways.

You could go to another region of the country and barely understand the locals.

We also use different pronunciations and phrases, such as:

--- In the South we say "y'all" instead of "you guys."
--- We call every drink a "Coke" instead of "pop" or "soda."
--- How do you say "pecan" when you order a pecan pie?
--- What you call a water fountain might be called a "drinking fountain out west" or a "bubbler" in Wisconsin and Rhode Island.

(Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/22-maps-that-show-the-deepest-linguistic-conflicts-in-america-2013-6/#lets-ignore-the-east-coastwest-coast-split-and-notice-that-wisconsin-and-rhode-island-call-a-water-fountain-a-bubbler-16)

Now matter how differently we pronounce words and phrases, we should be able to speak to anyone in the country or the world to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** The past six weeks we’ve talked about our identity in Christ, at home, at work, at church, and in the community.

*** In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul encouraged the church to lay aside personal comforts in order to reach people with the gospel. We see Paul reaching out to people where they were, not where he expected them to be

*** Today we’ll see how we can better share the gospel when we step into the shoes of others. If we step into the lives of others, we can lead them to find their identity in Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

*** Master of disguise.

--- In his travels, the apostle Paul saw all kinds of cultures throughout the Roman Empire.

--- All of the people from various backgrounds viewed life differently – and as a result saw the gospel differently.

--- Paul was up to the challenge and made it his goal to share the gospel with everyone regardless of their background.

--- This meant that Paul would have to change his approach to sharing the gospel, to “become all things to all people,” including:

--- The Jews – As a Jew, Paul knew the customs and rituals, and followed their practices to win their trust (see Acts 16:1-3; 21:23-26).

--- Gentiles – Paul wasn’t bound to follow the Jewish rituals when he associated with Gentiles. To do so might have alienated him from sharing Christ with them because he would have insisted on practicing rules and regulations that in their eyes would have had no meaning or purpose.

--- The Weak - Here, Paul was talking about fellow believers who had an immature faith, and the actions of other believers could become a stumbling block.

*** Take a ride into the danger zone.

--- By showing flexibility, Paul stepped out of his comfort zone for the sake of the gospel.

--- He sought to understand their lives, their goals and their dreams, and once they saw his care for them they might be ready to hear about Jesus.

--- He was all about reaching more people, whatever the cost.

--- In this way, Paul followed the model Jesus left us: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

--- That’s critical, because Jesus is our best example for serving others and sharing the gospel.

--- With that, we’ve lost some great voices in our Life Group. We’ve lost their testimonies, their experiences and advice.

--- We all have something to contribute, a different way to share the gospel and our Christian testimony.

*** Question - What are some different approaches Christians use for sharing the gospel?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

*** The race is on.

--- As we see in our Olympic Games, the winner gets to stand on top of the platform and gets a medal and fame.

--- In Paul’s day they had the Isthmian games that were held in Corinth every two years, second only to the ancient version of the Olympic Games, so the people he’s writing to know exactly what he’s talking about.

--- The Isthmian Games didn’t give gold, silver or bronze. It was win or go home. (In other words, If you’re not first, you’re last.)

--- Paul encourages that we won’t be successful every time, but we need to run the race like we expect to win.

--- All great winners in history have understood this principle – almost any situation, good or bad, is affected by the positive attitude we bring to it.

--- The life of modern men and women is often one of busyness. People often talk about a lack of time, but our problem isn’t enough time but a lack of focus and direction.

--- Paul was fully committed to reaching anybody and everybody with the gospel and gave it his all. He was a boxer who punched with purpose.

*** Stay on target.

--- To reach that goal, though, was never easy. Paul saw it as a serious task that required strict discipline and self-control.

--- Just as Olympians do today, the athletes in Corinth abstained from certain foods, sexual relations, and virtually everything else in order to focus on their race.

--- When they win, they get Wheaties covers. If you’re an amateur who runs a marathon you get the joy of putting a “26.2” sticker on your car.

--- In Paul’s day they won a crown that would whither in time.

--- We, however, run our Christian race to get a “crown that will last forever,” an eternity in heavenly glory with Jesus. (Phil. 3:14)

*** Question - What things might we need to set aside and pick up to run the race of faith well?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

It would be so awesome if we could serve Christ by resting in a hammock all day, reading a book and napping next to a babbling brook.

Paul, however, makes it clear that reaching people with the gospel takes discipline, self-control and work, and it’s worth it.

As we rely on God’s Spirit to work through us, we need to go where people are—and that often means stepping outside our comfort zones.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and look for opportunities to share your faith in Him with others.

How will you step into the shoes of others this week in order to share the gospel? Consider the following suggestions:

*** Pray. Identify someone you know personally who still needs to follow Christ. Pray for this person each day. Ask for guidance and opportunities to be a witness.

*** Learn. Learn what you can about beliefs and customs of other cultures. Pray that the gospel would penetrate their culture. Ask God how you can get involved.

*** Step out. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is harder than we often realize. But it’s a necessary part of sharing the gospel with those who need to hear it. Are you ready?

Our Identity in Christ: Life at Work

My Life Group lesson for May 21, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

What was your first paying job?

Facebook recently compiled a list of the top starter jobs—the jobs people have when they’re just starting out in the workforce. They gathered this data based on Facebook users’ responses to a question asking about their first jobs. Here’s Facebook’s list of top 20 first jobs:

Babysitter
Cashier
Lab assistant
Newspaper delivery
Teacher
Camp counselor
Retail
Dishwasher
Receptionist
Manager
Waiter/server
Hostess
Intern
McDonald's
Student
Barista
Store clerk
Pizza delivery
Lifeguard
Research assistant

What do you like best about the work you do?

It’s easy for our identity to get wrapped up in what we do—especially if we love our work.

But what happens to our identity at the end of the workday, when we come to retirement, or if we lose our job?

If we define our identity by our work, these transitions can become debilitating.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** In the book of Colossians, Paul writes that slaves should work not for their masters, but for Jesus. Workers today aren’t slaves; we have bosses instead of masters. But we still work to please Jesus.

