Forgiveness, New Testament, Sin, Sunday School

Sin-opsis ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 10-26-14

Sinopsis

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 43 ~ Oct. 19-25
Matthew 15-18, Mark 7-9, Luke 9:18-11:54, John 7-10
Sin-opsis

Sin. That word can cause us to think of a lot of different things, from our sin, to people who have sinned against us, to forgiveness. Today, we’re going to hear what Jesus has to say about five different aspects of sin.

Matthew 18

Causing Another Believer to Sin (1-5, Matthew 20:20-24)
Have you ever noticed that the disciples asked a lot of interesting questions? Why do you think they wanted to know who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Pride? A desire for clout or recognition? The disciples and Jesus lived in a society in which people were acutely aware of who had rank, recognition, and power (the Pharisees, scribes, Saducees, lawyers, priests, and Levites), and who did not (everybody else, including Jesus and them), when it came to the way Judaism was structured. We talked last week about what people, even the disciples, expected the Messiah to be: a conquering king who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel to prominence and prosperity. Here, as in the case of Mrs. Sons of Thunder asking if her boys could sit on either side of Jesus’ throne (Matt. 20), they were likely thinking of their offices in the new government they imagined Jesus would head up once He reestablished the kingdom.

Once again, Jesus had to set them straight. “It’s not about how high on the power ladder you can climb, Boys. It’s about how humble you can be, as humble as a little child.” And why did Jesus have to set them straight? Because they had been, skandalizo, “entrapped” or “tripped up” as verse 6 puts it, by faulty teaching from those who were responsible to rightly handle God’s word. The disciples would soon be in the position of teacher and preacher themselves. It was imperative they had a correct understanding of God’s word and God’s ways so they could accurately teach the new “little children” coming into the church.

When we share the gospel with others, teach the Bible, offer others advice or counsel, etc., we must make absolutely certain we have a correct understanding of what God’s word says. Otherwise, we might be tripping others up by leading them to believe things that are in conflict with the Bible. Jesus takes that very seriously saying (7) “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Pretty strong words.

Recreation of a millstone used for pressing olives in Nazareth, Israel.
Recreation of a millstone used for pressing olives in Nazareth, Israel.

When I Am Tempted (7-9)
What about when someone else tempts me to sin? Again, Jesus has strong words for anyone who entices someone into any kind of sin: “woe.” What are some ways we can cause people to sin or be drawn into someone else’s sin, even in the church? Gossip, adultery, inciting other church members against the pastor or other leaders, playing “politics”, etc.

But whether tempted by a church member or the world, Jesus paints a serious picture of how we should respond to that temptation. Now, Jesus isn’t suggesting we literally maim ourselves, because, if you think about it, even a blind person can lust. Sin is an issue of the heart. Jesus is saying that we are to get away from temptation to guard our hearts, whatever the cost. Your relationship with Christ is worth it.

What might “gouging your eye out” or “cutting your hand off” look like for someone facing a certain temptation? For a person tempted to drunkenness, it might mean not drinking at all or not going to certain social events where they know the booze will be flowing freely. A person tempted to lust and adultery might need to make certain she is never alone with a man she’s not married to. She may even have to avoid spending any time with certain men she’s attracted to. Sin is serious, and we sometimes have to take big, inconvenient steps to stay out of it, but our relationship with Christ is completely worth it.

When Another Christian Sins (10-14, Romans 8:1)
Our brothers and sisters in Christ are going to sin. There’s just no way around it. How should we respond to a fellow Christian who has wandered off into sin? Ignore it and hope she’ll stop? Stop speaking to to her? Castigate her? No. We are to respond to her the same way Jesus does with the lost sheep:

10– We are not to treat any of our brothers or sisters unkindly; we are to treat all with kindness and love.

12– We remember that Christ came to save the lost from their sin. Of course, He does not want those He has saved to wander off back into their sin. Jesus goes after the wandering sheep to bring it back into the safety of the fold. We are to do the same. If someone wanders off, we don’t just let her go. We go after her in love and concern to bring her back to where she needs to be.

13-14– “If he finds it…” If is kind of an interesting word to use here, since Jesus is the shepherd in the story. Will there ever be a case in which Jesus can’t find someone who has wandered off? No. God is sovereign over all things. He knows where we are, what we’re doing, and the state of our hearts at all times. These verses are referring to the lost sheep who is willing to be found and return to the fold with Jesus. When a Christian repents and returns to Christ, Christ rejoices over her. While there may be consequences of the sin to face, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom.) Isn’t that awesome? When that repentant sheep comes back to the fold, we are to have the same loving, embracing, and forgiving attitude towards her that Christ has. Christ’s desire is always restoration and reconciliation, and that should be our desire as well.

