< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: February 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

John 1:31-42

John 1:31-34 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

They were cousins, so it was almost certain they had met before. But he didn’t know He was the Messiah until God confirmed His identity with a unique sign. The Spirit coming down and remaining on Him. He saw the Spirit in the form of a dove.

When John baptized with water it represented the cleansing sinners need. Picture sin being washed away. But water baptism cannot create newness of life. John’s baptism with water was to prepare Israel for the coming of Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. After Jesus returned to heaven God poured out the Holy Spirit onto all of His believers.

John 1:35-36 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

The following day John the Baptist directed two of his own disciples to the Lord Jesus and they ended up following Jesus. They were Andrew and John, the author of this book.

John 1:37-39 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

Andrew and John had listened as John the Baptist talked about the Messiah’s coming. Now they weren’t satisfied to just hear about Him, or even hear Him – they wanted to be with Him. So they asked Him where He was staying!

Notice John said “it was about 4 o’clock”. This was such an important moment to him, he remembered the exact time. His life completely changed in that moment.

John 1:40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

Andrew seemed so unassuming that many people don’t really think about him. But he was one of the first two disciples and he brought his brother Peter to Christ. Later he brought a boy who shared his lunch with 5000 people and some Greeks who wanted to meet Jesus.

When it says Jesus looked at Simon, in the original Greek “look” describes a concentrated, penetrating gaze. He could see right through Simon. And He said “You are Simon” – his name portrayed his character. Simon meant impetuous, changeable and at times, even unreliable.

Jesus changed his name to Peter which means “rock” both a picture and a promise of the way Simon’s new relationship to God through Christ would transform him completely. So true of Peter’s life!

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

John 1:19-30

John 1:19-25  Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

When John the Baptist first started preaching in the wilderness east of the Jordan River, a wide-cross section of Jewish society poured out of Judea and Jerusalem to listen. The Holy Spirit worked powerfully and many were convicted of their sins, repented and were baptized as an outward sign of their repentance and God’s work.

This was shocking to Israel. Before John’s day, only Gentiles were baptized and that was to become a Jew. Many Jewish people didn’t think they needed cleansing; after all they were God’s people! But now listening to John they saw their sin and realized they DID need cleansing.

This began to stir up hope in the Messiah’s coming. And people began to ask John if HE were the Messiah. Finally the spiritual leaders couldn’t ignore what was happening and they came out and asked him too.

Now they had special interest in John because he was the son of a priest and he himself was a priest. And they took his call to repent deeply offensive. He seemed to be declaring the entire nation was unclean.

The Sanhedrin was made up of two Jewish sects, the Sadducees and Pharisees. The chief priests and other wealth men were Sadducees, who rejected belief in resurrection and judgment as well as most of the Old Testament. The Pharisees believed passionately in these points that the Sadducees rejected. They wanted to bring the nation to strict observance of God’s law, but according to their own burdensome traditions.

The men from Jerusalem asked five questions based on Old Testament prophecies and related traditions.

Who are you? Messiah?

Israel was expecting the Messiah. And there were two main lines of messianic hope:
Messiah would be King David’s descendant leading Jewish armies to victory and the Jewish nation to world dominion.

OR he would be an almost supernatural figure, bringing world peace and a reign of righteousness. Most thought He would reveal Himself in a miraculous way.

More than once in this period, messianic figures rose up and led rebellions.

The priests MAY have hoped John would also claim to be Messiah so they could denounce him. But he didn’t.

Next they asked if he was Elijah.

While the Bible firmly denies reincarnation, the prophet Elijah, didn’t experience death: he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. The prophet Malachi spoke of Elijah’s return to prepare God’s people for “the day of the Lord.” (The final day of judgment of the world.)

John said he wasn’t Elijah either.
And in case you are remembering later in the Bible when Jesus was asked about Malachi’s prophecy, He said that “Elijah has already come.” Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father had been given a prophecy that his son would come “in the spirit and power of Elijah” – so while he was NOT Elijah, he came with the same spirit and power, so in a sense, Elijah came.

Are you a prophet?
The prophet may refer to Messiah whose coming Moses promised.
Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.

Next they asked, “Who are you?”
John replied in words from Isaiah’s centuries-old prophecy, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness “make straight the way of the Lord.”

Get ready! The Lord is coming!

Then they asked, Why do you baptize?

What they meant was, What right do you think you have to baptize? And again John points people away from himself – to –

John 1:25-28 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Rabbis said that untying someone’s sandals was too demeaning for anyone, but a slave. John was a priest and God’s appointed prophet, renowned among all people, yet grasped his own unworthiness compared to Jesus. He always kept his own personality out of the picture. His attitude to questions about himself was, “I am only a voice who points to the Messiah.” “I’m the one who draws back the curtains so Jesus occupies the center stage.”

