Leaders Study: "Maturity"
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:16-18)
We must realize that our Lord can and will bring goodness and glory to any situation that He is glorified. That is even through our weakness and failures, through our letdowns and discouragements, Christ is there loving us and encouraging us. Paul knew this first hand and lived it out in his life and ministry, as must we. Whatever our circumstance, we need to see that it impales in significance to the eternity we have to come. This world and life is a dress rehearsal, and a mere shadow to what is to come. So keep the focus on what is ahead that is Christ our Lord. Because we will enjoy our Lord for all time, so let us live for eternity and not just today. We may not see the truths of eternity in our present condition, so let us press on to the goal anyway, and then at the end we will see what was life is all about.
One of the clearest evidences of being a mature Christian is an increased awareness and knowledge for the need to be in Christ, and not to be to ourselves. When we have an increased need that goes beyond ourselves, an increasing need that goes beyond our self-confidence, then we are becoming mature. This means we are to be in on our Lord and the Holy Spirit as our focus. Then, our self-confidence becomes rooted and dependent in Christ working through us. So we are not to be self-driven but Christ driven. Thus resulting in our will to be in total surrender to God's (Gal 2) will as the driving force for our existence. So Christ is first in our life and not our selfish will and desires.
Too many people feel they are too busy to contemplate their existence, just ask anyone and you will be surprised on the answers. Yet God created us for a purpose, but most give little to no credence to it, even Christians do not think about their purpose and call. We cannot venture into maturity unless we realize the need and the purpose of who we are.
As mature Christians we will recognize our need for Christ. That He will bring us beyond our failures so we can grow increasingly effective for Him and grow in sanctification. We will be focused on the goal of holiness to be the person God created. He created us to be images of Himself, and as images we are to reflect His character, that goes beyond ourselves to the purpose He has. It is not about our needs but His needs, it is not our purpose but His purpose.
As we grow in Christ we will become aware of our futility and inadequacy as human beings, that we are products of our sin nature that only Christ can regain and redeem, and this frailty will become a strong building with the foundation of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us extreme provision and realization to be our best for God's glory.
We become complete human beings who walk away from our fallen nature into a renewed nature in Christ. As we grow in the progress of our walk with Christ, we become more able to stay on the path of that He has for us. So that to open temptations and venture into new paths away from His presence will no longer consume our desires. Instead we are to become convicted to spiritual fulfillment that Christ has for us. Thus, when we walk on the path of God and we are confronted with the enormous assortment of doors all leading to temptations and desires, we will know what to do. All these distractions and sins leading away from His best for us will not be a temptation, but rather repulsive and ugly as they truly are.
With the power of the Holy Sprit and the conviction of faith in Christ, we are modeling His image with love. We are maturing. And the desires and aspirations that once hindered us will be of no bother, we will be able to walk away from them like a racehorse. A racehorse has its blinders on the side of its eyes, so it is always pointing straight ahead, so they are not distracted from leaving the course. We too must keep our eyes focused ahead so we are not distracted away from our Lord. For when we are overcome by our desires and distracted from our purpose, then the diseases will infect us like cancer and consume the body of Christ that ends up serving only our whims and the devils purpose. When we stop and open those doors of temptations, even the small doggie doors, we will be consumed and our growth in Christ will stop and the infection and diseases will replace their growth.
This temptation of distraction happens when we read the Word with the focus on ourselves. Thus with our devotions and prayer life being self-centered, we become distracted from the main purpose of our existence, that is to love and follow our Lord, and receive his redemption. When we become distorted from His plan by our willful disobedience, we leave His path for ours, and we get lost in our own desires and sins.
There are too many Christians who flat out and deliberately refuse to surrender themselves the Lordship of Christ. Christianity is merely fire insurance from Hell, or some means of social influence or personal desires that do not grow beyond the sinners prayer: Such as the parable of the sower.
Our Christian growth in maturity is not self-realization, but rather Christ realization. As we grow, we become totally aware of one great fact: there is one God and we are not it. That our confidence in who we are is because of the work Christ has done on our behalf. As we grow our utter dependence is upon our Lord and our confidence is in Him and not ourselves. Because people will always disappoint us, we will even disappoint ourselves, but Christ will not disappoint, but gives us the care, love, and His grace that we do not deserve. So we in turn model to others who we think do not deserve it or want it, because this is our mandate and call. (Excerpt from the book, "Pew Sitting" by Richard J. Krejcir)
Remember to begin in prayer!
