Christian Bondage

“If ever there is a genuine paradox to be found in Holy Writ, it is at the point of freedom and bondage. The paradox is this: When one seeks to rebel from God, he gains only bondage. When he becomes a slave to God, he becomes free. Liberty is found in obedience.” R. C. Sproul

 

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are a lot of hang-ups, hurts and bad habits among Christians. Yet, we are supposed to be free! It seems that some Christians have decided it is not important to be free of sin or pursue holiness, 1 Peter 1:15, 16 and Hebrews 12:14. We are not to see our freedom in Christ as license to sin. When we don’t make the Lord’s agenda our top priority (rebellion) we develop idols that trap our hearts. When we can’t make the Lord agenda our top priority (spiritual bondage) we need deliverance.

 

Some “isms” of bondage among Christians. Discuss how each limits the pursuit of God and His holiness in our lives. (Believe it or not there are Christians with these problems!)

Alcoholism

Individualism

Legalism

Materialism

Perfectionism

 

Each of these represent a stronghold of self-dependence that needs to be submitted to the Lordship of Christ through death to the old man, Romans 6:5-7. We must become weak that He may be made strong in our lives! This may require affliction.

 

2 Corinthians 1:8, 9. What was the result of Paul’s pain and afflictions?

 

2 Corinthians 12: 8-10. Paul’s experience- “When I am weak then I am ________”

 

Since weakness is not valued in our culture, we have to go against the tide of popular opinion to embrace the true life of Christ. We must die to our self-dependence and learn dependence on Him.

 

Since I am dead to my old life and have been resurrected with Christ:

  1. Sin has no power over me, Romans 6:14
  2. Satan cannot keep his grip on me, Ephesians 6:10-13
  3. The flesh cannot direct my daily decisions, Romans 8:9

All 3 of these statements are 100% true no matter how we feel.

 

To be free of bondage, I must believe and declare that, as a new creation, I am no longer unloved, insecure, inferior or guilty. I am completely forgiven, totally accepted, as righteous as Jesus, and secure in God’s love. When I believe the right things, I start to behave the right way and I soon become the person God wants me to be.

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Learning from Jesus Relationship with Judas

 

What are some thoughts that run through your mind when you hear Judas’ name?

 

Draw a line to the correct Scripture

 

Judas was “keeper of the money bag”                         Zechariah 11:12, 13

Judas chosen by Jesus                                               John 6:70, 71

Judas’ deeds prophesied                                             John 12:6

Jesus betrayed by Judas’ kiss                                      Matthew 27:5

Judas hung himself                                                     Matthew 26:49

 

Mark 3:13-19 It is amazing to consider that Judas:

  • Was hand-picked by Jesus
  • Did miracles along with all the other disciples
  • Heard every teaching and saw every sign and wonder of Jesus

 

Jesus did not expose, belittle, or scorn Judas. He gave Judas permission to do what he set his heart to do, John 13:27. Jesus loved Judas like the rest and even washed his feet! Is there a lesson for us here?

  1. Walking in forgiveness is a decision made ahead of time. Jesus knew about Judas’ life path long before he did anything wrong.
  2. Jesus was dependent on the Father’s provision not on what came in the offering.
  3. Vengeance is the Lords. He will repay. Jesus did not have to destroy his enemy. Judas destroyed himself.

 

 

Proverbs 17:9 – Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
    but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

 

God’s Sovereignty

If God is “in control” does that mean he controls everything? Do people go to heaven or hell based on his control? Where does human freedom and decision fit in?

 

God is sovereign over all creation but doesn’t control all creation – a king is called sovereign even if he doesn’t micromanage his subjects.                                                                    For Example:

  • Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, (1 John 2:2; 1 Tim. 4:10)
  • Yet not everyone gets saved even though God wills them to be saved, 2 Peter 3:9, Matt 7:13
  • At the end of the age, those who desire to be fruitful citizens in God’s Kingdom will live forever with Him, Matthew 25:44-46. These actions don’t earn salvation. They just are proof of the new nature in Christ.

 

How God expresses sovereignty

  • He limits evil and uses it to accomplish His purposes, Job 1:12
  • He firmly guides creation toward a predetermined end as revealed in Scripture, Revelation 22:18, 19
  • He offers people partnership (sonship) so we might rule and reign with Him, John 1:12, Revelation 22:17

 

 

God permits free will throughout our lives

  • We choose to follow Jesus. We can choose not to follow Jesus. That is the prerogative of free will, John 8:31, 15:10. The Holy Spirit will help us in our walk but not force us.
  • No one can “snatch” us from our relationship with God. We are the only ones who have that right, John 10:29
  • Even Jesus had to choose to lay his life down. He did so in love, John 10:18. He could have chosen not to die.

 

Conclusion: We are made in God’s image and, therefore, have free will. His intent is to have willing subjects in His Kingdom serving out of love for Him and each other.

When It Is Time to Say, “No”

John 12:20-26

 

 

Think of a time when you had to say, “No” to someone who really wanted you to give them something or do something for them. How easy was it? What was at risk?

 

Read the passage. Are you offended by the response (or lack of response) of Jesus to these Greeks?

 

We may have found ourselves wishing to come in contact with a high-profile person at a concert or sporting event. It didn’t happen and we were disappointed and, possibly, even upset. We felt like we deserved some response from this famous person. But did the person make the wrong decision by not engaging you (or a thousand others)?

 

There is a time to say, “No” for everyone. Usually we have a task of a higher order to accomplish. For Jesus, he would not be sidetracked when the cross was days away. He had much to do and meeting with these Greeks was not part of the plan.

 

Psalm 90:12 after reading the passage say it in your own words.

 

  • If you live to be 90, how many days do you have left?
  • Do you have a “spiritual bucket list”? Share one goal with your study group.
  • Have you thought about how God might want you to spend your final years? Is His plan different than yours?

