The Blessings of Tests - Lenten Bible Study - Week #1
The LORD be with you.....
LORD, who Throughout these forty days, For us did fast and pray, Teach us with you to mourn our sins, And close by you to stay.
As you with Satan did contend, And did the victory win, O give us strength in you to fight, In you to conquer sin.
As you did hunger and did thirst, So teach us, gracious LORD, To die to self, and so to live, By your most holy word.
And through these days of penitence, And through your Passiontide, Forevermore, in life and death, O LORD, with us abide.
Abide with us, that when this life, Of suffering is past, An Easter of unending joy, We may attain at last.
It is not by coincidence or circumstances that we have all gathered here this night. The LORD knew long before this night that all of us here would be gathering to share in His word and for the next 8 weeks to come closure to receiving His word. Father, I thank you for allowing each one of us here this night to gather together in fellowship and to share your word.
Let us listen now to a Hymn “Break Dividing Walls” you may want to close your eyes to listen to the words of this hymn or if you wish the words are in the handout bulletin.
Gracious GOD, as we begin this Lenten journey together with you, we pray that you will open our hearts and minds to the blessings of your cross. Give us the courage and wisdom to withstand the tests that challenge our faith each day, just as your Beloved Son did in the wilderness. I pray that we will be able to see the richness in the scriptures, clear our minds this night so that we can see the images that come from the scriptures. Father please remove any distractions that may hinder us from receiving your message tonight. Father take us by the cheeks and hold on to us until we squarely see your eyes and insure that we are listening to you. All this we ask through your one and only Son, JESUS CHRIST . Amen.
I want to welcome each and everyone of you here this night. Allow us to introduce ourselves to each other and a brief statement as to why you are you here.
A bit of housekeeping – the washroom is the third door on your right in the hall way. We start at 7:05 and plan to finish at 9:35. Circumstances that may keep you from arriving on time please just come in no need to knock and make yourself at home. We will break around 8:10 for a 10-15 minutes. If you are unable to attend please do give us a call and let us know. Each week two people are needed to bring the treats please sign up the week that you plan on bringing a treat. Also please fill in the sign up sheet with your name, address, phone number and email address. This is required for the church. At the end of the evening there is on this table a book, a devotional guide, a handout introducing the Lenten period and also a three page fold out “living lent” please take one of each. The reading for each week will be from the student book and also the devotional guide “On the Way to Calvary” this book starts this Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) and each day for the forty days. Please make notes as you read this book for discussion each week. As we get closer to Passion Tide week, there will be another handout introducing you to Easter, Whitsun or aka Pentecost. I have planned that during these eight weeks there will be a video showing of “Forgiveness of Sins” which will be held at the church either on a Saturday or Sunday evening. It is highly recommended that you attend the showing of this video. This will enhance your understanding of why JESUS came to bare all our sins. More on this when the information becomes available. Also during the Passiontide week I will be showing the Passion of CHRIST, for those who do not wish to view this as it is graphic and may not be suitable please let me know. Are there any questions?
As our discussions may contain personal information it is imperative that these conversations be held in strict confidence. What is said here stays here.
Show of hands who has experienced a Lenten journey ... how many understand the meaning of the Lenten period?
Let us now watch two short videos on the “True Meaning of Easter”
Lent is a season of the church year that begins solemnly on Ash Wednesday and ends as a new season begins with the joyous Easter celebration of JESUS’ resurrection. Let encompasses forty-six days, but all Sundays are days on which we commemorate the LORD’s resurrection and so are not included in the observance of Lent. During the forty days, Christians are called to mediate, repent, and make a spiritual journey with CHRIST to the cross.
As the season begins, we Christians are called to remember our mortality: We were created from dust and will return to dust. During an Ash Wednesday service, the pastor makes the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who choose to participate. This sign is made with olive oil mixed with ashes, usually from the prior year’s palm branches that have been burned. Oil was used to anoint people at death and also to anoint priests and kings. Ashes symbolized mourning in the ancient world and so are fitting reminders of our mortality.