· Prayer 5 min
· Options and Story 5 min
· Read lesson and Bible passages 10-15min
· Discussion groups 15-30 min
· Going Deep 5-10 min
· Q & A, Application
· End in prayer. 5 min
Total lesson time 45 min - 1 hr: (If you ad worship, which I strongly recommend, limit the discussion groups to the essential questions you feel they need. If your group is on the wild side, try some ideas from "Group Books," ASnoredom Busters,@ and Boredom Busters." They take a couple of minutes and wake things up when youth or adults get bored!)
"Opening Story:" "The Graduation Present"
In a fairly wealthy family, the eldest son Niles was graduating from high school and was expecting a gift that he felt he deserved. All of his friends either already have brand new expensive cars or are about to get a brand new expensive car for graduation. He just spent the last three weeks looking at cars with his father, and picked out the one he wanted. Niles knew his father had to give him one, after all, all of his friends were getting one and he deserved it!
Niles had picked out the perfect car for college, it was a convertible and he knew he would be popular with it. So at the anticipated day, when the party was winding down, Niles opened his present from his father. Now the gift was eloquently wrapped in a box the size of a large book. Niles immanently thought it must be the keys and perhaps a book about his new car. So he carefully opened the present, as to preserve the nice paper and opened the box.
Suddenly Niles anticipation turned into rage, his longing and excitement became bitter and angry. It was a Bible! So he flipped through the pages and fanned it to see if any keys would fall out. Niles then tore through the wrapping, peered into the box, and nothing! Just a stupid worthless Bible with his name on it!
Niles could not believe it! He was so angry he threw the Bible at his father with a few colorful metaphors I cannot say. He stormed out of the house, as his father ran after him. His father never saw his son in person again!
Niles went to college and graduated, took whatever money he could get from his father, but flatly refused to talk to him or allow his father to explain what happened. Instead Niles chose to hold on to his bitterness like a warm coat on a cold night. Niles flatly refused to talk to his mother too, blaming her for allowing his father to embarrass him in front of his friends, and ruin his graduation.
Years latter Niles gets a call from his mother, his father was sick and wanted to talk to him, Niles refused, again choosing to hold on to his bitterness. A year later his mother called again, Niles quickly put her in her place, saying he did not want to talk to his father. His mother started to cry, and said it was too late, his father was no longer available to talk.
So Niles went home and, after the funeral was over, began to rummage through his father's things to see what he could get. After a couple of hours of rummaging, Niles found his high school graduation present. It was in the garage under an inch of dust. He could not believe it! He opened the driver's door and saw the bible on the front seat. He sat down and saw an envelope taped to the back cover he did not see years before. He opened it and it was a picture of his car with directions to the garage. And a note that said, "Son there is no gift greater that the story in this book, read it carefully and live a life worth living, a life centered on Christ."
God's desire is for us is to seek Him and not the stuff and things of the world. There is no gift greater than what Christ did, what is told to us in His Word?
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness will come on to you." (Matt 6:33)
If we do not yield to it, if we do not open the gift given to us, we will live a life of bitterness and strife. A life that leads us to ruin, that no rich present could ever buy.
Optional opening, "Bible Quiz."
(You can copy this off to the students without the answers, have a student read them off, or play "Jeopardy" with them.)
Circle the quotes you think are false, be careful you may be surprised!
1. The Bible is a story of our attempts to search for God.
(False! It is a record of our fallen nature and God's choosing to redeem us.)
2. The Bible proves the existence of God.
(True, and proves our existence too!)
3. All the books in the Bible are a response to God's love and care for His people.
4. The Bible is a scientific textbook describing the origin of the world.
(True, it may not have all the details, but its accuracy is amazing, but also False because this is not the main theme of the bible just a facet.)
5. The Bible is primarily a factual history of the Jewish people.
(False, of all people)
6. The Bible contains answers to all of humanity's problems and questions.
(True; It may not tell us how to program the VCR, but all the essentials of our meaning and purpose and why we are here on the earth.)
7. The Bible must be interpreted literally.
(True and False; We need to interpret the Bible in its context, thus we do not need to literally gouge out our eye if we sin.)
8. The main theme of the bible is the call to a moral and ethical life.
(False; This would be the liberal interpretation, but the Bible is more than good living principles.)
