Sunday School Lessons

Explore the Bible Lesson for February 28: Access granted

February 11 2016 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 13:1-13
 
Every year around this time people make New Year’s resolutions to read their Bible more. Yet, every year many people will give up on their Bible reading plans yet again.
 
Why is this? Why do we find it so difficult to read our Bibles like we ought?
 
While some of us are merely undisciplined, I believe that is not the main reason why our Bibles lay unopened on our coffee tables most days.
 
I believe the main reason we do not read the scriptures like we should is because we have a motivation problem.
 
We forget the privilege of being able to understand the powerful treasure contained in between the leather covers of our Bibles.
 
In Isaiah 55:11, God makes a wonderful promise about His Word saying that it “shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
 
In Matthew 13, Jesus uses the parable of the sower and the seeds to illustrate a similar point.
 
Jesus shows His disciples that though there are different responses to the Word of God, we can rest assured God’s Word works.
 
As the great prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “the same sun that melts wax hardens the clay.”
 
This reality sparks a great question in the disciples causing them to ask, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus responds by saying that it has been given to them to know the secrets of the Kingdom (v. 11) and that they will continue to gain more and more understanding of the great mysteries of God (v. 12), while those who have not entered the kingdom will not be able to comprehend the unsearchable riches of His teaching.
 
Brother or sister, when you repented of your sin and trusted in Christ and received the Spirit of God, you were given the ability to open your Bibles and read and enjoy the inexhaustible glories of the secrets of the Kingdom?
 
Go open the treasure chest lying on your coffee table and enjoy the riches therein!

2/11/2016 11:41:31 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 28: Distinct in My Love

February 11 2016 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Matthew 5:43-48
 
The election season is a good time to gauge fears of our fellow citizens. Politicians are experts at exposing and exploiting the suspicions of our culture. Right now, many people fear Middle Easterners because they merely resemble their religious extremist neighbors. Some candidates have proposed that we respond to entire people groups with fear by shutting them out.
 
However, Jesus calls us not to respond in fear, but in faith. To open our hearts to those who are different that we are. Even to our enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
 
It is easy to love those who are like us, but what reward is there in that? Is God not sovereign over all things? Does He not allow His sun to rise on the evil and on the good? Does He not send rain on the just and on the unjust?
 
We know from scripture that God hates those who are resolutely and unrepentantly wicked. Those who do, and intend to do harm against us will face the judgment of God. In most cases, even those who resemble the enemy do not intend harm. Without reservation, we are called to reflect the grace that we so commonly enjoy.
 
Doesn’t God show grace and care for all of His creatures? Absolutely. Therefore Jesus’ disciples are called to imitate God and love both neighbor and enemy. I recently heard International Mission Board President David Platt say that “Only an Americanized Christianity would prioritize security over the proclamation of the gospel.” We must remember the power of Satan is limited by the prerogative of God. When we face the enemy, and the perceived enemy, our initial response should be love: pray for them; love them; open your hearts to them.
 
The power of the gospel dissolves fear and empowers us to act in faith. Perhaps the most poignant way to apply this text is to remind us of Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, love others with the same amount of energy and tenacity that you would for your own well-being. How would you want to be treated?

2/11/2016 11:36:30 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 21: What’s the Sign?

February 9 2016 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 12:38-42
 
All too often we go to God in prayer asking that He would move in a specific way in order to prove His commitment to our good. We may dress it up to make ourselves look more pious in the moment, but behind our prayers often what we are saying to God is, “Speak to me by answering this prayer in the way that I am asking. Show me a sign to prove you are with me and able to help me.”
 
Then we go looking for signs or feelings to see if God is answering our prayer.
 
In Matthew 12:38, the Pharisees approach Jesus similarly, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
 
They do not cover it up with pious language, they just simply admit, “we want a sign.” I am always astonished at this request. A sign? Really?
 
Jesus had already healed a leper (8:1-4), the Centurion’s paralyzed son (8:5-13), Peter’s mother-in-law, everyone from the city who had demons or were sick (8:14-17), two demoniacs from the Gadarenes, (8:28-34), another paralytic (9:1-8), a woman who had severe bleeding (9:18-26), a dead girl (9:18-26), two men born blind (9:27-31), a mute man (9:32-34) and the man with a withered hand (12:9-14).
 