*** Your work is a reflection of your relationship with Christ. Do you consistently put in an honest day’s work? Are you willing to work hard even when others do not notice or do not appear to appreciate what you do? Can you learn to be content with the approval of the Lord Jesus Christ whom you ultimately serve?

*** The good news is that we’re far more than what we do for a living. For Christians, our identity is defined not by who we are, but by whose we are. Our identity is wrapped up in Christ. And that identity makes all the difference in our work.

Colossians 3:22-25

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

*** Why are bosses so bossy?

--- Office Space is a fantasy for any worker who just wanted to say “forget this” at their job.

--- Do you work for a difficult person? Well, let’s see what the Bible says about that slave driver:

--- “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” (1 Peter 2:18).

--- Yep, even if they’re awful, you are to serve him.

--- Since our identity isn’t found in what we do, but in whom we serve, God’s focus isn’t on what we do—it’s on how we do it.

--- The apostle Paul addressed this by writing to those working to serve another person.

--- Paul wasn’t opposed to freeing slaves, nor to slaves working to become free; he simply remained focused on the mission he’d been given.

--- He wrote elsewhere: “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you— although if you can gain your freedom, do so,” (1 Cor. 7:21).

--- Paul wanted slaves to work not for their masters, but for Jesus.

--- He understood that a slave’s identity was founded not in his position as a slave, but in his position with Christ.

--- Slaves were free in Christ; thus, they were free to serve Jesus with all their hearts. They could demonstrate that service to Jesus by serving their masters with integrity and faithfulness.

--- Workers today aren’t slaves; we have bosses instead of masters. But we still work to please Jesus.

--- Therefore, we’re called to work wholeheartedly and with obedience, integrity, and dependability.

*** Why is work so much work?

--- Have you had a job that you once were excited about but the daily grind wore you down?

--- At Camelot Music my junior and senior years. At first I was enthusiastic and happy to have a job. But over time the customers wore on me, and I began to really hate people.

--- Our attitude doesn’t have to match our circumstances.

--- Paul told us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

--- No matter what I do— and no matter what you do—we’re to do it enthusiastically, since we’re really doing it for Christ.

--- A heart centered on Christ makes all the difference.

--- Paul mentioned several things that can fuel our enthusiasm for work, including the following:

--- Christ’s reward. “Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” This surely appealed to slaves who had no reward or compensation in this life.

--- Christ’s lordship. “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” The sovereign Lord who loves us deeply is the One we truly serve.

--- Christ’s justice. “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.” God will reward obedience and will justly deal with disobedience. Who I am in Christ—my identity in Him—is seen by all when I do my work enthusiastically for Him.

*** Question – How can we maintain a Christ-like attitude, even in work we don’t enjoy?

Colossians 4:1

1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

*** I wish my boss was Star-Lord.

--- You might hope your work is like the Guardians of the Galaxy where it feels like a family and the guy in charge is your pal. But more likely your boss is more like one of the bad guys who will throw you out the airlock for the fun of it.

--- I’m not a boss, but as a newscast director I am the guy with the headset in charge of my crew making sure the news looks clean, so I can see how this applies to me, too.

--- Being the boss, supervisor, or employer generally means more responsibility as well as more pay.

(I wouldn’t want to be a manager. I don’t want the extra hours and meetings, and don’t want the responsibility. It would inevitably eat into family and church time.)

*** Question – For those of you in charge, how do you approach being a Christian who is their leader?

--- In New Testament days slaves had virtually no rights and master could pretty much do what they wanted to do with them.

--- However, Paul commanded Christian masters to do as Jesus would do.

--- They should not use their positions of authority to lord it over those who report to them.

--- Even masters had “a Master in heaven”—the Lord Jesus Christ—and He would hold them accountable for how they treated their slaves.

--- When Jesus spoke about judging others and our treatment of them, He said, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).

--- Culture may favor the boss with the power, more pay, and greater influence, but when we stand before God, He won’t play favorites.

--- Let’s never lose sight of the value and importance of the people who work with us and for us.

--- Let’s see them as Jesus sees them—and let’s treat them accordingly each day.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Does your work these days feel like an adventure, a circus, or a marathon?

There are surely areas of your work life you could more completely surrender to Christ.

Think of how your work can bring glory and honor to the Lord and be a testimony to those with whom you work.

As you fulfill your God-given calling to do your work wholeheartedly, others will take notice. Some will follow your example; more importantly, others may be drawn to Jesus.

*** Be positive. Employees often speak disparagingly about their employers and companies. Choose to stand out in your workplace by being consistently positive in your speech.

(I have found this VERY difficult the past couple of years.)

*** Encourage. Take a step to encourage someone you work with this week. Be open and direct about your desire to offer support as an act of obedience to Christ.

*** Pray. Think of a person who is confrontational or difficult to work with. Pray for that person each day. Seek opportunities to be a witness for the love and grace of Christ as you work.

Our Identity in Christ: Life at Home

My Life Group lesson for May 14, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Happy Mother’s Day!

For Wizard of Oz fans, what makes your home so special that you’d kill a wicked witch to get ruby red slippers to click them and go home?

For most people, that single word can generate a good feeling—a sense of comfort, security, and even longing.

As Christians, home is where our identity in Christ is clearly lived out.

Whatever your situation looks like at this stage of life, Jesus wants you to be the best member of your family that you can possibly be.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** We continue our study of our identities as believers in Christ.

*** Paul discussed God’s design for family relationships in Ephesians 5:22–6:3. We’ll be focusing on the verses about husbands and wives.

*** Our identity in Christ can be seen in a home environment of Christ-centered love, submission, and obedience.

Ephesians 5:22-24

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

*** Oh dear, do we have to go here?

--- As a guy I start to get the nervous sweats while reading these verses among women.

--- How many Christians react to these verses with an internal voice screaming: “Warning! Step away from this grenade!”

--- Our modern society laughs at these verses, or react with horror.

--- So many who are wary of Christianity think “The Handmaid’s Tale” is more than a book and TV series and is coming true. (Totalitarian theocracy overthrows the U.S. government and women are subjugated to be uneducated baby-makers.)

*** The reality.

--- God intends these verses an invitation to a blessing.