9. The Bible is a book of history without any application or lesson.
(False, yes it is history but with insight meaning and lesson are for us today. If we do not learn from our past mistakes, we will learn nothing at all!)
10. We must read the Bible like a spectator at a sports game and not as a participant.
(False; It is our story, about our needs and nature and a God who loves and cares for His creation. Thus we need to read it as a participant, and definitely not as a spectator!)
11. The Bible was written and produced all at once.
(False; over 40 writers in a 1,500 year period of time!)
12. Our job in studying the Bible is to learn to ask the right questions.
(True and False; yes we need to ask the question, but also apply it!)
13. There is no other important truth about God than what is disclosed in the
(True; however Romans 1 tells us that God is revealed in His creation, which the Bible says, so the question is true!)
14. The Old Testament has no meaning and truth for us today.
(False; we cannot know the truth of the NT without understanding the OT.)
15. The Bible is basically one story...that of God's redemption, that is His search for reconciliation with us, because of our fallen state.
(True, This is the main theme, although there is a lot of other themes and truths too.)
16. Every book and chapter of the Bible has the same level of importance as every other book and chapter, (the Bible is a collection of 66 books).
(True; some parts may have more application and insight, but the entire Bible is inspired and practical for us today.)
The Lesson: "The Importance of God's Word" ("Claims for the Bible")
(Ideas on how to do this lesson so it does not come across boring: Sometimes there is no better way to get facts out then just saying them. So how can we do this without the sounds of snoring? First, believe with passion what you are saying. Read through it thoroughly, and when you are communicating to the younger crowed try to put things and ideas in your own words. When you have a passion and like for the subject, that excitement is contagious to those you are teaching.
What worked for me: Break down the parts and give a copy of the lesson with the scriptures and "bullets" to the students to read. Highlight each of their parts in advance. Read the primary outline yourself, such as; "Second: Christ's Claims For The Bible." While Jesus Christ was on earth, He affirmed the Bible's claims for itself. In what He said about it and in the way He used it, the Son of God showed the Bible to be the Word of God. Consider the following:
Then have one student read: "Christ used the Bible and its stories as fact, as history that applies to us today as it did then, that it has happened and will happen, thus Christ showed the Bible's authenticity and accuracy."
Then another student read: "A. The commandment of God" (Mark 7:8).
This will keep it interesting and involve the students in the "Pedagogical" (lecturing) learning process, making it more "developmental"(getting the student involved in the learning process). If you think of good questions yourself, go for it.
You can try this "mode" for most of the lessons.
"THREE REASONS TO TRUST THE BIBLE"
First: The Bible's Claims For Itself. The Bible claims, first of all, to be the Word of God to man:"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (I Timothy 3:16)
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation (origin), for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (II Peter 1:20-21)
These verses make a tremendous claim, they say that the Bible prophets did not just conjure up out of the air and originate what they wrote. Rather, they recorded what was given to them directly by God. They were moved (literally "borne along") by the Holy Spirit. Now that does not mean that their individual personality or style of writing was overpowered. It means that they were kept from having any error creep into what they wrote. And if it truly is what it claims to be -- a God-inspired book then it is absolutely trustworthy.
Second: Christ's Claims For The Bible. While Jesus Christ was on earth, He affirmed the Bible's claims for itself. By what He said about it and in the way He used it, the Son of God showed the Bible to be the Word of God. Consider the following:
A. He used the Bible and its stories as fact, as history that applies to us and to those who went through, that it has happened and will happen, thus Christ showed its authenticity and accuracy:
"The commandment of God" (Mark 7:8)
"The Word of God'' (Mark 7:13; John 10:35)
Jonah (Matthew 12:38-41)
Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5)
Noah and the flood (Matthew 24:37-39)
"Scripture" (Luke 4:21; John 5:39, 10:35)
Lot, Lot's wife, and Sodom (Luke 17:28-32)
B. He saw His own words as Scripture to be believed and obeyed. (John 12:48-49)
C. He held people responsible for what was written in the Scriptures. (Matthew 12:3)
D. He used Scriptures as conclusive evidence in answering His critics:
Matthew 22:32 quoting Exodus 3:6, 15
Matthew 22:42-44 quoting Psalm 110:1
E. He used the authority of Scripture to refute the temptations of Satan in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:4-10)
Third: The Writers Claims For the Bible. The individual writers affirmed the Bible's claims for itself by accepting the other parts of the Bible as the Word of God. First let's look at how the Bible writers viewed the Scriptures:
· When Daniel read Jeremiah's prophecy that the Babylonian captivity would last 70 years, he accepted it as true and began to pray and plan accordingly. (Daniel 9:2)
· Peter accepted the supernatural origin of the writings in the Old Testament prophets and Paul's writings as scripture, even though he sometimes did not understand it.