What more could they need? What more could we need?
 
When we pray prayers that ask God to prove His love or commitment to us, we are acting more like this group of scribes and Pharisees than we are faithful followers of King Jesus.

Jesus answers them (and us) by saying there is only one sign needed for a person to know the love and power of God, and that is an empty tomb in the Middle East. Jesus is the truer Jonah who was swallowed by a more sinister grave only to return from the depths three days later.
 
So may we keep making bold requests to God in prayer, but let us do so because the only sign we need to believe in His good and sovereign rule over our lives has already happened – His tomb is still empty.

2/9/2016 11:23:38 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 21: Distinct in My Reactions

February 9 2016 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Matthew 5:33-42
 
The natural mode of our hearts is expressed well in the Latin phrase lex talionis, which means “the law of retaliation.” When someone crosses us or makes demands on us our initial reaction is to respond in the same way. Why not? This is the way we’ve heard that the world works. Right? Retaliation is sinfully seductive and bitterly sweet.
 
However, as Christians we operate by the laws of a different world, the Kingdom of God. This is why in Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus says, “you have heard it said … but I tell you.” What does he tell us? Jesus demands that when someone insults us, we should not respond in a way that escalates violence. Instead, we should respond in love towards our attacker, in a way that prevents further attacks or stops the progression of violence.
 
Moreover, when someone takes your possessions, Jesus calls us to respond in the way of love, namely, to go the extra mile, to give freely to those in need. In many cases, those who pursue our possessions have an actual need they are trying to meet.
 
Doesn’t Jesus call us to give to those who are truly in need?
 
Now, we can split hairs on this passage and develop numerous scenarios where helping can hurt. Or we can think of many modifiers to these words in order to show how these things may or may not play out. But I think that misses the point of the passage.
 
In fact, the initial response of counting the costs to respond this way shows that retaliation is our natural desire.
 
However, Jesus calls us to think differently. Moreover, His Spirit enables us to respond differently.
 
In a unnatural way – better yet, a supernatural way – our need for retaliation and personal justice is not bound by the “pay out” on this earth.
 
If our self-esteem is found in our stance before God, we can lovingly stand in the face of sinful insults. If our treasure is found in the inheritance we have as children of God, we are not devastated when our earthly belongings are taken. This is the power of the gospel.

2/9/2016 11:04:50 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 14: An Open Invitation

February 1 2016 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 11:20-30
 
One of the greatest dangers in the church is the temptation to confuse the gospel of Christ with pharisaical moralism. Pharisaical moralism says you need to conform externally to living a “good Christian life.” The gospel of Christ says you need to be transformed internally by God Himself.
 
Now of course we want to do what’s right and avoid doing bad things, but if one does the right things for the wrong reason, then it wasn’t really the right thing.
 
Isaiah captures the vanity of believing you can do good things to earn the favor of a Holy and Righteous God by saying, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6a).
 
The first words preached by Jesus in Matthew highlight the contrast between moralism and the gospel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
 
The word “repent” demands that we first acknowledge our failure to be and do good. At first glance this seems like bad news.
 
However, the Good News of the gospel is only understood in the context of the bad news of our sin against God. We must first realize that not only are we guilty of doing bad, we are bad.
 
We must acknowledge that we can’t even live up to our own standards of goodness let alone the standards of God. And if we are honest, seeking to be a good Christian in our own strength is exhausting because we always fail to live up to God’s perfect standard.

All this sets the stage beautifully for Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28.
 
He invites those who have come to the end of their pharisaical moralism saying, “Come to me all who labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
 
Repentance is refusing to rely on your own righteousness and running to rest in the righteousness of Christ. Come to Him all you who are weary, He will give you rest.

2/1/2016 11:09:30 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 14: Distinct in My Relationships

January 28 2016 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Matthew 5:27-32
 
Lust is not a new problem; it’s as ancient as the post-Eden condition. Human lust for covenant-breaking sexuality is rooted in the fallen passions of our heart (Matthew 5:27-28). However, the problem of lust has been exasperated in the age of the Internet beyond what anyone could have imagined. And while pornography is an issue of public morality, it’s often shrouded in the secrecy of personal privacy. Our sinful lust is easily fed by the Internet, which offers an easily found image, an easily accessible video.
 