--- It’s part of the mutual submission taught in verse 21 that states to “submit to one another.”

--- Just as God has blessed the church with Christ as its Leader, God wants to bless every family with a leader.

--- For families with a husband in the home, God has assigned him to be the leader.

--- Submission isn’t a natural behavior for us. It’s never easy, but it is expected.

--- Wives who willingly submit to their husbands are entrusting their marriage to God.

--- That doesn’t mean the wife places her faith in her husband; rather, she places her faith in Jesus to lead her husband.

--- She chooses to believe God will lead her and her family through him as he seeks the Lord’s guidance.

--- In the same way, submission does not mean silence.

(I rely on my wife as a source of wisdom and a sounding board for what I am thinking. I look forward to her opinion and greatly value her thoughts and insights. I married an amazing woman, and I would be a fool not to listen to her advice. And a dead man.)

--- Part of why submission has been so distorted is because there are men who have used the word as a weapon to club their wives rather than as a hammer to build their homes.

--- Let’s be clear: To submit “in everything” doesn’t include things that are wrong.

--- God never expects a wife to be complicit in sin. If the husband’s desires, choices, or demands are wrong, it’s the wife’s duty first and foremost to be obedient to Christ.

--- In this way, submission is never a passive action. It’s a choice to live a life of obedience to Christ.

*** Question –What do these verses mean to you as a Christian woman? A Christian man?

Ephesians 5:25-28

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

*** Your turn, men.

--- Dudes, if you thought the previous verses were awesome, now here’s the second part of that.

--- This is not a one-sided submission.

--- Most marriages need two funerals and one wedding where both the husband and the wife die to themselves and come alive to Jesus Christ.

--- When a man loves his wife passionately, there’s nothing too precious for that man to give up for his wife, except his relationship to Almighty God.

--- When there’s that kind of love shown to a woman, the topic of submission would not be an issue.

--- The husband, if he loves his wife as Christ loves the church, is going to love her sacrificially. He is going to love her in such a way that he would be willing to lay down his life for her. He’s going to protect her. He’s going to provide for her. He’s going to do what he can to strive for holiness in his family for the Lord’s use.

--- Most women don’t mind submitting to a man who loves her enough to die for her and shows it by the way he lives for her. (Adrian Rogers)

--- Becoming a husband was easy. However, becoming a godly husband has been the greatest challenge of my life. (And I’ll be clear up front: I haven’t always been a godly husband. My wife has endured my selfishness and has seen the very worst of me.)

--- In the family, men have been given the role of leader.

(Speaking as a guy, a husband and a father, many many times I would be happy not to have to lead anything and to spend all day in a man cave hiding from adulthood.)

--- Any man who desires to become the husband God wants him to be needs to study and imitate the life of Jesus.

--- Ultimately, this is submission to Christ, because the husband is placing the needs of another before his own.

Ephesians 6:1-3

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”— which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

*** Because I said so!

What are some of the pearls of wisdom you give to your children most often?

--- Every time you set down the rules for your children you inevitably get hit with one word: “Why?”

--- We become our parents and reply, “Because I said so!”

--- Good communication is a big part of effective parenting, but in the end children have a responsibility to obey what their parents say.

--- Children obeying parents reflects God’s design for the family. As parents led with proper authority, children will find themselves blessed by yielding to that authority.

*** This goes for us, too.

--- Honor your father and mother recalls Exodus 20:12. This was the first commandment with a promise. Honoring one’s parents would bring blessing to those who practiced it.

--- Just because we’re all grown up and trying out this adulting thing it doesn’t mean these verses don’t apply anymore.

--- Our relationship has changed with our parents, but we are still told to honor them.

--- Verse 3 makes it clear that there are benefits to a honorable relationship: “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

--- This has less to do with whether you think you should honor your parents with a phone call once a month, but our attitude toward our parents.

--- It’s seen in what we do when we’re with them—how we talk to them or respond to their advice, and how we talk about them.

--- Paul reminded us that God will bless us when we honor our parents.

--- Regardless of our age, we are all children, and have opportunity to serve and honor our parents every day.

--- The older those of us in our class get, the more we find out that we’ll be caring for our aging parents. Some may view this task as a burden, but others see it as a great privilege. Some parents are better equipped financially to care for their own needs; others require the support of their children. Some require long-term medical care; others do not. Whatever the situation, we should ask the Lord how we can best honor our parents in their old age.

--- Honoring one’s parents was a command that applied to children of any age and to parents of any age.

--- Christ is the foundation of a strong home.

QUESTION - How do these verses apply to your current situation?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

If you were like me, on the weekends you would always tune in to listen to the top 40 music countdown with Casey Kasem.

One of the features every show was the long-distance dedication. It was always a sappy letter from a listener talking about someone they loved and admired, and Kasem would play a song after.

If you could send out a long-distance dedication, to whom would it be and what song?

--- Our identity in Christ defines us and helps us to understand our family roles.

As we seek to live out our identity in Christ, we cannot do so by simply being a husband, wife, parent, or child.

We do it as followers of Jesus—and we live out our submission to Christ in how we live at home.

How will you live out your identity in Christ at home in the days to come? Consider these suggestions to get started:

*** Submission. Begin each morning by actively and intentionally submitting to Christ. Verbally acknowledge Him as your Lord and Master.

*** Love. Be on the lookout for an opportunity to demonstrate self-sacrificial love to someone important in your life—your spouse, your friend, your neighbor, and so on. Express your love both verbally and through action.

*** There certainly is no place like home. It’s likely the place where you feel most comfortable—most like your true self. For that reason, make sure your home reflects your identity as a disciple of Jesus.

Our Identity in Christ: Life in the Church

My Life Group lesson for April 23, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

How much time and effort do we spend as teenagers just trying to be a part of a group with whom we feel like we belong?

Do you notice that now with your children?

It could be a sports team, a club, the band, friends you grew up with, or the rebels meeting behind campus acting like they don’t care what other people think (though they clearly do).

This week we’ll talk about how as adults and believers in Christ we belong to something eternal: the church.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** In our study we’re continuing to look at our identity as believers in Jesus Christ.

