MONTHLY ARCHIVES: September 2016

The Heart

Posted on September 27, 2016 by Karah

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If it’s a nice day, sit outside as you read your Bible and pray. Enjoy God’s creation all around you, thanking Him for His provision.

Next, Jesus turned His attention to lust, adultery, and divorce. Instead of focusing on these outward actions, Jesus went straight to the cause: the heart. Read Matthew 5:27-30 in your Bible.

“But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

—Matthew 5:28-29

Thoughtfully answer the following questions:

How are lust, divorce, and adultery symptoms of a deeper heart issue? Explain.

In our flesh, we will always subvert, destroy, and twist everything God meant for good, including passion, sex, and marriage. How does today’s passage help you better understand the depth of your need for Jesus?

Why is it important to recognize that without a relationship with Jesus, we will always default to sin and cannot live to please God in any area of our lives?

Examine verses 29-30. This is hyperbole and is meant to promote the message that believers must do whatever it takes to correct sinful heart attitudes. Why is it vital that we deal with sinful attitudes? Explain.

Hyperbole n. = Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

Respond

We’re incapable of resisting sin on our own. Even as followers of Jesus, we are still tempted to sin, and we can still choose to disobey Him.

Ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart for sinful attitudes that do not reflect Jesus’ heart and the way He has called you to live. Confess and repent of these sins today.

In your journal, list specific actions you will take this week to deal with your heart issues. Be specific and take the drastic steps necessary to cut those attitudes out of your life.

For further study of how Jesus transforms our hearts, read Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Corinthians 3:18; and Galatians 2:20.

Behind the Story

At this time, the Pharisees were allowing divorces for frivolous reasons. Jesus wanted His followers to see the intention behind the laws about divorce. Marriage is sacred and should not be treated frivolously. Essentially, Jesus’ point was that “Marriage is intended to be an exclusive, one-on-one relationship—for life. The only excuse a person has for violating this principle through divorce is that the other partner has destroyed it through ongoing, unrepentant adultery.”3

The Point

Jesus deals with our heart issues. He calls His followers to a higher standard that is only possibly because of a transformed heart.

 

3Stuart Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary: Matthew, ed. Max Anders, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2000), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Matthew 5 – The King Speaks His Heart (Part I)”


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Dealing with Anger

Posted on September 20, 2016 by Karah

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Write down everything that’s swirling around in your mind—what you need to do, what you’re worrying about, anything that’s distracting you. After you’ve written your list, set it out of sight so you can focus only on Jesus.

After discussing the qualities that would characterize true believers, Jesus began to detail how their relationship with Him would change the way they interacted with others. First on His list? Anger. Read Matthew 5:21-26 in your Bible to learn more.

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” —Matthew 5:22

Answer the following questions.

Jesus equated anger or hatred in your heart toward someone with murder. What does that teach you about Jesus’ attitude toward wrath?

Does this passage mean that it’s a sin to ever get angry? Explain.

The kind of anger Jesus was talking about here isn’t a flash of anger or righteous anger when God’s standards have been thwarted. It’s the kind of anger you allow to consume your heart and mind, that you hold onto and allow to fester. How can harboring anger and bitterness damage your relationship with God? With others?

Jesus also included harmful, cutting words that can kill someone’s spirit as something believers should refrain from. What does this teach you about the way Christians should treat and value others? Explain.

Respond

Have you been guilty of holding anger like this in your heart? Look up verses in Scripture that talk about anger and how to handle it. (Start with Eph. 4:26-31; James 1:19-20; and Prov. 29:11.) Record in your journal one way you will seek to reconcile a relationship that’s been broken by anger.

When temptation comes, rely on Jesus to help you overcome the desire to criticize, hurt, or hold a grudge toward others. Instead, address conflict in your relationships before anger has the opportunity to take root in your heart. Followers of Jesus should be known as people who extend forgiveness, mercy, and grace because of the enormity of sin from which God has forgiven us.

Behind the Story

The Greek word translated “angry” here is a reference to deep-seated, smoldering inner anger. This is wrath, not simply a flash of anger. We will feel anger in our lives, but wrongful anger that we hold onto and allow to control our lives and direct our actions is wrong. That’s the kind of anger that Jesus equates with murder in Matthew 5:21-26. It’s detrimental to our relationships and to us.

The Point

Followers of Jesus will not be characterized by wrath.