Though no sin is safely hidden from the eyes of our Savior. Even more so, Jesus died to pay the price for our sinful indulgence of lust. Therefore, God takes the sin of lust seriously. And so should we. According to Jesus, indulged lust is equal to adultery. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). This is an issue of the heart.

Lust begins in the heart, the center of a person’s being. It is not enough to maintain physical purity alone, for many Christians adultery is easily avoidable. Jesus calls us to guard against engaging in lust mentally, a heart act of unfaithfulness.
 
The imagery of “tearing out one’s eye” is a deliberate overstatement to emphasize the importance of purity. Those claim to be children of God should be willing to go above and beyond in order to avoid becoming ensnared by sexual sin that finds its origins in the pits of hell. Lustful intent promises satisfaction, but delivers death. The pornography industry is empowered by the fires of hell.
 
Thankfully, in Christ there is salvation from the snares of indulged lust. Even more so, by the power of the Spirit, there is the offer of salvation from sinful patterns of unfaithfulness to God and one’s spouse.
 
The Good News of the gospel is that when we take sin seriously, God will deal with us graciously. In Christ there is true satisfaction of our deepest desires.

1/28/2016 11:01:00 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for February 7: In His Service

January 26 2016 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 9:35-10:8
 
Sometimes when I’m in public places, especially with big crowds, I like to sit down and “people-watch.” It is always fascinating to observe emotions and body language as people shop or move through a crowd to get to their desired destination. Some walk franticly, weaving in and out of the slow walkers. Others are texting and tripping all over everything as they walk – which can be especially fun to watch.
 
People-watching can sometimes be good, cheap and innocent entertainment. In Matthew 9:35-10:42, we see Jesus, the Good Shepherd, people-watching for much more than innocent entertainment. He looks upon the crowds and feels a deep and powerful combination of pain and love.
 
He feels compassion for the people because “they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus viewed people through the lens of their relationship to God. Then He turned and invited His followers to join in His mission to introduce the shepherd-less crowds to the Good Shepherd.
 
It never fails when I read this text that I am amped up and ready for Jesus’ mission strategy. How do we take the gospel to the masses? What’s the first step? Sell everything and move somewhere difficult? Open air preaching? Target the major cities? Go after the most intimidating ones first? – The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few, so let’s get to work!
 
But then Jesus says, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I am always humbled and corrected by this first step in following King Jesus into His mission. He models and teaches the correct process for His followers.
 
First, we must see the crowds, then we must feel compassion because they lack Jesus, and next we must pray to the King who is sovereign over His army. See, feel, pray and then we are to go (10:1-42).

Let us keep people-watching, but let’s do it looking through the lenses of the Good Shepherd. Let’s live with open eyes, broken hearts, calloused knees and beautiful feet (Romans 10:15).

1/26/2016 10:45:46 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for February 7: Distinct in My Approach to Conflict

January 26 2016 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Matthew 5:21-26
 
Unresolved conflict is damaging to our soul. As Christians we know God calls us to pursue peace in our relationships. As Christians, we also know conflict in our relationships is to be expected. The doctrine of sin is most evident when we are angry at one another. The sinful nature of our hearts is often exposed by our thoughts, words and actions. Anger typically occasions a desire to damage or destroy another person. While we are called to love one another sacrificially, when conflict arises, we often lash out at one another relentlessly. Jesus says, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).
 
While we all acknowledge unresolved conflict damages our souls, we often fail to recognize it is detrimental to our worship. In Mathew 5:23-24, Jesus teaches that if we intend to offer a gift at the altar of worship, when unresolved conflict is between us and another, we should first attempt reconciliation. This may seem like an odd command at first, but if we reflect on the nature of the gospel, this command is given context.
 