 

Romans 13:11-14 We are supposed to understand the present time.

 

  • This passage indicates that we are all prone to fall asleep spiritually.
  • What should we do if we catch ourselves nodding off?

 

Getting priorities right: God, His Kingdom and His Will

 

  • Luke 9:57-62 God first. Why didn’t these individuals follow Jesus? Did He excuse their behavior?
  • Matthew 6:33 God’s kingdom second. Have you found yourself praying about all the stuff you need and realize the highest order of intercession is to have God’s Kingdom invade the earth here and now? You will get the stuff you need if you get your priorities right.
  • Help others get ready for heaven. This is a combination of evangelism and discipleship. Both are needed to develop healthy believers. 1 Thessalonians 5:23. We are to be kept blameless and help others be blameless too.
  • All other activities should fall in line with or behind these first three. Do you agree?

The Anointed Smell of Holy Worship

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.                                                                    Ephesians 5:1, 2

 

Heaven is a place where every sense is magnified many times. The colors are deeper and clearer. The sounds have a clarity never experienced on earth. The smells are the unique fragrance of holy worship. Even on earth the fragrance of worship and obedience are so very important to God.

 

We get a glimpse of this fragrance in throughout Scripture.

  • Esther is prepared to meet her husband/king by a year of exposure to the finest fragrances and perfumes. Could it be that her story is symbolic of God’s people being saturated with the fragrance of worship in preparation to meet our husband/king? Esther 2:12
  • Prayer and worship have always been considered a sweet-smelling incense to the Lord, Psalm 141:2 and Acts 10:4.
  • The bride in Song of Solomon speaks of the fragrance she and her husband-to-be bring to the relationship, 1:12-14. This is pure love and adoration.
  • Mary gives unfettered worship to her Lord as she fills the room with the fragrance of complete sacrifice and surrender to Jesus, John 12:3
  • The 4 living creatures and the 24 elders hold bowls as they worship God. These bowls represent the prayers of God’s people and fill the throne room with a sweet fragrance to God, Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-5. (Notice in verse 5 these prayers are ignited by the fire of heaven and cast to the earth indicating that God is answering them.. These holy prayers are also a testimony against the rebellion of the world as it refuses to worship).

The “Martha” in us wants to find our fulfillment in work for the Lord. This is noble and helpful. However, the highest form of connection to God is what Mary did – worship her Lord with abandon, sacrificing her very best. How can you offer an even more fragrant offering to your king in worship?

 

The One You Love is Sick

John 11

 

Read the following three verses from John 11 and discuss how the following two Greek words for love are used:

Phileo– is companionable, relational, brotherly love

Agape– is sacrificial love, an act of the will, requiring no reciprocation, this is how God loves the world by sending Jesus, Jn 3:16. He loves even when we don’t love him back!

 

Verse 3 uses “phileo”

Verse 5 uses “agape”

Verse 36 uses “phileo”

 

Did you notice anything? The people involved in the Lazarus story spoke of a love based on friendship. Jesus loved in a much deeper way which explains why he waited to raise Lazarus. Jesus’ actions were based on agape love.

 

If you are a parent think about a request of your child which you refused. What was the reason for that refusal? Were you falsely accused of not loving your child because you didn’t grant the request?

 

Being in a place of authority requires you to make decisions based on the big picture. Others may not understand how loving and sacrificial those decisions are.

 

Jesus put up with some grief for doing the best thing, verses 21, 32, 37.

 

Some observations:

  1. Jesus’ actions were for the glory of God, verse 40. Previous to the resurrection of Lazarus, his sisters had every right to doubt that anyone would get glory out of their brother’s death. It seemed senseless. Jesus could have come in time to heal him. In what way did God get more glory by waiting 4 days to “heal” Lazarus?
  2. For God to get glory, we may have to wait. The disciples of Jesus had to wait in the upper room for 10 days to receive the Holy Spirit. That may have seemed senseless too.

 

Discuss:

  • What are you waiting for from God? How might God get glory by a delayed answer?
  • What helps you to be patient while waiting? Does knowing that God is lovingly preparing the best answer to your problem help you?
  • Try to memorize Psalm 27:14

Voice-activated Sheep

 

Voice-activated Sheep

John 10

 

Most Christians would say they want to hear the voice of the shepherd and yet struggle to know when it is him speaking. Have someone from your group speak about hearing the Lord’s voice recently and their response.

 

Here are some helpful tips from someone who struggles hearing the Lord’s voice just like you!

 

  1. Recognize that He speaks, John 10:3-5
  • Like shepherds of old, the Scripture promises that our Shepherd speaks to His sheep, vs 3.
  • What promise is contained in verse 4?
  • What promise is contained in verse 5?

 

  1. Recognize not everyone wants to hear the voice of the Shepherd (even us sometimes!) John 10:22-25
  • Can you think of any reasons the Jews might not have wanted to hear Jesus say they He was the Messiah?
  • These verses seem to indicate that true sheep want to hear their shepherd speak even if the words are hard to swallow. In these cases “hearing” may be easy but “obeying” extremely hard.

 

  1. Recognize that the words we hear from Jesus are just the beginning of an eternal relationship, John 10:28, 29. If He speaks words to you, those words are eternally true and strengthen your eternal relationship.

 

  1. Recognize that Jesus’ words to us always line up with Scripture.
  • There has to be a standard by which we judge every word or message we hear. That standard is the Scripture, both Old and New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
  • Since Jesus is the word made flesh, he is the living, personal statement from God the Father to us, John 1:14. His words are chock full of grace and truth. How would you encourage someone who was about to blatantly disobey Jesus’ words as revealed in Scripture?

 

Pray for one another to hear and obey when the Shepherd speaks.