Instant Bible Studies

Sometimes we are way too dependent on curriculum, as if people can’t study the Bible unless they have a quarterly in had and the teacher’s book. Let me submit to you that Jesus would not expect us to do something that the early church could not do. Small communities of faith can get together, open the Word of God and discuss what the Bible says, means, and how it applies to life.

First Off, the SCRIPTURE Needs to be Read: out loud in the group. If time permits, read it a second time, with all members of the group reading along. Don’t go a commentary or teaching guide first.

After that, discuss what the passage is about, naming facts of the basic content of the passage. Who is mentioned in the passage? What is happening? Who? What? When? Where? are all good questions at this point. Try to summarize what this passage is about in your own words.

Second, Discuss What we Learn from this Passage of Scripture:

Years ago I was a part of a group called MasterLife where we studied the Bible very seriously over the course of one year.

Here is a Useful Tool for Meditating on Scripture: praying for wisdom and surrendering to the Holy Spirit so that you make the Word come alive in your heart.

  1. Perimeter the verse: read what comes before and after the verse on which you are meditating.
  2. Paraphrase the verse: summarize and put it into your own words.
  3. Pulverize the verse:
    1. Emphasize each word by exclamation.
    2. Pick two or three words that represent God’s message.
    3. Ask about the words – who? what? when? where? why? how?
  4. Personalize the verse: Put yourself and God directly into the verse on which you are meditating.
  5. Pray the verse back to God: sighting adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
  6. Parallel the verse: locate any verses that are on the same theme as the one on which you are meditating.
  7. Problems in the verse: of doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness which need to be addressed.
  8. Possibilities of helping others through the verse: through prayer, word or deed.

Other Questions Worth Asking Are:

  1. What warning, command or promise do we find?
  2. What is the example to follow or to avoid?
  3. What is the main truth of this Scripture?
  4. What is the universal lesson or truth we find in this passage?
  5. Why is this passage in the Bible? Why is it in this section of the Bible?
  6. What does this Scripture tell us about the character of God or how he relates to people?
  7. How does this passage point to the person and/or work of Christ?
  8. How can we pray this verse back to God?
  9. What is a new thought or teaching I have discovered in this passage?

Now Comes the Difficult Part: how to make this passage real in your life. Observation and interpretation are not enough here, we MUST move on to application.

  1. What is an example in your life where this passage applies (home, family, work, character)
  2. Ask yourself questions that demand action: like, “How will I life this passage in my life?” not “”Will I live this out in my life?”
  3. Write out a specific action plan to accomplish what you sense God telling you to do. We can make plans and have good intentions, but unless we write these down, they will be forgotten in less than a week.
  4. Write a prayer asking God to help you live this out and accomplish all he wants to do in your life.
  5. Then, just do it! Trust God to help you accomplish these goals. Remember that we are not looking for good stuff to do for God, he is the one who desires to work through you to accomplish his purposes.

The Power of Forgiveness

I always heard this quote but only recently discovered it’s origin: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” It is almost given Scripture status although it does not come from the Bible… it comes from Alexander Pope, 1711. He is also the guy who said, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” So, let’s look at forgiveness.

  1. What is the world’s opinion about forgiveness?
  2. How does that differ from scriptural teaching?
  3. What do you find most difficult, to seek forgiveness, to receive forgiveness or to offer forgiveness?
  4. Describe the last time you needed forgiveness.
  5. Describe a time when someone need forgiveness from you.

Video Questions:

  1. Would forgiveness be an automatic response, a delayed reaction or a withheld virtue for you in a similar situation?
  2. Do you feel that you have the power to choose to forgive?
  3. Hatred is a burden we don’t need to carry, and freedom is found only in forgiveness. How can you relate to the difficulty of forgiving others?
  4. Based on your own experiences, is the previous statement comforting or challenging?

Bible Study: Matthew 18:21-35

  1. How often are we to forgive someone? (Matthew 18:21-22)
  2. What is significant about the forgiveness the king offered compared to that which the slave withheld?
  3. Do you ever feel the weight of sin from which you have been forgiven?
  4. When we withhold forgiveness, what do you understand about the consequences? (Matthew 18:35)

Peter, wishing to appear especially forgiving and benevolent, asked Jesus if forgiveness was to be offered seven times. The Jewish rabbis at the time taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary, citing Amos 1:3-13 where God forgave Israel’s enemies three times, then punished them. By offering forgiveness more than double that of the Old Testament example, Peter perhaps expected extra commendation from the Lord. When Jesus responded that forgiveness should be offered 490 times, far beyond that which Peter was proposing, it must have stunned the disciples who were listening. Although they had been with Jesus for some time, they were still thinking in the limited terms of the law, rather than in the unlimited terms of grace.