The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with JESUS CHRIST and our service to him. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begins with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one’s head or forehead. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit. Our Lenten disciplines are supposed to help us become more like CHRIST.
There are a few basic tasks that traditionally have been associated with Lent. Many of these have a long history. These are fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. In addition, reading the Scriptures and the Church’s Writings can help one grow during Lent.
While Lent is about giving something up such as fasting, it is also about putting something positive in its place. The best way to remove vice is to cultivate virtue. Lent has been a traditional time of helping the poor and doing acts of charity and mercy. While as Christians this is a year round calling, Lent is a good time to examine ways to get involved and to make resolutions to actually do them. Giving alms can be done in more ways than just giving out money to people on the street. It can be done by helping your family, friends, and neighbours out of tight situations or being more generous to hired help. However, one of the best ways to give alms is to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, maybe by volunteering for a charity or a shelter. There are many lay religious orders, which devote much of their time to charity. Lent is a perfect time to discern a call to these or any other ministry. Some good charity organizations include Society of St. Vincent DePaul , Sister of Charity, Order of St. Andrew, Catholic Relief Service, Habitat for Humanity, The Hunger Site, Samaritan’s Purse.
‘Each day has enough trouble of its own,’ JESUS taught in the Sermon on the Mount. He meant it. He was realistic enough to recognize that this world is too often a place of suffering, for now still in the grasp of the World Hater, the prince of this world.
A day will come when sorrow will be no more and death itself be destroyed, but until then there will always be some poorer than other, some bereaved, mistreated, abused. We must do all we can to protect and to heal, but even the miracles we see are only signs of the Kingdom. That Kingdom is at the same time ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. We are not exempt from trouble, injustice, violence and suffering, just because we are believers. He will allow some of these things to touch us also, even though it is not Him that visits them upon us.
JESUS, who understood that it was necessary for Him to suffer, still questioned, Was there no other way? Job wondered what was going on and in this life was never told what had happened in the courts of heaven over his story of trials. We know that no test is beyond what we can endure, but why this random, faceless violence unleashed at times in our society? The cross begins with an unanswered ‘Why?’ – and CHRIST also shouldered the cross.
Before we enter into GOD’s word let us stop for a moment to bring our own private intentions before GOD in the quiet of our hearts.
1. To consider the theme of blessings in the cross
2. To explore a test of obedience - (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
3. To appreciate a gift of grace - (Romans 5:12-19)
4. To examine a test of faithfulness - (Matthew 4:1-11)
5. To celebrate the blessing of tests
To Consider the theme of blessings in the cross
Consider The Meaning Of The Cross
What words or images come to mind when you think of the cross?
(Record answers on the flip chart paper)
Which words or images seem negative and which ones seem positive?
Note: This Lenten study we will be looking at the cross through the lens of the positive blessings it brings. During today’s session we will consider “The Blessings of Tests.”
Exercise – The making of an Alms/Lenten Box
During the weeks of Lent we will use the Alms / Lenten box to collect money for the poor. Monies collect during this period will be used for the Back Pack program at SPOTH.
Exploring a test of obedience - (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7)
Volunteer to read Genesis 2:15—17; 3:1—7
Genesis 2:15—17; 3:1-7
The closing thought of Genesis 2 was: “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” These words remind us that the Garden of Eden was a place of beauty; a place of bounty; and a place completely unmarred by sin and its crippling, polluting, heartbreaking effects. It was the birthplace of marital intimacy and of intimacy with almighty God. Everything, says God, was “good.” Adam and Eve’s world was a paradise.