Bold proclamation combined with deep personal humility when pointing to Christ is an essential combination.
In the end the delegation couldn’t find anything to fault John with. He wasn’t making false claims and no one could fault him with preparing people’s hearts for the coming Messiah. Apparently Jesus stood unrecognized in the middle of the crowd as John the Baptist answered these questions. They never thought to ask John to point out the worthy One! They traveled all the way from Jerusalem to confront John and left without asking the most important question!

 John 1:29-30
  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’

Jesus was 6 months younger than John, but John is saying that Jesus existed from eternity past. He is the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world, the true deliverer from sin who fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies and sacrifices.

The Lamb of God. Jesus alone can atone for sin and make us right with God. From the very moment sin entered the world God prepared humanity to grasp that we cannot save ourselves from the deadly effects of sin. The Jewish sacrifices pointed to the true meaning of the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross. In Israel, someone who sinned brought a lamb to the temple, laid hands on the head of the lamb, confessed the specific sin against God and then killed the lamb.

The lamb was the innocent substitute that paid the price for a sinful person to be made right with God. The priests then sprinkled the blood of the lamb on God’s altar to show that death had accomplished the judgment of sin.

The prophet Isaiah applied the picture of the sacrificial lamb to the Messiah, saying “the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus died as the true Passover Lamb. He fulfilled the Old Testament sacrifices that foreshadowed Jesus’ blood, “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

John 1:6-18

John 1: 6-9 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

God sent John the Baptist to prepare the world to believe in the light of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

John 1:10-11 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

This Gospel uses the word “world” 80 times. In this passage it refers to the system of society or sphere of human life that chooses to live apart from God. In every age the majority of the human race lives in alienation from its Maker. But everyone who is brought face to face with Jesus Christ is responsible to recognize Him as the light of the world. Just like a plant turns to the sun, we are designed to turn to Him. Not to recognize Him implies conscious rebellion or unconscious repression of truth.

He came to His own. He came to the Israelites first. The people God entrusted with His revelation, the Old Testament.  But today these words speak to anyone born in a Christian home or who has a church affiliation or knowledge of the Gospel and they refuse to take time to read His words, to pray to Him, to serve Him or to be involved in His church. He needs to be the center of our lives.

The Jews rejected Jesus. And God had prepared them for His coming throughout their history! But some came. And some are coming today. And Gentiles came.

John 1:12-13 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John uses two verbs to describe personal commitment to God in true faith. Receive and believe. In the days Jesus lived on earth, this meant to receive Him openly as the promised Messiah and the unique Son of God. In our day it means to receive Him into our very being through the person of the Holy Spirit. It means to recognize Him as our Lord, King and Savior from sin. To believe expresses the definite decision to accept the facts as true, to love and desire to belong to Christ, and to commit to live in the light of this belief.  

When we’ve believed and received, we’ve entered into a new relationship with God and are obedient to His will. We’re His child. He’s adopted us and will never let us go. We have new life. Eternal life. And it only comes from God through His Son.

John 1:14-18 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling place among us. And John witnessed this personally. John saw the very Glory of God in the man Jesus Christ.

Grace in place of grace already given, means you will never exhaust the grace of God. The blessing you receive when you first believe grows as your faith grows. Grace is God’s undeserved favor, which through Christ God pours out on His people. He gave us the law through Moses and because of our sinful nature we were (are) powerless to live by it. So God forgives the sin of transgressing His law. By grace.

No one has seen God. But from this book we learn if we’ve seen Jesus we’ve seen God. He declares or demonstrates in every aspect of His person every aspect of God Himself. There is a perfect oneness, a deep intimacy between the Father and Son.

In Jesus’ life we see how God thinks and therefore how we should think!

To have Him come to earth and walk among people was astounding! In that day only the high priest could go into the inner temple, and that was once a year. Now people could have total access to God!

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Friday, February 24, 2017

John 1:1-5

The first 18 verses in chapter 1 are usually referred to as the Prologue. And the first 5 verses speak of the pre-incarnate Christ; the Son of God’s position and activity before His earthly birth.

John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Right away we are told that Jesus is God! He’s the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God! He possesses the same nature or essence as God the Father. All the Father’s attributes are also attributes of the Son. John placed this revelation in the first verse because he intended for the book to be read in light of this life-changing fact. The deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God.

Jesus is the perfect picture of God’s Holiness.

Colossians 1:15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Hebrews 1:2-3 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

John starts out a lot like Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. // In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

So Jesus has always existed and He created the heavens and the earth along with God.

And verses 4 and 5 - In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word is the source of life, both physical and spiritual and Jesus connected light and life when He promised “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of light.” His divine light is our spiritual light. He shows us how to live.

The fall in the Garden of Eden caused man to walk in the darkness of sin, until Jesus came to earth and offered us reconciliation. Because the darkness of sin could not ever overcome Christ’s light the light is victorious.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Gospel of John - Background

The Gospel of John is different from the other three gospels. Over 90% of this book is unique to this gospel. John doesn’t include a genealogy or record of Jesus’ birth, anything about His childhood, temptation, transfiguration, His parables, ascension or Great Commission!

