Lesson 3

The Contenders

(Philippians 2, 1 Thessalonians 5, 1 John 2, 2 Corinthians 4)
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Introduction: Have you ever watched a boxing match? When I have seen world championship matches on television, they tell us how much each contestant weighs, how tall he is, the length of his arms and how he has done in prior matches. To give us some kind of idea of what kind of person the boxer is, they generally do some sort of interview. This week our lesson looks at the two contenders for the championship of our world: Christ and Satan. Since we learned that we are part of the battle between good and evil, this fight is personal. So, let's jump in and see what we can learn about each of these contenders!

  1. Attitudes of the Contenders

    1. Read Philippians 2:5-8. If you were promoting Jesus, which one of His qualifications would especially catch your eye? (Verse 6 tells us He is "in very nature God!")

      1. How would you feel about yourself if you were God?

      2. What kind of attitude does Jesus have?

      3. What does it mean (v.8) to "become obedient to death?"

      4. Is this the attitude you would expect of Jesus?

    2. Read Isaiah 14:13-14. What kind of attitude does Satan possess?

    3. Compare the attitudes of the two contenders? (They are diametrically different. Jesus, who has the right to have an "attitude," does not. Satan, who did not have the right to have an "attitude," did.)

      1. If you drew an "attitude line" between Jesus and Satan, with the Jesus side being the extreme in humility, and the Satan side being the extreme in pride, where would you be found on that line?

    4. Let's go back and look at Philippians 2:5 again. If we are on Jesus' side, whose attitude should be ours?

      1. Is this an attitude that you often see either in the church or in the world? If not, why not?

    5. Read Philippians 2:9-11. What was the final result of Jesus' humility? If you are looking to be exalted, is this the blueprint, the plan, to follow? Or, have you violated the blueprint if you set exaltation as your final goal?

    6. Nothing we learn from the Bible does us any good unless we apply it to our daily living. Let's look at Philippians 2:5-7 again. Does this apply to our marriage? (Ephesians 5:24-25) Does this apply to our work? ( Luke 14:8-11)Does this apply to our relationships in church? ( Romans 12:3-5)

      1. Are your marriage, work or church relationships in need of reformation?

  2. Contenders and Light

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6. The Bible consistently equates God with light and Satan with darkness. What does our text in Thessalonians suggest is the practical difference between light and darkness? (We can see things in the light, but have trouble seeing them in the dark. This text suggests that we "see," we understand, God's will and His plan for the future.)

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 4:6. How is Jesus, in a practical way, "light?" What does the text mean when it refers to the "glory of God in the face of Jesus?"(This is a very important concept. Jesus is called "light" because He helps us to "see" His Father. Satan is "dark" because he does not want us to understand God's love or character. The reference to the "glory of God in the face of Christ" is a glorious way to say we see God the Father when we behold Jesus!)

    3. Read 2 Corinthians 4:7. What role do we play when it comes to light? Do you find yourself described in this text? (Yes. We are the "jars of clay" who possess the "treasure" of this light.)

      1. If our "treasure" and our "light" is understanding God through the record of what Jesus did here, how important is your study of the Bible? (To know and understand God better, is to have light. To fail to study God's word is to be in darkness. The choice is yours.)

    4. Is there some part of your life that you would prefer to keep hidden? Where does that suggest you currently stand in the contest between darkness and light? (If we have some activity that we prefer not to have others know about, this is a tip-off that we need to carefully review whether our activity is pleasing to God. After all, Jesus is aware of all of our actions. How does it make any sense not to want others to know when the judge knows? At the same time there is a place for what I call "sanctified hypocrisy" - see Romans 14:22 and its context.)

  3. Contenders: Christ and Anti-Christ

    1. Read 1 John 2:18, 22-23. I was recently cross-examining a witness in one of my religious liberty cases. He contended my client was not entitled to a religious accommodation because he thought my client should have to prove the truth of his religious beliefs. The rule of law in the U.S. is that you cannot be required to prove the truth of your religious beliefs. To try to show his view was ridiculous, I asked this witness about the term "anti-Christ." He had no idea what the term "anti-Christ" meant. What does John tell us the term "anti-Christ" means? (Someone who denies that Jesus is the Christ.)

      1. Is there just one anti-Christ? (Verse 18 says "the anti-Christ" is coming, but many more have come.)

      2. It is common among more conservative Christian denominations to see other Christian denominations as the "anti-Christ?" What do these verses suggest about the nature of the anti-Christ?

      3. Would it be a better "fit" with these verses to look for a religious "anti-Christ" that actually denied that Jesus was the Christ?

        1. What religion(s) fit that description? (Islam immediately comes to my mind. I am not an expert on Islam, but beginning a few years ago I started reading the Quran (Koran) and doing some study of its teachings. The Quran acknowledges Jesus, but does not accept Him as God or Savior.)

        2. Has the anti-Christ come to America? Has it come to Christianity in general?

  4. Contenders: Gathering vs. Scattering

    1. Read John 10:11-13. We've got four things to identify in this story: the shepherd, the wolf, the sheep and the hired hand. Who or what does one each represent? (Jesus says in v.11 that He is the shepherd. The wolf is Satan. We are the sheep. The hired hand is your pastor or priest. (Allow a rebuttal time if your pastor or priest is in the audience.))

      1. What does this story say about us -- when it calls us "sheep?" (It says we are vulnerable. We are heavily influenced by the shepherd or the wolf.)

      2. What is the goal of the shepherd? (To keep the sheep together and safe. He is willing to give up His life for that.)

      3. What is the goal of the wolf? (To kill the sheep and scatter them.)

        1. If you were a sheep, would it make any sense to side with the wolf? (He would undoubtedly, ultimately eat you!)

      4. If someone is tearing apart your church, whose work does that person reflect?

      5. What is the problem with the hired hand? (He is doing it only for money. For that reason, I assume your pastor or priest does not actually fall into the category of a true hired hand.)

        1. Are there members of your church who are members only for the "money," the success in life, the blessings? How about you?

    2. Let's read on. Read John 10:14-16. Jesus says His sheep know Him. How do we know Jesus?

      1. Jesus says again in these verses that He lays down His life for His sheep. How does that contrast with the goal of the wolf?

      2. What does verse 16 suggest is the goal of the gospel? (Bringing in other sheep so that there is "one flock and one shepherd.")

    3. Friend, do you see a "theme" with our Contender? He is humble, concerned, caring, obedient to the point of being willing to die for us. Satan, on the other hand, is proud, arrogant, and willing to take our life to advance his claims. How do you line up between these two contenders? Who do you choose today?

  5. Next Week: The War Comes to Earth

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Lessons on The Cosmic Conflict Between Christ & Satan

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