Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s confidence in the power of God)

lostyourmind-png

Confident in the Power of God

          “If” is one of the biggest words in the English language, though it is only two little letters. We place conditions on activities all the time. “If the weather is good,” “if I get there in time,” “if I have enough money,” “if my grades are good enough.” In this life, we cannot escape conditions.
          The same applies to our service to God. While His love toward us is unconditional, our salvation depends on our love toward Him (John 14:15). God is unmovable, He is unchangeable, He is Almighty. The only thing that can keep us away from Him is our decision to reject Him and selfishly follow our own desires.
          Christ showed a great confidence in the power of the Father in His teachings. He ended the model prayer with an affirmation: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:13).
          When it came to the scheme of redemption, Christ again displayed confidence in God’s power. Read Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23. There was no “if” in these words. Jesus knew what was coming, and He knew that the Father’s will would be accomplished. The apostles sorrowed because they did not yet understand that this was all a part of God’s plan.
          When the Day of Pentecost came, it was revealed to them more clearly. Read Acts 2:22-36. Peter and the others could look at the whole picture, going all the way back to the prophecies concerning Christ, and they now had full confidence in the power of God with this fuller perspective.
          Where is our confidence today? We can look back at the fulfilled prophecies, and we can look forward to the promises of God. We know that He will accomplish what He promised, and any “if” that we add onto that statement is conditional upon our actions, not His power.
          Read Romans 6:1-10. When a person is baptized for the remission of sins, he dies to sin. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” What does Paul say we can have confidence in? “Knowing…that our old man was crucified with Him…that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.” We can have confidence in the power of God, knowing what He has done. Read 2 Corinthians 4:13-14.
          As you read through the New Testament, notice how many times a statement of confidence is made, when the writers use words such as “will,” “shall,” “know,” and “can.” If there are any conditions placed on these statements, the responsibility to meet such conditions fall on us. God has accomplished what He intended to accomplish. It is now our responsibility to act accordingly.
          Our confidence in God’s power is rooted in humility. Read Psalm 44:6-8; James 4:10; Philippians 4:13. Any talent or ability that we have comes from God, and it is though His power that we can accomplish anything.
          Because of our confidence in His power, we can approach His throne in prayer. Read Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 John 5:14-15. If we seek His will and trust in His power, we will be blessed.
          One of the things that we must pray for is boldness in proclaiming His truth to a lost and dying world. Read Acts 4:29. People all around us need Jesus, and we must be bold in teaching His Word, understanding that it is not our eloquence, but the gospel of God that will save. Read Ephesians 6:13-20. We need to prepare ourselves with the whole armor of God so that we are not a hindrance, but recognize that it is God’s power that does the actual saving.
          Christ had confidence in the power of God to accomplish what He promised. Let us have that mind in us today.

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
11-confident-in-the-power-of-god.pdf

[This is the final lesson in the “Have You Lost Your Mind?” series. You can review all lessons by following this link.]

Advertisements

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s peacemaking)

lostyourmind-png

Peacemaking

          Jesus was prophesied as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and when the angels announced His arrival, the heavenly host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 [ESV]; NKJV and KJV omit the last phrase).
          Read Mark 5:24-34. In addition to healing her, Jesus told the woman, “Go in peace.” Why was the woman healed? Simply because she touched His garment? What did Jesus say? Similarly, at the Pharisee’s house, He told the woman who washed His feet with her tears, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50). With whom did these women now have peace? What is the connection between faith and peace?
          Read Ephesians 2:11-16. With whom does Christ give us peace? How did He do it? Does this mean that our lives will be completely free of conflict when we obey the Lord?
          Read Romans 5:1-4. We have peace with God, but that does not mean we will be free of tribulation. The Lord told His apostles prior to His arrest and crucifixion, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We, too, can have peace in Christ, regardless of what is happening around us. We need to keep our eyes on our ultimate goal: eternal life with God when this life is over.
          Read Romans 12:17-21. How are we to treat our enemies? Should a Christian seek revenge when he is wronged? Read Romans 12:18 again.
          Does this mean that we should be happy if we are at peace with others, but apathetic if we are not? What should be our attitude? Read Romans 14:19; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:11. If we are not actively seeking peace with others—even those in the world who are against us—then we are not fulfilling the Lord’s command.
          But there is another aspect to peace. Just as Christ came to make peace between God and man, we should also be spreading His message of peace with God. Read Matthew 5:9; Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:14-15; James 3:18. A faithful Christian should be working to bring friends and family members into a peaceful relationship with the Almighty.
          James Burton Coffman wrote, “There are several ways in which God’s children can serve as peacemakers: (1) Through spiritual instruction, they can bring peace to hearts that are troubled. (2) They can bring peace to their fellow men who are at strife between or among themselves. (3) They can bring men, through preaching God’s word, or teaching it, to become reconciled to God, which is the greatest of all the achievements of the peacemaker. Definite procedures for the peacemakers are laid down in the Bible. A peacemaker conceals the transgression of others (see Proverbs 11:13); seeks a personal interview (Galatians 6:1); and tries to save ‘the face’ of the wrongdoer (2 Timothy 2:22-26). Such shall be called the sons of God because they are most like God in his efforts to reconcile man unto himself.”
          All of this talk about peace is great, but we need to make mention of Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” How does this fit with everything else we have studied so far? Consider the context; read Matthew 10:35-39.
          Accepting the word of the Lord can cause disagreements with those who refuse to hear or obey Him. What is more important? Peace with God is greater than peace with man, even family.
          Jesus died on the cross so that we, through His blood, might have peace with God. If we are to imitate Him, and “have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” we must tell others of the peace He offers. That is how we become peacemakers, and sow the fruit of righteousness in peace.

