Sunday School Lesson Series: “Jesus and His Followers”

When they were called, we see how we are called.  When Jesus teaches and prays for them, we learn He does the same for us.  When Jesus empowers them, in that we learn how we are empowered as well.  When Jesus wants them to focus on following Him, He speaks the same words to us.  And, when Jesus sends them out to work the Great Commission, we learn that we are not exempt from this part of the calling; rather, with one foot in front of the other, we are to go and reach the world for Christ.

Each of these lessons is designed to be used as individual lessons, or as seen here,  they can be grouped together to be used as a series.    Below you will find six links to the lessons I offer in this series.

As always, while I provide resources and activities for lessons and lesson development, I encourage my readers to do their own personal studies as well.

To access the lessons, simply click on the links below.

Jesus Calls His Followers

This lesson explores the calling of the original twelve disciples/apostles, and it also calls us, as individuals, to follow Jesus as well.  Father God, may our hearts be tied to our Savior and may our feet follow wherever He calls us. Thank You for welcoming us into Your family. Thank You for making us a part of Your holy calling. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray, AMEN!

Jesus Teaches His Followers

What does Christianity look like to you? Many have a wrong idea of what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. Jesus set about in this lesson to instruct His followers on how they should live. And, the awesome thing about Jesus, He didn’t just teach it, but He lived it Himself.

Jesus Prays for His Followers

Jesus prayed for His disciples and Jesus prayed for you, too.  We who have believed are covered by the prayers of Christ that we might go out into the world and help others believe also.

Jesus Empowers His Followers

We all need to be empowered with His Spirit to do His work! We cannot do this alone.

Jesus’ Followers Follow Him

As Christians, God expects us to follow Christ in every sense of the word.  Christ is our guide in everything.  As He lived, so too are we called to live.  1 John 2:6 tells us, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked,” (see also John 13:15).  Christ is our ruler whereby we measure the life we live, and His standards are the guide to our pathway.

Jesus Sends His Followers

Each Christian believer now has the role and responsibility to, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled,” (Luke 14:23). The call of the Great Commission belongs to all who are in Christ. And with that, He sends His followers, and tells them to, “Go!”

I hope you enjoy these lessons.  My prayer is that these lessons will be helpful to you personally or to use in your own classroom settings.  Many blessings to you all!

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Sends His Followers” Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8

VERSE DISCOVERY: Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8 (KJV, Public Domain)

When Jesus called some of His disciples, He told them they would be “fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:19; see also Mark 1:17 and Luke 5:10).  In this lesson, He is instructing them to launch out into the deep of not the waters, but of the world, and catch people for the Kingdom of God.

Romans 10:13-15 tells us, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be savedHow then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (emphasis mine).

Salvation is the goal.  In order for that to happen, an unbeliever must be converted into a believer.  For that to happen, the unbeliever must hear a word that pushes their heart toward repentance and the offer of a new life in Christ.  But, if there is never a “preacher”; if there is never one “sent”; if there are never “beautiful… feet” preaching the “gospel of peace” and “glad tidings of good things”, then how can the original goal of salvation, of a sinner experiencing a new birth, become a reality?  How can that one become a saint?

Like dominos in a row, ready to fall into place and urge the other on to form the big picture, so too does Jesus command all His followers to take their places, to go out into the world, to fulfill the Great Commission.

All the commands in today’s text are red-lettered words in the Bible.  What that means is they are all words that came out of the mouth of Christ.  These were His marching orders when He sent His original disciples out to witness the world for the Kingdom of God, and they are still His marching orders for all His followers today.

 The Matthew 28:16-20 Command

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Other red-lettered words that are companion verses found in Luke show that in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts that the mission for Jesus’ followers is the same: go, be a witness, and evangelize the world.  Luke records these words of Christ: “And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48; emphasis mine).

Christ suffered.  Christ died.  And here, as well as the verses in Matthew (our covered text), and beyond, we see that Christ rose.  Everything that the enemy tried to throw at Him, He overcame and was victorious.  As the prelude to today’s lesson shows, death could not hold Him down.

When “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (Matthew 28:1) went to visit the tomb of Jesus, they found He wasn’t even there!  Being greeted by an “angel” they were told, “He is not here: for he is risen,” (Matthew 28:5-6).  Standing, in what must’ve been awe and wonder over everything they were witnessing, they were instructed by the same angel to “go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the death; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you,” (Matthew 28:7).

With many things occurring between that point and the point of where our lesson picks up, as we arrive at our text, the remaining “eleven disciples” are gathered in “Galilee,” into a mountain where “Jesus had appointed them.”