Aren’t we all, as Christians, recipients of God’s grace in reconciling us to Himself through Jesus Christ? Aren’t we the ones who have wronged God in unimaginable ways with our sin? Hasn’t God offered us grace when we did not deserve it? God offers reconciliation, when we deserve judgment. How can we come to the altar as reconciled worshipers of God if we are withholding the opportunity of reconciliation from another person?
 
If we have truly experienced the Good News of Jesus, we will see reconciliation with the person who has something against us is a gospel issue. What is interesting about this passage is that the one who initiates the reconciliation here is the one who has wronged the other person. God has taken initiative to reconcile us even when we did not deserve it. We must take initiative in conflict to be reconciled to those we’ve hurt, because they deserve it. This is the power of the cross.

1/26/2016 10:38:28 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



Explore the Bible Lesson for January 31: Faith demonstrated

January 14 2016 by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton

Focal passage: Matthew 8:5-13
 
All too often we read the Bible through self-focused lenses rather than through God-focused lenses. We do this by reading a passage in light of the personal narrative of our lives rather than the meta-narrative of scripture. Often this causes us to miss the main point of a passage because we jump too quickly to personal application.
 
It is particularly easy to make this mistake when reading about the miracles that Jesus performs in the gospels. Matthew positions nine such miracles in Matthew 8-9. One might read of Jesus cleansing a leper, healing paralytics, curing a fever, calming a raging storm, casting a legion of demons into a herd of pigs, raising a dead girl to new life, healing a chronic bleeder, opening the eyes of the blind and the mouth of the mute, and then ask the question, “Why don’t we see these things happening more often today?”
 
To ask this question is to miss Matthew’s main point. These two chapters are organized like McDonald’s notorious hamburger, the Big Mac: There are 3 separate sets of 3 miracles (the bread of the Big Mac) and sandwiched in-between are two calls to discipleship (the meat of the Big Mac).
 
Matthew, as he does throughout this gospel, is organizing material in such a way that we see Jesus as the Authoritative King. When the Son of David speaks, creation obeys: diseases must leave, destructive storms must stop, demons must exit, death must let go and disciples must follow. This is what we are to see today as we read these texts: Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Authoritative King over all creation.
 
Therefore let us read these miracles and first rejoice that Jesus, the authoritative King, is the One who came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
 
He is a trustworthy and powerful King who is able to defeat the great enemies that wage war against His people. Therefore, like the centurion, let us boldly and humbly present our requests to God believing that Christ is the King over all.

1/14/2016 10:44:08 AM by Clint Darst, pastor, Freedom Church, Lincolnton | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for January 31: Distinct in My Influence

January 14 2016 by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

Focal passage: Matthew 5:13-20
 
As citizens of the Kingdom of God, Christians are expected to live according to high moral standards. However, when we reflect on the ethic that Jesus calls for in the Sermon on the Mount, it can be easy to fall into despair. Who among us can perfectly uphold these holy virtues? If we are honest, all of us fall short more than we’d like to admit.
 
The Good News of the gospel is that Jesus came to fulfill the totality of the law. In other words, where the Israelites failed, where we fail, Christ has perfectly lived according to every “iota and dot” of God’s perfect law.
 
Though our righteousness has not exceeded the Scribes and the Pharisees, His has. And it is through Him that we are able to enter the Kingdom of heaven by grace alone, through faith alone.
 
But do not be mistaken! Christ still calls His disciples to not only teach His commands, but also live according to His commands.
 
Jesus illustrates this point by using the examples of salt and light. Like salt, Christians are to preserve what is good, and season our lives for the good of the world. As a light to the world, God’s people are called to illuminate the world through good works that bring glory to Him.
 
This is a call for believers to live a life of worship in response to God’s saving grace.

The law is for our good because it shapes our life of worship to be offered as a sacrifice of praise. Christ did not abolish the law, He fulfilled it. He also empowers us to live out the law through His Spirit. Oh what amazing grace!
 
We live in a broken world where all that is good is being corroded away by sin. In His power, we are the salt that preserves God’s good presence to those around us.
 
We live in a dark world where the shadows of sin creep into every area of society. By His power, our lives illuminate the darkness, pointing others to find their way to the light of Jesus Christ.

1/14/2016 10:29:41 AM by Matt Capps, pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex | with 0 comments



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