But if Genesis 1–2 was paradise, then, sadly, Genesis 3 and what follows is a description of paradise lost. Through one foolish and rebellious act—eating the fruit God had forbidden—Adam and Eve lost their innocence, their dignity, their home, and their perfect relationship with God. And so, says Romans 5:12, did you and I: “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The reason we are the way we are—diseased, discontent, disobedient, disappointed, and disenfranchised from God—is because each one of us has inherited a sin sickness and a death sentence from Adam, our first father. How did it happen?
Paradise lost began with the lies of “the serpent”—“the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). Jesus called him “the father of lies” and said that lying is his native language (John 8:44)! So it is no surprise that, in his very first speaking part, we find the devil uttering deceit. And, since he is “crafty” (3:1)—since his expertise is crafting lies that sound almost true—we find Eve falling for his schemes. God had said, quite plainly, not to eat of the one tree in the middle of the garden (3:3). But the devil was able, with clever lies, to convince her that she should indeed eat.
Satan is no less cunning today. Therefore, it may be helpful for us to observe his strategies and guard ourselves accordingly. How does Satan craft his lies? Notice how he destroyed Eve. Satan wants to …
GOD told ‘adam, the creature newly formed from the ground, to eat freely of everything in the garden, except for “the tree of the knowledge of good an devil” (Genesis 2:17). GOD also stipulated a punishment for disobedience: death on the day that the fruit was eaten. The Bible does not report a response; but since death was unknown, ‘adam may have been unaware of the far-reaching consequences of disobedience.
Genesis 22 records the creation of a second creature. Note that GOD did not repeat the command given to ‘adam, yet the woman recited it while talking with the serpent. Either the man repeated it incorrectly, or the woman added the words “nor shall you touch it.” Either way, her response to the serpent exceeded the limits that GOD had set.
Then the serpent revealed his craftiness by misquoting GOD: “Did GOD say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (3:1). Hearing her response, the serpent presented the woman with an alternative scenario: “You will not die…you will be like GOD, knowing good and evil” (3:4—5). As she considered this possibility, the woman noted that the fruit was aesthetically pleasing, apparently edible, and had the potential to make her wise (3:6). She ate and so did the man, who made no attempt to stop her or enter into conversation with the serpent. As a result, they lost their innocence and could see themselves as they truly were. They did not physically die immediately, but their relationship with GOD was significantly altered from that day forth.
Review highlights of “A Test of Obedience” in the study book
How would you describe the sin of Adam and Eve?
GOD’s directions had been clear and consequences had been spelled out, but Adam and Eve decided to do what please them. Why do you think they choose to eat the fruit?
Exploring a test of obedience - (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7)
Why do we humans sometimes make choices that are not in our best interest?
What techniques did the serpent use for prompting the woman and the silent man to partake of the fruit from the forbidden tree?
What were the immediate and far-reaching consequences of breaking GOD’s trust?
Where do you see yourself in this story?
Appreciate a gift of grace - (Romans 5:12—19)
Volunteer to read Romans 5:12—19
Review biblical background
Paul’s reference to the coming of sin and death into the world through one man points his readers back to the story in Genesis 2—3. Romans 5 is filled with stark contrasts between Adam, whose actions brought misery to humanity, and JESUS, whose gracious free gift brought justification so that sinners might be made right with GOD.
According to Paul, humanity was condemned to death because of Adam’s actions. In contrast, JESUS’ actions bring life. Verse 19 sums up Paul’s contrast: Through the disobedience of Adam “the many were made sinners,” but through the obedience of JESUS “the many will be made righteous.” These two ideas may appear balanced, as the weight of children on a seesaw; but in reality the gift of CHRIST far outweighs the sin of Adam.
Many readers may assume that Paul was writing about “original sin,” but this phrase is neither used in the bible nor as part of Jewish teachings. The tem was coined in the second century A.D. by Tertullian, and early church leader. Although Paul does not use the phrase original sin, Romans 5:12 hints at what is understood by the tem, namely, that all humanity inherits the guilt brought about by Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Consequently, all people are estranged from GOD and need the gracious gift of salvation that GOD offers through JESUS CHRIST to be reconnected and made right with GOD. although Paul does not mention JESUS’ death on the cross here, N.T. Wright refers to this passage as “one of Paul’s fullest statement of what…we call atonement theology.”
