Tag Archives: Bible Study

So you’ve read all the other “Leadership Bible Study” studies.  You’ve learned how to read the Bible, how to pray in public, how to plan a study on any topic, and how to mentor people and handle problems.  Now, Bible Study, Leadershipyou have to put it all together.  This study is designed to show you how to get the information and how to put it together.  This study is on Revelation, which is probably one of the more difficult topics to lead a Bible study on.  If you can learn how to lead a study on the Book of Revelation, you should be ready for anything!

Study Guide 1 – Leader’s Guide

Letter to the Churches, Revelations chapters 1-3

Opening Monologue: The point of this study is more to help you understand how to read Revelation yourself; to show you the background of the symbolism and the major ways in which the book has been understood in the past.  Please note also that we won’t be making specific predictions in this class; so don’t expect this Bible Study Leader’s version of how the end times are going to play out.  People have been trying to see how the end times would go from this book for 1900 years, and so far no one’s gotten it right yet (in 1st century Rome, they thought the end times were around the corner, in 999 they thought that Christ was coming back, in 18th century Holland, they thought the end times were going to be next year, etc).

Four Ways:

There are four main ways of interpreting the book; we’re mostly going to just mention 3 of them and skip the 4th (because it’s not very popular at the moment in Protestant circles).  I’m going to give you the scholarly name for each way here, but I’m usually just going to refer to them by their main proponents since that’s easier to keep straight.

Modern/Liberal:  This view, originating in 18th century Germany, holds that the book of Revelation primarily refers to the political situation of its day and should not be used to predict the future, although it is still a wonderful testimony to God’s love and care for his people in this view.  This is very popular in Protestant mainline, more liberal churches and seminaries.

Dispensational: Dispensationalism is a way of making sense of the Bible that relies heavily on an understanding of “church ages,” or dispensations, which affect how we should interpret the Bible (Footnote: for instance, was Jesus’ command to “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” just for those before the age of grace, or does it apply equally to all people in every time? Some Dispensationalists would say no, that message was to those people in that time, but most other Protestants would seek an explanation that doesn’t get us off the hook.).  Dispensationalism is usually associated with extremely conservative groups, and authors like Tim LaHaye of the “Left Behind” series.  Concerning Revelations, Dispensationalists generally hold to a belief in the Rapture, a tendency to seek contemporary explanations of the book’s symbolism, and a belief in the immanent return of Christ.

Historist view: This view holds that the book of Revelation has been slowly but progressively fulfilled throughout history.  In this view, Hitler might be one beast, and a future Anti-Christ another.  Interpreters look throughout history for various fulfillments.  This view was popular for so long among Protestants that it was even called “the Protestant view” at one point.  However this view is more commonly held by the Catholic Church today, which holds that many of the prophecies in the book are being worked out through the True Church, ie, the Roman Catholic one.  We won’t be studying this one much since the Dispensational view has pretty much supplanted it as the popular Protestant view.

Reformation:  This refers to classic Reformed Theology and its main proponents, men like Luther, Leadership Bible Study,Bible, Bible StudyCalvin, Zwingli, et al.  The book of Revelation played a much larger role in the formation of Protestantism than most people realize (even though Luther wanted to exclude it form the Bible and Calvin died before finishing his commentary on the book).  Just about everyone who’s not Catholic or Eastern Othodox is a Protestant, whether you know you are or not, so this should be helpful in understanding our own views. The Reformers and their followers tend to spiritualize the symbolism in Revelation to make it relevant to the church of their day, and are more likely to see doctrinal issues than is popular now

 

Really, whatever your view, you’re going to read it into everything in the book.  The bad thing about symbolism is that you can more or less get it to mean what you want it to mean if you’re willing to be a little selective.  Therefore, I don’t want to get too bogged down in the meaning of the symbols, but rather give you a framework for understanding their origin and some of the most important interpretations.

Read vv. 1-3

According to v. 1, who is the book written for?  v. 1, the servants of Jesus Christ.  Is that you? According to v. 3, what does it promise?  v. 3, a blessing to those who read and obey.

As hard to understand as it can be, this book is addressed to us and there is a special promise of blessing attached to reading it.  Is this book written to just the wise?  Just to those with seminary degrees?  Just to those with special knowledge or years of experience?  Who then can expect to receive the blessing this book promises?  One of the nice things about studying Revelation is that even really wise people don’t really understand much more than you do for sure ;).

Read v. 1 again.  Who’s this book about?  John wrote it down, but it’s called “the revelation of Jesus Christ” so this is His book even if John did the writing, right?  It’s His story, His “revelation.”

History of Interpretation:

Let’s look at another phrase from verse 1 as an example of those different ways of reading this book I mentioned at the beginning of the class: “things which must shortly take place.”

Let’s take a look at a few different translations:

NRS Revelation 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place

YLT Revelation 1:1 A revelation of Jesus Christ, that God gave to him, to show to his servants what things it behoveth to come to pass quickly;

NAS Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place;

What do you think this phrase, “must soon take place,” means?

Modern:  Obviously if you think that Revelation refers mostly to events that happened in the past, you’re going to be really happy about this verse.  Modern/liberal folks might say that this refers to events that were about to happen in short order in John’s day, either the fall of Jerusalem or Rome, depending on when you think the book was written.  This actually makes more sense than some Dispensational views, since obviously these words were originally written to Christians of the late first century, not to the present day church.  It makes more sense that Jesus is showing John things which must take place in the next 15 years and calling that shortly than it does to assume he said “shortly” but meant 2000 years or more later.

Dispensational:  Again, obviously if you think that the end times are just around the corner, you read this and say “ah ha, I knew it!”  Of course most serious dispensational scholars are aware of the difficulties outlined above, and would therefore point out that the word translated here as “shortly” can also mean “quickly” or “suddenly.”  So Jesus could be referring to events that are going to take place in a relatively short period of time instead of ones that will happen soon.  Most dispensationalist theologians would put this time at around 7 years (time, times, and half a time, or 3 and ½ years, times two).  This runs afoul of v. 3, however, which states, “the time is near.”

Reformed:  The classic Reformed position on this dilemma is that in a sense the time is always near.  Since there is application for the entire church in this book, it’s true in some sense for every age of the church that “the time is near.”  There’s always a crisis or the risk of judgment for us, and yet always a Word from the Lord of concern.

Read vv4-8.

NLT Revelation 1:4 This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne;

NIV Revelation 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,

Who sends their grace and peace in v 4?  What on earth does that mean?  Let’s read Is. 11:1-2

 

NRS Isaiah 11:1-2 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

How many spirits does this verse mention? (7) Who are they resting on?  The “Root of Jesse”, aka Jesus.

What does this tell us about the passage we are reading?  There are a lot of different directions to go here depending on what you want to teach.  Besides telling us about the character of Christ, (and therefore of mature Christians) this also reveals to us for the first time an interpretive key to the book of revelation.  We think of Rev as being the most “NT” of the NT books, because it’s far out.  In actual fact, no other NT book is as rooted in the OT’s imagery and references.

One thing I should probably note: there are tons of questions I’m not asking, mostly because they don’t fit with what I’m trying to present.  Because this is a complex book, there just isn’t time to cover it all, so I had to make choices.

Read 9-20

Who was the one who spoke to John (v. 13)?  The Son of Man.

What significance does that phrase have?  Who is this, and what does this say about him?  What does that mean for us?

Daniel 7:9   “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

Daniel 7:13-14  13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

What do you think the significance of the “double edged sword” is? (v. 16)  What does that tell us about what we’re about to read?

Hebrews 4:12  12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

What do you think this means: I have the keys of Death and of Hades? (v 18)  What does it mean to have the key to something?  If you have the key to your car, what does that mean?  You have control over it, right?

