Lesson 1

What Makes Christianity Christian?

(Genesis 1 & 3, Romans 5 & 13, 1 John 4, Ephesians 2)
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Introduction: Our last series of lessons taught us why we can be assured of our salvation. This quarter we uncover why we can be certain about the Second Coming of Jesus. Since some Christians do not believe in a Second Coming, let's jump right into our first study in this new series!

  1. FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD


    1. Read Genesis 1:26-28. What do you think motivated God to create us?


      1. Do you find any clue in the fact that He made us in His image?


      2. Do you find any clue in the fact that He made us rulers over the creation?


      3. What do you think His goal was for us?


    2. Read Genesis 3:8-10. Do you think God regularly walked in the Garden of Eden?


      1. If so, why? (We normally choose friends who are "like us." These texts point to a God who wanted to have a friendship, a relationship with man. He made man like Him in many ways. He gave man free choice. He came down to visit with man as the greater Ruler to a lesser ruler.)


    3. Read Jeremiah 3:18-20. What kind of relationship did God seek with His people in these verses? (He wants us to be family. This is just one text of many in the Bible where God uses the illustration of a family. He variously calls us His bride and His sons and daughters.)


    4. God's original purpose in creating was to make friends and family!


  2. FELLOWSHIP BROKEN


    1. Let's read on in Genesis 3. Read Genesis 3:11-15, 22-23. Why did God drive Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden?


      1. Now that man had knowledge about sin, didn't that make them "more complete" companions?


        1. What was the "big problem" anyway? (It was a test of loyalty, a test of selfishness. They chose to disobey God in a way that preferred man over God (see Genesis 3:5-6).)


        2. Have you ever had a friend or family member who consistently preferred himself (herself) over others? Tell me about the future of those kinds of relationships?


        3. Consider Jesus' life and death. To what extent did He prefer others over Himself?


        4. Is selfishness the central test of fellowship with God?


  3. FELLOWSHIP RESTORED


    1. Read John 17:3. Why is knowing God eternal life? How does that work? (If selfishness is such a grave problem, then the best antidote is to understand that our God was willing to engage in the ultimate act of unselfishness - to die a painful death for us.)


      1. What is the best way to "know" God?


        1. How do you get to know friends or family better?


    2. Read Romans 13:8-11. How is love the fulfillment of the commands not to covet, commit adultery, murder or theft? (Coveting is wanting something someone else has, and adultery, murder and theft are taking something someone else has.)


      1. Compare love with selfishness? (It is the opposite.)


      2. Can you see why selfishness was the "test" at the tree?


      3. Notice v. 10 says "love does no harm." It that a complete definition of love?


    3. Read 1 John 4:8-11. Why is love, a lack of selfishness, the key to restoring fellowship with God? (Because God is like that.)


    4. Read 1 John 4:16-17. When John says "love is made complete among us," what does he mean? (God loves us. If we love our fellow man, that completes the circle of love.)


      1. Does love give us an assurance of the Second Coming? If so, how? (This text tells us we can have confidence "on the day of judgment." This confidence stems from love. The very fact of a day of judgment suggests a "love reward" for those who pass judgment. What more appropriate reward than to get back to God's original fellowship plan?)


    5. Read 1 John 4:20-21. Does this make sense to you? Do you know people who you could love a lot more if you had never met them?


      1. Be honest with me. Do you find it easy to love others?


      2. If you do not find it easy to love others, does that mean you should be worried about the judgment and the Second Coming?


    6. Read Romans 5:8-9. Who loved first? (Jesus.)


      1. Does that mean we need not have a minimum "love level" to be saved? ( 2 Corinthians 9:10, 15 tells us Christ's righteousness is a "gift" and He will "enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." Righteousness sounds like farming crops. It grows with time. God gives us love, we respond with a growing love.)


    7. Read Ephesians 2:8-10. If you find it hard to love all others, when does the love for our fellow man come? (This text reinforces the idea that salvation is a gift, but that we are created to do good works in response.)


    8. The fellowship that was broken through selfishness, is "fixed" by God's act of unselfishness. What is our obligation to "fix" selfishness around us by unselfish acts?


      1. Have you ever seen that happen? Seen someone "fix" an unhappy situation by unselfish love?


    9. The "Life-Application Approach" section of the "teacher's helps" of our lesson has a very interesting series of three questions you should consider:


      1. Can one believe without doing?


      2. Can one do without believing?


      3. Can one believe and do without loving?


  4. OBEDIENCE AND FELLOWSHIP


    1. We discussed earlier how love for our fellow man will cause us to keep the commandments which require us to respect the rights of others. How about those commandments that direct our relationship with God -- does love also cause us to keep them too? (Read John 14:15. We saw that sin was selfishness and love was giving up ourselves for others. Surely that concept embraces giving up ourselves for God. This is the "Eden test" that comes to us every day. Will we obey God or will we obey the call to self-centeredness.)


    2. This week I read a letter by a fellow that I have admired for his writing and his spiritual leadership. He was discussing one of the Ten Commandments, the fourth, and he said that he no longer considered it to be binding. My reaction was "Why shouldn't I obey what God says? Can you think of a reason? (We have to make practical decisions on how we live. If God tells me to do something, what reason do I have to do what I prefer over what God prefers? The reason would be selfishness - the opposite of love.)


    3. Friend, God created us to have fellowship with Him. We broke the relationship, by being selfish, and He re-established the relationship by absolute unselfishness. God obviously wants to fellowship with us in the future as He did in Eden. Will you agree? Will you respond to God with unselfish love?


  5. Next week: The Authority of the Bible and the Second Coming.

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