Growing in Christ

October, November, December 2012

Want to learn more about Growing in Christ? Use these Bible Studies for personal devotion, group Bible studies, or teaching a church class. Below are links to the lessons in this 13-part series.

Lesson 1: The Great Controversy: The Foundation (Genesis 2-3)
Welcome to a new series of studies that will give us a better "big picture" understanding of our God. Often, Christians intensely debate relatively unimportant things like what they should eat or wear, or some small point of doctrine. If your life span is shortened by twenty years because of your diet, that is terrible, but not as terrible as missing out on eternal life. While I think we should measure everything we do by the teachings of the Bible, having a clear understanding on the big picture is our first order of business. No one would begin studying how the body worked by critically examining a finger nail. Let's start our examination of the big picture by diving into our Bible and seeing what we can learn about how sin entered our world!

Lesson 2: Revelation and the God Revealed in It (Psalms 19, 2 Peter 1, Hebrews 1 & 11)
Last week we learned about the war that is going on between good and evil, between God and Satan. Christians are aligned with God in this controversy. He is our Commander. Have you ever heard of a commander who made no commands? If God is actively prosecuting a war against Satan, is it necessary or helpful to communicate with the troops? Surely the answer must be "yes." How, then, does God communicate? Is it through the Bible? The Koran? The teachings of Buddhism or those of Hinduism? Could it be "all of the above?" Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more about God and revelation!

Lesson 3: Mankind: God's Handiwork (Genesis 1-3, Mark 10, Colossians 2, & 3)
Before my wife and I had children, I had many misinformed ideas about the topic. For example, I thought some couples had children to boost their own standing. That would never happen to me! Instead, I thought that I had my own reputation and they would make their own - whatever it might be. How wrong I was! We don't have enough space in this introduction for me to explain the many ways my children have affected both my reputation and my thinking! In our exploration of the big picture issues, how do we reflect the nature of God, His thinking and His reputation? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

Lesson 4: Salvation: The Only Solution (Genesis 4, Leviticus 1 & 6, Galatians 3, Romans 3)
My wife recently attended a conference of clergy and church school teachers. Through the wizardry of modern technology, in one session the audience could give electronic feedback that was instantly computed and displayed on a screen at the front. The question posed to the audience was whether they were confident of their salvation. The positive response was discouragingly low. If you have made a decision for Christ, but are uncertain of your salvation, you must get this "big picture" theology right. Join me in this important journey through the Bible to discover the true meaning of grace!

Lesson 5: Growing in Christ (Romans 6, 1 John 3, Ephesians 6)
Last week we learned the heart of the gospel: salvation is by free grace alone, there is nothing we can do to earn it. Our studies for this week and the next two are about how those who are saved should live. Have you ever been embarrassed by a member of your "group?" It might be your family, your church, your organization, or, perhaps, a Christian leader. Someone did something that brought shame. Since a battle rages between good and evil, and those saved by grace have chosen the side of good, shouldn't we do everything we can to aid good, to repay love with love, and not harm the name of Jesus? Let's plunge into our Bible and see what it teaches us about how those confident of their salvation should live!

Lesson 6: Victory Over Evil Forces (Ephesians 1 & 6, Romans 8, James 4)
When I was a young man, change was slow - except for cars. American car manufacturers changed the looks of their cars every year. Things cost more each year. These days, we have new technology all the time, and technology gets cheaper. One astonishing new area is cell phones. All the time I discover some new "app" for my phone which allows me to live or work more efficiently. Is there a parallel in the spiritual world? Are there new weapons (new "apps") that we have not considered or discovered to help us live more holy lives? Perhaps we have heard of them, but not used them? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

Lesson 7: "Arming" for Victory (1 Samuel 17, Ephesians 6)
Have you ever looked closely at the armor used by knights of the middle ages? It looks a bit dangerous to the person wearing it! Sure, it might keep an arrow from going through you, but it would not help when you wanted to move fast to dodge arrows. Mercedes Benz makes the "Smart" car. That little car "armors" the passenger compartment so it is difficult to break into the compartment. Like the armor of the knights, you have to ask yourself some questions about the practicality of this. What happens to your body when the armored passenger compartment starts bouncing around in a crash? The last two weeks we have noted the texts in Ephesians 6 about armoring for spiritual warfare, but we have not gone into detail about the nature of our armor. Let's jump into the Bible to see what armor is good and what attitudes towards armor might be a little dangerous!