What does this mean for us? We’re set.

Discussion point: expect symbolism.  How much of the first chapter is symbolic and how much is literal?  (literal in the sense that it refers to a specific future event, etc)  You’ll notice that we’re not even past the first chapter, and yet we’ve already encountered plenty of symbolism and colorful imagery.  What do you think that this says about what we can expect in the rest of the book?  (so don’t take things too literally). Presbyterian Church, Hyde park also arranging effective and heart touching bible studies at a regular time interval.

 

Praying in public is something that makes many people, including longtime church attenders, nervous.  What do I say?  What if it doesn’t come out right?  Will people judge me based on how the prayer sounds?  Leadership Bible Study: How to PrayWhat if it makes me sound unintelligent?  There is a reason that the pastor or group leader often ends up leading the prayer in a group after no one volunteers to do so.   Equipping people so that they feel comfortable praying in public is important if you’re going to be asking them to lead a Bible study.  This is another one of those barriers that needs to be overcome so that someone will say yes to your request that they lead a Bible study.

Intro: Last week we went over how to read the Bible as it relates to preparing for a Bible Study at the Port Richey Presbyterian Church.  One of the things that we discovered is that most of the people here haven’t spent a ton of time studying the Bible themselves, so I decided that it would be a good idea to spend a little bit more time on how to read the Bible.  Last week was more the middle of the road stuff, this week we’re going to cover some more basic material, then some more advanced material.  After that we’re going to talk a little about prayer.

More basic basics on how to read the scripture:
Prayer: These are habits that you should be in, and should come naturally, but be sure to pray for help and spend time meditating and reflecting on what you’ve read.  What do I mean by this?  I mean, every time before you begin to study, especially if it’s to prepare, ask the Lord to help you understand what you’re reading, and especially to help you present what he wants you to present to the Study.  God is the inspirer of Scripture, so ought to be able to help you understand it.

Reflection:  Reflecting and meditating is also useful, since it gives God a chance to organize and sort all of this material in your heart and give you a better understanding of what’s going on.  I recommend that you spend some time praying about what you’ve studied and just thinking through the meaning before you try to write your questions.  This is where you really grow, and this is where you really come to insights that are useful.

Reading Comprehension:  The most fundamental step is basic reading comprehension.  Read it like you’re going to have to write an essay, or take a final exam.  What exactly does the text say?  Does it really mean what I think it means?  What important details does it seem to be leaving out?  What are the unanswered questions?  A lot of the time, we take liberties with things without even realizing it.  This is one of the reasons we should read our passage in more than one translation.

Parallel Passages: if it’s in the gospel, you want to read parallel passages.  This is also true of Kings and Chronicles, and also certain of Paul’s letters (namely Gal and Rom) where you can look for parallel teaching.

A few more words about metaphors:  Frequently the Bible uses agricultural or natural metaphors.  It’s important to understand that when you run across these and they don’t seem to make any sense, you should consult a commentary or study bible.  For instance, an ox or even a horn is a symbol for strength or power (like us talking about horsepower I guess).  There are many such examples, too many to remember from a short intro course like this one, but just keep in mind if things (particularly something in prophecy or the OT) don’t seem to make sense, consult a commentary.

Interpretive Keys:   There are several interpretive keys to understanding the Bible.  These are overarching themes and ways of understanding that clarify what it is we’re reading.  Some examples include the struggle between grace and works, or the promise of redemption.

I feel like mentioning an interpretive key to understanding a lot of the OT.  Many of the old laws weren’t really about what they on their surface claimed to be about.  For instance, what do you think that the “no two threads next to each other” rule was really about?  (not getting too close to people with foreign gods)  More broadly, there are tons of laws about being “clean” before we can enter into the presence of God.  These laws ultimately are all about the same thing, the impossibility of ever being “good enough” on our own to enter into God’s presence.  We need Jesus Christ for that.  Then there are all of the “sacrifice” laws.  Again, these point towards our inability to be OK with God without a payment of some sort, ultimately Christ on the cross.  Jesus, after he was raised, explained to his disciples from the entire Bible why he had to suffer, die and be raised, so we can frequently use Jesus and the larger story of redemption as a way of understanding what it is we’re reading.

Advanced Study – Logical Fallacies:
I want to cover very quickly a few mistakes that are possible to make when doing a Bible study.  These are also possible mistakes that people in your study can make, which is one of the reasons I’m mentioning them.

Selective Evidence: ex, the bible says that women should keep silent in church, and some say that clearly means women should not speak at all in church.  But that passage is countermanded by a passage 3 chapters earlier where Paul explicitly lets women pray and prophecy in church (1 Cor 14:33-36 and 1 Cor 11:2-15).

Worldview confusion:
Most common one I can think of is slavery.  Folks read our modern version of slavery into the passages where Paul talks about slaves.  It’s not the same thing.  “Take up our cross” ex: to us, that means just anything we’re hurting from, but to the first century reader, it meant a painful humiliating and slow death.

Emotional Appeals:
Homosexuality, gender issues; folks seem to think that because there’s an emotional component that this is a replacement for what the text actually says.  Try not to get drawn into that sort of argument, but stick to what the text says.

Working outside of the system:
using assumptions about reality that aren’t the Bible’s assumptions to try to understand the Bible.  This is pretty common when discussing miracles or philosophy (for instance, introducing a naturalistic bias to a priori eliminate the possibility of miracles).

Prayer
I also want to talk about prayer today, particularly how it relates to preparing for a Bible Study.

First I want to generally cover just a few points about prayer.  Prayer is a two way conversation.  How would  image41your spouse feel if you only talked to them and never listened?  Or your parents?  In order to pray effectively, you need to be open to the Lord speaking back.  If this isn’t something you’re comfortable with or sure of how to do, ask for God to teach you, and spend some time in prayer in silence learning how to listen.  And keep in mind, I’m not talking about audible voices here, but impressions and guidance coming from your heart.  Second, prayer need not be rote; prayer is a conversation with someone you personally know, or at least someone you’re trying to know, so it can be free.  It’s not magic.

Role of Prayer as a leader:
There are 3 major areas of prayer relating to being a Bible Study leader: praying for guidance in preparation, praying for your students, praying for the study time.  The one we’re going to talk about today is praying for guidance in preparation.

Praying while you’re preparing is primarily about 2 things: praying to understand and praying to know what you’re supposed to include and exclude.  The first is very easy, and we already covered it.  Just pray for understanding and for God to expose any hidden truths to you as you study, guide you to the right resources etc.  The second is more difficult.  That’s why I spent the time above talking about listening to God.  The only way to really grow in this is to take risks.  God knows what everyone in your group is going through and will guide you in a way that incorporates that if you’ll let him. 

Prayer time at the Bible Study:
Obviously you should begin and end with prayer, and it’s fine to let others do this if they’re comfortable.  But there are a lot of different options for prayer in a Bible Study.  Part of this depends on what your emphasis of the study is.  Not all Bible Studies are primarily about studying the Bible, believe it or not.

3 Purposes of Small Groups
There are basically 3 major purposes of small groups, fellowship, study and prayer.  All three are necessary to some extent in any Bible Study, but their exact composition varies.  A fellowship heavy group might be one where the primary part of the group time is spent in a meal (or in Hebrews case, at a bar).  A study heavy group would be a group like this one or like a Sunday School class.  A prayer heavy group might be a support group or prayer circle where the bulk of the time is spent sharing prayer requests.

Every small group is free to set its own focus.  The best time to do this is at the first or second group meeting.  Typically a good group meeting will last about 1.5 hours and consist of fellowship in the beginning, study in the middle and prayer at the end, although it’s perfectly ok to mix those up any which way and still have a productive group.