This book was written so that we could have clear evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing in Him we may have eternal life.

John 20: 30-31 says Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John used the word signs for miracles. Every miracle John selected is a sign that points to eternal truths. The word appears 20 times in this book. The word “believe” appears 80. And “life” as in eternal life, appears 50 times. Why does he stress these three words? Because eternal life comes only through belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the signs reveal.

Faith in Christ is the only way to live life to the full as God intends for people to live. The responsibility to believe and receive life is ours. Belief is not simply intellectual knowledge – it means to commit, deliberately and personally, not only to a set of facts, but to a living person. Jesus Christ, Son of God, equal TO God, is in Heaven right now in his resurrected and glorified body, as real as any of us here!

No other writer reveals Jesus as intimately as John. While there are things John doesn’t cover, there are many things in this Gospel which aren’t in the other three. While all four Gospels focus on the cross and resurrection, John, writing 20 to 30 years later gave special emphasis on what Jesus meant. And he particularly emphasized the relationship between Jesus and His Father.

He wanted to show the divinity of Jesus. We see His power over everything created and we see His love for people.

Also this is the only Gospel that states its purpose.

Gospel means “good news.” Which is kind of an understatement, isn’t it?  Some people say it’s the good news that answers the bad news that we’ve all sinned and are therefore separate from God. The Gospel is the life-changing power of God that brings salvation and eternal life to all who believe.

After Jesus returned to Heaven, the apostles preached the Gospel. In a unique way the Holy Spirit brought Christ’s words to their minds. Later they wrote God’s truth. As the church grew, spreading far from Jerusalem, the apostles recorded the four accounts to circulate among the churches. 60 years may have passed between the cross and John’s writing of this book, but they only served to deepen John’s insight.

By the year A.D. 100, the New Testament had all the books in it we have today. In the early 20th century, some doubted so early a date for John’s Gospel. However in 1935, the discovery of a fragment of John 18 proved the Gospel was already widely distributed soon after A.D. 100.

A little bit about John:

John and his older brother, James, were Peter’s partners in the fishing trade in Galilee, in northern Israel. Their father Zebedee was a prosperous fisherman. Their mother Salome also followed Jesus when they did. John’s family also had connections to the wealthy and influential high priest.

John was a disciple of John the Baptist, but when John the Baptist pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God John immediately turned and followed Jesus. And his life was never the same! Later, he, James and Peter became Jesus’ inner circle.

On the cross Jesus entrusted His mother, Mary, to John to take care of.  John shepherded churches in Ephesus, where he wrote this Gospel as well as three New Testament letters.

He had some flaws – because of his fiery nature, Jesus called he and James ‘sons of thunder.” But his close proximity to Jesus transformed him into the apostle of love. By the time he wrote Revelation he was very humble. “A servant of God.”

Jesus transforms those who follow Him.

So we should read the Gospel of John not for information, but for transformation. God isn’t impressed that we memorized the great commission if we never share the Gospel. And He’s not impressed that we know what the Golden Rule is if we don’t help people.

Do we live like we believe the Bible? Jesus gives us an invitation to salvation, eternity and abundant life. And we can be secure in Him! He promises us unity with God!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review of Children's Book 'A Patch on the Peak of Ararat'

I had to remind myself when reading this that it's meant for little kids. And sometimes children's books only have one word on a page. But I didn't like that it repeated itself over and over again. (Although I know that was a style the author was going for.)

But I'm giving it 4 stars because I loved the illustrations - it's a beautiful book. And it does open up a child's mind to a great Bible story.

To learn more, click on the book below.  

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Our Role in God's Answer to Prayer

I'm not sure if anyone else has had this problem, but often in the past I would pray asking God to do something for me. But then I would find myself wondering if I was supposed to have faith He'd just do it, or was I supposed to do something too?

When I first became familiar with The Hallelujah Diet, the founder, Rev. George Malkmus, wrote a book 'Why Christians Get Sick' and he said he always had a problem when people in his church would pray or ask him to pray for healing, but then just go on doing the same unhealthy things.

Like praying for God to heal lung cancer, but not giving up smoking in the meantime.

He said people had to start living a healthier lifestyle, giving up the junk food, exercising, adding fruits and vegetables and destressing. Asking God to give them wisdom to go in the right direction and make good choices, but making good choices.

In a devotion I read today in Randy Alcorn's book '60 Days of Happiness' he gave an illustration of a man coming in to is office when he was a young pastor, saying he was disappointed in God for not taking away a temptation. The pastor asked if he had kept himself away from it - but up some roadblocks. The man said no.

Then Randy started pushing a book across his desk while praying out oud "Dear God, please don't let this book fall on the floor", all the while continuing to push it. And of course it fell.

He wrote, "Instead of calling on God to empower him as he took decisive steps to resist temptation, he kept making unwise choices while asking to be delivered from their natural consequences."

We mustn't expect God to save us from disastrous actions that we keep setting ourselves up for.

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