*** Peter was a leader in the early church and eventually was martyred under the Roman emperor Nero about A.D. 64. While ministering in Rome, Peter wrote the letter we call 1 Peter to a group of churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He encouraged them to stand strong and to realize the hope they had in Jesus Christ, even as they faced persecution and suffering.

*** When we come to Christ, we come to His body, the church. Our identity in Christ is wrapped up in our identity with other believers.

*** As we explore an important passage from 1 Peter 4 in this session, we’ll see that to love and serve the body of Christ is to love and serve the Head of that body: Christ Himself.

1 Peter 4:7

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

*** There and Back Again: A Christian’s Tale.

--- Our story is just as compelling as the ones told by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in the world of Lord of the Rings.

--- “The end of all things” isn’t a story about throwing the One Ring into the fires of Mordor; it’s a time when all of humanity will stand before Jesus. (Rev. 20:11-12)

--- Like the Fellowship of the Ring, we’re all in this together as one church dedicated to glorifying the Lord.

--- Peter identified three ways believers can serve one another and, therefore, strengthen the church.

*** First, we’re told to “be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”

--- With the coming of the end of all things, Peter tells us to be alert.

--- Life is serious business, because eternity is coming!

--- Someone’s relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ—or their lack thereof—means the difference between an eternity with God and an eternity without God.

--- The stakes are too high to waste our lives. We need to use them for God’s purpose.

--- By challenging us to be of sober mind, Peter says we cannot accomplish God’s purpose for our lives by accident or merely by living each day one at a time.

--- Peter was not saying life had no room for spontaneity or fun, but live our lives with eternity in view.

*** There is power in prayer.

--- As a spiritual family, we hold on to each other and hold each other up through prayer.

--- Praying for each other is one of the best ways we can serve one another.

--- Prayer is dependence on God, and when we take the lives of others before God’s throne of grace, we’re laying their needs before the One who loves, cares, and can fully meet their needs.

--- Part of discovering who we are is discovering that God made us to be prayer warriors.

--- Not just saying we will pray, but actually praying for the needs, hurts, concerns, and hopes of those in our church.

--- All believers have a direct connection to God because of our faith in Jesus. Let’s use that connection to bless the church with prayer.

*** Question - If you compared your prayer life to a car, what kind of car would it be? (Reliable car? Souped-up sports car? Is it a lemon?) What could you do to upgrade to a better model?

1 Peter 4:8-9

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

*** Go team!

--- If we are connected to Christ, we also are connected to other believers.

--- Scripture describes the church in several ways: the body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:27), the bride of Christ (see Rev. 19:7-9), and the family of God (see Eph. 2:19).

--- All of these word pictures convey a key truth about the church: we need to work together.

*** Second in his list of ways we can serve each other, Peter says to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

--- Even in the best marriages, where two people love each other more than anything else, conflict happens. It’s inevitable.

--- Conflict also happens in the church. And just like in a marriage, Christians are called to respond to that conflict with love.

--- This is the selfless, benevolent, agape love (or affection) that God bestows on His people.

--- Such love isn’t automatic or easy. It takes work to maintain love in any relationship, even among believers. (Unless no one here has ever had a problem with another believer? Liars!)

--- When we work to maintain love for each other, that love “covers over a multitude of sins.”

--- Peter wasn’t writing about our sins toward God. Our faith in Jesus Christ covers those. Instead, Peter was referring to the offenses we commit against each other.

--- Love for others leads us to overlook their offenses. Love leads us to move past the hurt and see beyond one another’s faults.

--- The church isn’t filled with perfect people; therefore, it must be filled with God’s perfect love.

*** Question - What are some ways love covers the damage done by sin?

*** Third, Peter tells us to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

--- To be “hospitable” means to be kind and welcoming to people. This is to be a hallmark of the Christian community.

--- Paul also called all Christians to pursue hospitality in Romans 12:13, and he listed hospitality among the defining traits of Christian leaders (see 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8).

--- Such hospitality was especially significant in the early years of the church, when lodging wasn’t affordable for traveling Christians.

--- In the ancient world, cities and towns did not typically have quality Motel 8s for travelers to use. People counted on the gracious hospitality of local residents to take them in and provide their basic needs.

--- The advance of the church’s mission in sharing the gospel was greatly aided by believers who were willing to open their homes to travelers.

--- The second part of this verse may be the most difficult. It’s one thing to share a home or share a meal; it’s another thing to do it without grumbling.

--- Peter’s perspective was that showing hospitality to strangers was a wonderful way to demonstrate Christ’s love.

--- As they put aside their own needs and agendas to show kindness to strangers, they demonstrated the kind of self-denying commitment Jesus displayed and encouraged them to display (see John 13:34-35).

--- Unbelieving strangers also might see their example and turn to the Lord.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

This week we lost our former pastor, Bro. Ray Newcomb. For over 30 years he set a terrific example of how the church cares for one another.

How is church like family?

What do you like best about Millington First Baptist?

Jesus didn’t save us so that each of us could be an only child. He called us to love both Him and His family.

How will you love and serve Christ through His church this week? Our take-away points:

*** Pray. Make a commitment to pray each day. Prayer is simply talking to God. Pray for your church and those who lead it. Serve them by praying for them.

*** Practice hospitality. Identify a way you can show more love and kindness to the people in your church, in your community, and in your family.

*** Whether you’ve been a Christian for years, or whether you recently discovered your identity in Christ—you have a vital connection to the church. Don’t miss out on that incredible gift.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Identity: Who Are You in Christ?

My Life Group lesson for April 23, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum.

If someone was going to give a speech about you, what three things would people tell them about you?

What is your favorite word or phrase that someone has used to describe you?

Does your identity change if you’re at home, at church, or at work, or are you the same person all the time?

Most of us struggle with our identity at some point in life. Not knowing who you are can really mess up where you are and what you do.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** Over the next six weeks we’ll see what God says about who we are and who we can be in Christ.

*** In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” How these men saw Jesus changed their lives because it changed how they saw themselves.

*** The same is true of us. Our identity in Christ alters our identity at church, in our homes, at our places of work, and everywhere else. We will always be unique, but those roles are transformed by our life of faith—our true, defining identity.