Different Options for Prayer
I’m going to talk more about this division of a group’s time in a later meeting, but for now I want to discuss the options for how to handle prayer time.

Prayer for others: circle prayer, popcorn prayer, just leader praying.  I prefer circle prayer because it A, insures that each person’s concerns are prayed for, B, that it builds bonds in the group, and C, takes the pressure off the leader to remember everything.  (it sort of combines fellowship).  Leader praying has its advantages too , as does popcorn.

Conclusion:
Next week we’re going to talk about how to prepare a Bible study on any topic, and hopefully be a little more interactive.  We’ll also talk more about these 3 purposes of a study.

Have you been teaching a Bible study for years?  Are you ready for a break, but no one is willing to replace Leadership Bible Study: How to Read the Bibleyou?  I know many people feel like they’re stuck leading the same group they have been leading for years, even though they really need a year or two off, because no one will agree to teach the class/group.  However, if you haven’t trained other members so that they feel comfortable leading a Bible study, the answer is probably going to continue to be no.

Instead, you need to try a different approach.  Offer a Bible study leadership group, or simply use this and the following few studies in your regular Bible study group like Danville First Presbyterian Church.  Invite everyone to come, without any obligation to teach a group.  Once you’ve trained people on the basics of how to lead a Bible study group, they’ll realize it’s not so scary…and hopefully say yes.  Here’s the first study in the series—how to read the Bible.

 

Intro, what we’re trying to accomplish, what our goal is. 

  • Learning to read the Bible as well as possible and to be prepared for a Bible Study
  • The ultimate goal of this course is for you to be able to do a Bible Study on any topic and do it well.  This includes taking care of the people you’re teaching and learning to lead, pray for those you’re teaching, and handle problem people.
  • It would be awesome if at the end of this series any of you wanted to start a bible study.  (I should also let you know that I’m going to be recording it for those who couldn’t make it and for future leaders).
  • Where do you guys think you are?  What would you like to get out of it?

How to read the Bible better:
1, Best strategies:
Context: A text without a context is a pretext.  In other words, if you don’t have at least some idea of what’s going on, you’re almost certain to misinterpret; like overhearing part of a conversation, you just don’t know what’s going on without the context, and any conclusions you draw from it are suspect.

Reading for genre: Another important thing to note about reading the Bible is that it’s not just one book, but 66 of them.  This means that some of them are written with vastly different purposes in mind, and to some extent this needs to be taken into account when we read the Bible.  After all, you don’t read history the same way you do fiction, right?  In the same way, the historical Gospel accounts should be read differently than the poetry of the Psalms, or the (frequently conditional) prophecies of the OT.

Using the Bible to interpret the Bible: A final strategy that is very important is using the Scripture to interpret the Scripture.  Basically what this implies is that any particular verse you’re studying doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and even though it may seem to say getting vengeance on your enemies is AOK, we know from the rest of the Bible that, well, you’re wrong about that.

Shellfish example: Paul where he talks about the law no longer applying to us as Christians (Gal 5:18)…  thus exposing the fairly annoying arguments about how hypocritical Christians are to apply the Bible in sexual ethics but not in the eating of shellfish.

Mistakes to avoid:
Reading present culture into past circumstances: example, in Gal 4, “son” isn’t a sexist term, but quite the opposite, a sign that “in Christ there is no male or female”.  Only sons got an inheritance, you see.
Misunderstanding idioms (gaze on their nakedness, uncover the feet – Ham, Ruth)

How to prepare for a Bible Study:
Preparation:
We’ll talk about how to select a text later, and for now just focus on how to prepare once already know what you’re studying.  Obviously, pray for the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding the text before you get started.  He’s the author (by inspiration) of the Bible, so presumably he’s in a good position to help you understand it.

Get the Context Locked Down
First, be sure to read up on the context of the text.  Most good study Bibles will have an intro to a book that will give you a good idea of the particular author’s intentions or what was going on in the community at the time of the writing.  It’s important to have some familiarity with this to guide you in writing your questions and allow you to help yourself and your folks from making mistakes about the meaning of the text.  Knowing the context is going to help inform every angle of your understanding of the text.

Second, if you’re studying a single chapter, read the chapter before and the chapter after your text.  What I mean is read through 3 chapters at once to get a good feel for the whole picture of what is going on.  Even if you’re studying a particular Gospel parable for instance, this is still useful, as these things often go in groups (3 parables in a row about heaven, one random one about something else, then another parable about heaven?  Maybe you should rethink the supposedly “random” one, for example.).

What we’re trying to do here is answer questions like, “Who is the audience?”  and “What is the major goal of the speaker/writer here?  What do they want?”  Once we have a handle on the big picture, we can go small.

Other translations:
Now that we’re ready to start digging deeper, the first thing to do is to read the text in multiple translations.  However, it’s really not enough to read the text in just any 2 or 3 translations.  It’s important to pick translations that are different enough to really get a sense of what’s going on with the different possible interpretations.

Different translations have different philosophies of how to translate.  They fall basically into 3 groups: 1st, the inflexible translation, that is pretty darn close to the Greek, but sometimes so much so that you get lost or misunderstand because they use artificial language for English.  The NASB and KJV are examples of this type.  2nd, the Functional Translations are Bibles like the TNIV and NRSV that try their best to replace Greek and Hebrew idioms with English ones, and are more focused on transmitting meaning than just the words.  3rd are the Paraphrases which are almost entirely focused on getting the meaning across in understandable ways, and isn’t very concerned about adding extra words that aren’t in the text or flat rewriting stuff.  These can be a good way to help you interpret what the text is saying and include translations like the TLB and the Message.

The translations I recommend are … TNIV, NRSV, NASB, TLB or Message.

Read the Footnotes:
This is sort of a footnote to reading other translations, but you definitely want to not skip the footnotes.  It’s important to know a couple of terms for this and what they mean (in other words, there are different kinds of footnotes).  Sometimes a footnote is just because the way it’s stated in Greek could be taken more than one way, for instance, Jesus’ reply to Pilot could either mean, “You said so” or “Yes, I am” (approx.).  That was probably deliberate wordplay, and either is acceptable.

The second type of footnote is when the original text is actually in question.  The way this works is that the Bible we have today isn’t just one book that’s been passed down exactly as it currently is for 2000 years, but a combination of all of the knowledge we have, including 1000s of complete and partial ancient manuscripts.  The OT is mainly based on something called the Masoretic Text, which dates from around the 11th century.  It’s a Jewish text copied and handed down for generations.  The older books were seen as less valuable, because the scribes were that confident in their ability to perfectly copy the text.  So when you see that term in a foot note, that’s what it’s referring to. Two other major translations we have of the OT are the Syriac and the Septuagint.  The Septuagint was the daily Bible of the people in the NT (those living outside of Palistine).  We have copies of it many hundreds of years older than that of the Masoretic, but its translation was somewhat spotty, done by 70 scholars, some of whom were more NLT, and some more NASB.  In cases where the Septuagint makes more sense or the Masoretic is missing information you’ll usually have a footnote saying that.

The third type of footnote is when something changed in the text over time.  Ex of Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  In these cases, the translators are simply making their best call as to what’s going on from the available evidence, but really, there’s a question about which way it might go.

The final type of footnote is quiet easy; usually referencing a related passage or quoted passage in the Bible. In the NT, you’ll note that frequently the quoted passage and the original passage don’t line up.  That’s because these passages are usually quoted from the common language OT of the day, the Sept.

Commentaries/wise friends:
In preparing for a Bible study, I would only use commentaries in some cases, not all.  Most of the time a good study Bible and your common sense will help considerably.  Sometimes a commentary can really illuminate what is going on, however, or shed light on some cultural idioms that are just difficult to grasp.  My general rule is that after 15 minutes of struggling with it, I still have no clue as to what’s going on, it’s to the commentaries I go.  Good free online commentaries: Calvin’s and IVP on Bible Gateway.