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
10-peacemaking.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s intolerance toward sin)

lostyourmind-png

Intolerant Toward Sin

          We know that Jesus was tempted, but lived a sinless life in the flesh (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22). He masterfully used the Scriptures to show us how we can defend ourselves against temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). It is clear from an examination of the Scriptures that the Lord was intolerant toward sin in His life. But what about in the lives of others? What was His attitude?
          Read Matthew 9:9-13. To whose house did Jesus go? Who sat at the table to eat with Jesus? What was the reaction of the Pharisees? What was Jesus’ response to their question? Does this mean that Jesus accepted these people in their sin? If not, what does it mean?
          Read John 8:1-12. What was this woman’s sin? By not condemning her right then and there, was the Lord condoning her sinful behavior? What is the force of verse 12 as it relates to sin? Can one follow Jesus and walk in the darkness of sin at the same time (Matthew 6:24)?
          Why did the Son of God come into the world? Read John 3:16-21. It was not Jesus’ purpose to condemn people; His goal, His mission, His desire was to save them. The sinner was already condemned; Christ came to offer salvation from sin. Those who come to Christ must put away their sinful behaviors, because Christ cannot tolerate sin. Read Romans 6:16-18.
          How are we different from Jesus? While we strive to imitate Him and “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” we fall short, don’t we? We mess up, we make mistakes, we commit sin. How can we be intolerant toward another’s sin while we continue to sin ourselves?
          Read Matthew 7:1-5. Does this passage teach that we are never, under any circumstance, permitted to point out sin in a person’s life? If not, what does it teach? We do not have the authority to judge one’s salvation or condemnation. But we do have the ability to discern whether one is living according to the Word by their actions. But before we can effectively help those in spiritual need, we need to take care of our own spiritual condition first.
          Examine ourselves, acknowledge our own sins, confessing and repenting. It is then and only then that we can assist others who are in need. And we do have the responsibility to help those who are in sin.
          Read Galatians 6:1. With what spirit must we approach a brother who has been “overtaken in any trespass”? Why is this necessary? What temptations might we face?
          Read James 5:19-20. Our motivation in helping a brother or sister with spiritual needs is not selfish. Our motivation must be to lead them to salvation, so that they can spend eternity in heaven with God.
          What if the person who is openly sinning refuses to repent? Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-7. These brethren were so “loving” and tolerant that they even allowed this sexually immoral man to fellowship with them. Paul says, “Your glorying is not good.” They should have been intolerant toward the sin, urging the sinner to repent so that he could be saved. And if he still refused to repent? Read 1 Corinthians 5:11. There comes a point when one must draw a line, or risk his own soul. If one who had once obeyed rebels and refuses to repent, we must “not keep company…not even eat with such a person.”
          Jesus, addressing the church of Ephesus, commended them in that they “cannot bear those who are evil” (Rev. 2:2). On the other hand, the church at Pergamos tolerated some who held to the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, and they were commanded to repent (2:14-16).
          Society promotes tolerance toward sin. Christ makes it clear that we cannot tolerate sin in our lives, nor can we condone it in the lives of others. Rather than condemning others who are caught up in sinful behaviors, however, we should point them to the truth of God’s Word so that they may experience the grace of God, through an obedient faith.