Lesson 8: The Church: In Service to Humanity (1 Corinthians 12, Matthew 25 & 28)
What role should the church play in the life of the believer? Some think that they can comfortably live a Christian life apart from organized religion. Avoiding organized religion, and its institutional conflicts, allows them to have a closer, more personal relationship with God. I think this is delusion and a profound mistake. The church plays many indispensable roles in the life of the Christian. But, what does it matter what I think? What matters is what God thinks. Let's plunge into the Bible and see what it has to teach us about the role of the church in our life!

Lesson 9: The Church: Rites and Rituals (Mark 16, 2 Kings 5, John 13, 1 Corinthians 11)
Confession time. Do you have fantasies about being great, or beautiful or powerful? Over the decades that I've been fighting in the courtrooms for religious liberty, I have this recurrent fantasy of being some kind of modern day Roman warrior - battling the bad guys. Of course, my muscles are small, I'm not wild about blood, and if you came at me with a sword, I'd likely run the other way. As I get older, the muscle situation is not improving. Some of my ancestors actually had "Running" as their last name! One of the customs of Roman warriors is to tap their chest over their heart with a closed fist as a symbol of loyalty to Rome. More than once I've done that as an act of loyalty to God. Instead of silly fantasies, does God have real symbols of loyalty to Him? Do God's symbols make sense? What does the Bible reveal about this? Bible study warriors, let's charge forward and see what we can find in our study of this topic!

Lesson 10: The Law and the Gospel (Psalms 19, Exodus 20)
How do you view the Ten Commandments? Would you say that you can see a logical connection between the commandments and the last time you saw police lights in the rear view mirror of your car? Jesus didn't help this problem when He explained that the commandments against adultery and killing, included the more common problems of lust and anger. How many people, when they hear of grace are delighted because they think they no longer have to worry about those pesky and inconvenient commandments? Much ink has been spilled on the topic of the law and grace, but I think we will better understand grace if we better understand the nature of the law. We claim that if we are saved by grace, we will want to obey God. But, that is not consistent with equating the commandments with feeling like a police officer is about to arrest us! So, let's take a plunge into the Bible to better understand what it says about the law!

Lesson 11: The Christian Life (Deuteronomy 28, Job 9, Revelation 12 & 21)
Are you loving the law more? Last week we learned that the law is not our enemy, but rather God's instruction manual for a better life. We decided that only if we seek unbridled self-benefit is the law our opponent. If that is true, then why does Paul indicate that the law is a problem for us? Is it because we all seek unbridled self-interest? We need to learn more! This week we plunge more deeply into the idea that we need to re-educate our thinking to understand that the law is both our friend and our benefactor. We need to become lobbyists for the law! If that sounds strange, let's dive into God's word and see what He has to say about the law!

Lesson 12: Last Things: Jesus and the Saved (Hebrews 7 & 8, 1 Thessalonians 4 & 5, Matthew 24)
How much time do you spend dreaming about having enough money so that you can stop working? If you are older, do you dream about what you would do in retirement? At some point in my life, I realized that I was dreaming too low. Instead of dreaming about what I might do here on earth if I had unlimited time and money, why not dream instead about what it will be like in heaven? There you truly have unlimited time. What about the ticket to enter heaven? Would you act differently if you thought that heaven was your retirement? This week let's jump in and find out what the Bible has to say about end times.

Lesson 13: When All Things Become New (Revelation 19-22)
Let's continue last week's exploration of our "retirement" in heaven - a glorious place where we have unlimited time and resources. We have our ticket and we know we should be careful to avoid showing up at the wrong event. We are living a life reflecting God's love to us and anticipating our life in heaven. Now Jesus comes! Let's dive into our Bible and learn more of the details of what happens next!

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