Death through Adam, life through CHRIST (5:12–21)
Paul describes how the death of Christ has been the answer to the sin of Adam.
Adam was the first human being, and his sin infected the entire human race. The penalty for that sin was death — even before the law was given, so that people knew what sin was.
Now, through the righteousness of one perfect man, Jesus Christ, life is spreading to the whole human race. Grace wins!
Dead to sin, alive to CHRIST
Paul explores what it means to live the Christian life. Does being a Christian mean we are permanently forgiven, so that we can now sin as much as we like? Does it mean we won’t be tempted any more? Does it mean we are automatically good and holy?
Paul teaches that we are still responsible for our choices and actions. There is nothing automatic about holiness. As Christians, we find ourselves in a lifelong struggle with our old nature, which refuses to die. But Paul has many insights and encouragements to offer.
Exercise Recognize and Identify Gifts of Grace
Review “A Gift of Grace” student book page 10 find examples of grace – write a definition of grace or an example of grace and then place it in the box.
Who can comment on the variety of ways in which people experience GOD’s grace?
Now let us quieten our hearts and off silent thanks for GOD’s gift of grace.
Examine a test of faithfulness - (Matthew 4:1—11)
Volunteer to read Matthew 4:1—11
Review biblical background
Before we focus on CHRIST’s temptations, let’s consider the subject of temptation in general. Why is temptation so ‘successful’? What makes it work? How can we handle it? It is important, I believe, to differentiate between a trial and a temptation. Generally speaking, a trial is an ordeal or a test of our faith, while a temptation is a deliberate enticement to do evil. GOD cannot tempt us, but he can and does allow tests to try us. Normally there is nothing immoral involved in experiencing a trial. It is a hardship, an ordeal, but not an enticement to evil. Temptation involves a definite enticement to do wrong. The dictionary says: ‘To tempt someone is to beguile them to do wrong, by promise of pleasure or gain.’ Temptation motivates a person to be bad by promising something that appears to be good. Isn’t that just like the devil?
Today we ask ourselves: did our LORD know what it was to be tempted? Was our LORD put through the same pressures that we go through when we are tempted to go another way than GOD’s? No one has ever experienced such a depth and a degree of temptation as did JESUS. One argument goes: how can CHRIST understand our feeling unless He knew what it was to experience all our feelings? In answering that questions, I must remind you about CHRIST meeting us, not at the surface of life where there are so many difference, but in the depths where we are all the same. Underneath all temptations the basic issue is this – an enticement to act independently of GOD. Hold that in your mind and you will not go wrong in understanding CHRIST’s involvement with our human nature. Did He experience the temptation to take an easier road —to act independently of GOD? I have no doubt myself that t5ht three temptations levelled at CHRIST in that rigorous and severe encounter in the wilderness were the most powerful temptations a human being has ever experienced on this earth. But our LORD showed that obedience to go is possible even in the most difficult of situation. The first Adam failed in a garden feasting, but the second Adam triumphed in a wilderness fasting. Can JESUS succour those who are passing through the fires of temptation? I know of now one better – do you?
At JESUS’ baptism, GOD identified JESUS as the Beloved Son in whom GOD was “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Then the Spirit—seen as a dove alighting on him (3:16)—let JESUS into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (4:1). The wilderness is a place devoid of resources, a frightening place where wild animals and demons were thought to live. In contrast to the forty years the liberated Hebrew slaves spent there and received manna from GOD, JESUS fasted.