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
09-intolerant-toward-sin.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s prayer life)

lostyourmind-png

Prayerful

          Jesus was humble, forgiving, compassionate, obedient, and holy. He was full of grace, and focused on the Father’s promises rather than the allures of the world. Why? He had an intimate relationship with the Father, even when He left heaven and came to this earth. We can and should develop a similar relationship with our heavenly Father, and we can do it in the same way Christ did—through prayer.
          As we read the accounts of Jesus’ life, we see several things about how He prayed. How often was Jesus engaged in prayer? Read Luke 5:16. Some newer translations omit the word “often” from this passage, but the idea that Jesus prayed frequently is supported throughout the Scriptures. Would it not be a good idea for us today to also pray frequently and persistently? Jesus taught us to be persistent (Luke 18:1). Paul also emphasized the importance of a consistent and persistent prayer life. Read Colossians 4:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
          Another thing we can notice about Jesus’ prayer life is that He often prayed alone. Read Matthew 14:23 and Mark 1:35. What are some of the advantages of praying alone? Read Matthew 6:5-6. What is Jesus teaching about prayer in this passage? Is it sinful to pray in public, or is it the attitude with which one prays that can be sinful?
          Jesus’ prayers were not only done in private, though. Read Luke 9:28. What are some of the benefits of praying with others? We have several examples of first century followers praying with each other. Read Acts 1:13-14; 2:42; 4:23-31; 16:25. It is good and godly to pray with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
          It is important to see that the Lord’s prayers were not selfish in nature, but that He often prayed for other people. Read Mt. 19:13-15 and Jn.17:9, 15, 20-21. Who did Jesus pray for? Who should we pray for today? Read Mt. 5:44 and 1 Tim. 2:1-4.
          What other requests should we make on the behalf of others? Read Ephesians 1:15-18; 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11; Philemon 1:6. Paul prayed for their spiritual wisdom, understanding, and growth, and for evangelistic efforts. There is nothing more important than one’s spiritual well-being!
          Is it wrong to pray for physical well-being, as we often do? Read James 5:13-15. We see in this passage that James encourages prayers for physical health and spiritual health.
          Jesus also prayed before important decisions—and those prayers were often very long. Read Luke 6:12-13. How long did He pray? Do we spend that much time in prayer before we make a major life decision? Should we? How often do we fret over our decisions without talking to God? Read Philippians 4:6-7 and James 1:5. We need to talk to God more regularly, and more honestly. We need to approach Him in prayer before we make big decisions, asking for peace and wisdom.
          Does this mean that every prayer will be answered precisely the way we want? Read Matthew 26:39, 42. What was the Lord’s prayer? Read 1 John 5:14-15. How do we know God’s will? If we don’t spend time studying His Word, it is very difficult to pray according to His will.
          Let us notice some additional attitudes that we must have as we approach the Father’s throne.
          — Read Luke 18:9-14. Why was the tax collector exalted? Read James 4:10. Humility is an attribute we must possess as we pray to the Father.
          — Read 1 John 3:21-23. How we treat each other affects our relationship with the Almighty. Read Matt. 5:21-24.
          — Read Philippians 4:6. What do we have to be thankful for? Do we count our blessings and realize that God has given us far more than any of us deserve?
          — Read Hebrews 4:16. Yes, we must be humble and meek, but at the same time confident that God will provide the mercy and grace we need. What is the danger of doubt? Read James 1:6.

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
08-prayerful.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s holiness)