When Another Christian Sins Against Me (15-20)
One of the most important things we can focus on in this passage is the word “sins”. In the church body, there are going to be times when things happen to us that we don’t like. That doesn’t necessarily mean these things are SIN. Maybe we don’t like the style of music, or a particular mannerism of the pastor. Maybe somebody tells us a truth we need to hear that stings a little, or someone is annoying or inadvertently hurts our feelings. Our feelings don’t determine what sin is, the Bible does. When deciding whether to confront the person, we first need to determine if what she did is sin according to the Bible (not according to our opinion), or if it’s a non-sinful offense, and we can overlook it and extend grace, realizing that people have probably done the same for us on many occasions.

On the other hand, if the person IS sinning, we can’t shy away from an awkward conversation with her about it. Remember the wandering sheep? We need to have the same love for that wandering brother or sister and try to restore and reconcile him/her. First, we go to the person privately -not in front of a group, not on Facebook- one on one, and, remembering the way we would want someone to approach us, kindly and lovingly, yet firmly, talk to her about her sin. If she repents and returns, let the rejoicing and forgiving commence! If she persists, we take a couple of other Believers with us to kindly, lovingly, and firmly approach her again. If she still persists in her sin, the next appropriate and required step is to take the matter before the church body for disciplinary action. If the person still refuses to repent, we are to treat her as “a Gentile and a tax collector.”

What does that mean? Are we supposed to shun her? Hate her? No. Look how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors (like Matthew and Zacchaeus). He loved them, shared the gospel with them, and called them to repent and believe in Him. In other words, He treated them like the unbelievers they were. People who persist in unrepentant sin show us that they are not Believers. When we have exhausted all attempts at restoration, we agree with their behavior that they are not Believers and treat them that way. We remove their names from church membership and remove them from any positions of leadership or responsibility in the church, but we keep loving them, keep sharing the gospel with them, and keep praying for their salvation.

Why We Forgive (21-35, Ephesians 4:32)
This parable can be summed up in the words of Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Who is the king in this parable? Jesus. Who is the first servant? Me. How big is our sin debt to Jesus? Verse 24 describes it as ten thousand talents. One talent was a unit of money equal to twenty years’ wages for a laborer. Therefore, ten thousand talents would have equaled 200,000 years’ worth of wages, an impossible amount to even begin to repay, just like our sin debt. But when we throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ and repent, He forgives us that enormous debt. Just wipes it right out. Any sin that anyone can commit against us, no matter how egregious, is peanuts (verse 28 calls it 100 denarii, or 100 days’ wages) compared to the grief and agony we put Christ through on the cross. How can we, knowing how hugely we have sinned against Christ, refuse to forgive others anything they might do to us?

The “Sin-Opsis”
There’s an old Carman song that contains the line

“Black is black, and white is white.
And Hell is hot, and sin ain’t right.”

It’s a pretty good “sin-opsis” of the what sin is. It is Christ’s desire that we stay out of sin ourselves, not lead others into sin, rescue others who have fallen into sin, and forgive those who have sinned against us.

Christian women, Idolatry, Old Testament, Sunday School

Idolatry: No Turning Back ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-24-14

idolatry

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 34 ~ Aug. 17-23
Jeremiah 35-50, Psalm 74, 79, 2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36, Habakkuk
Idolatry: No Turning Back

Background:
Israel is gone, carried off into captivity by Assyria. Judah has managed to hang on a little longer, due in part to Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s godliness, but, now, Nebuchadnezzar has beseiged and overthrown the last of Judah’s fortified cities, slaughtered the king and the nobles, and carried nearly all the citizens off to a 70 year exile in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar left a small remnant of the poorest of the poor to continue living in Judah to work the land, and set up Gedaliah as governor over them. Gedaliah was subsequently assasinated by the Ammonites, and the remnant decided -against God’s clear instruction through Jeremiah- to go to Egypt, and to force Jeremiah to go with them. This is where we now find them in chapter 44.