The devil, also referred to as the tempter and Satan, is a non-human who opposes GOD. His purpose was to tempt JESUS to turn away from GOD al allow Satan to control his actions. During the first temptation (verses 3-4), Satan challenged the famished JESUS to turn stones into bread—an action, in and of itself, that is no evil. Yet JESUS responded to Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, a reference to GOD’s feeding of the Hebrews in the wilderness. JESUS would trust GOD, not Satan, to provide. Suddenly, Satan and JESUS were at the pinnacle of the temple” (Matthew 4:5), the center of religious power. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11—12 as he encouraged JESUS to jump, believing that angels would catch him. Once again JESUS quoted Deuteronomy (6:16), another reference to the wilderness wanderings, to demonstrate that GOD was not to be treated as a bellhop awaiting human orders.
Finally, Satan offered JESUS all the earth’s kingdoms, to which JESUS replied from Deuteronomy 6:13 that we are to worship and serve only GOD. JESUS sent the devil packing! Then those angels that he refused to call upon during the second temptation came to care for him (Matthew 4:11).
How do we resist temptation? The biblical answer is so simple that many stumble over it. It is found in Galatians 5:23 and the word I want to focus on is self-control. The Greek word literally means ‘in strength’, and that’s exactly what happens when the Holy Spirit resides in us – He comes in to strengthen us on the inside. In other words, GOD promises that through His Spirit, we will be able to master our turbulent feelings in the moment of temptation. Pause and let that sink in. now some may be saying at this stage, ‘Wait a minute – dealing with temptation is not something I have to do, but something GOD does for me. I am not able to do anything about temptation and unless He does it in and through me, I am sunk. GOD is the active one and I am the passive one.’ Now there is a grain of truth in this, for it is true that the more we allow GOD to work in and through us by His Holy Spirit, the more power we have at our disposal, but ultimately we have to put it to work through deliberate choice and conscious action. It is like engaging the clutch in a manually-controlled car the engine may be running at a very fast rate, but there will be no forward or backward movement of the car until the driver makes a conscious decision to avail himself of the power of the engine by engaging the clutch.
Whatever view we might hold about the work of the Holy Spirit in our life, the bottom line is this – GOD holds us responsible for shouting a thunderous ‘No!’ to sin. I am to decide, whenever I am faced with the possibility of yielding to sin, that I will not do so because I reject sin even as GOD does. Victory depends upon believing and accepting the fact that GOD’s power is sufficient to resist the seemingly overwhelming rush of internal feelings and urges, and deciding not to yield. If you try to deal passively with temptation and turn the responsibility over to GOD, then you will fail. Self-control comes from GOD, but we have to carry it out. He supplies the power – we supply willingness. Note that this is not so much the self being in control which implies mere human effort, but the Holy Spirit helping our spirits to control our selves – our minds, our emotions and our bodies.
Review “A Test of Faithfulness” student book page 11
What makes temptation so difficult to resist?
What is the goal of all temptation?
What does the way JESUS’ handled temptation suggest to believers about how we are called to respond to temptation?
Examine a test of faithfulness - (Matthew 4:1—11)
What role does the Holy Sprit play in this story?
What relationship do you see between the temptations and JESUS’ identity as the Son of GOD?
What does this story say to you about how you might follow JESUS’ footsteps in order to overcome temptation?
Celebrate the blessings of tests
“Who Is He”
Responsively read Psalm 32
Chapter 2 “The Blessings of Risk-taking” in your student books
Starting on Ash Wednesday begin to read the daily devotion
“On The Way To Calvary”
Make notes to discuss at the next class.
Go forth in the name of the LORD and allow your light to sign upon those that are in need to see your light.
Father you have given us the tools to work with, but guide us to use those tools wisely. Help us to break down any walls that need to be taken down in our work place or family or in the community so that we may be able to spread the good news to those that have yet to receive or hear your words. Father may we be aware of those around us that are watching us weather our storms in your love, peace, and joy. Help us not be too quick in our actions, be patient and listen before we speak. Father guide us this week so to find one person that is in need and to do a good deed.