lostyourmind-png

Holy

          God the Father repeatedly commanded the children of Israel, “Be holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7). He said, “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” The concept of following the example of God is not limited to following the Son, as we are commanded in the New Testament. The Israelites of old were commanded to follow the example of God the Father and to take on His holy attributes as well.
          The word “holy” is defined in several ways in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, including, “pure, sinless, upright, holy,” and, “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his.” Jesus is identified as “holy” in the Scriptures (Mark 1:23-24; Luke 1:35; Acts 3:14-15; 4:27-30). Jerusalem was called “the holy city” (Matthew 4:5); inspired men of old were called “holy prophets” (Luke 1:70; 2 Peter 3:2); the celestial beings in heaven are “His holy angels” (Matthew 25:31); Paul writes of “the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). And, of course, the third Person of the Godhead is the Holy Spirit.
          As Christians, we are not only expected to be holy, we are commanded to be holy. How important is holiness in the life of a child of God? Read Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 5:8. Just as the Hebrews writer says faith is needed to please God (Hebrews 11:6), in 12:14 he says that holiness is required to “see the Lord.”
          To be holy is to be different from the world. If we are “set apart for God…exclusively his,” then we must lose our minds and take on the mind of Christ. Read 1 Peter 1:13-16. “Not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” Those who are raised in the church have a definite advantage, as they are taught from a very young age what is right and wrong. But those outside the faith chase after selfish desires, ignorant of the truth.
          Read 1 Peter 2:4-5; 2:9-10. When the Lord adds a person to His church, He adds them to “a holy priesthood” and “a holy nation.” We repent of sin, turning away from the things that war against God’s will. Your friends are going to think it’s weird that you oppose the things the world openly accepts, whether it is foul language, sexual sins (both the heterosexual and the homosexual variety), alcohol and drug use, and the like; you might be called names, suffer loss of social status, or even physical persecution. Peter says by inspiration that we should expect such things. Read 1 Peter 4:1-4.
          What can we do to help ourselves be holy as God is holy? What do the following Scriptures suggest?
          — Psalm 1:1-2 – be careful where you walk, stand, and sit, and meditate on God’s Word
          — 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 – watch out for temptation, and recognize God’s “way of escape”
          — 1 Corinthians 15:33 – choose your friends wisely
          — 2 Timothy 2:22 – run away from sin and run toward righteousness
          — 1 John 1:9 – recognize our sin, confess it and repent
          — Romans 12:1-2 – commit yourself fully to God’s will
          — Philippians 3:12-16 – be motivated by the goal of heaven
          The more time we spend in the Scriptures, the better equipped we will be to guard against sin and live the holy life God demands. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
          As we go about our lives this week, let us make a concentrated effort to lose our minds, and allow Christ’s attitude of holiness be in us.

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
07-holy.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s obedience)

lostyourmind-png

Obedience

          Read Philippians 2:5-8. What does it mean to obey? Jesus Christ, who said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), first had to obey the will of the Father. We talked about His humility a few weeks ago, and how that humility led to obedience.
          How important is Christ’s obedience in the grand scheme of things? Read Romans 5:18-19. Without His obedience, what hope would we have? Read Romans 5:6-11.
          “‘Only a divine being can accept death as obedience; for ordinary men it is a necessity!’ The death of Christ was not something inflicted upon the Son of God, but the voluntary laying down of his life for the salvation of people (John 10:17ff); therefore, it was, on the part of Christ, obedience to the Father’s will.” (Coffman, Commentary on Philippians).
          There is nothing that any of us can do in this life that is more important than submitting to and obeying God’s will. But in order to submit to Him, we need to recognize that there are several other authority figures to whom we need to submit. Who are some of those others?
          — husbands [Ephesians 5:22-24; Titus 2:5]
          — parents [Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20]
          — employees [Eph. 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22; Titus 2:9]
          — elders [Hebrews 13:17]
          — government [Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13]
          Is it easy to do this? What can we do to motivate ourselves to be more obedient and submissive to those in authority? Read Ephesians 6:8 again.
          If we can learn to obey those in authority in this world, whether it is authority within the family structure, or in the church, the government, or at work or school, then we can more easily submit to God’s will, knowing the eternal rewards of obeying Him will far exceed those temporary rewards given in this life.
          Read Romans 6:16-18. Every day, we decide who we are going to obey. If we obey the lust of the flesh, then we make ourselves “”slaves…of sin leading to death.” But if we obey the Father, that decision makes us “slaves of righteousness.” Despite the negative connotation that word carries today, we need to recognize that we are all slaves. We are either slaves of sin, or slaves of God.
          Read Galatians 5:16-21. Here is one of the Scriptural lists of sinful behaviors that we must avoid. It is not all-inclusive, but gives us a general idea of the types of activities that displease God. Paul then turns his attention to a more positive list. Read Galatians 5:22-25. We cannot love and hate each other at the same time. We cannot be adulterous and be at peace with our spouses. We cannot be kind and have outbursts of wrath. We cannot experience joy if we are jealous. The works of the flesh are opposed to the fruit of the Spirit. We must decide, will we fulfill the lust of the flesh, or will we walk in the Spirit?
          Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10. What is the consequence if we choose to disobey God’s will? Do we truly understand what that means? What are the two goals we are striving for? Get to heaven, and take as many people with us as we can. Have you been reaching out to your friends and family that are not members of the Lord’s church?
          Read Hebrews 5:8-9. What are the results of obedience?
          Read Romans 6:1-13. Where does our allegiance lie? How do we demonstrate that allegiance?
          Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Then what happened? Read Philippians 2:9-11. Let us commit to losing our minds, and take on the mind of Christ in obedience to the Father.