(II Peter 1:21) (II Peter 3:15-16)
· Secondly, the Biblical writers often saw themselves as communicating the Word of God. The prophet Isaiah began his book by proclaiming "For the Lord has spoken." (Isaiah1:2)
· The prophet Jeremiah opened his prophecy by saying, "Then the Word of the Lord came to me." (Jeremiah 1:4)
· God commissioned Ezekiel to go to His people and tell them "Thus says the Lord God." (Ezekiel 3:11)
· Paul claimed that the words he spoke were directly from God. (Galatians 1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13)
There are, of course, many more than "three reasons to trust the Bible." Among these are textual unity, textual preservation, historical accuracy, scientific accuracy, prophetic accuracy, and its social and personal impact. But even the above three reasons are enough to show that the claims the Liberals and cults make against the Bible are unfounded!
(This session was inspired in part from the book "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by McDowell, and the booklet "Can I Really Trust the Bible?" published by Radio Bible Class Ministries.)
Discussion Questions for The Importance of Bible Study
Open Q: Have you ever taken a risk? If so what was it, and what happened?
1. Read Joshua 1:8; 24:14-15. Answer the following questions,
§ What did these statements mean to Joshua?
§ What risk could he have been taking?
§ How can this statement, when applied to your life, make your life a difference?
§ Why would studying God's Word be essential for our growth?
§ What happens to Christians when they do not do as Joshua did?
2. Read Psalm 1, What are the benefits of studying God's Word?
(This does not mean problems will not come our way. But these verses do say that when we continue in His Word, we will be rich in fulfillment and meaning. Something that money, cars, popularity, cats, or anything can ever do! Just watch the VH-1 biographies of famous rock, TV and movie stars, and see how and what money fame and success did for them. 99% of the time they ended up dead from drugs, or totally frustrated and disillusioned with life. All that they had, which most of us can only dream about, could not bring them the deep fulfillment and happiness they desired!)
3. Are you like Niles in the story? Do you know anybody who is, without naming names? If so what do you think they will be like 10 years from now?
4. Was there anything new to you on the Bible Quiz?
Q: Was there anything that surprised you?
Q: What are your attitudes about the Bible in relation to this quiz, or in general?
5. Q: Are you confident that you know the Bible? Why or why not?
6. So if you had everything you ever wanted, what difference would that make? Would you end up like a Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendriks, or Janis Joplin (Most popular rock stars of the 60's who all died by choking on their vomit, and died totally disillusioned and hopelessly unhappy.) or a Curt Corbain, who committed suicide at the height of his popularity a few years ago? How would their lives be different with God's Word?
7. Why did God give us the Bible?
8. So what will God's Word mean to you?
9. What will you do now that you know the importance of God's Word?
10. Do the three reasons make sense to you so that you can have more faith and trust in the Bible? If so, why is that important?
There are many ways in which we can trust in the Bible. So during the following week, look for and then write down things that are happening to you, such as problems, frustrations, decisions, and opportunities, and how the Bible could make the difference. Keep in mind, stress, anxiety, busyness, social impact and personal impact."GOING DEEP"
Have student's lay on the floor with the lights off and eyes closed. And ask them to see themselves as Joshua, and read the passages 1:8; 24:1-15. Then slowly in a contemporary paraphrase, such as the New Living Translation, or CEV, remain silent for 2 to 3 minutes and read vs. 16-18, and remind them that this is their story, you are there!
Ask; how did it feel to be Joshua? Could you actually see yourself there, why or why not? What did you see, what did you hear, what did you smell? Could you have been bold as Joshua and said and did as he did?
(You can cut down the discussion questions, and spend more time on this. Try it! You may think younger people such as high schoolers would not be interested. But my experience and the various other churches, which have tried this, have had excellent results, and it was received very well by the youth!)
© 2000, Rev. Richard .J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org