Let’s really get to the heart of the matter: when was the last time you told someone you were a Christian? Was there evidence in your life to prove it?
Read James 2:14-17. Look closely at verse 14.
What question did James ask in verse 14?
What does that question mean? If he were asking you, how would you answer?
Read verses 15 and 16. What question was James asking in these verses?
How would you respond if you saw a person who was hungry?
What does it mean to say that faith without action is dead?
What is the relationship between faith and works, according to these verses?
Using James’ standard, would you describe your faith as alive or dead? Explain.
This passage in James explains that a faith without actions is a dead faith. James wasn’t saying that it’s your works or the good things you do that ensure your salvation. Salvation comes through your relationship with Jesus. As Paul said, salvation comes through Christ alone. James’ point is that we are saved by faith, but action flows from that faith.
If you’re a believer and your life doesn’t reflect obedience to Christ and involvement in His work, then you’re not fulfilling Jesus’ true purpose for your life. Telling someone “God loves you,” “God bless you,” or “I’ll pray for you” will not put food in their stomachs. The faith we profess means nothing if we don’t actually live it out.
God’s call on all our lives is to demonstrate His love by our actions—to the poor and needy and all those around us. Look around you. Where is a need? What can you do to help?
SHE DREAMED OF PLAYING the piano all her life. She bought the books and signed up for the lessons. For the first six months she did great. She practiced faithfully every day. But little by little, she stopped practicing. Eventually, she quit.
Think about a time when you wanted something, but eventually gave up on it. What did you learn?
Read James 1:22-25. Read verse 22 aloud.
What does James 1:22 say we do if we merely listen to the Word? Why is that important?
What analogy did James make in verses 23-24? What does that have to do with hearing God’s Word but not doing what it says?
What is the promise in verse 25?
Why is it not enough to simply know what Scripture says? Why is action so important?
The problem James was addressing was negligence. You can be negligent when you have responsibility but aren’t willing to put in the work to accomplish it.
It is equally not enough to simply say you believe in God’s laws. If you don’t actually obey them, your life says you don’t believe they’re valid. You can tell the whole world you love God, but if your life doesn’t demonstrate that love, then your words are worthless. Do you care for the widow, orphan, or neighbor down the street? This is the heart of God’s Word. Don’t just talk the talk; live your faith!
HAVE YOU ever wondered why your nose is the way it is? Or maybe why some men never go bald and others have heads as shiny as bowling balls? Why do some women have high cheekbones and others don’t?
The answer lies in genetics. All the things that make you uniquely you—including those things you hate—were passed down to you from your parents, grandparents, and all those family members who came before them. Your genes help tell the story of who you are and to whom you belong.
Read Galatians 5:19-26 and read verses 22-23 out loud a few times.
What are the works of the flesh?
How have you seen your sinful desires fight against the leading of the Spirit?
According to this passage, what is the fruit of the Spirit?
Which fruit of the Spirit do you struggle with the most to express toward others?
How does the fruit of the Spirit help tell the world about whom you belong to?
What does it mean to “live by the Spirit”?
Take a good look at your life. Where do you see the work of the Spirit? In what areas do you need to let Him have more control? What steps will you take to do so?
When Paul was writing to the Galatian Christians all those years ago, he wanted them to recognize the war going on between their sinful desires and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. He explained to them (and us) that the fruit in our lives points to whom we belong. If our lives are dictated by the desires of our flesh, as Paul put it, then we aren’t in a relationship with Christ. If we know Jesus and the Spirit of God lives within us, it will be obvious. Our lives will be marked by peace, joy, love, gentleness, and all those other laudable qualities. God’s Word is clear: we must live for Christ or live for the world. We can’t live for both. It’s your life that tells the truth. So, what does your life say?
FRIENDSHIPS ARE TOUGH, ESPECIALLY AS A TEEN. You’re discovering what it means to move past childlike friendships into more mature relationships with others. As believers, we have a different standard than the world. We are to show justice, love, and faith in the way we treat others. In the world, we see a different standard. The perversion of love is manipulation, and the opposite of faith is inconsistency. For example, inconsistency would mean one day I will follow Christ, the next I will live my own way and do my own thing. Manipulation and inconsistency tend to make up the kinds of relationships we see displayed in the media or society. As Christians, these qualities have no place in our behavior toward others.