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
06-submission.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s grace)

lostyourmind-png

Grace

          Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines grace as “good-will, loving-kindness, favor,” adding that it “contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved.” Some have contrasted grace and mercy by saying, “Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, while mercy is not getting what you do deserve.” As sinners, we all deserve eternal death; because of God’s grace, He offers us the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
          How was the grace of Christ brought to man? Read 1 Peter 1:13-15. Because of that grace, which was brought to mankind at the revelation of Christ, how should His creation act? Look at verse 15 again. We should act like God, we should be holy just as He is holy! How do we learn to be holy? Read Titus 2:11-14. Grace does two things according to this passage: (1) it brings salvation, and (2) it teaches us how to live for the Almighty.
          Once a person obeys the gospel, can he then fall from grace? There are denominations that teach it is impossible to fall away: “once you are saved you are always saved.” This is an old Cavlinist false doctrine that can easily be refuted. Read Galatians 1:6-7. What had these Christians done? Read Galatians 5:4. What were Paul’s readers trying to do? And what was the result of their efforts? Clearly, according to the inspired Word of God, it is possible for a child of God to fall from grace. Do not be deceived by the false doctrines of Calvinist denominations.
          Paul speaks of the grace of Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9. He uses this specific example to teach the church at Corinth a lesson about sacrificial giving, which certainly fits the definition of grace that Thayer provided: “good-will, loving-kindness, favor, contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved.” We were, spiritually speaking, impoverished; Jesus, who was rich, made Himself poor, in order to make us rich. We didn’t deserve it, but because of His grace, we can receive it.
          Likewise, physically speaking, just because someone has been afflicted, whether by persecution or natural disaster, that does not necessarily qualify him as “deserving” of monetary assistance. Yet, Paul taught the grace of giving clearly in 2 Corinthians 8:1-12. Christ gave; we should give. And, we should have a proper attitude as we give. Read 2 Corinthians 9:5-8. This is a grace that we are privileged to take part in every week as a part of our worship (1 Corinthians 16:2).
          Author Joseph F. Grizone wrote, “The poor never have enough for themselves…but always have enough to give away.” Brother Warren Vaughn, an elder at the Lehman Avenue church of Christ in Bowling Green, recalled a time that he assisted in a charity drive in middle Tennessee. He said, “In a community of 800, we would go door-to-door on a pre-advertised day. Decades later it is still burned in my memory that the poor and ‘minority’ folks would come to the door with nickels and dimes that they had saved special for that day. Many of the financially well-to-do—guess what—didn’t answer the door.”
          Just as the churches of Macedonia in the first century, in “their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality,” we should look to our own practices and see how we may be more liberal in the grace of giving today.
          Many times, Paul closed his letters to the churches by imparting the grace of Christ to the readers (Romans 16:24; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:14; etc.). I particularly like how Peter ended his second epistle: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
05-grace.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s compassion)