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Fulfillment

Posted on September 13, 2016 by Karah

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Put your phone in another room so that you won’t be tempted to check social media or respond to texts for the next few minutes. Focus completely on communicating with God—through His Word and through prayer.

In your journal, write down as many of the Ten Commandments as you can remember without looking it up. Then, turn to Exodus 20 to see if you remembered them all correctly. Ponder these questions:

How many of these commandments have you broken in your life? No one will see this, so you can be honest.

Why is it so hard to keep all the commandments God gave humanity? Explain.

Read Matthew 5:17-20 in your Bible.

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

—Matthew 5:17

Why does it matter that Jesus has perfectly kept all these laws? How does that relate to your salvation? Explain.

Jesus accomplished what you could not; He lived a perfect, sinless life that fulfilled the law completely. Even our best efforts to live up to God’s commands fall painfully short. That’s why Jesus is our only hope. But because Jesus fulfilled the law, we can put our faith in Him and find complete forgiveness all our sins.

Respond

Do you find yourself trying to keep all the rules and earn God’s love? Jesus came to set you free from that. Be honest with God about it. Ask Him to help you to rest in what He has already done. Talk to Him honestly today, asking Him to set you free from the temptation to rely on your own good works to earn His favor.

Write out a prayer, thanking Jesus for His perfect sacrifice and for fulfilling the law in every way. Praise Him for doing what you never could have.

For further study, read Ephesians 2. This chapter is a powerful reminder that our salvation is not a result of keeping the law and being good. Salvation is all about Jesus.

Behind the Story

In Exodus 20, Moses delivered the Ten Commandments to the people from God Himself. For hundreds of years, the people did all they could to keep each law, hopelessly falling short every time. That’s why God created the sacrificial system; it was a way for people to atone for the sins they committed. But it was a temporary fix. It wasn’t until Jesus came that complete and perfect forgiveness was possible. The Sermon on the Mount is all about reminding people that apart from Jesus, we cannot please God. We will disobey Him. We will break the law. But Jesus came to set us free from our hopeless attempts at perfection. He is the answer.

The Point

Jesus has done what we cannot do. Only He completely fulfilled the law and only His righteousness makes it possible for us to enter God’s kingdom.


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Meant to Shine

Posted on September 6, 2016 by Karah

10d9e09c-5d60-4f8d-a22a-91eb6a847363Pause

Spend a few minutes praying for those in your circle of influence—your family, friends, teachers, coaches, and neighbors. Pray that God would show you how to reach these people with the gospel.

Read Matthew 5:13-16 in your Bible.

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” —Matthew 5:16

Answer these questions:

What would happen if you mixed dirt and dust in with salt? Would it still be usable to flavor your food? Explain.

Salt is meant to flavor and purify. A lamp is meant to shine and guide people. How do these examples help you to understand about what the lives of Christians are meant to do? Explain.

Read verse 16 once more. According to this verse, what are our good deeds supposed to accomplish? Why is this important to understand?

Just as salt and lamps have a purpose, so do we as followers of Christ. Our lives are meant to point people to God so that He will be glorified, and they will understand and receive His love for them.

Respond

We are to reflect His light. Our lives should point to Him. Our thoughts, attitudes, words, actions—everything—should glorify Him so people see Jesus when they look at us. Evaluate your life with these questions:

Do you try to blend in with what those around you were saying and doing or do you say no to sin?

Do you try to hide the fact that you are a Christian from anyone? Or do you live each day confident in His love and determined to show His love to others?

If your answers reflect that you hide or blend in more than letting your light shine, acknowledge that. Be honest with God about it and ask for His forgiveness for any sin you’ve committed. Then, ask Him for the courage and strength to live differently this week. Each day is a fresh start, and His mercies are new (Lam. 3:22-23).

As a Christian, you’ve been placed exactly where you are for a reason. God wants to use you to shine His light so that your friends, classmates, and family see Him more clearly. Pray that you will allow God to shine through your life this week so that others may learn more about Him.

Behind the Story

At this point in history, salt was more than just for flavoring like it is today. In biblical times, salt was used to purify what it was added to. However, if the salt lost its taste, it couldn’t do its job. The phrase “lose its taste” refers to immoral and foolish behavior. When we, as believers in Jesus, choose to sin and blend in with the world, we can’t do what God has called us to—show His purity and love to those around us. We miss out on our purpose.

The Point

God works so powerfully through believers that people look past them and give glory to Him.


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