Friday, March 24, 2017

Jesus for the Win

My Life Group lesson for March 5, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Ken Jones (pastor of Worsham Baptist Church in Farmville, Virginia), John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Is there anyone who likes to check out the ending of a book or a movie before you even start?

Some would say that knowing the ending makes the experience more enjoyable.

If you know your heroes survive, when you see the villain doing a dastardly deed you can chuckle and know that he’s foolish and doomed.

In today’s lesson we’ll discuss our future where Christ is shown as victorious in every way and Satan is foolish and doomed.

History flows to that moment when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We know how the story ends. Therefore, we can live our lives in a much deeper and fuller way. We can live with confidence.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
Revelation 1:12-20

*** This spring we will be using Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum, which is different than the other adults here at FBC. We aren’t going through a specific book of the Bible. It instead focuses on topics to discuss using verses all over Scripture.

*** Today we’re discussing verses from Revelation chapter 1.

*** Late in the first century the apostle John was exiled to the island of Patmos. While there, John received a revelation from Jesus, and he was given a vision of events at the end of the age, of Christ’s triumphant return, and of the new heaven and new earth.

A STUNNING APPEARANCE (REVELATION 1:12-16)

12 I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow—and His eyes like a fiery flame. 15 His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. 16 He had seven stars in His right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from His mouth, and His face was shining like the sun at midday.

*** Dress to impress.

--- When you're job-hunting, experts say to dress for the job you want.

--- John’s vision of Jesus is certainly unlike the happy buddy Jesus that we normally see in pop culture.

--- Jesus appears in stunning and overwhelming glory.

--- Jesus was dressed for His role to win an eternal battle.

--- Certainly there’s nothing wrong with regarding Jesus as our friend, but He is much more than that.

--- He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and as such He is worthy of our worship and obedience.

*** Amazing imagery.

--- Let’s break down the images in these verses and see what it all means:

--- Jesus would later explain that the seven lampstands represented the seven churches in the province of Asia that are mentioned earlier in chapter 1.

--- John saw “One like the Son of Man” similar to Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13:
“I continued watching in the night visions,
and I saw One like a son of man
coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was escorted before Him.”

--- Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”, the subject of Daniel’s prophecy.

--- Dressed in a robe with a golden sash possibly refers to the Jewish high priest’s garments.

--- His hair was like wool, which suggests wisdom and purity.

--- His eyes were like a flame of fire, which reminds us that He sees all and knows all.

--- Jesus’ feet were like “fine brass”. That is, it was pure and strong bronze, and symbolized His invincibility. Feet often symbolized conquest and judgment (Psalm 110:1; Revelation 19:15).

--- His voice was “as the sound of many waters.” John was on the island of Patmos when he wrote this, and was likely used to the sound of water, which is loud and powerful.

--- He had seven stars in His right hand to represent seven angels of the seven churches.

--- He had a “sharp two-edged sword” in His mouth, which indicates the power of His words.

--- Finally, Jesus’ face was glowing, which recalls Jesus at His transfiguration (Matt 17:2) and Moses’ shining face after his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:35).

*** Question - What part of John’s description of Jesus grabs your attention?

A STIRRING ANNOUNCEMENT (REVELATION 1:17-20)

17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, 18 and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. 19 Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. 20 The secret of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and of the seven gold lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

*** False human saviors.

--- Adrian Rogers wrote of going to see Lenini’s tomb in Moscow. Lenin’s body is still on display in Red Square since he died in 1924. On the tomb these words are written: “He was the greatest leader of all peoples of all countries of all times. He was the lord of the new humanity. He was the savior of the world.”

Rogers writes, “Do you notice it’s all past tense? He was. Jesus is alive. He is the great I AM. It is an encounter with the living Christ that makes the difference in our lives. We serve a Savior who is alive and listening to our every prayer. He is bottling every tear and rejoicing with every victory.”

*** Holy moly.

--- Jesus tells John not to be afraid, which suggests that John fell at the feet of Jesus in terror.

--- This is a typical reaction in the Bible to an encounter with God or an angelic messenger, and as always, the person is told “do not be afraid.”

--- People mock Jesus today, but someday the mockery will cease.

--- The apostle Paul said every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:11-12).

--- John said “all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Revelation 1:7).

*** Jesus gave John some reassurances.

--- He has power over time.

--- He has power over life.

--- He has power over death.

--- Holding the “keys of death and Hades” lets us know that Jesus has power over evil and death.

--- These keys unlock the “gates of death” (Pss. 9:13; 107:18) and “the gates of Sheol” (Isa. 38:10) or “the gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18).

--- Because Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades, He alone can free those held captive by them.

*** Jesus’ instructions to John.

--- He told him to write down what he had seen.

--- This not only included Jesus’ revelation of the future, but also “the things which are.”