Writing Questions:
3 Questions:
The questions you ask, if they’re not provided for you, most easily follow these 3 steps.

First, what is going on in the story?  What does Jesus say to the lepers?  Who is Paul talking about when he says, “I wish they would emasculate themselves?”  These questions serve 2 purposes; they should be relatively easy to answer so you can “warm up” people and get them used to answering questions, but at the same time they should also set up your upcoming questions or make sure that everyone understands what’s going on if there’s something easy to miss you want them to see.  Closed ended questions are ok here.

Second, what is the meaning of the text in its context?  Why does Paul want someone to, um, harm themselves?  What’s the big deal?  What significance is there that the lepers who turned around to thank Jesus were Samaritans?  These questions are intended to get people to engage with the text on a more complex level, and should be open ended.  You’re of course setting up the final set of questions, the application questions.

Lastly, what do these texts, now that we understand them, mean for us today?  How should we treat How to Read The Bibleoutsiders?  How do we as church people treat God for all of his blessings?  Do we turn away and forget to thank him?  (for Paul) What are some ways that we rely on works over grace in modern days?  If trying to save yourself by works is worse than being maimed where it counts, what steps can we take to make sure that we’re relying solely on grace and not works for salvation?  These questions are where the real “meaty” discussions can take place, and it’s good to ask opinion questions, set up hypothetical scenarios, or just ask simple, open ended questions like, “What are the implications of that for our lives today?”

How to make it interesting:
As you develop questions, you’ll also want to consider keeping people awake ;).  Controversial or counterintuitive questions can result in lively discussions!

  • Look for things that are “common understandings” (eg, heaven is whatever you want it to be) that you can bust.  There are usually no shortage of these.
  • Look for apparent or true conflicts within the text.  Conflicts are inherently interesting.  (eg, Matt 7:1-6)

Look for places where you can teach something interesting learned in your research that helps to explain what’s going on from a cultural, historical, or contextual basis

High School youth leaders and Bible study teachers are in luck!  Here’s one more high school Bible study that would be perfect for high school juniors and seniors who are preparing to attend college soon.  This study is on scientific objections to Christianity.  This is an incredibly relevant topic, as students are exposed to questions about scientific objections not only from non-believers, but from science class lectures and textbooks.  Ideas such as evolution, the age of the earth  and the origins of life are presented in high school and college biology and physical geography classes.  Here’s the study to help your students answer some of these tough questions.

  1. Science: Hasn’t science proven that the Bible is wrong?
    1. Miracles can’t happen or are scientifically impossible (naturalism)

i.      The argument goes like this: Science can only deal with natural causes, therefore, there are no causes for natural events other than natural causes that are scientifically explainable.  Another way of putting this is “that science, by its nature, can’t discern of test for supernatural causes, and therefore, those causes can’t exist.”

  1. Alvin Plantinga responds: “[This] argument…is like the durnk who insisted on looking for his lost car keys only under the streetlight on the grounds that the light was better there.  In fact, it would go the drunk one better: it would insist that because the keys would be hard to find in the dark, they must be under the light.”

ii.      There’s no way to disprove miracles happened, because science by its nature could never test for them.  Therefore, a bias against miracles is a philosophical presupposition, not an empirical fact.

  1. Additionally, a physical explanation for a miracle doesn’t invalidate it, or show that it didn’t come from God.  (any more than praying for rain and having rain clouds appear means it wasn’t an answer to prayer)

iii.      God of the Gaps warning: However, we can’t just say anything science can’t explain is caused by God.  That may not be the case, and in 50 years somebody might figure out the explanation.

iv.      Historical evidence for miracles, particularly the resurrection, is quite strong.

  1. Greenleaf book, The Testimony of the Evangelists
    1. Greenleaf was a distinguished Harvard Law professor who was Jewish until he examined the evidence for the resurrection by the rules of law, and found the testimony to be impossible to ignore.
    2. NT Wright book and Anne Rice
      1. Anne Rice was an author famous for her “Interview with the Vampire” books.  Doing research for another book, she read NT Wright’s book on the Resurrection and again, discovered that the evidence was too strong to ignore, and became a Christian.
    3. Aren’t science and Christianity at odds?  Don’t you have to pick one or the other?

i.      Actually there are many aspects of science that support belief in God

  1. Big Bang was initially rejected as being too “religious”.  People used to believe in a steady-state universe before the big bang was proven.
  2. Fine Tuned Universe (also related to the Anthropic Principle)
    1. This refers to the astonishing number of coincidences that are necessary for life to exist in our universe, and some consider this evidence for God (others as evidence for multiple universes, of which ours happens to be the one in a trillion universe capable of supporting life).
    2. b.        The view of atheistic scientists quoted in Discover magazine:
      “Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.
      The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.”
    3. Some examples:

i.      http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/is-there-scientific-evidence-for-an-intelligent-designer/

  1. Argument from design.
    1. This argument, made famous by Michael Behe in “Darwin’s Black Box”, basically says that science proves God, because the more we know about systems and nature, the more it seems that nature (and biological systems in particular) are irreducibly complex.  What that means is that some systems (like eyes, or DNA) are just too darn complicated to have developed a little at a time through evolutionary processes.  (half a wing does very little good, for example; you just go splat)
    2. So science isn’t opposed to Christianity, but there are many arguments for God’s existence coming from science.
    3. Aren’t all smart people atheists?

i.      Academy of Science polling data

  1. Only 7% of members believe in a “personal” God.

ii.      All “smart” people ought to be a little more humble.

  1. It is logically impossible to be an atheist rather than an agnostic
    1. Betrund Russel
    2. The nature of science is that it is always changing.  The dogmatic truth of today which seems to contradict the scripture may end up being the embarrassment of tomomorrow.
      1. The question to ask is, Are today’s scientific textbooks the same as they were 20 years ago?   No?  Then do you think that the textbooks 20 years from now will be the same as the ones we have today?  Do you know which parts will be different?  We simply don’t have all the information, and being dogmatic about one point or another isn’t wise.
      2. There are many examples of people making this kind of mistake from history:

i.      The Big Bang, as referenced above.  Scientists used to dismiss the first chapter of Genesis as being silly simply for the fact that there was a beginning.

ii.      Newtonian Physics.  Some scientists used to think that there was no room for God to work in the universe because everything was already determined.  If there was a god, he was a watchmaker, who spun the world up and left it alone.  The discovery of quantum physics disproved this notion and revealed the universe to be much less certain than scientists had thought.

iii.      Many more specific ones in the fields of cosmology and biology, I believe.

  1. Evolution disproves a creator God

i.      Is evolution true?

  1. There are two types of evolution: Macro Evolution and Micro Evolution.
    1. Macro refers to large changes, like a dog growing an extra tail, or becoming a cat.
    2. Micro refers to small, inside the same species changes, like
    3. It’s not just Christians or people of faith that are critical of evolution
      1. One of the best books challenging evolution was written by a scientist, Michael Denton, called Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.
      2. Basically he says that new species are created, that micro evolution is a proven fact, but that macro evolution is entirely without support.

ii.      Origin of life issues

  1. The biggest problem with evolution is the issue of the origin of life.
    1. It is far easier to get from one single celled organism to the tremendous diversity of life we currently have than it is to get from nothing to that first single celled organism.
    2. The principles of evolution do not work on non-living matter.
      1. Non-living matter does not reproduce, and therefore can’t mutate to become better
      2. Non-living matter does not
      3. Evolution holds that life was an accident, that the building blocks of life simply came together as the result of chance.  The reason for the appeal to chance is that there’s no other good explanation for how life came about.
        1. The problem with the appeal to chance is that this in itself is not a good explanation

i.      There’s not nearly enough time to make the chances reasonable.  For this reason, some fairly respected scientists have supported the idea of panspermigia, which basically says that single-celled life arrived here from outer space.

ii.      Long periods of time do not make extremely unlikely events more likely to occur.

