Lesson 9

Idols of the Soul

(Matthew 18-20)
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Introduction: Jeffrey Brauch, the former Dean of the Regent University School of Law, is one of the most amazing men I have ever met. His focus always seemed to be on me when we spoke. When I speak with others, I regret that my focus also generally seems to be on me. I'm sure Jeff is just like that with everyone - his focus is on them. Jeff lives what Matthew teaches this week: to live a life of concern for others. Let's dig into our lesson and learn more!

  1. Children


    1. Read Matthew 18:1-4. Who has the most definite opinions on child raising: parents of several children or people who do not have children?


      1. Are the children you know naturally selfish? Do they prefer themselves over others? (From what I've seen, children are like the rest of us - born into sin.)


      2. If that is true, what is Jesus talking about?


    2. Re-read Matthew 18:1. Why would someone want to be the greatest in a kingdom? (So they can rule over others.)


      1. What about children is unlike that? (Young children are very dependent. Even if they have other bad habits, being selfish as an example, they need help and they know it.)


    3. Look again at Matthew 18:4. What, then, is Jesus telling us about our character development? (That we should humbly depend on Him - just like a child depends on his or her parents.)


    4. Read Matthew 18:5-6. How does this related to Jesus' point about children being dependent? (Since they are dependent, adults have an obligation to make sure that we properly teach and treat the children in our circle of influence.)


  2. Sin


    1. Read Matthew 18:7. Have you ever heard someone who is profiting from evil say, "If I didn't do it someone else would. I might as well be the one who makes the money from it."


      1. What is Jesus' answer to that? ("Woe to you!" evil will come, but it better not be through you.)


    2. Read Matthew 18:8-9. Does sin begin with your hand, foot or eye? (No. It beings in the mind.)


      1. How, then, do you understand what Jesus is saying? (Jesus is pointing out the seriousness of sin. People sin for some perceived advantage. Jesus says it would be better to lose something important than to sin.)


    3. Read Matthew 18:10. Is Jesus jumping around in His comments, and has jumped back into talking about children? (Jesus is on the same topic. Children will encounter sin eventually, but it better not be through you.)


    4. Read Matthew 18:12-14. You have probably heard the parable of the ninety-nine sheep and the one that was lost. What is Jesus' point in that parable about children? (In many cultures children are not valued. In some cultures they are used. Jesus teaches us that they are of great worth - every one of them.)


    5. Read Matthew 18:15-17. What is the goal of treating differences and problems in this way? (The goal is getting the person to listen to reason.)


      1. What does it mean to treat someone as a "pagan or a tax collector?"


        1. Is it okay to treat pagans differently?


  3. The Church


    1. Read Matthew 18:18. We discussed the issue of taking disputes to the church. How important is the decision of the church?


    2. Let's go back and read Matthew 16:18-19. When we studied that a little while ago I spiritualized it by saying that those who understand that Jesus is God and accept Him are "loosed" and those who reject Him are "bound" in heaven. Was I wrong? (This new context shows that I did not go far enough in the practical application. Jesus tells us that the church is given spiritual authority on earth.)


      1. How far does this authority go? Can the church change the day of worship? Can the church swap Jesus for another mediator? (The context in Matthew 18 is disputes between church members.)


    3. Read Matthew 18:19-20. How big must the church be to have the kind of authority we have been discussing? Will a church of two be enough?


      1. As you sit back and contemplate these texts, what do you think is Jesus' essential point? (Heaven works through us. God delegates authority to us.)


      2. Does this have anything to do with Jesus' previous discussion about children? (Jesus teaches us to be humble and dependent on Him. That informs the extent of our "authority" here. Our authority must be an accord with Jesus' revealed will. This means that the church should not be handing down edicts that contradict central teachings of God. Because we have this authority, we need to be very cautious how we use it.)


  4. Forgiveness


    1. Read Matthew 18:21-22. The only way to be sure we have seventy-seven times is to keep a record. Is this what Jesus directs?


    2. Read Matthew 18:23-30. What is your reaction to the man who owed millions not forgiving the man who owed a small amount?


    3. Read Matthew 18:31. The observers were distressed, just like you! Is it because the small debt guy was not forgiven seven times much less seventy-seven times?


    4. Read Matthew 18:32-33. What does the master say is the problem? (Mercy. It is not counting that Jesus commands, it is having mercy on those who seek forgiveness.)


      1. What is the benchmark for forgiveness in your life? (Jesus died on your behalf for your sins. Your sin is against God. We are affected by sin, but breaking God's law is a sin against Him. We are the servant who has been forgiven "millions.")


    5. Read Matthew 18:34-35. What is Jesus' warning?


      1. What does it mean to "forgive ... from your heart?"


  5. Marriage


    1. Read Matthew 19:3-6. Does Jesus believe in the creation account? (He believes in it so firmly that He bases spiritual conclusions on it.)


    2. Read Matthew 19:7-9. Do you think that it is an accident that this discussion of marriage immediately follows the discussion about forgiveness?


      1. How does the discussion about marriage shape our understanding of forgiveness? (If a spouse was always to forgive the other spouse, then we would have no divorce. This shows us that mercy is informed by God's plan for marriage and for life.)


      2. Could a spouse forgive "from the heart" the unfaithfulness of the other spouse, but still divorce for unfaithfulness? (Yes. Forgiveness does not mean that you abandon common sense.)


    3. Read Matthew 19:10. Later in this chapter Jesus says it is hard for a rich person to be saved. Read Matthew 19:25. What do Jesus' disciples think about His teachings? (They are astonished. It does not seem right to them. It does not fit their understanding of God's will.)


    4. Read Matthew 19:11-12 (marriage) and Matthew 19:26 (wealth). What is Jesus' suggestion for teachings that are hard to understand and follow? (That God will work with us to make seemingly impossible directions possible.)


  6. Wages


    1. Read Matthew 20:1-12. Do you agree with those who are complaining? Put yourself in the place of those who worked all day!


    2. Read Matthew 20:13-16. If Jesus is teaching us a lesson about the Kingdom of Heaven, and not wages, what is the lesson? (God is not looking for merely fair. He is that. But, He is more than fair. He gives us what we deserve, and He gives us more than we deserve. He makes the impossible, possible.


    3. Friend, God cares about you. He cares about dependent children. He calls on us to be a blessing to others, rather than just seeking what we think is fair.


  7. Next week: Jesus in Jerusalem.

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