Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world”. While many today use that statement to justify tolerating all kinds of sin in the church, is that what Jesus meant? In this lesson we also look at the famous incident where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Afterward, He called them to follow His example. Did Jesus intend for us to take that command literally (washing each other’s dirty feet), or figuratively (performing the most humble acts of service for one another). Or should we do both?
John tells us plainly that many failed to follow Jesus not for lack of faith, but because "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." Loving men’s praise (over God’s) is a problem for many of us today as well. In this lesson we look at inspiring Biblical heroes whose commitment to pleasing God brought severe persecution. We also consider tragic counter-examples of those who disobeyed God because they wanted to please people. The lesson concludes with challenges in specific areas, for each of us to lead a courageous life devoted to pleasing God rather than people.
With his death approaching, Jesus uses two puzzling figures of speech to explain both how He would die, and why He had to die. In the course of doing that, He reveals a great mystery that applies also to us: a seed must die in order to produce a great harvest. Jesus then goes on to quote from Isaiah, revealing a wonderful window into the divinity and pre-existence of the Son of God.
All four gospels record Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. Is there special significance in this event? In this lesson we take a look at donkeys in the Bible, the prophecies foretelling Jesus' donkey ride, and how this story can be used to bring others to faith in the Christ.
Judas was most famous for betraying Jesus. However, his underlying sin was greed. His love of money led to deceit, betrayal and other terrible sins. In this lesson we take a wide-ranging look at what the Bible has to say about the sin of greed, and examine both good and bad examples of Biblical characters. We also consider how to respond when we uncover greed in the hearts of religious leaders, and the importance of uprooting greed from our own lives.
After Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leaders see Him as a growing threat. They convene the council at which Caiaphas, the high priest, speaks. In making the case to kill Jesus, Caiaphas unknowingly utters a prophecy: it is better for one man (Jesus) to die than for the whole nation to perish. In this lesson we look at related prophecies that one man would die for many; and that death would bring catastrophic consequences to the Jewish nation, which were fulfilled in AD 70. We also consider whether God can speak and act through wicked people.
In chapter 11 we have reached the mid-point of John’s Gospel and are rewarded with Jesus’ most remarkable miracle to date. In this story we witness the tremendous faith of Martha and come face to face with Jesus’ humanity and divinity, as he responds to the loss of his friend Lazarus and raises him from the dead. This lesson calls us to trust in God’s timing, to get serious about prayer, and to be prepared for our own death and resurrection.
Life is short and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Entering a new year provides an opportunity to both look back and look ahead, to examine our lives with the goal of making every day count. We might be surprised, encouraged, and challenged at how God views our past victories, as well as the sins and failures we desire to overcome. This lesson seeks to encourage each of us to take inventory and enter the new year with hope and determination to be our best for God.
When Jesus states that He and the Father are one, his Jewish hearers want to stone Him for blasphemy. Jesus defends Himself by pointing to an obscure passage in Psalm 82 where God tells people, "you are gods.” Then Jesus challenges his hearers, "…and the Scripture cannot be broken". In this lesson we explore the unity of the Father and the Son, then tackle the meaning of the puzzling “you are gods” statement, one which has significant implications on our day-to-day living. We close the lesson by looking at the confidence Jesus had on the inspiration and integrity of the Scriptures: down to the word.
Given that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, what does this mean for our own lives, given we are to walk as Jesus walked and imitate His character? This lesson examines Jesus’, Paul’s, and Peter’s expectations for us as shepherds, whether of our family or our local church, and addresses the gap between the Biblical role of shepherd/elder/overseer and the reality in many churches today. Our lesson also takes a fascinating look at the history of the Feast of Dedication (in which Jesus participates in John 10). We conclude by tackling Jesus’ statement “no one can snatch you out of My hand”, which has been used by many to teach unconditional eternal security (“once saved, always saved”).
What did Jesus mean when He announced, “I am the Good Shepherd”? Was this simply an illustration He came up with on the spot, or was He pointing back to prophecies or foreshadowings from the Hebrew Scriptures? In this lesson we consider five good shepherds in the Old Testament, as well as five significant prophecies about a good shepherd to come. Taken together, they provide a multi-faceted picture of the personality and mission of Christ.
Jesus has healed a young blind man who stands up to and is rejected by the Pharisees. To put this in perspective, Jesus tells a parable about a sheepfold, a shepherd, thieves and robbers, and explains that He is "the door of the sheep." This confuses his hearers, but Jesus' teaching is profound and reveals deep truths, foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. We also consider how Jesus’ subsequent promise of “the abundant life” for his followers has been terribly distorted by many, and what Jesus' promise does (and doesn’t) mean for His Church.
In John 9 Jesus performs an extraordinary miracle, giving sight (in an unusual way) to a young man born blind. Through this one event, Jesus answers the question of who sinned (the man or his parents), fulfills prophecy, reveals his divinity and identity as the Son of God, and comforts the afflicted. This lesson encourages us to deal with our own spiritual blindness and to recognize the spiritually blind world around us, that we may help them see.
At the end of John 8 Jesus makes several remarkable statements for which the Jews take up stones to kill him. In addition to calling the Jews liars, Jesus says "if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death", that "Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" and "before Abraham was, I am." What do these statements mean? And why did they prompt the Jews to try to stone Jesus? The answers to these questions reveal much about Jesus' identity as God's Son, His divinity, His power over death, and His purpose for coming to earth — all of which should shape our understanding of Him, strengthen our faith and sharpen our priorities.
In John 8 Jesus called his enemies “sons of the devil”. He then describes Satan as a murder from the beginning, a liar, and the father of lies. Although Jesus had much to say about Satan, most professing Christians today do not even believe in the existence of Satan as a real spiritual being with a personality. However, understanding Satan is critical to understanding the condition of the world around us, the cause of suffering, and even the mission of Jesus. In this lesson we explore the nature of Satan, where he came from from, tactics he uses, and how we can defeat him with God’s help.
Jesus tells the Jews who believe in him that if they abide in his teaching, they will be set free. Those who hear him are puzzled; they are already free men and have never been slaves! But Jesus is speaking of spiritual slavery: being enslaved to sin. In this lesson we explore the freedom Jesus offers us, which is much different from what the world (and many Christians today) are seeking.
Jesus boldly announced, “I am the Light of the world.” Why did he say that? Was there some prophecy in the Old Testament Scriptures that spoke of a great light that would come? And in what ways is Jesus similar to light? In this lesson we explore the great theme of light versus darkness in the Scriptures, and its powerful implications for how we live our lives and how we share our faith to a world in utter spiritual darkness.
Oh what blessings are available if we exchange our lower thoughts for God’s higher thoughts. This lesson looks at more examples in Scripture of those faced adversity with God’s wisdom and perspective — and were used mightily to accomplish His purposes in His timing.
We were blessed to have our friends Ray and Rhoda Wenger come and visit this past weekend, with Ray teaching four lessons for our house church. The first of a two-part series asks us to consider individuals in Scripture who were able to embrace God’s higher thoughts during times of adversity and perplexity. In so doing, they were taken to a new level of faith and used by God in miraculous ways. May we be inspired to do the same!
For more about Ray and Rhoda and to hear more teaching from Ray, visit www.wengerministries.org.