Luke 9:18-22

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” 20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” 21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

*** Jesus Christ Superstar!

--- During the short period in which the disciples were with Jesus, they saw Him do amazing things—feed the hungry; raise the dead; heal the lame, blind, and diseased; and more.

--- Jesus went from an unknown carpenter in a small town in Galilee to the biggest celebrity in all of Palestine.

--- As with any figure who is well known, many people came to love Him, yet others despised Him.

--- Their opinions differed, but they all shared one thing in common: Jesus was somebody of importance.

*** Who am I?

--- Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They responded with the various opinions people had about Jesus’ identity.

--- We hear similar responses today. To your Muslim neighbor, Jesus is a prophet. To your Buddhist friend, He’s an enlightened teacher. Even many atheists regard Jesus as a person of inspiration.

--- All of this is interesting, but the real question—the one Jesus would ask each of us—is the one He asked His disciples: “Who do you say I am?”

*** Question – Why do so many people speak admiringly of Jesus while still denying that He’s God?

*** Shhhh, keep it secret.

--- Even as Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, it is surprising what Jesus told Peter and the other disciples to do with that information. He told them not to tell anyone.

--- Aren’t we called to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah?

--- Yes! Later Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission to tell everyone about Him (Acts 1:8).

--- At this time, though, Jesus didn’t need the full truth announced.

--- “Messiah” was a loaded term in those days, and a lot of would-be revolutionaries used it for themselves.

--- At that point, the disciples probably believed, as most Jews did, that the Messiah would be a political leader who would free them from the oppressive rule of Rome in some type of military victory.

--- The disciples likely were crushed to hear that Jesus would not lead them to military victory, but instead He would suffer and die as part of God’s plan.

--- He also predicts that He would be raised from the dead, which the disciples seem to have forgotten by the time of the resurrection.

*** Question – If someone were to ask you who Jesus is, what would you say to them?

Luke 9:23-26

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

*** Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

--- Luke 9:23 is one of the most important verses for any follower of Jesus.

--- If you say yes to Jesus, you have to say no to yourself.

--- Every day we must say no to our desires, our wishes, and our dreams, and say yes to God’s will for our lives.

--- To take up the cross means we renounce our selfish ambitions and our way of life.

*** What is a wish or desire you’ve had to say “no” to, in order to follow Christ?

--- We live in a “me first” world.

--- We live in a world that caters to self. By the world’s standard, everybody is in it for themselves.

--- As a result, everyone is drowning:

--- Drowning in broken relationships because we demand everything be centered on us.

--- Drowning in debt because we have to have it all.

--- Drowning in illness and disease because we have to eat or experience it all.

--- How many times have you seen people work at jobs they hate to buy stuff they don’t need so they can impress people they don’t even like? How many times have you been in that cycle yourself? Jesus calls us to be different.

*** Question – Why is this so difficult to do in our culture?

*** It’s can’t be a secret.

--- Jesus calls us to make a decision about Him. But it can’t be a private decision.

--- Nobody can be a Christian and keep his or her faith completely private.

--- Jesus calls us to die to self and publicly proclaim our faith in Him.

--- Luke 9:26 - “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

*** Question – How is Jesus’ definition of happiness different from the world’s?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

If you were in the witness protection program and had to create an entirely new identity for yourself, who would you be? Would you choose a simple life? A life of mystery? A life of action?

In your life right now, who are you? That’s an interesting question. An important question.

But you’ll never find the best answer without understanding that your identity is directly tied to Christ.

Our take-away points:

*** Research. Take some time to read through your church’s statement of faith. (You can start with the church website, or with a staff member.) What are some specific truths that statement teaches about Jesus?

*** Surrender. Saying yes to Jesus as Lord means saying no to yourself. Do a self-examination and surrender any areas of selfishness to Him.

*** Share. We are called to tell everyone who Jesus is. Think of someone you know who needs Jesus. Pray as a group for this person to come to know Jesus, and pray about your part in that process: sharing your testimony, inviting him or her to church, answering questions, and so on.

He Is Risen

My Life Group lesson for April 16, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

The big pop culture viral video story this week was the guy on a United Airlines plane who got manhandled and forcibly yanked off the plane just because he didn’t want to volunteer to give up his seat on a flight that United overbooked.

If you saw the videos from other passengers, many people had their phones out recording the fracas, and United took a major public relations hit, especially when they said they merely had to “re-accommodate” the passenger.

It’s pretty safe to say that the guy will get a sizable settlement from United for his treatment, and the video evidence will be overwhelming.

When you have so many witnesses it can make it easier to get your view across.

On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Bible is full of evidence and eyewitness testimony.

Look at the facts. Jesus is alive!

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** The women who observed Jesus’ burial went to the tomb on Sunday to anoint His body with spices. They discovered the tomb empty and were informed that Jesus was not there. Later that night, Jesus appeared to His disciples, showing them His hands and His feet. His resurrection affirmed that He was and is the Son of God. The disciples witnessed His resurrected body and came to believe, though it took convincing for some of them.

*** Jesus died a brutal, shameful death as a public spectacle. In the Roman culture of the first century, crucifixion was so heinous that well-to-do Romans wouldn’t even mention it in public. The disciples had witnessed Jesus’ excruciating death, and all they could do was grieve.

*** Jesus died mere hours before the Jewish Sabbath began. With sundown quickly approaching, all Jesus’ followers could do was to wrap His body and place it in a tomb. When sundown came, darkness filled the night sky—and another kind of darkness filled their minds. The One they had pinned all their hopes on was dead.

Luke 24:1-8

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6a He is not here; he has risen! 6b Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.

*** Hippity hoppity Jesus is on His way!

--- Nowadays, Easter is still a time of celebration, but more and more seen for Easter egg hunts or the annual White House egg roll.

--- For us churchgoing folk, Easter is a time of celebrating our risen Savior.

--- However, that first Easter, Sunday morning after Jesus’ crucifixion was anything but a happy moment for His disciples.

--- It was a day of death, doubt and disappointment.