Jeremiah 44

God takes sin seriously.
As usual, Israel’s (here, Judah’s) main sin was idolatry, a clear violation of the first and second Commandments. That’s not something God just sweeps under the rug as an “oopsie”. In verse 3, He calls it evil. Verse 4, “this abomination that I hate.” In verse 6, God reminds them of His wrath and anger poured out becaue of idolatry. And think back over the scope of Israel’s history: the plagues, the pestilence, the snakes, the natural disasters, being conquered by enemies, and so on.

The vehemence with which God responds to idolatry shows us that He doesn’t take it, or any other sin, lightly. If there’s one major takeaway from the Old Testament, it’s that sin has a price tag, and somebody’s got to pay it.

Why does God respond so harshly to sin?  (1 John 4:8)
1. Because God is love (1 John). When we read that the penalty for sin is an eternity in Hell, we really have no idea what we’re talking about. We know Hell is bad, but that’s about the extent of it. God can see Hell. He knows precisely what it’s like, and He loves us so much that He doesn’t want a single person to go there. So much, in fact, that He was willing to go to the farthest extreme of sending His Son to provide us the way out of Hell and into Heaven.

2. Believers are God’s walking billboard to the world. When we share the gospel and walk in godliness, we can attract people to a saving relationship with Christ. But when we sin unrepentantly, and/or in what the world would consider to be a “big” way (adultery, embezzlement, drunkenness, etc.) we can turn people off to God. God wants to prevent us from doing that because He loves and wants to save those people just as much as he loves and wanted to save us.

3. Sin hurts people in the here and now. God doesn’t like that. He doesn’t want us to be victimized by other people’s sin and He doesn’t want us to hurt other people.

God pursues His people relentlessly, but not endlessly. (Romans 1:18-32, 2 Corinthians 6:2)
Take a look at verses 4-5:

“Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’ But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods.”

Again, think back over all the ways and times God has tried to bring His people back to Himself. Hundreds of years, dozens of prophets, painful circumstances. Time after time as Israel rebelled against Him, God mercifully and patiently offered them opportunities to turn back to Him. He didn’t throw them away or give up on them. And here, even though He is about to destroy this remnant, it is not God who has thrown in the towel. It is the people who have relentlessly demanded His wrath. God could not have been more clear to His people in this chapter about what would happen to them if they continued to rebel, and still they said, “we will not listen to you, but we will do everything we have vowed” (16-17). So he gave them what they wanted- the freedom to reject Him forever.

God is the same way today. He pursues people relentlessly, but not endlessly. Romans 1 makes this clear. Three times in this passage, he says, “God gave them up…” culminating in verse 28:

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

This is why there is such a danger in people putting off salvation, thinking they can get around to it on their death bed. If people reject God long enough, He will eventually give them what they want and stop pursuing them. The Bible says (2 Cor.) today is the day of salvation.

The goal of God’s pursuit and discipline is restoration. (Jeremiah 42:9-12, 2 Corinthians 5:20)
Even here at the end of God’s patience, God’s desire is still to restore His people to a right relationship with Him. Just two chapters ago, He told the people that if they would only obey Him and stay in Judah instead of going to Egypt, He would have mercy on them. The same loving Lord who says in 2 Corinthians, “be reconciled to God,” has always desired that His people walk in right relationship with Him, and He uses whatever means and measures He has to in order to turn His people back to Himself.

Women have the power to influence our families, communities, and nation for evil or for godliness. (1 Peter 3:1-2) 
The worship of “the queen of Heaven” (Ishtar, an Assyrian/Babylonian goddess, the wife of Baal or Molech) started with the women of Judah (15,19). They then influenced their husbands to participate in, or at least approve of, this idolatry. The women, and the husbands they had corrupted, stood in Jeremiah’s face and said, “We will not listen to you. We will keep on with our idolatry.”

Why? Because the women had the false notion that the reason they lately “lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine” (18) was becase they had stopped sacrificing to her. (Of course, the truth was that they were experiencing these things at the hand of God because they had been sacrificing to her.(23))

Several months ago, when we studied biblical womanhood, we discussed the line from My Big, Fat Greek Wedding where the mother tells her daughter, “The man may be the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn him any way she wants.” First Peter puts it this way:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Every day, we have opportunities to be like the women of Judah and turn our families and our communities away from Christ and towards idolatry. Let’s not be like those women, but, instead, women who, by our godly character, our respectful and pure conduct, and our submission to our husbands, turn the world upside down for Christ.