  1. Sitting around watching water for 30 billion years doesn’t mean that it will eventually turn to lead, which is extremely unlikely but also possible.
  2. This problem is such a large one, that a very prominent atheist, Antony Flew, became a theist because of it.  There simply is not an intellectually satisfying natural explanation for how life came from un-life without intelligent intervention.

i.      http://www.existence-of-god.com/flew-abandons-atheism.html

iii.      Philosophical problems with Evolution

  1. If life is an accident, then is there such a thing as moral obligation?
    1. The Nazis would have been 100% right to kill all the sick, handicapped and what they saw as inferior races for the long term good of the human race.
    2. On the other hand, if we’re children of God, there’s ample reason to treat one another with respect and honesty.
    3. If life is an accident, then is there any purpose to it all?
      1. The sun will eventually explode and erase all traces of anything you might accomplish, even if you’re Barak Obama ;).
      2. On the other hand, if we’re eternal, created by an eternal God, then life has tremendous significance.
      3. If life is an accident, can there be any such thing as true beauty?
        1. Really, you’re no more valuable than a rock.  The joy you feel at a sunset or a painting is just chemical reactions, nothing more.
        2. On the other hand, there is beauty everywhere, true beauty, if God created everything good.  Many people intuitively can reach this conclusion.
    4. How to present these issues to unbelieving friends

i.      In general, arguing that the earth is 7000 years old or that evolution is just plain evil is unlikely to do anything other than annoy your friend.  The best route is to introduce doubts and questions into their world view gently.  If they can doubt their doubts, that may open them a crack to the gospel.

ii.      Use your head and your heart.  Very few people have only scientific objections to the faith.  Listen to the Holy Spirit, but be prepared in what to say if you feel a leading to share, question or confront.

  1. Age of the Earth

iii.      Is the earth really 7000 years old?

  1. That the earth is 4.3 billion years old is a modern assumption, and you should really just roll with it.  I don’t like the evidence for it, other than light in the night sky.  That’s the only evidence that seems reasonable to me.  (in other words, it seems quite reasonable that the universe is 15 or so billion years old, but less so for our particular planet)  The current pattern of thinking basically arose out of the field of geology and assumptions about the time necessary to take a single celled organism to turn into the amazing diversity of live we see today.

Some Bible Study topics are simply interesting or informational, such as ones on some of the details of life during Biblical times. Others, however, have the potential to be truly transformational. A Bible study on the Christian Maturity, Bible Studyimportance of Christian maturity, and how to achieve it, is one of those with transformational potential. When you are speaking to a group of newer Christians, or of people who are coming back to their faith or back to church after an extended absence, teaching on the importance of Christian maturity and to become a mature Christian has the possibility to change their lives and teach them information that they’ve never heard or thought about before. Check out the Bible study below to see a great example of a Bible study inspired by a Bible study session at the Plant City Presbyterian Church on Christian Maturity you can lead at your next Bible study!

Spiritual Maturity

Intro:

First off, what is spiritual maturity? Is spiritual maturity knowing a lot about the Bible? Is it sitting on a rock for long periods of time meditating or fasting for days? Is it having wisdom or spiritual gifts from God? Nope. Lots of folks who know the Bible cold are spiritual babies, and fasting or meditating doesn’t make you spiritually mature (otherwise JC wouldn’t have rebuked those fasters and prayers in the Sermon on the Mount). And wisdom or spiritual gifts don’t make it either; plenty of wise non-Christians out there, and the Bible says there are going to be all sorts of people who spoke in tongues and drove out demons sitting in hell. (not to say that spiritually mature folks don’t pray, fast, have spiritual gifts or know the Bible) So what is it? At it’s root, spiritual maturity is following Jesus Christ, being as he is.

Willow Creek, a massive Mega Church outside of Chicago, recently did a review of its programs to see how effective they were at producing spiritual growth. What it found shocked the leaders of the church as well as the entire community of Christians and pastors in the US: church programs do very little to produce mature Christians. They’re great at snagging seekers and folks who are very new in their faith, but what really works to produce mature believes is what I’m about to share with you: the spiritual habits of prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship and service. If you want to grow in your faith, if you want your faith to “work” for you, then there is no substitute for what I’m about to share with you. Because I only have half an hour, we’re going to go fairly quickly, so I hope you pay attention since it’s such important material.

Maturity happens the same way it has for 2000 years; prayer, QT with the Bible, service and learning from other Christians. If I can teach you to do these 4 things, and do them well, then you cannot fail to grow.

Prayer:

General insights

Make it part of your QT and do it every day.

It’s OK to be real with God. If I’m mad at him, I just tell him that (I usually say, I’m sure you’ve got some master plan, and I trust that, but right now I just feel mad).

Tell him anything; it’s not like he’s going to be surprised.

A laundry list isn’t a real prayer. How would your parents like it if you called them and just listed all the things you needed from them?

Listening

Don’t forget that one of the primary purposes of prayer is to receive guidance from God. (scriptures: Rom 8:14, John 10:4). If you’re not asking God for guidance in your prayers, it’s like you’re talking to your parents 100 miles an hour and never asking their advice, or hearing their thoughts. Take time to listen when you pray or you’re only having half of the benefit you could have from it.

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven: God is our Father, he loves you and wants your best.

Hallowed be Thy Name: Adoration, thank God for who he is, what he’s done, etc

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Ask for God’s purposes and kingdom to be expanded, submit yourself to becoming like Jesus.

Give us this day our daily bread: Ask for help for yourself and for your loved ones. It’s ok to ask for anything, especially if it’s likely in God’s will (salvation for a friend, wisdom, peace, joy, help understanding something, whatever a child would usually ask a parent)

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors: If you want your debts forgiven and to know peace, you must forgive others. Receive peace from the Father in the forgiveness of your sins as you free yourself from spiritual turmoil in forgiving those who have sinned against you.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: This is spiritual warfare; the Bible more likely says from the evil one, not from evil.

 

If you want your prayers to be effective, I suggest you stop sinning, make God your #1 desire, and be nice to your wife.

 

Quiet Time:

Objections:

I don’t have time.

Use the Bible on tape, or download it free online to listen to in the car.

 

I don’t understand what I read.

Study with a friend. Get a Bible with notes. Read a commentary.

 

I don’t see the benefit.

You don’t lose any weight from exercising once either, do you? If you want the benefit of increased peace and joy in your life (etc), you’d best make this a priority and stick with it.

How to read the Bible:

Meditation:

Part of your quiet time should be to reflect on what you’ve read. When I was young and growing in my faith, this would account for at least a quarter of my time spent reading. (Now I get this time all in a bunch preparing the sermon.) Ask God what it means, think about what it means for you, and think about how this changes your understanding of the faith or relates to other passages.

Tips:

Some practical tips on how to understand the Bible:

1. A text without a context is a pretext. Always read 5 verses up and 5 verses back to get an understanding of what you’re reading… see if it says what you think.

2. Let me tell you a secret: you don’t need to know Greek to read the Bible (almost) like you did. Read in more than one translation side by side (can ask, how many Bibles do you have at home? Are they all the same type?)

3. While we’re on the subject of Bibles, get a Study Bible. Use a commentary or Study Bible when you hit something that doesn’t make sense.