--- John was also to take down individual messages for each of the seven churches.

--- Jesus explained the mystery of the seven stars.

--- They represented “the angels of the seven churches.”

--- The word translated “angels” can also mean “messengers,” so Jesus may have been referring to the pastors of the churches, or to angels.

--- Others believe He was referring to actual guardian angels.

--- The seven candlesticks represented the churches themselves. It is noteworthy that Jesus stood “in the midst” of them.

*** Question - What kinds of things make you question that God is in control? What things reassure you that God is in control?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

We’re only human. We have doubts and especially fears.

A recent survey by the National Institutes of Mental Health shows that “fear of public speaking” is number one. Even above death!

Here are the top 5 fears:

Fear of public speaking – 74%
Fear of death – 68%
Fear of spiders – 30.5%
Fear of darkness – 11%
Fear of heights – 10%

Jesus has gained the victory for us over our fears. Salvation gained is something that can never be lost. The work was completed by Jesus through His death and resurrection. It’s a done deal. But the personal day to day victory can still be lost if we don’t fight to do what’s necessary to think like Jesus and act in faith.

What will be remembered about you? Jesus has won the victory. Your salvation is secure. You obtained it through faith. Don’t lose the daily battle through a life of self-reliance and bravado.

*** Trust. Examine your life for areas where you retain control. Trust Christ to lead you in those areas. Trust Him as Lord.

*** Encourage. If you have friends who are discouraged because of circumstances, pray for them. Share what you've gained from this study and help them see that jesus is present and has authority over all things.

*** Stand. Be bold and confident in those places where your faith in Christ is challenged or ridiculed. Choose to take a stand for His victory at home, at work, and in your neighborhood.

Victory Over Sin

My Life Group lesson for March 19, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Ken Jones (pastor of Worsham Baptist Church in Farmville, Virginia), John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

What habits have you been happy to leave behind in your life?

(Could be food, drink, drugs, could be learning to say no or say yes, could be too much time on your phone, could be arguing, could be gossiping, etc.)

A habit is something you can do without thinking--which is why most of us have so many of them. (Frank Clark, Register and Tribune Syndicate.)

Bad habits don’t always feel all that bad. We think: what’s the harm with a little instant gratification, mindless TV watching, or occasional web browsing? But, as we reflect back on the passing weeks, months, and years, all that wasted time starts to add up.

And when it affects our Christian walk, it really feels like a weight on our shoulders.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
Romans 6:4-14

"I’ve been married for over (10 years), and that’s been plenty of time for me to mess up. I mean really mess up. When I do make mistakes, I apologize and ask my wife to forgive me. Of course she forgives me, but there’s more to it than that. She wants more than an apology. She wants my assurance that I’m not going to repeat the stupid thing I did in the first place. She wants repentance."

*** The term repentance literally means to "turn around" or "to change direction." Repentance is that U-turn in life when you realize you’re headed in the wrong direction and you turn around to head back the way you should be going.

*** The Christian life is a life of repentance, but that repentance is so much more than just being sorry for what we’ve done! Seeking forgiveness is only the beginning. Christ has far more in store for us than a repeating cycle of failure and apology, followed by more failure and apology.

*** Christ gives us more than just forgiveness for sin. He gives us victory over sin. In Romans 6, Paul wrote about the difference.

CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST (ROMANS 6:4-7)
4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.

*** The right model.

--- We don't value baptism because it's necessary for salvation, but because it expresses the meaning of our salvation.

--- It symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus.

--- It also shows that we have died to our old sinful ways, and have been raised to new life in Christ.

--- Baptism shows that we have given our lives to Christ.

--- We place all our dreams, our hopes and our plans before Him, dying to ourselves.

--- It is an act of obedience to Jesus. (Our first one in many cases.)

*** The model of Christ's death.

--- Paul writes in verse 6 that our old self was crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.").

--- Paul added in verse 7: "Anyone who has died has been set free from sin."

--- Since your old self is dead, it no longer has power over you.

--- Human bodies are not in themselves sinful, but sin so dominated our fallen beings that our bodies belonged to sin.

--- When Paul wrote that such a person has been set free from sin, he literally wrote, "has been justified [or acquitted] from sin."

--- In other words, the wages of sin is death, but we have died with Christ; therefore, we are free from sin’s debt. Dead people don’t pay bills.

--- Christians can still choose to sin, but the believer is no longer a slave to sin.

--- As Christians, we cannot deny that we still struggle with temptation. However, sin is no longer has the same level of control over us that it once did.

--- Our new lives are no longer dominated by sin, but live empowered by the Holy Spirit.

*** Question - Verse 11 later says that disciples of Jesus are dead to sin. Why, then, do we still struggle with sin? Is it possible for a Christian to reach a state of sinless perfection in this life?

--- Knowing we’re dead to sin and living like it are two different things.