Read Matthew 23:23-26. Would Jesus have any reason to speak to you like He did the Pharisees in verse 23?
What is a hypocrite?
Why was Jesus calling the Pharisees hypocrites?
How do you display justice, love, and faithfulness in your relationships?
What do you need to clean out your life so that you shine with the light of Christ? Explain.
In today’s passage, Jesus was pretty harsh to the Pharisees for their arrogant behavior toward others. We like to think of Jesus as gentle and soft-spoken, but Jesus was fearless. He went before the religious leaders and called them out publicly. He said they put on a good act, but on the inside they were dirty and full of sin. They were greedy and self-indulgent. They were more concerned with their needs rather than the needs of those to whom they were supposed to be ministering. How important it is that we examine our own hearts before we judge the heart of another! It is our responsibility to confess our own sins to God and allow Him to cleanse us. From there we can minister to and love on those around us with an attitude of mercy and grace.
GOD CREATED us for relationships. We were created with a need to interact with other people. Why do you come back to camp year after year? One reason is probably because of the relationships you built in your cabin. We were also created with a need to interact with God Himself. God desires to spend time with us and develop a relationship with us. In order for us to know Him, we must spend time with Him. When we feel the desire to pray or read the Bible, we need to realize it is God pursuing us. It is our choice to respond.
Read Mark 2:23-28. What does verse 27 mean to you?
Why were the Pharisees (religious leaders) so upset with Jesus?
What was Jesus’ response to their criticism?
According to Jesus, who was the Sabbath made for (v. 27)?
What does this tell you about the purpose of Sundays?
Ask yourself, “Why do I go to church?”
The Pharisees were so caught up in the rules and regulations of religion that they had lost sight of God. They had become more concerned about the rules than they were about people. Jesus allowed the disciples to pick heads of grain because they were hungry. Jesus had compassion for those around Him and didn’t allow himself to get caught up in the do’s and don’ts of religion.
It is all about relationships. When you read about Jesus, you see that He spent time living out what love meant. He didn’t throw around a list of rules. Rather He showed them the mercy and grace of a loving Father by being a living example. Do you?
WE ARE ALL SINNERS SAVED BY GRACE. Each one of us was created for a relationship with the Savior. At the very core of our sinfulness God gives us grace. He sees our need for cleansing and offers us the opportunity for forgiveness through the acceptance of His Son, Jesus Christ. Before judging the person in our cabin, our tribe/village, or even next to us, we need to reflect on our lives before Christ. We were all searching for the missing piece that would make us whole. Through God’s mercy and grace, we found the missing piece—Jesus. We need to look at others through the eyes of Christ, realizing they are searching, too.
Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17 and look closely at verse 15.
Who is the writer of this passage?
For what is he thankful?
According to the writer, why did Jesus come? (v. 15)
For what purpose does he believe Jesus saved him?
To whom does he give the glory?
Paul considered himself the worst of sinners, a man who sought out and persecuted Christians. Paul even describes himself as a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an “arrogant man.” He then thanked Jesus for loving him enough to save him from his life of sin. He acknowledged that it was because of the mercy and grace of Christ that his life was totally changed.
Paul knew the power Christ can have in a person’s life; he had experienced it. The reason Jesus came was to save sinners such as Paul (and me and you). Through the love of Jesus, Paul became a lover of lost souls. He saw people through the eyes of Christ and his heart of hatred was replaced with a heart of compassion. With God’s help, Paul made a huge impact on the world for Christ.
HE SITS NEXT TO YOU IN CLASS, the weird kid with tattoos and a nose piercing. She is in your cabin, the introvert with no friends and thrift store clothes. Each day you are surrounded by people who are different from you and maybe even a little strange. Do you interact with them? Do you try to develop relationships with them? Or do you shut them out and focus only on those with whom you feel comfortable? God has placed you on a mission field—your school campus, your community, your tribe/village at camp. There is a reason you are surrounded by these people. Are you asking God why?
Read Mark 2:15-17. Zone in on verse 17.
According to verse 17, who is it that Jesus came to save?
Whom did He classify as the sick?
How does that affect you?
What do these verses tell you about Christ’s character?
How does Jesus express love to these people?
How can you follow His example toward those who are different?