4. Ask 3 questions of whatever you’re reading: What is happening, ie, what’s going on here, the who what when how where stuff; What does this mean, ie, what is the deeper story or lesson we should get; What does this mean to me, ie, how can I apply these lessons or truths that I’ve just learned to my life.

5. If you come up with a funky interpretation that only you get, it’s wrong. There is a right and wrong in interpreting what the Bible says. If you get that God is really a giant light bulb because he said “Let there be light” and there was light, I’m sorry, you’re wrong. This is distinct from the HS’s personal word to you through the text, which can have almost limitless meaning.

Assumptions:

It’s important to approach the Bible with a few assumptions if you’re going to get the most out of your reflection time.

First, the Bible is true in all that it teaches, even if I don’t understand it all. Some contradictions in the Bible are there on purpose. This is how ancient wisdom teachers taught. They knew that lectures like this one didn’t really produce wisdom (I know it too), so they gave verbal or written puzzles, the solutions to which make you wiser. Let’s go over a few: Prov, Luke 9:50, 11:50.

Second, the things that happened in the Bible, while often extraordinary, all happened to people just like me. Cultures change, but people don’t. This helps with the application. If Peter walked on water, then so can I, so to speak. Or if Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, was lead astray by too many women, maybe I should quit looking at porn.

Third, expect the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you’re reading, and to speak personal words to you as you read. In other words, pray for and expect God’s help in reading the Bible. It’s really no more complicated than any other kind of reading, we (preachers) just make it seem that way. 5 Qs and you’re good. And expect God to use what you’re reading everyday to inform your life and your circumstances. I can’t tell you the number of times I was going through something rough in my life and got the encouragement I needed to do the right thing from my devotional, or got the advice I needed, or comfort.

Fellowship:

Ever try to learn a language on your own? Or to start a hobby? How did that work out for you? I’ve tried learning, French, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish on my own, and never got past the 10th tape on any of them. That’s about how far we tend to get with things when we’re on our own. But I’m fluent in German, and stuck with that for more than a decade. The difference was I had friends who spoke it. I had a community to help me stay focused and to get sharper. Life just isn’t meant to be lived alone. Life is better with friends.

Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…

To reach your full state of Christian maturity, you’re going to need to spend time with other Christians, even if all that happens is you’re so mature you’re teaching instead of learning. Being around other Christians offers you the chance to learn as well as to teach, and both help you to grow. It offers you the chance to be encouraged and comforted when you need to be (if the relationships aren’t ready, who’s going to be there when you need them?). It also allows you to help others. This of course helps you grow spiritually.

Accountability. Keeps you on track. Sometimes there are things I could do but don’t just because I know I’d have to explain them at church ;).

So what kind of fellowship should you be involved in if you want to reach spiritual maturity? The Bible talks about several different kinds, but I want to focus on two.

(both large and small group), spiritual growth (encouragement, accountability, questions answered, )

Different kinds of fellowship: large and small group; prayer and Bible study; hang out and spiritual formation; one on one too. Mentoring.

Service:

Highlights:

Your money and time are both God’s. He has made you a steward who will have to give a report when you die. Positive side is we’re in his protection and will.

Tithing is part of growing up as a Christian. Giving makes you more generous and less materialistic. Tithing is Jesus-endorsed, Abraham used spiritual principle, not OT throwback.

Talents: Everyone has a gift given by God for the building up of the church (Pet 2:7??). You are the ministers, it’s my job to equip. Here’s how you tell your talent: You have a passion for it, you enjoy it, you’re good at it. If you’re not serving, you’re probably not growing, and the true mark of maturity is fruit, which comes from service. Sermon of 9/7/08. 1, things that you find important: things from your experiences and things God has told you or put in your heart. 2, things that you enjoy: proclivity and personality, 3, things that you’re good at.

Conclusion:

Commitment cards: I am serious about my spiritual growth; I will read my Bible every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes; I will pray every day, even if it’s only to say please help me find time to pray, Lord; I will attend church, both small and large group, at least 3 out of 4 weeks a month; I will

Do these things, and nothing can keep you from growing and becoming mature. Fail to do them, and very little can help you become mature in your faith, short of personal disaster or crisis.

What a difficult dilemma in modern society! Christians are surrounded by a very secular world, full of things To Judge or Not To Judge: A Bible Studythat they don’t approve of or agree with. At the same time, Christians have to balance seemly contradicting Biblical advice: “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7 where he says: “For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” It’s a tricky situation. For some advice, and a way to share that advice in a Bible study you’re planning on teaching, check out the Bible study below and you can visit Port Richey Church for more insights on your Bible innovations:

Bible Study on Judging or Not Judging

Main ideas:

The Bible is more complex than we give it credit for in the conservative church sometimes.

Contradictions in the Bible are often, maybe usually, there deliberately to make you think. What do you think Jesus is trying to get us to think here?

There are two kinds of judging; one is the kind that we have to apply in everyday life, that is wrong or this is right, the other is the kind that sets us up in God’s place; this person is evil or not, this person is to be forgiven, or not. Someday we’ll be allowed that kind of judgment, but not for today; we simply don’t have all the information we will at that time.

We are to judge, in fact, called to and competent to in almost any matter, other than whether or not someone is a Christian. (raca is danger of hell) (judging that builds up is ”you sinned against me” or “this person is not a positive influence”, but judging that tears down is different somehow.) (only thing is, Christ very clearly is talking here of the rebuking sort of judgment, and telling us to be darn careful with it.)

So there are two mistakes we make with this verse: one, we tune out righteous rebuke that we so desperately need, and two, we fail to offer the correction our friends need to grow.

And what about those other places where Jesus tells us to rebuke our brothers and treat them like tax collectors? (note this is neighbor not brother)

I think it comes down to, there’s a time to judge and a time not to. When someone is doing something grossly outrageous that’s hurting the faith or hurting you directly, then it’s time to judge. If someone is being a fool, and being around them is going to harm you and they’re not the type to listen to instruction, then it’s time to disengage. To tell someone they’re sinning means to some degree we’re judging, but we’re commanded to do it.

If I had to simplify, then I’d say we’re to judge those inside the covenant community (we’re working under God’s rules) but only over the serious stuff, not the stuff we think is serious, but the stuff that the Bible does; eg, you’re green and your brother drives a hummer, let that one slide, but if you’re green and he mocks you for believing in global warming (or vice versa), then that should be pointed out to him for his health and yours. So what, he drives a hummer, to his own master he stands or falls. But if he sins against you, rebuke him. Those outside the community, I’m not sure we should judge at all.

Intro:

You guys ever watch Montell Williams? Come on, you’re in a safe place, you can tell us. I’ve rarely seen shows like that except on parodies or in excepts, but one phrase I’ve seen in such shows is, “Don’t you judge me!” And I know you guys are familiar with “do not judge, lest ye be judged.” I’m sure that there are at least a few of us who have been tempted to quote that one in a similar fashion at one point or another in our lives.

Let’s look at the Bible verse underlying all of this stuff, Matt 7:1:

NRS Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.

What do you guys think about that? Are the folks on Montell right?

Does this say that if you want never to be judged for anything you do, that it’s possible so long as you never judge anyone else? (If so, that’s great news for sinners apart from Jesus’ death on the cross)

Is it saying that if you do judge, that your own judgment will be unavoidable? (but what about verses that say judgment is unavoidable?)

What is the context of this verse?

Matthew 7:2-6 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

Q: What kind of judging is Jesus talking about here? (specks, nitpicky stuff)

Q: What’s up with verse 6? Is this part of the next segment? What do you think it means? Why does Jesus put this here? So we’re not supposed to judge, but calling people dogs and swine is ok?

Many contradictions are in the Bible on purpose

The easiest (and here most relevant) example is Proverbs

Proverbs 26:4 4 Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.