By saying we are to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, Jesus was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a number that is, for all practical purposes, beyond counting. Christians with forgiving hearts not only don’t limit the number of times they forgive; they continue to forgive with as much grace the thousandth time as they do the first time. Christians are only capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lives within us, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as God forgives us over and over.

Jesus answered that we must forgive as many times as necessary. His illustration is about a man who, although forgiven by his master of an overwhelming debt, refused to forgive another for a meager debt. When this man’s master heard about his ingratitude and injustice, he was outraged and had him thrown to the tormentors. “This is how My heavenly Father will treat each one of you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Surely, by receiving such a massive pardon, we should not be so mean-spirited as to withhold forgiveness from others. Rather, we should emulate the example of Jesus. In truth, offering forgiveness is an act of will, and failure to acknowledge this will only encourage us to justify our own disobedience. Forgiveness is not a fruit that needs time to grow in our lives. It is not a result of some special encounter with God. Jesus makes that clear in Luke 17:4 when He commands that if someone sins against another seven times in one day and repents as many times, that person should be forgiven. Forgiving someone for the same offense several times in one year would be a major test of sanctification, so seven times in one day drives Jesus’ point home.

Bible Study: Luke 6:37-38

  1. What do these verses teach about forgiveness?
  2. How often have we granted forgiveness only because we feel we will one day seek forgiveness?
  3. If we refuse to forgive, we must take a look at our own heart, have we received the forgiveness from God?

Bible Study: Colossians 3:12-13

This letter is a warning against heresy and false teaching that had become a threat to the believers. They are to abandon certain things (listed in chapter 2) and then a list of how they were to conduct themselves. This verse on forgiveness is listed within the foundational teaching of the church.

Pray that God will help you live in Christ to the fullest, like this…

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Why Forgive?

There is something strangely sweet about holding a grudge. The ability to withhold forgiveness and indulge in self-righteous feelings is a sense of power. God is the God of justice. Wrongs should be righted. And we deserve to feel contempt for those who hurt us. Except that it’s all a lie.

Refusing to forgive doesn’t grant us power, it enslaves us to sin. And feeling contempt for others very rarely makes a significant difference in their lives. Absolutely no good whatsoever comes from refusing to forgive. This is why Jesus said we are to forgive one another seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We should forgive so much that it becomes second nature—our automatic response to offenses.

God gives us two very good reasons in Scripture for why we should forgive.

  1. God commands us to forgive others. God forgave us while we were His enemies (Romans 5:10), and we should do likewise with one another.
  2. Those who forgive others indicate that they themselves have not been forgiven because a truly regenerated heart is a forgiving heart (Matthew 6:14-15). If we are filled with resentment and bitterness, we are exhibiting the “works of the flesh,” not the fruit of the Spirit which is evidence of true salvation (Galatians 5:19-23).

Most importantly, when we disobey one of God’s commands, such as the command to forgive, we sin against Him. In refusing to forgive another person, we sin against that person, but also against God. Considering that God puts our transgressions as far from Him as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), He expects us to extend this same grace to others. Our sin against God is infinitely more egregious than anything another person can do to us. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35) illustrates this truth. The servant had been forgiven a massive debt—symbolic of the debt of sin we owe to God—then refused to forgive a minor debt of a friend. The lesson of the parable is that if God’s forgiveness toward us is limitless, so should ours be limitless toward others (Luke 17:3-4).

Withholding Forgiveness:

The Bible teaches us that God withholds forgiveness towards people who are not repentant (2 Kings 24:4 and Lamentations 3:42). God is able to do this because of His very nature: He is sinless. He is perfect. He is holy. He simply will not tolerate sin. Paul warns those who choose to transgress God’s law in Romans 2:5, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”

As Christians we are certainly obligated to forgive others who sin against us when they are repentant if we are to expect God to forgive us when we sin against Him (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:23-35; Mark 11:25, Luke 17:3-4, Ephesians 4:31-32, Colossians 3:13). This holds true even if someone sins against us repeatedly (Matthew 18:21-22). However, this does not give us license to withhold forgiveness in the same way. The key to remember is this: God can judge a person’s intentions because He knows what’s in a person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12-13), whereas we don’t. We are not God. We are not the Judge. For us to play God by refusing to offer forgiveness is an act of judgment on our part, and Jesus tells us that God will judge us according to the way we’ve judged others (Matthew 7:2).

What if There is No Indication of Repentance?