*** It’s empty!

--- When a group of women arrived at Jesus’ tomb they found it empty. No body. And then angels gleaming in white explained that He had risen.

--- How do we know Jesus is alive? His tomb is empty!

--- People have tried to explain away the resurrection, but we can’t explain away an empty tomb.

--- Had Jesus’ body been stolen, or if the women had simply gone to the wrong tomb, the idea of a resurrection would have been rejected by going to the right tomb or by producing Jesus’ dead body. That didn’t happen.

--- Similarly, if Luke was trying to invent something that didn’t happen, he most likely would have identified some of Jesus’ apostles as the first witnesses to the empty tomb—some of the men.

--- Why? At that time, a women’s testimony wasn’t valid in court, which made them less than ideal as witnesses. But Luke stuck to the facts: Jesus’ tomb was empty, and the women were the first witnesses to it.

*** Surprise!?

--- The empty tomb should not have been a surprise to these women— or to any of Jesus’ followers. The angels reminded them that Jesus had repeatedly predicted both His death and His resurrection.

--- Jesus knew that the cross was coming. Look at what else this fact reveals:

--- Jesus’ death was no unfortunate accident. Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission of love that began the beginning of time.

--- Jesus died on the cross in our place. Jesus willingly went to the cross. He had no sins of His own to pay for, but He died for our sins. He did this so that we could be eternally forgiven and our sin could be eternally forgotten.

--- Jesus defeated death for us. When God raised Jesus from the dead, death lost its power over us (see Acts 2:24). Jesus rose from the dead, and so will we (see 2 Cor. 4:14).

--- Jesus came to earth as the fulfillment of a plan that had literally spanned thousands of years. This was a plan that has covered the breadth of human history and continues to impact the world today.

--- Only God could accomplish such a plan—and He did!

*** Question - What are some ways our culture tries to explain away Jesus’ resurrection?

Luke 24:36-40

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

*** I don’t see a dead Savior.

--- At first everyone had to make sure they weren’t like Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense seeing dead people.

--- This was no mass hallucination.

--- You’d think His followers would rejoice, especially since some of them had actually seen Him and the empty tomb already, but instead they were “startled and frightened.”

--- They were not expecting to see Jesus, especially since He didn’t even open the locked door to come in. They were scared to death as if seeing a ghost.

--- Jesus knew what they were thinking and said he’s no Slimer from Ghostbusters. Look at his wounds, touch Him and believe.

--- Doubt and faith are often side-by-side in our lives. Sometimes our faith is super duper strong, and other times doubts seep in and affect our walk with God.

--- Every step of the way Jesus provides us with grace to trust Him even in the midst of doubt.

*** What the resurrection means for us.

--- The disciples were afraid. They doubted the truth of the resurrection. And yet they were ultimately transformed by Christ and used in marvelous ways to advance His kingdom in this world. The same can be true of us.

--- And, just like He provided His first disciples with proof of His bodily resurrection, He provides us with proof as well. That proof may be a friend whose life was changed or the overwhelming historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

--- The proof of Christ’s resurrection brings us peace.

--- Through His Resurrection He conquered death so His followers can experience true, authentic, and everlasting life.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

You could dismiss unbelievers as “haters gonna hate.”

However, when we’re trying to bring new believers into the church they might have legitimate questions instead of just outright believing in the resurrection:

“Jesus was unconscious when they put Him in the tomb, but He never actually died.”
“I don’t think Jesus was an actual person in history; He’s just a story.”
“It was probably Jesus’ disciples who made up the story of Jesus rising from the dead; they just couldn’t let Him go.”
“People wanted to believe Jesus was still alive, so they just imagined they saw Him.”

Every spring we have a celebration around the resurrection of Christ. But it’s not a sin to reaffirm the evidence of why it’s not just blind belief to be true.

In fact, this week there was a survey released of people who describe themselves as Christians in Britain. A full 25 percent do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

(Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-39153121?ocid=socialflow_twitter&ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbcnews&ns_source=twitter)

To which we would say, then, they’re not actually Christians.

Romans 10:9 doesn’t mince words: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

You can’t be neutral about the resurrection. You have to face the fact. Either it is true or it is not true.

It is grounded in historical reality that cannot simply be washed away.

Consider this from just one passage—Luke 24, part of which we studied today:

--- Verses 1-6. The empty tomb points to the resurrection of Jesus.
--- Verses 6-8. Jesus foretold His resurrection.
--- Verses 9-12. The disciples did not invent the story; in fact, they didn’t believe it at first.
--- Verses13-35. The disciple spoke with Jesus.
--- Verses 36-40. The disciples saw Jesus physically.

Paul makes the case in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day. He appeared to the disciples and more than 500 brothers and sisters. And many of them were still alive when he wrote it, and he said to go talk with them if you want the full story.

If none of this is true, Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:14, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

If Jesus had not risen from the dead, our faith would be futile, death would have dominion, sin would be sovereign and the future would be fearful. His death without His resurrection cannot save anybody. Our faith is worthless if He is still in the grave. (Adrian Rogers)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact. Consider these options for responding to that fact in the week to come:

*** Believe. Jesus has risen from death, and He is alive. If you’ve never embraced the truth of Christ’s resurrection and what that means for your life, do so now.

*** Study. Read further about the historical evidence that proves the resurrection of Christ. Massive evidence points to the reality of this event, including hundreds of people who saw Jesus after He came out of the tomb.

*** Share. Ask God each day to provide opportunities for you to share your faith with someone who has yet to believe in Christ. The disciples were afraid. They doubted the truth of the resurrection. And yet they were ultimately transformed by Christ and used in marvelous ways to advance His kingdom in this world. The same can be true of us.

Victory Shared

My Life Group lesson for April 9, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

This week Pepsi suffered a bit of embarrassment when they released an ad that was wildly and widely derided as tone deaf by all sides of the political debate. It features Kendall Jenner of the Kardashian clan solving all of the protests and political and pop culture disagreement by giving a Pepsi to a police officer. A couple of days later Pepsi pulled the ad.

Let’s think about some ad campaigns that actually worked.

What are some marketing campaigns you will always remember?

Ad agencies live to create that one slogan or campaign that’s remembered for years.

