Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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.

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