Proverbs 26:5 5 Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.

Q: do you think the author of these proverbs made a mistake? Do you think he wasn’t paying attention? Then what was his goal, do you think, in putting two contradictory statements so close together? (get you to think)

(side note; this shows 2 things; one that proverbs are not the iron clad spiritual laws of the universe that some would have us believe, but rather serve the purpose of making one wise, and two that modernists make one of two errors, liberalism or fundamentalism, missing the complexities entirely in their intra-cultural war)

Q: What do you think the purpose of this contradiction is? When is it OK or even necessary to judge, and when is it not? (covenant community it’s required to some degree, and it’s usually not appropriate to judge the world (job of HS, and different than warning)?)

Let’s look at what else the Bible has to say about judging others:

Matthew 18:15 15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.

Q: Can you tell someone else they’re sinning without judging?

James 4:11-12 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

Q: What does this say about judging? What sort of judging is James talking about as “bad” here?

Romans 2:1-3 NRS Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?

Q: Why is judging bad? Does this mean you should keep your trap shut about certain things, even if you’re sinned against yourself?

Luke 17:3 3 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.

Q: Is recognizing sin the same thing as judging? What’s the difference? (subjectively, being told you’re sinning feels a lot like being judged, doesn’t it?)

Romans 14:4 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Q: What reason does this verse give for us to control our urge to judge? What if you had this attitude every time someone tried to rebuke you?

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

Q: Does this verse seem to contradict the above verses about not judging others? What is the context, what’s going on?

Romans 14:10-13 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God. 13 Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

Q: Does this verse contradict the above verse? Why not? What is “passing judgment” in this context? Is there a difference between passing judgment and rebuking?

1 Corinthians 6:1-4 When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels— to say nothing of ordinary matters? 4 If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church?

Q: What does this passage say about judging?

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

Q:

This isn’t the only place this is taught, but it is the only place I know of in the NT that this is taught explicitly. You can see some of this when Jesus says to judge a tree by it’s fruit; he’s telling us to judge our teachers (this happens again in Rev with one of the churches, and in Phil with “those who falsely call themselves apostles” I think…), and again where he tells us to confront those who sin against us. You can’t confront someone without making some form of judgment, which is how the misunderstanding of this verse goes. But telling someone they’ve sinned against you or others or God is far different from pronouncing sentence; you have done X, so I’m going to treat you in Y fashion. Then you have “judged” and given a sentence, which I really God’s domain. The worst thing I know of in this fashion (find the verse) is saying that someone is not a Christian because of their actions; this may in fact be true, but if it’s false, you risk being judged yourself “for doing the same things”.

I know I grew up watching Disney’s Pinocchio and remember seeing Jiminy Cricket talk about how he was Pinocchio’s conscience. If only life was so simple and we all had a little cricket telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. It still didn’t work out very well for Pinocchio in the movie of course, as even Jiminy Cricket couldn’t keep him out of trouble. Likewise, for people today, trying to listen to your conscience isn’t going to keep you out of trouble and help you to only make the right decisions. Instead, this Bible study suggests that we all need to fix our conscious and follow the Holy Spirit to make the best decisions. The Bible Study below will help you teach these ideas in your next study.

Bible Study on Conscience is a Poor Guide

We’re often led by conscience in our culture. I’ve got the money, why shouldn’t I buy it? It’s not hurting anybody else, why shouldn’t I do this? So long as we’re ok with something, it’s not illegal, and it doesn’t hurt anyone else, the standards we’ve got from our culture say “go for it.”

Now, we know conscience is a poor guide, but we use it anyway. We know that just because we feel ok about hitting back when we ought to turn the other cheek, that doesn’t make it ok. On the other side of things, we also know that just because someone laid a guilt trip on us that doesn’t mean that the right thing to do is spend time doing whatever they want us to rather than spend time at church or with our families. Or guilt trips about the environment.

The Bible talks a lot about keeping a clear conscience. But does that mean that I am ok to do whatever I like so long as I’ve got a clear conscience? Or does that mean that if something is bothering my conscience it’s definitely the right thing to do? Give some examples.

We need to repair our consciences first, retrain them and refocus them, and then we can rely on them as guides. Heb 10:22.

The conscience is going to OK whatever it’s focused on. The Germans were focused on reclaiming their pride after the Treaty of Versailles, and so a lot of things that were obviously wrong to the rest of the world, like taking part of Chech, seemed right and good to them. So if you’re focused on having that nice car and that nice house, your conscious is probably going to OK you working longer hours than you should (ahem) or if you’re focused on keeping the approval of others, your conscience is not going to bother you like it should when someone asks you to do something you know you probably shouldn’t (as simple as hanging out with the boys when you haven’t seen your wife all week). So change what you’re focused on and that’s the first step to fixing your conscience.

This raises the question, however, how do we do this? By what means are our evil, guilty consciences cleansed and made into the good guides God intended them to be? By refocusing our hearts on God, and by retraining them through the Bible and the Holy Spirit (HS).

There’s a difference between conscience and the leading of the HS, however. You can do some awful things and just feel great about them. It happens all the time. Watch a movie sometime and you’ll see it; heck, watch the right kind of movie and you’ll experience it!

Your conscience is valuable, but it’s not God.

Some people say, it’s nice that you have this ability to hear the HS pastor, that’s what we pay you for, but I don’t think that’s for us rank and file Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth! Present this as a question: Many prophets and disciples heard the voice of the HS and acted in ways that weren’t in accord with their consciences (Peter, Paul, Jeremiah, etc).

Others say, God told me what you should do. Beware! Test such a one!

Intro: (above)

1: Let Conscience be Your Guide:

1 Timothy 3:8-9 8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

Q: How important is keeping a clear conscience here? Does this mean that if your conscience is leading you, you should follow? Does that mean that if something is bothering my conscience it’s definitely the right thing to do?

1 Peter 3:15-16 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Q: What does a clear conscience here indicate? (good behavior) But does that mean that I am ok to do whatever I like so long as I’ve got a clear conscience?

So the Bible says to keep a clear conscience. Big surprise. How do we normally do this? Does that always work out for the best? Ever done anything your conscience was fine with but was really dumb? Or ever been guilt tripped into doing something that wasn’t the best thing you could have been doing by trying to keep a clear conscience? For most of us, conscience is actually a crappy guide. (for all of these verses there’s an assumption, I believe, that these are people whose consciences are renewed, not broken.)

2: Conscience is broken; how do we fix it?

Q: Why is conscience such a bad guide?

Solution 1: refocus (more Hebrews?)

Hebrews 10:22 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Q: What does this verse say about our conscience? How do we fix it?

1 John 3:18-20 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Q: what does this tell you about a good conscience? How do you get one? (2 ways, do what’s right and rely on God, who is greater than our hearts) (do what’s right and let that act as proof to your heart that you’re redeemed)

Solution 2: retrain using the Bible; 2 Tim 3:16

1 Corinthians 10:25-27 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.

Q: What does this tell you about conscience? If your heart tells you something different than the Bible, what should you do?

2 Timothy 3:15-17 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Q: What does this say about how to be guided?

Solution 3: retrain using the HS

Isaiah 48:17 17 This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

John 10:4 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Abraham, Paul, Moses each went in a way their consciences wouldn’t have led them because God sent them that way. Mt. Moriah, the road to Damascus (where Paul thought he was doing God a favor), back to Egypt after decades, each of these was a good decision that wouldn’t have been reached by following conscience. You can’t figure this out, but you have to be given it then train it.

; establish this is for all God’s children, show the difference between this and conscience (and the superiority) and offer 1 next step (start doing what you hear).

Doing what God tells you to, and letting that be your internal judge, seems good to me. I’ll be honest, this is new material for me and it’s difficult.