lostyourmind-png

Compassion

          The word “compassion” is used 19 times in the New King James version of the New Testament; in the gospels alone, the word is used 14 times. Add to that several instances that Christ’s compassion is shown without employing the actual word. Compassion is an uncommon trait among the human race, but the Lord displayed compassion during His earthly ministry, and it is certainly an attribute that we should emulate as we lose our minds and let His mind be in us.
          Read Matthew 14:13-21. What event immediately precedes this passage? Despite the personal grief Jesus must have felt due to the beheading of John the Baptizer, He had compassion on the multitudes that followed Him. This brings to mind the words of Paul in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” In our way of thinking, Jesus certainly could have said, “Leave me alone; I am grieving!” But in His mind, the needs of those who followed Him were of greater importance.
          Read Matthew 15:29-38. For three straight days, people came to Jesus for healing. The Lord told His disciples that His compassion prevented Him from sending all of these people away without eating; He was concerned for their physical well-being.
          What is even more important than physical needs? Read Matthew 9:35-38. Could the phrase “like sheep having no shepherd” describe much of America today, religiously speaking? So many follow false teachers like Joel Osteen, the Pope, and Benny Hinn, becoming more and more confused and spiritually “weary and scattered,” because the things those men teach cannot be found in the Scriptures. Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). They seem innocent, and say things that sound like they might be Biblical, but they are leading people away from the truth, away from the only hope anyone has of salvation.
          What is our attitude toward those who have been misled? Do we think they are stupid, or that they should have known better, or that they will get what they deserve? What is Christ’s attitude toward them? What did Jesus pray for? Are we doing our part to see that prayer answered today?
          We all have friends that are not members of the Lord’s church. What are we doing to teach them? Sadly, we also have friends that have fallen away from the faith. What are we doing to reach them? Can you think of anyone who used to sit on the same pew, or in the seat next to you in class, that is now fellowshipping with ungodly denominationalists? Or perhaps they have rejected all forms of “Christian” worship in favor of a deviant lifestyle that is condemned by God’s Word? Have you tried to talk to them about their soul?
          What is the Father’s reaction when one of His children comes home? Read Luke 15:11-24. When a person is separated from God, he is dead; when he repents, the Lord welcomes him back and celebrates and makes him alive again. God doesn’t say, “You should have known better!” He shows compassion for His lost children, rejoicing with the decision to make things right.
          “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Is this not the ultimate goal of true compassion? It is good to meet the physical needs, and we should look for opportunities to do so (Galatians 6:10), but if spiritual needs are neglected, we have fallen short.
          “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8). Coffman writes, “This love is designed to knit the Christian community into a unit having ‘likemindedness,’ having for all of its members a loving, compassionate tenderheartedness, free from the selfishness and self-centeredness which are the distress of the unregenerated; that is why ‘humble-mindedness’ is a prerequisite of all who would participate in such a society.”

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
04-compassion.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (“Not of the World”)

lostyourmind-png

Not of the World

          As human beings, we must live in the world. But as imitators of Christ, we must avoid being “of the world.” Our focus should be on God’s will, but that can be very difficult sometimes. Inspiration is clear: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
          What are some of the things that can distract us from God? Are these things necessarily bad, in and of themselves? How do we avoid the trap of being distracted?
          “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans12:1-2).
          Paul says it is reasonable to live for the One who created us. He created us with different personalities, different interests, and different abilities, and we should use those things to His glory. Whether it is singing, drawing, acting, writing, or simply making friends—use those talents to bring God glory. This is a concept found in both the Old and New Testament (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23-24).
          What do we know about Jesus’ life in the flesh prior to His public ministry? Read Luke 2:41-52. Jesus knew what was important even as a boy—“My Father’s business.” Yes, this was before cell phones and video games and musicals and band competitions and baseball cards, but other things existed that could have distracted a young boy in the first century. The distractions were different, but they were still present.
          What do we know about the life of Jesus after this incident, but before His public ministry? The people He taught in the synagogue knew Him, and in Matthew 13:55 identified Him as “the carpenter’s son,” while Mark 6:3 calls Him “the carpenter.” They said He had brothers: “James, Joses, Judas, and Simon,” as well as sisters. Other than these facts, we have no information about what Jesus did during most of His earthly life.
          Jesus does reveal His focus on several occasions after His ministry was made known. Read Mark 2:13-17. Who did the Pharisees say He was eating with? What was Christ’s stated purpose? Read Luke 19:1-10. What was Zacchaeus’ reputation among the people? What did Jesus say about Zacchaeus?
          On multiple occasions, Jesus deals with the Pharisees’ disapproval of the company He kept. They complained, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). Why did Jesus do this? Read Luke 15:4-7. What is the intended analogy? Read Luke 15:8-10, and Luke 15:11-32. Why is Christ so intent on finding that one lost sheep, that one lost coin, that one lost son? Read 2 Peter 3:9. To do God’s will in this regard—to reach the lost, to lead them to Christ—we must be in the world, but our influence will be greatly diminished if we live as the world lives. We must not be of the world.
          Jesus’ focus on this earth was doing the will of the Father. Read John 5:30. Even knowing where it would lead, and the pain and suffering that would come with it, Jesus was willing to do the will of the Father. Read Luke 22:41-44. His focus was not on Himself, but on the Father and on those who would benefit from the Father’s will.
Where is our focus? Read Colossians 3:1-4. Whatever you may be doing in this life, whatever classes you take or whatever job you have or whatever hobbies interest you, our focus needs to be “on things above, not on things on the earth.”
          Jesus sent His disciples into the world. Read John 17:14-18. He told them to teach others to obey, and they taught others to teach others. If we love our families and our friends who are not members of the church, we need to figure out a way to get them to see what is truly important.
          Jesus was in the world, but was not of the world. While He was in the world, and He associated with sinners. However, He did not condone their sins. What did He tell the woman who was caught in the act of adultery? Read John 8:3-11. His purpose at that time was not to condemn, but to lead this woman to repentance. Read John 3:17.
          We are in the world, but should not be of the world. We will have friends who are not members of the Lord’s church, and we need to show them and teach them about His grace and mercy and love. How do we do that? Being a good example is important, and is necessary to avoid any charge of hypocrisy, but we need to use our words as well as our works to lead others to the Lord. Read Matthew 28:19-20 and 2 Timothy 2:2. Many will reject the truth, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility to teach it.