UNDER GRACE, NOT LAW (ROMANS 6:12-14)
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. 14 For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

*** I can't help it, I was born this way.

--- In verses 12 and 13 Paul essentially tells us, "Quit choosing to sin."

--- We can't let any part of ourselves - our bodies, our minds, our hearts - desire things that aren't for God.

--- Before we were believers we couldn't help ourselves. We were sinners and didn't know anything else.

--- When we discuss youth crime in Memphis, one of the recurring themes is that the kids just don't know any better.

--- Now that we are alive in Christ our eyes are open to temptation and sin. We have the power to resist.

*** Grace under fire.

--- Verse 14 is a relief. We are not under the law, but under grace.

--- We can't boast about our works and we can't make ourselves self-righteous.

--- We are only saved by the grace of God. We look to Him for forgiveness when we fail.

--- However, this does not give us a license to sin.

--- Paul wrote these verses partly to correct false teaching that said it didn't matter if we sinned as long as we are spiritual.

--- It's that kind of stinking thinking that has us justifying sin to ourselves.

--- We might think, "Oh, it's my private sin, no one will know," or "God will forgive me, so it's OK."

--- In reality sin affects our relationship with God, so don't allow your body to be used against God.

--- You can overcome sin by presenting yourself to God.

--- You must recognize that you cannot live the Christian life in your own strength and power.

--- Ultimately we are to strive to be holy and be more like Jesus.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Have you ever been in a store with your children and they were particularly adamant about asking you for a new toy?

When you explain that you can't afford what they want, they reply, "It's OK, you can just charge it." Everything is free to them because they aren't in charge of the checkbook.

Too many Christians live their lives like our children treat our bank accounts: Everything's free so we can do anything we want.

"I can’t help it. This sin is just a habit in my life that will always be there."

"I know Jesus forgave me, but I can’t keep from sinning."

"I’m powerless to deal with this."

If you are a believer—a follower of Christ—those statements are false.

If those statements are true, then why do I still sin?

As Christians, we sin because we choose to sin. We fail to consider that Christ has given us a way out. He has fully empowered us to stand strong.

Through Christ, we have victory over sin. How will that be evident in your life this week? Consider taking one of these steps:

*** Confess. Give your sin to Christ—no matter how small you consider it. Acknowledge that Christ is your Lord and Master, and choose to live in victory in Him.

*** Remove. Evaluate your life for habits, routines, or relationships that pull you into sin. Create a plan for removing them or limiting their power over you.

*** Team up. Partner with another believer and support each other in saying "no" to sin and "yes" to Jesus. Make a practical plan to connect regularly and remind each other that sin is no longer the master; Jesus is.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Redeemed and Secure

My Life Group lesson for Feb. 26, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from Jay McCluskey, John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

What is your favorite “Happily ever after” story?

Mine is “Return of the King.” I was so invested in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy that I needed every single one of the ten endings to “Return of the King,” and never wanted it to end. That part at Aragorn’s wedding when he tells the hobbits that they bow to no man and all the people bow to them instead, getting chills just thinking about it!

Today we’re going to talk about a happily ever after for Ruth and Boaz, and how their relationship is a metaphor for the redeeming salvation from Jesus Christ.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Ruth 1:1–4:22

*** Having studied the books of Joshua and Judges this winter, we will cram all four chapters of the book of Ruth into one study this week.

*** The book of Ruth took place around the time of Judges and possibly written during the time of King David’s reign, about 1,000 B.C. It is one of the loveliest illustrations of God’s redeeming grace in Scripture.

*** Whereas Judges focuses on leaders and unfaithful people, the Book of Ruth focuses on normal and selfless folks like Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth, living out their faith during trying circumstances.

INTEREST (Ruth 3:8-11)

8 At midnight, Boaz was startled, turned over, and there lying at his feet was a woman! 9 So he asked, “Who are you?” “I am Ruth, your slave,” she replied. “Spread your cloak over me, for you are a family redeemer.” 10 Then he said, “May the Lord bless you, my daughter. You have shown more kindness now than before, because you have not pursued younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t be afraid, my daughter. I will do for you whatever you say, since all the people in my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”

*** Boy meets girl.

--- The book of Ruth starts out with the problems of Naomi, whose husband passed, and then her sons passed, and she was a widow without protection in Moab, a land not her own, with two childless daughters-in-law who weren’t Israelites.

--- All of the these things were sad and seemed against her, and yet all were working for good.

--- Ruth is an unlikely star of the Israelites, a Moabite widow who ends up in King David’s genealogy and thus Jesus Christ’s.

--- When Naomi and Ruth got to Bethlehem, they had nothing.

--- Ruth worked in a field to gather the scraps of grain in what turned out to be a field owned by Boaz, who was related to Naomi.

