Adult & Teen Discussion Guide
1. Primary Statement
Loving people who love us is easy. Loving those who are different, who dislike us, or who intentionally hurt us, that’s a different story. To love these, though, is to prove that God’s love and grace are at work inside of us.
2. Bible Verse
Matthew 5:43-45a [NLT] “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”
Q. Looking back over your life, who would be some “enemies” on a personal level? Without God’s help, how difficult would it be to love them?
Q. What are a few groups, nationalities, or cultures which seem like enemies to you? (i.e. urban gangs, terrorist organizations, foreign dictators)
Q. What pressures are there from your own group, nationality, and culture to treat these people with hostility?
Matthew 5:45b-48 [NLT] “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Jesus called us to share the good news with everyone, even our enemies. When we remember our own need for God’s grace and forgiveness (things we don’t deserve), we can more easily extend grace and forgiveness to those who are hard to love.
Q. Who is more loved by God: you or the people from the list you made earlier? Who is more in need of God’s grace? Who is more deserving of it?
4. Prayer Focus
Take a few minutes as a family and thank God for extending grace to you. Ask Him to help you love those like the people on your list, and to share the good news with them.
Family with Small Children Discussion Guide
For this devotion, you will need a flashlight or lamp, and a TV or radio. Have your entire family go into the darkest room of your house and then ask them what they see. Depending on how dark it is, they may or may not be able to see anything. Hand the flashlight to one of your children (or have someone turn on a lamp or overhead light) and ask them again what they can see.
2. Bible Verse
“The Holy Spirit Will Give Me Power!”
Acts 1:8 “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”
Then talk about the following questions:
Q. Why couldn’t we see much at first?
Q. Why did turning on the flashlight or lamp help us see better?
Q. What caused the flashlight or lamp to be able to light up? (electricity)
Q. Could you see the electricity? (No, but you could see what the electricity did.)
3. Application & Talking Point
Have your family move into the room where the TV or radio is. Tell one of your children to turn on the TV or radio. Listen for a few moments, and then have someone turn it off.
Ask the following questions:
Q. How does the TV or radio work? (Most children and adults won’t be able to answer this question very well, and that’s the point: we don’t really know how they work, we just know that they do.)
Q. What does the TV or radio need in order to work? (electricity)
Explain to your children that the Holy Spirit is kind of like electricity. When we become Christians, it’s like having a power plant in our hearts! Although we may not fully understand how He does it, the Holy Spirit guides, convicts, comforts, and teaches us. He also gives us the power we need to do what God asks us to.
4. Prayer Focus
Pray together, thanking God for giving each member of your family the Holy Spirit as a power source in your lives.
Last night I was reading through a wonderful section of scripture and I thought it would make for a great blog.
In Psalm 19:12-14 we read…
Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
First, we all have patterns of behavior that we fall into that lead us into sins that we are unaware of. Yesterday we were discussing how the things that we say about other people can actually become a tremendous stumbling block and hinder the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Satan uses our very nature against us and convinces us that we are totally justified based upon what another person has done to us. However, this is simply not the way we as Christians behave. Ever!
If we’re not very diligent these patterns of behavior and subsequently speaking can become a hidden fault. We don’t realize that we are acting in a sinful way and as such, sin rules in our lives without our knowledge. David asks God to reveal his hidden faults to him. This would be a great practice for each Christian to engage in every day.
“Lord, reveal my hidden faults to me so that I may repent and change.”
Second, David asks God to keep him from willful sins. These are those things that we know are sinful and yet we do them anyway.
In this dispensation of grace in which we live, we have a powerful propensity to go too far. There are those who teach that the power of God’s grace is so great that there is no way for us to offend it. There is a part of me that absolutely believes that. However, for me it’s a matter of sequence. If there is something in me that consciously moves toward sin because I think God will forgive me and I do so over a Spirit-originated conviction, I am walking a very dangerous line. Not because God will withdraw his grace because I believe He never does, but rather because I run the risk of slowly callousing my heart to that grace and damaging my faith. I believe that I can completely erode my faith in God and the things of God and as such I can become unsaved. I’ve done nothing to change God’s grace, but rather I’ve removed my own faith by my actions. Ephesians 2:8-9 indicate to me that both grace and faith are necessary for my salvation.
Therefore, David prayed that God would give him the strength to avoid both the sins he was unaware of and those that he was fully aware of and then he would be innocent of “great transgression.”
That’s where I want to live! Free of great transgression!
If you read the following verses of scripture from Matthew 18, with what area of the Christian life do you normally associate them?
“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Did you think of prayer or spiritual warfare? That’s most often the context in which these verses of scripture are used. I suspect that I’ve heard these verses used to establish our abilities and authority to accomplish, through prayer, great and might things for God’s Kingdom.
Sounds good, right? Well, here’s the problem and the subject that I want you to think about today.
The context in which Jesus was speaking when he said these things has nothing to do with either prayer or spiritual warfare.
There are powerful verses that establish what prayer can do, these just aren’t them.
The problem is one of context. Context, that cardinal rule of biblical interpretation. Keeping the Bible in it’s original context is what most theologians consider the most important step in assuring that what we are hearing is what God is actually saying and not just something we want to hear.
How do you establish the context of a verse of scripture?
Look at the entire passage, perhaps the entire chapter or even sometimes the entire book. See what it is that the speaker is talking about. In the above verses Jesus is speaking about how to deal with a brother who has sinned against you and the powerful negative affect upon him, both on this earth and in heaven, should he refuse to be reconciled.
The issue is two-fold when we take scripture out of it’s context.
We add meaning that has no biblical authority and in so doing we can find ourselves confused and disillusioned when it seems as if God is not being true to His word, and we miss what may be a powerful truth found in the actual “in-context” meaning of the scriptures. Such is the case with the above verses.
Have you ever considered that to refuse reconciliation with a brother who comes desiring it might put you in a place where you are bound on both earth and heaven? Can you see in the entire eighteenth chapter that the message is the same? Do you feel the eternal importance of unity, grace, and bold forgiveness that Jesus spoke of? Keep these verses in context and there is a powerful message that you will miss if you twist that context.
Have you ever wondered what Satan’s greatest weapon is?
This week I encountered it again as I helped counsel several different people through a difficult situation. What is that greatest weapon? In my opinion it’s unforgiveness.
Over the last 25 years of full-time ministry I have found no issue within the church with the power to cause more destruction than unforgiveness. Left unabated it can turn a vibrant, energized, God-honoring life into an ugly, dead, cancer that not only kills the person who refuses to forgive, but can also spread to others that life influences.
The decision not to forgive is ultimately a refusal to extend grace.
In Hebrews 12:15 we read: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”
Unforgiveness not only has the power to destroy the person who feels offended, but an entire group of people as one persons offense is shared by all those who care about them. Joy is lost, vision for God’s kingdom disappears, the lost are not won and the work of a local church stalls all because of unforgiveness. I have seen it in dozens of churches and hundreds of lives.
What’s the answer?
Quickly resolve to forgive and move on. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world and we shouldn’t be surprised when it occurs. Offenses are going to happen because we live surrounded by people and people are imperfect. Just today, I got busy and completely forgot a lunch appointment. Fortunately, the individual that I stood up was gracious and mature and instantly extended grace. The situation that I helped others work through ended in a similar extension of grace and the enemy of God’s plan was defeated.
The issue is not if we are transgressed, but rather when and how we will respond to it.
Jesus said in Luke 12:48 “To whom much is given much is required.” We have been given great grace and it is required that we extend it to others.