Jesus loved sinners. He hung out with them on a regular basis. And He didn’t wait for them to come to Him; rather, He went to them. In today’s passage, we find Him hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners. The religious leaders of the time, the Pharisees, were upset by the fact that Jesus was eating with these outcasts. They saw it as a repulsive act, but Jesus looked beyond the sin and society’s norms and saw the heart of the sinners. He saw their need and reached out to them. Jesus had compassion for their lostness.
We need to have compassion for those around us. Instead of only seeing the surface, we need to see them with the eyes of Christ, who gave His life to save us. All of us.
HAVE YOU EVER felt trapped by something? A situation, a lie, an invitation, a mess, a sin?
At one time or another, most of us have felt trapped by something in our lives. We know that as hard as we try, there’s no way we can get out of it ourselves. We know that as bad as it hurts, there’s nothing we can do. We know that we’re powerless, broken, and tired. That’s when we need to turn to the One who has the power and authority to handle the problem.
Read through Luke 5:17-26 and think about how you’d have reacted if you’d been present in verse 25.
What do verses 20 and 24 say about the authority of Christ?
What did the paralyzed man do after being healed?
Why is it important that Luke recorded Jesus forgiving the man’s sins and healing him?
What was Jesus’ response to the scribes and Pharisees’ reaction to His miracle?
When Jesus saw the paralyzed man and simply said “Your sins are forgiven,” He undoubtedly shocked the scribes and Pharisees. They would have quickly realized that Jesus was claiming He could do things only God had the authority to do. How could He forgive the sins of someone if He was merely a man?
Jesus wanted everyone to understand that He was no mere man. He was the Son of God with the power to rescue people from the bondage of sin and heal them. He still has the power to do that today. We just have to let Him have authority in our lives and trust Him for salvation. And that’s something to celebrate!
POLICE OFFICER, TEACHER, JUDGE, principal, mom, dad, pastor, counselor. What do all these have in common? If there are some not-so-nice words that pop in your head at the thought of these people, then you should stop what you’re doing and pray about that right now. These individuals are in roles of authority. They have been granted authority over you by the state or by God.
Now think about this: when was the last time you really thought about Jesus having ultimate authority over your life?
Read over Mark 1:21-28. Pay attention to verses 25 and 26.
What are some things that jump out at you? (Feel free to take some notes in your Bible.)
What does verse 24 reveal about Jesus?
Read through verses 25 and 26 again. Jesus’ authority was over both the physical and the spiritual. How does this encourage you?
Why is it important that Jesus taught “as one having authority” and had the power to perform miracles?
There is an Ultimate Authority to which we all are accountable. It would be easier if we recognize that sooner rather than later. The demons in this passage knew who Jesus was. His words sent them into convulsions. The point? There is power in the words of Christ and authority in His very presence. That same authority isn’t lacking from your life. The power of Christ that is over heaven and earth is the same power in you. So why do we have a problem surrendering to Him? What do you need to surrender completely to Christ today?
WHEN YOU’RE IN TROUBLE, to whom do you run? Whom do you ask when you need help? If you have a question, to whom do you go to find the answer?
I hope your answer is that you go to the ultimate authority for each situation. If you’re in trouble, don’t you think you should go to your parents? If you need help, your counselor, friend or parent would probably be able to lend a hand. If you’re looking for an answer, maybe you should go to an expert on the subject. But that only works if you know who the expert actually is.
Read Matthew 4:1-11 and focus on verse 7.
Look at the three temptations and the responses of Christ. With what did the Devil begin his temptation of Jesus? How did Jesus respond?
The Devil tempted Jesus with physical needs, status, and questioned Jesus’ authority as the Son of God. What does that teach us about how the Devil will tempt us?
How did Jesus respond to the Devil’s temptations? What does that teach you about how you can respond?
When Jesus used the phrase, “It is written,” what did He reveal to us?
Read verse 7. What does it say about the authority of Christ?
What do these verses teach you about the power Christ has to overcome sin and temptation? How does that affect your daily life?
You would’ve thought that the Enemy knew better than to tempt Jesus. Maybe he thought this was the only opportunity he would have to stop it before it all started. Jesus had fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, so maybe he thought this was the time. But Jesus spoke with the authority of God’s Word. He also spoke with the authority of God. When you find yourself in trouble, you simply need to run to the One with all authority. His name is Jesus.