The law given to ancient Israel is similar to the New Testament teaching: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:17-18). An unforgiving spirit leads to bitterness, anger, and seething resentment against another. Such a heart attitude cannot have true fellowship with God. Not holding grudges allows a state of mind that is ready and willing to forgive. Reconciliation is the goal, and if there cannot be reconciliation, an attitude of willingness to forgive must be maintained. There can be no excuse for withholding a forgiving spirit towards others (Matthew 5:22–24).

What About Forgive and Forget?

The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous Scriptures commanding us to “forgive one another” (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32). A Christian who does not forgive can reap bitterness and the loss of eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to forgive. This frees the forgiving one from the past. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not change (Matthew 5:44). Ideally, the offender will seek reconciliation, but if not, the one wronged should still make known his decision to forgive.

In one sense, it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively “delete” events from our memory. The Bible states that God does not “remember” our wickedness (Hebrews 8:12). Since God is all-knowing, he knows that we have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, having forgiven us, He treats us as if the sin had not occurred. If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. In that sense we must “forgive and forget.” If we forgive someone, we must act as if that sin had never occurred. We remember the sin, but we live as if we did not remember it. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Summary:

Human forgiveness and God’s forgiveness have differences. The Lord’s Prayer teaches that we are to ask for God’s forgiveness regularly, just as we are regularly to forgive others who have sinned against us. But human nature fights against this. As Paul said, “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21). Like Paul, we must know that we are powerless in our own strength to do the right thing. But as Christians who possess the Holy Spirit, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Wrong Ways to Read the Bible

We always encourage people to read the Bible but how often do people get bogged down in some of the chapters that appear to have nothing to do with real life?

Because the point of the special revelation of the Bible is to illuminate God’s plan for redemption of the world and to glorify Christ, this means there are ways we ought NOT to read the Bible. Here are a few bad ways of reading the Scriptures:

  • Treating its stories as morality tales, where we rush to apply the stories of God’s people to ourselves as if WE were the heroes in God’s story of redemption, not Jesus.
  • Taking parts of the Bible out of their narrative contexts.
  • Reducing the epic story of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a disjointed list of statements, propositions, principles or practical tips.
  • Treating the Bible like it is Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, or worse, a bag of fortune cookies.

Also, because the point of the Bible is to glorify Jesus and to capture our hearts in worship of Him, we need to be careful we don’t worship the Bible itself. We are to honor God’s Word, trust God’s Word, treasure God’s Word, and believe God’s Word, but we are called to worship God. This means the only Word we ought to worship is Jesus the Word.

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The Seven Realities

Here are the seven realities of experiencing God:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways.
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing.
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work.

We tend to ask questions trying to determine whether we really heard from God…

  1. How can I know it is God speaking to me?
  2. How do I know where God is at work?
  3. What kind of adjustments will I have to make to be obedient?
  4. What is the difference between adjustment and obedience?

Here are three similarities in the lives of biblical servants through whom God worked:

  1. When God spoke, they knew it was from God.
  2. They knew what God was saying.
  3. They knew what they were to do in response.

Let’s look at the seven realities of Experiencing God in the life of Moses:

  1. God is always at work around you. The people groaned in slavery, cried out to God, and he heard them, he looked on and was concerned (Exodus 2:23-25) .
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. Moses came up to the mountain of God and talked with him, and told Moses of his plans for deliverance (Exodus 24:12, 15-16, 18).
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work. God said he was sending Moses (Exodus 3:8, 10) to do the work of God.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways. The lord appeared in the flames of the bush, and later while Moses would visit God face to face (Exodus 3:2-8, Numbers 12:6-8).
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. Moses gave five excuses why God could have picked a better person for this job (Exodus 3:11, 13, 4:1, 10, 13).
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing. God said GO and Moses started back to Egypt (Exodus 4:19-20).
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work. Moses came to know God more intimately through his obedience (Exodus 14:15-17, 21-23, 26-27, 29-31).

When God is about to do something, he reveals to a person or to his people what he is about to do. Points to remember are that God sees, hears, cares, acts and has a plan for this people. When God reveals what he is about to do, that revelation becomes an invitation for us to join him. The great part is that God is already at work in the place he is going to send us!

God uses ordinary people to accomplish his purposes. We often think of Elijah as an extraordinary person of faith, but the Bible actually tells us he was ordinary (James 5:18-19). Peter and John were nothing special to the rest of the world (Acts 4:13) but were used in a mighty way by God. This is God’s pattern to use the weak to accomplish mighty things (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). When people don’t measure up to human standards, God is still at work in their lives.

When you believe that nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have said about yourself. – D. L. Moody