Hebrews 5:13 – 6:1 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

What do we mean when we say “let your conscious be your guide?” What do we mean by “conscious”? What is that? (it’s a little voice inside your head that tells you if what you’re doing is right or wrong, or at least that’s our cultural conception)

So conscious is that little voice inside you that guides you. Sound familiar? This gets us to being led by the Holy Spirit, and to what extent this is a good idea.

I should probably mention (though don’t have to) that we sometimes use this leading by the HS as a cop out of the hard work of making a difficult decision, baptizing our laziness or our fear. We also sometimes are deceived (2 Cor 11) into making really dumb choices. There’s a time to follow your feelings as encouragement from God and a time to reject them as evil. Knowing when is the rub (or knowing how to connect with them).

What’s the controversy? The one I see is the argument about feelings and to what extent we should listen to them. I assume that others want to say, listen to the Bible. .

I think there’s a controversy in the church about feelings and being guided by our feelings. This is just another term for conscious. Some would say your feelings are not at all trustworthy, and some would say that God primarily speaks to us through our feelings (after all, God told Abraham something contradictory to the scriptures, assuming he knew of what came before him in Gen 9)

Feelings are a great guide if your heart is 100% focused on God, otherwise they’re a great guide to whatever your heart is focused on.

What does the Bible say about this? There’s all of the led by the voice of God passages, I think there are a few places where it talks about our consciouses being seared, which to me means scarred so that they’re unfeeling, and then I could wrap it up on the “so long as it doesn’t contradict the Bible” bit, although I don’t actually believe that, given the example of Abraham.

Possible bible verses:

That one in Paul: I don’t know of anything aginst myself but am not thereby cleared.

1 Cor 8 (similar to Rom 14) – basically conscience is a poor guide because there’s no need for one, lol. A “weak” conscience is one that sees sin where none exists.

Wounding another’s conscience is considered a sin

1 Cor 10:25ff, don’t listen to your conscience in matters where you know what the Bible says. If the Bible says it’s ok, it’s ok. Is the opposite also true? Probably: if you know that the Bible says it’s wrong, it’s still wrong no matter what your conscience says.

1 Timothy 1:19 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.

This says that keeping a good conscience is paramount to keeping the faith. I think what this means is basically not muscling ahead when you feel that what you’re doing is wrong, even if your head says it’s ok.

What clears the conscience?

Hebrews 9:9 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.

Jesus does.

God leading us:

Psalm 143:10 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Isaiah 48:17 17 This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

Galatians 5:18 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (what does that mean?)

Ephesians 4:30 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Romans 14:23 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

sufferingSome Bible studies are pretty easy to come up with. A study on Christmas, for example, isn’t too hard. It’s a happy subject, it’s a happy time of year, and its something that most people are at least somewhat familiar with the content. However, some studies are much more challenging. Developing a study on suffering is a particularly tricky one. Despite its difficultly, it’s a topic that many people have questions about and want to learn more about. Hopefully the study below will help you lead your own study on suffering.

A Valley Means I Made a Wrong Turn: Why Not All Trouble is Your Fault.

Are tough times my fault? What does the story of the man blind from birth (Jn. 9: 1) tell us about this?

Why doesn’t skill / ability /wisdom guarantee a good outcome? What does Jesus’ life show us about difficulties and closeness to God? What does God want us to learn in the valleys? (psalm 23)

God is punishing me. Why is this concept false? Heb 4ish. Explain why guilt is false (Heb 10:22?)

Just because you don’t have to feel guilty for it doesn’t mean that you can ignore it. What trouble is your fault and what isn’t? Prov, Deut, etc about not doing what you should and suffering??? I can point out that this is refining (but so is suffering that isn’t your fault… still, with Israel, I think it was more often due to a need that they suffered). The point here is to get us to the next point, which is “what about suffering you don’t cause, but you’re still going under?”

Some Christians (and I think all Muslims) would contend that a truly obedient and righteous person doesn’t suffer or get sick or want for anything, but I think this group knows better; not because we think ourselves perfect, but because we know that suffering isn’t always connected to something stupid we did. It’s as often from something stupid someone else did, and we were just in the way at the time. Why is that first thought false? (Christ lived a perfect life but was a “man of sorrows”)¬

What is the true function of difficulties that come for no reason? Refining, holiness, obedience. Part of it is simply the fact that we live in a fallen world. Is it fair to blame ourselves for these (there is a bit of an American thought; you’re the master of your destiny, poor people could have avoided being poor if they’d made better choices, etc)? Bible verse. Is it fair to blame God?

How come some Christians get through life without many troubles, but not me? What are some of the reasons that folks undergo severe testing? Just about every prophet, righteous person and teacher in the Bible went through some mighty difficult stuff to get where God wanted them. If you want to be used mightily, get ready to be tested, tried and refined.

Proverbs 11:17 17 A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.

James 2:13 judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.

Proverbs 17:20 20 A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.

Q: What does this mean? If you tell a lie, what is going to happen? You’re going to get into trouble, and the way out is to admit it.

Proverbs 28:14 14 Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.

Proverbs 12:21 21 No harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

1st Point: There’s no such thing as punishment from God for a Christian.

Your sin has been PAID.

1 John 4:17-18 7 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Q: What does this say about punishment? Should a Christian fear punishment?

NRS John 5:24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Q: What does this say about Christians? Is this in the future tense? When does this happen? Then are Christians ever under God’s judgment (that is to say, punished)?

1 Peter 2:24 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Q: Why aren’t Christians under judgment? What’s made this possible?

2nd Point: Then why does bad stuff happen to me?

So if you think that you’re being punished by God for something you did wrong, stop it. That’s not accurate or helpful. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some kind of suffering that is your fault. Some types of trouble are your fault.

Galatians 6:7-8 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Q: What does this passage mean? If you tell a lie, what will happen to you? If you cheat on your taxes? If you continually think angry or lustful thoughts? (If you’re not being punished, what is happening? It’s just the way the universe is set up… You plant an apple seed, you don’t get oranges; you drink poison you die.)

Some Christians would hold that all trouble is your fault, that no truly faith-filled person would ever suffer sickness or poverty. Here are a few of the verses they use to show that:

Psalm 103:2-3 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

Q: Some would say that if he forgives all your sins, then he would also heal all of your diseases, so long as you have faith, aren’t sinning, etc. What do you think about this?

Proverbs 19:23 23 The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

Q: Some would say that this is absolutely true. If you really are righteous, if you really do fear God, then you are able (and it’s God’s will for you) to live a life untouched by trouble. What’s your reaction to this?

3rd Point: Many types of suffering aren’t your fault.

Does God ever send suffering to people who don’t deserve it? Could a just God really do such a thing? What would be the point?

Hebrews 12:5-11 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Q: What were the folks in Rome going through? Was it their fault? What does the author say about their suffering? Why did God allow it? What do you think God sometimes allows suffering in your life that you didn’t deserve?

4th Point: We undergo suffering to make us more like Christ.

How come some Christians get through life without many troubles, but not me? What are some of the reasons that folks undergo severe testing?

Zechariah 13:8-9 8 In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. 9 This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'”

Q: What does refining entail? Is it pleasant? Yet what are the results?

James 1:2-4 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Q: What does this say about the purpose of suffering? Should we really take joy in it? (Freud thought we are Masochists) Can we be complete as Christians without it?

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered

Q: Who is this talking about? What did he get from suffering?

We could go into many examples of people who suffered in spite of being extremely faith filled (indeed, because of that fact), starting with Jesus and Paul, but instead I’ll just say that to get you where God wants you, there will almost certainly be some suffering. How you respond to it is the single greatest determining factor to how long you spend there. Learn what you need to learn fast, then pray to get out of it.