Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bible Study Introduction


[Updated November 2016.  I made some minor changes, added a bunch of new questions, and I added two new topics: “Is Depression a Sin?” and “Atheism and World Religions.”]

On this blog, unless otherwise specified:  Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.®  Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
 

            [FYI: This Bible study is posted in three places: sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com and myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com and ironsharpensironbiblestudy.blogspot.com. 
            At Sweetly Broken Girl, I did not include my own answers to the questions and I did not allow comments to be posted.  This way, people can have the study as it is, without input from others.
            At My Impressionistic Life and Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study, I added some of my own answers and allowed comments from you, so that you can give your own thoughts and answers to the questions.  The only difference between the two blogs is that the Bible study is the only thing at ironsharpensironbiblestudy.blogspot.com, whereas there are lots of other posts at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com.  At the last minute, I decided to post the Bible study on its own blog to make it easier for people to access.]


"Iron Sharpens Iron" (ISI) Bible Study: Intro
 
             Proverbs 27:17:  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

             Have you been a Christian for a long time?  Do you have a good grasp on the basics of Christianity and Scripture?  Do you like to spend time with other people discussing what you’ve learned about Scripture and how to apply it to your life?  Do you like wrestling with the more challenging verses and issues? 
            I would love to have a Bible study that would take me deeper into my faith, that would make me wrestle with some of the harder things of Scripture, and that would help me build a deeper relationship with others as we explored these hard things together.  But most Bible studies that I come across go over the basics of Christianity.  And that’s great, but I’ve already done many of those throughout the decades that I have been a believer.  And so since I couldn’t seem to find one that went beyond the basics, I decided to write my own. 

#1: A Full, Abundant Life

Icebreaker Question:
Briefly describe your life/spiritual life up to now.  And what are some of the most exciting or memorable times in your life so far?   

Have someone open the meeting with prayer

Read Lesson:
            In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

            We hear all different kinds of things today about the kind of life God wants for us.  I have heard preachers say that God wants us to wear fine clothes and live in big homes because we are the “children of the King.”  And so we shouldn’t be living like paupers.  [And this notion probably appeals to a lot of us because we would love to believe that we should be getting all we want on this side of eternity.  Isn’t that what life is about, after all?  Rack up as many toys and as much happiness as you can before the final trumpet blows?  (Note the sarcasm.)]

#2: In the World, Not of the World

Icebreaker Question:
What are some of your all-time favorite movies or books, and why?  Which have made you cry?  And what are some that you dislike the most, and why? 

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
Philippians 3:18-20:  “. . . many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. . . .”

            As Christians, we are citizens of two different worlds – the world (including our own country and society) and God’s Kingdom.  Oftentimes, these worlds are in conflict, such as when it comes to their purposes and goals, what they rely on and consider important, how they define “success,” and how they value people.  So given all of this conflict and difference, how can we as Christians best live out this verse about being in the world but not of it?     

#3: Humble Like a Child

Icebreaker Question:
If you had one weekend to spend any way you wanted and money was not an issue, how would you spend your weekend? 

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            Matthew 18:2-4:  “He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said:  ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” 
            Whoever humbles himself like a child!  This, I believe, should be the ultimate goal of every believer.  Humility.  Brokenness.  Now, everyone might define humility a little differently, but here’s my attempt at it: 
            Humility is recognizing and freely admitting that we are needy, helpless, and dependent.  It’s knowing that we need our Heavenly Father desperately, that we are helpless to do anything without Him, and that we are fully dependent on Him daily.  It’s resting in and so completely trusting His goodness and love that no matter what happens, we can still say, “Father, I trust You.”  And it’s knowing that everything is by His power and for His glory, and wanting nothing more than to see Him glorified in our lives.  To me, this is what it means to be humbled, to be “sweetly broken” (as the song by Jeremy Riddle calls it – listen to it if you can.  It’s wonderful). 

#4: Transparency and Tearing Down Walls

Icebreaker Question:
What movie or show would you love to have been a part of?  And why?  What real event?

Open With Prayer (specifically that God opens your eyes to the truth about yourself, that He reveals to you if there are any walls around your heart that are blocking Him.)

Read Lesson:
            Matthew 5:8:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  

            Pure.  Being free from impurities.  Impurities are those things that pollute what is true and genuine and good.  And what pollutes our hearts is falsehood, hiding from the truth or hiding the truth.  Deliberately living a lie or unconsciously agreeing with one.  Sin.  These keep us from being able to really experience, see, and know God.  But if we will live authentic, transparent lives before God, we will know Him (and ourselves) in a way we never could before.

#5: A Proper Balance

Icebreaker Question:
What three things would you love to do before you leave this planet?

Open With Prayer


Read Lesson:
            1 John 4:15-18: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  . . . There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
            The truth in this verse never really stood out to me until I took down the walls that were around my heart and let God flood my heart with His love and heal the old wounds.  When the walls were up, I was relating to Him out of fear.  I did love Him and knew in my head that He loved me – because the Bible told me so – but I didn’t live out of His love.  I lived out of fear that I would pray wrong, speak wrong, displease Him, let Him down, fail Him, etc.  I feared His wrath.  I feared being abandoned.  I feared everything because I wasn’t able to really know and rely on His love.  Not until the walls came down. 

#6: Forgiveness

Icebreaker Question:
Who in your life, in the world, or in history do you most admire?  (Besides Jesus.)  Why?  Who in the Bible (besides Jesus) do you most admire, relate to, or find intriguing?   

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Okay, so we looked at our relationship with the Lord and how our past and our fears affect it.  Now let’s turn our attention outward, to other people.  As humans, we all hurt others and are hurt by others.  And the world’s way to deal with this is to hold grudges or to punish others.  But God has a lot to say about forgiveness – His forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others.  And these have major impacts on our relationship with Him and our standing before Him. 
           Mark 11:25:  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  
            Matthew 6:14-15:  “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 
            Psalm 66:18:  “. . . If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”