Here’s what one site chose for the top 10 catchiest jingles of all time:

10. Dr Pepper: “Wouldn’t you like to be a pepper, too?”
9. Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum: “Double your pleasure, double your fun.”
8. Juicy Fruit: “The taste is gonna move ya.” (When you pop it in your mouth!)
7. Chili’s: “I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs.”
6. Alka-Seltzer: “Plop plop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.”
5. Kit Kat: “Give me a break.”
4. Band-Aid: “I am stuck on Band-Aid brand cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.”
3. Oscar Mayer: “My Bologna Has A First Name…” and “If I Were An Oscar Mayer Weiner.”
2. Coca-Cola: “I’d Like to Buy The World A Coke.”
1. McDonald’s: “I’m lovin’ it!”

Research shows that the memory retention of a radio or TV commercial that incorporates a jingle, is recalled 10 times faster than that of an ad that just relies on spoken word and a generic audio bed.

Researchers actually have a name for this – they call it ‘Song-Struck-Syndrome’ or ‘Earworms.’ These are typically 15 – 30 second snippets of melody and music that make their way into our brain and never seem to leave.

(Source: https://creativeready.com/top-10-advertising-jingles-time/)

And when we sing a catchy jingle we want to sing along with everyone else. Some things are too good to keep to ourselves.

In today’s lesson we’re going to talk about the victory we have in Jesus, how it’s too big to keep to ourselves.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** After the resurrection Jesus appeared to two disciples on their walk to the village of Emmaus (see Luke 24:13 35). On Easter evening, Jesus appeared among His disciples (see vv. 36 43).

*** It was there that Jesus reminded his disciples of everything He had said and they had witnessed.

*** What Jesus had done is incredibly good news, and like any good news, the story of God’s saving work in Jesus had to be told.

Luke 24:44-45

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

*** Know your history.

--- It’s been said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, but clearly no one knows their history.

--- One reason the Da Vinci Code book and movie was so laughable is that it’s facts go against every bit of Biblical knowledge that we have.

--- Jesus’ disciples had all the facts but not only didn’t remember the scriptures, they didn’t remember what Jesus said for the past three years.

--- It would be an understatement to say that Jesus’ disciples were surprised by the crucifixion.

--- Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples He would be arrested, killed, and resurrected (see 9:22,44; 17:25; 18:31-33; 22:37).

--- Furthermore, the Hebrew Scriptures themselves (what we know as the Old Testament) predicted what would happen.

--- Yet, when Jesus appeared to His followers on the day of His resurrection, He reminded them of His warnings from the past: “This is what I told you while I was still with you.”

--- Despite all this, Jesus didn’t rebuke the disciples for not figuring things out. Instead, “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

--- Jesus showed them how these passages that were well known to every Jew were ultimately about Him!

--- When Jesus said “everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms,” he’s emphasizing that the entire Old Testament points to Him.

--- This wasn’t the first time Jesus said that He was all over the place in the Old Testament.

--- Earlier, Jesus told this to the Jews who were persecuting Him: “You study the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39)

--- When it says that Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand,” it reminds us that the Scriptures need to be understood. It takes the help of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s Word fully.

*** Question - What practical tools help you engage and understand the Scriptures?

(((Unfortunately we still find too many examples of people who misinterpret the Bible or choose to read it in light of what they want it to say. How do we know when we’re reading the Scriptures correctly? Look for Christ. Reading the Bible as God intended will always bring us back to Jesus.)))

Luke 24:46-48

46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

*** We’re gonna steal the New Testament.

--- You don’t have to be Nic Cage stealing the Declaration of Independence to be privy to secret knowledge about Jesus.

--- God’s people have everything we need in the Bible.

--- The early church would go on to use several Scriptures to point to the crucified and resurrected Christ.

--- Philip used Isaiah 53:7-8 to help the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-38) discover Jesus.

--- In Acts 10:43 Peter testifies to Cornelius that the prophets witness about Jesus.

--- Love Worth Finding (https://www.lwf.org/bible-study/posts/jesus-in-the-old-testament-12419) points to about 300 prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Christ.

--- From the beginning, God has been working across the generations so that—at just the right moment in history—Jesus Christ would be born. Knowing this, we see that Jesus’ arrest and death were not merely unfortunate events. They were all a part of God’s perfect plan.

--- Jesus didn’t just come to be a Messiah, he brings forgiveness and salvation for those who repent and believe.

*** We are witnesses.

--- Just as the earliest disciples did, we also live as witnesses for Christ, and what we proclaim comes out of the overflow of our own relationship with Jesus.

--- We may not stand behind a pulpit every week, but neither did most of the disciples. Instead, we share what we know and have experienced with those who need to hear it.

--- Remember: the gospel is good news! Most people—even people who seemingly have it all together—are walking around in terrible pain. They have things in their past they can’t forget or forgive. They have failures they can’t get over. People they trusted have let them down, or worse. These are the people who sit on the pews around you in church, live down the street in your neighborhood, go to class with you, and work where you work.

--- Such people are desperate for the good news Jesus brings. Some of them may think they know about Jesus, but in fact, they don’t. At least, they don’t know the full story of His grace and salvation.

--- That’s where we come in as witnesses. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we’re brought into people’s lives at just the right moment.

--- Just as Jesus was born in the fullness of time (see Gal. 4:4), God leads you and me into other people’s lives at just the right time to make a difference. Then, perhaps beginning with a cup of coffee or a little banter about the latest ball game, we listen to their stories. Right where they are, we begin to tell them the story of Jesus. We tell them everything that happened to Jesus and about what His victory means for all of us.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Why do we hit the share button to post things on Facebook?

We might want to show a news article, or the secret to healthy living, or an adorable video of puppies. And yes, sometimes we share what Jesus Christ has done for us.

We share those things that move us emotionally and express what is truly important to us.

What is the primary obstacle that hinders you from sharing the gospel with others?

Nothing should move us more—or be more important—than knowing we have eternal life because of the resurrection of Christ. The message went viral in the 1st century as the gospel spread around the world.

*** Invite. Pray for an opportunity to invite a friend or family member to church.

*** Study. As you read the Old Testament look for those signs, events, and teachings that point forward to the coming of Christ.

