In John 3, Nicodemus encounters Jesus at night and is told that to enter the Kingdom of God, a person must be born of water and spirit. Nicodemus, a good-hearted teacher of Israel who will later stick his neck out for Jesus, is confused about what it means to be born again. Such is the case for so many Christians. This lesson deals with water baptism, an extremely controversial topic for much of the church today. We take a close look at Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments that address water baptism, as well as at some of the stumbling blocks that make baptism such a difficult teaching for so many.
In John 2 we read two stories: Jesus performing his first miracle at a wedding in Cana and Jesus clearing out the temple. Jesus would go on to perform many miracles; why did He begin with turning water into wine? We also look at whether Christians should drink alcohol, and how we should relate to disciples who have different convictions on this. In the second story, we are challenged to imitate the zeal Jesus had for his Father's house, as well as the zeal of other heroes of faith in the Scriptures. Finally, we see Jesus proclaiming to skeptics that there would be one sign of His authority: His resurrection from the dead on the third day, the foundation of the Christian faith.
This lesson begins with a look at two very different versions of Christianity that we see today. Which version we choose will have a tremendous impact on how we respond to the harder teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Next, we tackle what the New Testament says about submission, a practical yet challenging topic. All Christians are commanded to submit to the governing authorities. Also, Christian servants are called to submit to their masters, wives to their husbands, and younger men to older men within the church. All of us are called to have a humble and submissive spirit. This is a practical lesson that addresses how we put these counter-cultural teachings into practice today.
In John chapter 5 Jesus told his critics that the Old Testament Scriptures testified about him. He pointed specifically to Moses and said, “If you believed in Moses you would believe in me, for he wrote about me”. Where did Moses actually write about Jesus, the Messiah? In this lesson, we examine one of the most detailed and faith-building prophecies in all of the Old Testament, from Moses. Ironically, this is a prophecy that is largely ignored or unappreciated by most modern Christians. This lesson will carry particular significance for those reaching out to friends from Muslim or Jewish backgrounds.
This talk was given on November 18, 2017 at a meeting of Society for the Two Tasks, a graduate student Christian apologetics group that meets on the Harvard University campus.
The story of Ruth is an inspiring tale of three unlikely individuals, who God would use in a remarkable way to accomplish His purposes. This study takes a close look at the character strengths of Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth, who set a standard for Christians today, that we might also be made useful for the designs and plans of our Great Redeemer.
In this lesson we discuss the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, which is mentioned in all four gospels. Why was Jesus' baptism necessary? Jesus then encounters his first disciples, and gives Simon the new name, ‘Peter’. What was the significance of that? We explore this question, the source of great controversy related to claims made by the Roman Catholic Church. Finally, we are introduced to Nathaniel, a good-hearted skeptic whose conversion still inspires us today to lead other truth-seekers to the Stairway to Heaven!
John the Baptist identifies Jesus as "the Lamb of God". Why a lamb, and not some other animal? Does this simply mean that Jesus was meek and harmless, or is there more to it? How would John's hearers have understood this expression? In this lesson we look at what this would have meant to John’s hearers, and the profound implications for all those who want to follow Jesus today.
John the Baptist was asked three questions: “Are you the Christ?”, “Are you Elijah?” and “Are you the Prophet?” John said he was not Elijah (whose return was prophesied in Malachi); however, Jesus said John was the Elijah to come. How do we resolve this apparent contradiction? Also, what is this reference to “the Prophet” all about? Does this refer to Mohammad, as claimed by 1.8 billion Muslims? In this lesson we use the Scriptures to answer that question, and dismantle one of the central claims of Islam in the process.
As we continue in the first chapter of John, we continue our deep dive into the identity of Christ, his divinity, and his appearances in the Old Testament. We are also introduced to John the Baptist, an important character in the beginning of all four Gospels. John was asked three questions: are you the Christ, are you Elijah, and are you the Prophet? We tackle the first of these (are you the Christ?) - a study that not only builds our own faith but also prepares us to give an answer to questions posed by Jews and Muslims.
The opening lines of the gospel of John are some of the deepest, most profound lines ever written. They introduce us to the divinity of the Son of God, His involvement in Creation, and His relation to the Father. In this lesson we begin our journey through this gospel, the favorite of many, and touch on its importance in our spiritual foundation.
Does God treat everyone the same, or does He play favorites? James A. Harding, an inspiring Christian teacher and preacher, tackled this question in the early 1900's and provided a startling and unforgettable answer. That answer takes us to Scripture that teaches us much about the character of God, as well as what can be expected by those devoted to and treasured by Him.
(To learn more about Harding's inspiring life and convictions, see James A. Harding, Evangelist and Teacher by John Mark Hicks)
What should Christians do with Christmas? Some desire to embrace the season, some focus on Jesus, some ignore the season completely. How do we maintain unity in the church with different opinions regarding Christmas? This lesson tackles these questions and provides insights for us related to the events surrounding the birth of Christ, including the significance of Jesus' name, the background of the magi, the role of Herod, and a prophecy about the star.
The Word of God is referred to as the sword of the Spirit and is to be our offensive weapon to overcome temptation and to understand the very heart and nature of God. Can it be said of each of us, that we are known for our diligent study of (and obedience to) the entire Bible? Can it be said of us, that our love for God's Word is so infectious that others are inspired to become serious students of the Scriptures as well? This lesson provides us several surprising images that have the potential of transforming our grasp and motivation to read and know the Word of God. The lesson also offers practical advice and inspiration to read through the Bible in a year.
This plan allows you to pick a start date and it will provide a customized plan to read through the Old the New Testaments in one year. (To work, you must download the file to your local drive.)
As the famine continues, Jacob moves his family to Egypt and reunites with his son Joseph. After seventeen years in Egypt, Jacob recognizes that death is approaching, and he blesses Joseph’s two sons. But this is an unusual blessing....
After being sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers, Joseph is falsely accused of a crime and spends two years in prison. Then, a remarkable turnaround....
One of the reasons to study the Old Testament is to get to know the true heroes of the faith so we can imitate their lives. We can learn much by looking at the character of Joseph, who is an upward call for all Christian men....
With Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers and bound for Egypt, the story of Genesis takes a strange detour as we are introduced to Tamar, who, facing a terrible situation, deceives her father-in-law Judah and bears twins. We see how God works through her story to produce a line of kings, from which the Christ would come....
We now turn to the story of Jacob’s son Joseph, whose life will fill most of the remaining pages of Genesis. The story of Joseph is full of lessons for us today, including the pivotal role he played in Israel’s history, his character qualities worthy of our imitation, and foreshadowing of things to come in the New Testament....
Genesis 36 gives us the genealogy of Esau, father of the Edomite nation. In this lesson we survey the important role of the Edomites in Biblical history, including lessons we can learn from their sins. This chapter also provides a surprising key to unlocking the mystery of who Job was...
Many wrestle with the goodness of God. If God is good, why does He allow evil things to happen? This might lead one to conclude that God is not all powerful, otherwise he certainly would stop evil from happening. In fact, it often seems good people experience much bad, while people who engage in evil seem blessed. This lesson explores the nature of God, what the Scriptures teach about His goodness, and how He works to bring about both justice and mercy in His timing.