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
03-not of the world.pdf

Have You Lost Your Mind? (A study of Christ’s forgiveness)

lostyourmind-png

Forgiveness

          “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
          One of the most difficult challenges a Christian may face is the act of forgiveness. When a brother or sister in Christ sins against us or attacks us personally, it hurts. And sometimes it takes a while to get over that hurt. Sometimes the words, “I’m sorry,” just don’t feel like enough. We want vengeance; we want them to feel the pain we felt.
          Do you think Jesus ever felt this way? What does Hebrews 4:15 tell us? Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When He was arrested and one of His disciples drew his sword in defense, the Lord said, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53). He could have taken vengeance on His accusers, calling on the help of heavenly beings, but what did He do instead? Even while He was beaten and abused at the hands of the soldiers, and after the nails were driven through His hands, as He was hanging, suffering in pain on the cross, what was His attitude? Read Luke 23:32-34.
          When I consider all Jesus endured, and yet He was still willing to forgive, my grievances against others seem petty. I need to be better about accepting apologies and moving forward in my relationships with those around me, rather than holding grudges for minor offenses. William H. Walton once said, “To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.”
          Read Matthew 18:21-22. What did Peter ask Christ about forgiveness, and how did Christ respond? Should I keep a journal detailing how many times so-and-so didn’t say hello to me, or took some fries off my plate without asking, or gossiped about me? If forgiveness is sought of us, forgiveness must be granted by us. Read Matthew 18:23-35. What happens if I refuse to forgive someone?
          Do we have an obligation to approach a person who has sinned against us, seeking reconciliation? Read Matthew 18:15-17. What should be our attitude in this process? Just as Jesus was willing to forgive those who crucified Him, we should be willing to forgive our brothers and sister, regardless of the sin. That’s a tall order, but that’s the example Christ left for us.
          Paul wrote about vengeance in his letter to the church at Rome. Read Romans 12:17-21. When we allow the sins of others bother us so much that we can’t recognize opportunities to help them, then we have been overcome by evil.
          Henry Ward Beecher said, “’I can forgive, but I cannot forget’ is only another way of saying, ‘I will not forgive.’ Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note—torn in two and burned up so that it never can be shown against one.” When God forgives, He no longer holds our former sins against us.
          Paul, prior to his conversion, “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3). Read 1 Timothy 1:12-15. Salvation is available to everyone, if they are willing to repent and seek God’s forgiveness, submitting to His will. Paul’s former sins—blasphemy, persecution, insolence—were forgiven and forgotten.
          The 103rd Psalm has much to say about God’s mercy toward His children. Pay special attention to Psalm 103:2-4, 8, 10-12, 17. What is said about the Lord’s mercy in these verses? We must do the same—forgive iniquities, be slow to anger, abounding in mercy, have mercy that reaches as high as the heavens, remove the remembrance of sins as far as the east is from the west.
          Forgiveness is essential to our spiritual health. We are told more than once that forgiving others is required if we desire God’s mercy (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:34-35; James 2:13). But even in this life, forgiveness is good for our physical and emotional health. According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiveness decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, improves heart health, strengthens the immune system, and helps avoid many symptoms of depression. Forgiveness is good for us in this life and the next.
          “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4;31-32). He gave us the example of mercy, so we need to lose our minds, and “let this mind (of forgiveness) be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”

downloadDownload a printable PDF copy —
02-forgiveness.pdf