*** Share. As a church, we don’t need cheesy advertisements or viral marketing to spread the good news of the gospel. Instead, we simply need to share stories of lives changed through the victory and power of Jesus—stories like yours.

Victory Over Fear

My Life Group lesson for April 2, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever “lost” your child in public? Describe that fear.

Just as parents fear losing their children, every child has a primal fear of being abandoned —that their parents will put them down one day and never come back.

Have you ever seen a child cry when his parent walks into another room? The child doesn’t understand his dad is just around the corner.

We may never get over the fear of being alone in our lives. We’ll put up with a lot of things —including bad friends and even difficult marriages— to avoid being alone.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** Many fear abandonment as followers of Christ.

*** The first seven chapters of Romans show how sin is universal in the world, why that sin is so devastating to our lives, and the futility of our efforts to remove our sin on our own.

*** In Romans chapter 8 Paul wrote with assurance that nothing will keep Jesus from being with us.

Romans 8:31-34

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

*** “Jesus Christ is on your side.”

--- The Nationwide insurance jingle that Peyton Manning sings is so catchy, and made to get you to buy insurance for unforeseen problems in your life.

--- Romans chapter 8 is Paul’s insurance policy for Christians.

--- As Paul moved through Romans 8, he laid down one truth on top of another regarding the great benefits we receive because of Christ’s saving work for us:

We have received His Holy Spirit (v. 9).
We are made fully alive in Christ (v. 11).
We are adopted into His family (v. 15).
We are co-heirs with Christ (v. 17).
We have a glorious future ahead of us (vv. 18-23).
We have the Holy Spirit interceding for us before the Father (v. 26).

--- As Paul reached the climactic moment in verse 31, he simply asked: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

--- We can’t look at the gospel—any aspect of the gospel—and not see that “God is for us.” And when we understand that God is for us, it doesn’t matter who’s against us.

--- Christians in Rome were facing serious persecution in the first century. They knew what it was like to feel as if everyone was against them.

--- How wonderful, then, to be reminded that God will never abandon His church or leave them defeated.

--- Paul knew what he was talking about. Although he didn’t write this particular letter while in prison, Paul had his share of jail time. He knew difficulty. He knew opposition. But he also knew God was with him.

--- Everything Paul wrote about in Romans 8, he had experienced first-hand. The joys that erupt from these verses are based on realities Paul had experienced himself. From his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-6) to an earthshaking worship service in the Philippian jail (see Acts 16:25-26), Paul had found Christ to be faithful and present through it all.

--- In verses 34 and 35, Paul answers his questions in verses 31-33: God, the only one who can condemn us, does not. On top of that, He gave his Son for our salvation, who intercedes and prays for us.

--- Now that’s good news!

*** Question – How have your fears changed over the past 10-15 years? What helps you feel safe when you feel afraid?

Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

*** Inseparable.

--- Some things just always seem so to go together: PB & jelly, cute animals, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Beauty and the Beast, etc.

--- In times of fear and sorrow, there’s not much better than companionship with those you love to make you feel better.

--- In those times it’s important to remember that nothing, no way, zilch, nada, could pulls us away from the embrace of Christ, not even:

Persecution – The political powers can’t put you in a place where Jesus can’t get to you.
Illness - Pain or suffering can’t blind you to the reality of Christ in your life.
Death – We will die physically, but we have life beyond the grave. Jesus is victorious over death!
Life – That is, the circumstances of daily living.
Angels – Paul was speaking hypothetically. Angels have great power, but even they cannot separate us from Christ.

--- What about your own stupidity? Can you do something so utterly wrong that you become too gross for Jesus to hold? No. The truth remains the same: nothing can separate you from Christ’s love.

*** When Satan reminds you of what you’ve done, you remind him of his future.

--- In times of fear you might think, “Woe is me. You don’t know what I’ve done.”

--- No one wants to minimize your pain. It’s real. But know this: nothing you have done – nothing – can undo what Jesus did for us on the cross.

--- Nothing is more powerful than Christ.

--- What made Paul so confident to write this? Let’s just say he found out the hard way.

--- For example, he knew the hardship of unjust imprisonment. Paul also had been whipped five times with 39 lashes. The Romans had beaten him three times. His enemies had stoned him and left him for dead. He faced various dangers from Jews, Gentiles, robbers, and false teachers. He knew hunger, thirst, and inadequate clothing (see 2 Cor. 11:24-27).

--- Yet in all that he endured, Paul had never been separated from Christ’s love.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Have you played the game called "Who Would Win?"

Two names are matched against each other in a fictitious fight, and you have to explain why you think one would win.

--- Batman v. Superman
--- Sylvester Stallone v. Arnold Schwarzenegger
--- Godzilla v. King Kong
--- George Washington v. Abraham Lincoln
--- A kitten v. a baby polar bear

In our own heads we’ve all played a version of this game for years:

--- Me v. Unemployment
--- Me v. Cancer
--- Me v. Fear of _______

We might lie in bed at night, letting one of these scenarios play out in our heads and keep us awake. Even if it hasn't actually happened to us, we know others who've battled unemployment, loss of health, or loss of supportive friends. What if that happens to me?

Since we are in Christ we should look at life this way:

• Jesus v. Unemployment
• Jesus v. Cancer
• Jesus v. Fear of ______________

When I do a search on Bible Gateway for “do not be afraid” there are 70 results. It’s one of the most common things that God says, because we are a fearful people.

Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God at this very moment, interceding on your behalf. And His prayers are always answered.

*** Live truth. You may have been abandoned or neglected as a child, but you will never be separated from your Father as a child of God. Let that truth give you confidence as you live for Him this week.

*** Open up. We often allow fear or shame to close our hearts when it comes to difficult circumstances. Instead, be intentional about sharing your experiences with someone this week. Confess your struggles and actively seek God’s love.

*** Be bold. Our fears also have a way of preventing us from taking action for Christ. This week, take a bold step to show your faith in the fact that you cannot be separated from God’s love. Speak to someone about the gospel, make a commitment to a ministry, give up your resources.