This is a continuing lesson based on last weeks thoughts and discussions. You are asked to remember that restoration (a) is not a simple commitment and (b) is not simply accomplished. The challenging concepts we face that are presented in this lesson are NOT presented as all the difficult concepts. There are additional thoughts that are a legitimate part of the discussion.
1. Hard concept one: Gods thinking and actions are not like our thinking and actions.
Begin by reading Isaiah 55:8, 9; Romans 11:33-36; 1 Corinthians 3:19; Ephesians 3:8-10; and Colossians 2:8-15. The focus of these statements is that people do not think like God thinks and do not act like God acts. He does things that exceed our imagination.
Consider. God through Jesus Christ is patient and understanding in ways that surpass our patience and understanding. He accepts repentance that we would question. His joy is not in holding the transgressor accountable for his choices and deeds, but in forgiving the sinner for his mistakes. He shows mercy to people we would harshly condemn. He gives grace to those who do not deserve (???) grace. He does not save us to judge, but to serve and to light the way. Have you read Romans 2:1-16 lately? Do not be like the first-century Jews who thought relationship with God was a matter of what one knew rather than a matter of what one did!
2. Hard concept two: He is thoroughly capable of being the God of diversity.
Begin by reading 1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33; Romans 14:1-12; and 1 Timothy 4:1-5. God could take Christians who came to opposite conclusions about eating meat sacrificed to idols, about holy days, etc. because of faith in Jesus Christ and accept each of them as He spiritually sustained each of them.
The foundation issue in being Christians was not agreement. The foundation issues were (a) to be as merciful to the Christian with whom you disagree as YOU wish to receive mercy from God, and (b) to know that you will explain your reasons for your conclusions TO GOD. Have you read Jesus words in Matthew 6:1-18 lately?
3. Hard concept three: We do not have it all figured out.
Begin by reading 1 Corinthians 8:1-3; 3:18-23; 13:8-13;1 Timothy 6:3-5; and 2 Timothy 2:14-19. It is extremely easy to revert to human reasoning and human perspectives. Once we do that, it is simple to substitute human perspectives for Gods values.
From a human perspective, we can conclude we have God figured out. Consider Ephesians 2:11-22 as a sobering example.
The Jewish Christians versus the gentile Christians was a major, continuing problem in the church (among the Christians) of the first century. Jewish Christians did not see how idol worshipping gentiles could become Christians without becoming Jewish proselytes first. Gentile Christians could not understand why things in the church must follow Jewish ways and traditions. The welding of conflicting cultures into a people of one body in Jesus Christ often presented challenges that exceeded human tolerance.
Ephesians 2:11-22 is a good example. Neither gentle Christian nor Jewish Christian understood that God already had destroyed the dividing wall that separated the groups through all God achieved through Jesus death and resurrection. Both groups acted as if the wall existed and was in place. Their misunderstanding determined their behavior. They acted as if the dividing wall existed because they did not comprehend the significance of Jesus being Christians peace. A failure to understand what God already had done in Jesus Christ resulted in Christian opposition to divine reconciliation! Their failure to understand what God did in Jesus death and resurrection resulted in Christians opposing Gods accomplishment! God made them one building, temple, even if they as Christians did not grasp what God did! The foundation of their failure was the failure to understand what God did in Jesus Christ!
4. Hard concept four: Toleration of Christian disagreement is godly.
Begin by reading 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 2:1-5; 8; 10:23-33; Romans 12:3-16, and Romans 14:1-15:7.
Things to consider and note: (a) New Testament encouragements to avoid divisions were addressed to divisions within congregations. (b) The responsibility of the strong Christian was to be respectful of the weak Christian (weak Christians are not expected to remain weak indefinitely or to use claims of weakness to exercise control over other Christians). (c) All Christians exist to give glory to God in all circumstances.
God takes no joy in the failure of any Christian. God takes joy in the salvation of each Christian. Read Hebrews 10:32-36 in consideration of the context of the book.
For Thought and Discussion
1. What two things are you asked to remember about restoration?
2. Hard concept one is what?
3. On what is the focus of the readings?
4. Illustrate that Gods thinking and acts are not like ours.
5. What is hard concept two?
6. How can God take Christians who reach conflicting conclusions and make them one?
7. The foundation Christian issue is not what? Instead, two foundation issues are what?
8. What is hard concept three?
9. What is extremely easy to do? If that occurs, what is simple?
10. What was a major, continuing problem in the church of the first century?
11. Discuss Ephesians 2:22.
12. What is hard concept four?
13. What three things are you asked to consider and note?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 10
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