--- In our “boy meets girl” scene, Boaz notices Ruth.

--- Boaz was impressed with Ruth for her devotion to Naomi and her work ethic.

--- He compliments her, assures her protection and makes sure she goes home with a large supply of grain.

*** Redeemer

--- When Naomi realized that Ruth was being helped by Boaz, her “kinsmen redeemer, or “family redeemer,” she got Ruth to bat her eyelashes at Boaz.

--- As a “family redeemer,” Boaz could choose to exercise responsibility for these two widows.

--- According to their rules of marriage, if a man died without children, like Ruth’s husband had, a kinsman could take the widow as his wife. This would provide care for the widow and carry on the family name. In this context, “redeem” means “to take care of someone or something.”

*** Ruth takes a bold step.

--- In what can be seen as a leap of faith, Ruth sneaks up in the middle of the night and lays at the feet of Boaz and asks him to cover her with his blanket, essentially asking him to commit to cover her with his provisions and protection.

--- Boaz wakes up to discover this beautiful woman at his feet calling him her “family redeemer.”

--- Boaz didn’t turn her away, and was on board. He told Ruth: “I will do for you whatever you say.”

--- Boaz makes clear that Ruth was a good woman and she had an impeccable reputation. Boaz said that “all the people” in his town knew of Ruth’s noble character. And since he did, too, no one in town would question either of them and their relationship.

(The townspeople probably reacted to their upcoming marriage like in every Hallmark movie where a declaration of love is made in front of a group of people.)

--- Naomi had told her daughters-in-law the Lord’s hand had turned against her (1:13). Now, through Boaz, the Lord’s hands were providing.

--- God’s providence is setting the stage, starting the process of putting Ruth and Boaz together for His redemptive purposes.

--- God places us with people who will serve alongside us in His plans.

*** Question - What feelings have you experienced as you began to realize the Lord was working things out in a positive way for you?

INHERITANCE (Ruth 4:13-17)

13 Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he was intimate with her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel. 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and took care of him. 17 The neighbor women said, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. *** A problem to overcome.

--- As in every romantic comedy and lovey-dovey movie, there has to be a bump in the road to keep our lovers apart for an extra hour.

--- In this case, there was another family redeemer who had the first dibs.

--- Boaz doesn’t pretend not to notice this. He’s honest and gives this man his lawful opportunity.

--- But thankfully that guy forfeited his rights, giving Boaz a clear lane to marry Ruth.

--- The other guy is like the Old Testament law. He was in his rights but stayed away. Boaz is more like our New Testament grace, with us seeking salvation and Jesus claiming us as our redeemer.

--- As our Redeemer, He rescues us from the plight of our circumstances, assuring us of hope in a future with Him.

*** Look around once in a while.

--- On the one hand, this is a great love story in the Bible.

--- At the same time, it’s a fantastic metaphor for God’s providence.

--- We see the divine purpose behind Ruth’s decision to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God.

--- I was listening to a podcast by Dr. J. Vernon McGee on Ruth this week. One of the points he makes is that God doesn't give us a road map. If he did you would walk along with your head down staring at it and miss everything around you.

--- John Piper said something similar, that “the life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there.” God leads us through curvy roads, warning signs and heavy fog, but He assures us that His hand is guiding us.

*** Here comes the bride.

--- Royal weddings always seem to catch our attention. Ruth and Boaz were royalty; they just did not know it at the time.

--- Ruth conceived and gave birth to a son named Obed, who grew up to be the father of a man named Jesse, who had eight sons, the youngest of whom was anointed by God to be a king, David (Ruth 4:21-22).

--- If you look further down the family tree of Ruth and Boaz, you will also find a man named Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ (see Matt. 1:16).

--- Who would have expected a penniless foreign widow to marry an Israeli farmer and establish the family line of King David and Jesus?

*** Question - Do you have a keen awareness that God is bringing about His purposes in your life? Could you be surprised by whom He might use to do it?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

According to Harlequin Publishing House, which has published romance novels for half a century, more than 180 million romance novels are purchased each year, with Harlequin itself selling on average five and a half books per second.

The Book of Ruth includes the courtship and marriage of Ruth and Boaz.

Ruth cast herself at the feet of Boaz and asked him for a commitment.

When we cast ourselves at the feet of Christ, Jesus covers us with the blood of His covenant. He provides. He protects. He calls us His own and makes us His bride.

*** (1) Seek to demonstrate integrity in all of your relationships as a witness to your relationship with God.

*** (2) As hard as it seems, be sure to thank God for the obstacles and challenges in your life that are for your good and His glory.

*** (3) God can surprise us with those whom He chooses to bring about His purposes. He chose to bring about His redemptive purposes for us through Ruth, Boaz, and Obed, who became ancestors of Jesus, the ultimate Redeemer (Matt. 1:5).