Their calling to that particular “mountain” had been by divine appointment.  The mission they were soon to be sent on was also a divine appointment.  When one is commissioned by Christ, their life is no longer their own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  They follow the marching orders of their Savior and go where and when He says go.  What He ordained and set must be followed through by His disciples.

When they gathered themselves where He “appointed them,” it was then “they saw him.”  And, when they saw Him, “they worshipped him.”  They bowed prostrate before their risen Lord.  They bowed in awe and wonder of His majesty who spoke of His life, saying, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18).

It is supposed by many that the group gathered there that day consisted not only of the eleven disciples/apostles but many others as well.  When the Apostle Paul stated and testified that many had seen the risen Lord, including “five hundred brethren at once,” (1 Corinthians 15:6), it is believed that it was on the occasion of this lesson when this account occurred, and why some gathered there may have “doubt.”

Jesus, not only bringing light to their confusion of who He is and on what has occurred, also is bringing light to their hearts regarding His own authority when He speaks these words unto them: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  Wherever a king reigns, that’s where he has power.  Jesus reigns over all!  As a matter of fact, it was also the Apostle Paul who stated that God is the one who “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,” (Philippians 2:9).

And speaking of that power given to Him by God, he goes on to state, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:10-11).

What all that means is the same thing Jesus is asserting here in this text: He has been given, by God, “all power!”

All power means it, or He, cannot be contended with.  Jesus Christ has already gained the victory over everything (see John 16:33).  He has “everlasting dominion” over all (see Daniel 7:13-14).  Peter says that He has “gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him,” (1 Peter 3:22).  There’s no way around it – JESUS HAS BEEN GIVEN ALL POWER!

As the risen Lord is getting ready to commission His disciples into their next level of work for the Kingdom of God, He shows them that the mission is His to give.  The authority to command the work that is to be done is His.

With that, He lays out the grand work for what we have come to know as the Great Commission.  And the first words that Jesus speaks to them regarding this mission is, “Go!”

“Go” is a verb which means it requires action.  There is no such thing as a stagnant saint.  Our faith is not stale or at a standstill and neither should the declaring of our faith be.  We, who have an active relationship with the Lord, should be pursuing actively His purposes and mission.  And, the number one mission overall is the winning of souls for the Kingdom of God.  That is the top priority.  Days are short and eternity is long – we must “go!”

When Jesus says, “Go,” He wants you to get involved in His plan for reaching out to others.  He doesn’t save individuals for them to loiter around the church.  He wants us to stretch beyond the comfort of our own salvation; stretch beyond the comfort of the pews, to help save others.

“And teach all nations.”  Probably the most beloved and the most memorized verse in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  God’s mission and reasoning behind the crucifixion of Christ is for the whole “world” to have a chance to be saved.  There are no “nations” that are off limits for receiving the teaching of the gospel and what Jesus has done for them.  There are no restrictions to be placed on whom we deem worthy to be baptized in His name.  The command is not ours to give of who and who cannot be reached, but the command and mission is ours to follow – and He says for us to reach “all nations” with it.

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  When a baby is born, one doesn’t give them a bottle, wish them luck, and send them off on their own to figure this new life out.  No!  They are trained about the rights and wrongs of life.  They are raised with guidance, love, care, and instruction on all things necessary, and the Lord says that others whom we reach out to need the same care and attention.  They need to be taught in “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

“And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”  They were not in this mission alone. We are not on this mission alone.  Those whom Jesus was instructing, and those of the early church suffered much in order to spread the gospel throughout all regions of the world.  Many were dispersed from their homes, fled for their lives, suffered persecution, and even martyrdom.  Many today, in varied areas of the world, suffer tremendously for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  To spread His cause throughout the world, many feel physical pain, emotional distress, and more.  No, Jesus didn’t say it was going to be a bed of roses.  He didn’t say it would be easy, but His promise is that no matter what obstacles, hurts, and pressures one may face, He is there with you in the middle of it all.  We are not walking this world and fighting this fight on our own.  Our Savior has risen in victory, and although He has ascended to be with His Father, His presence, care, and love for us is still promised us.  “I am with you alway,” Jesus promised, “even unto the end of the world.”  Even until He comes back again, we are never alone.

The Mark 16:15-16 Command

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Since verse 15 is very similar to what we covered in the previous section regarding the description of the Great Commission, I won’t elaborate on it further, but I did want to include it here that we might see those “command” words are still present and relevant in this section.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  Here we see that the original goal of the calling and sending of disciples, that souls would be “saved.”  People are not called and sent for themselves.  Nor is it for popularity and the like.  The followers of Christ are sent that someone else might hear the Good News, believe in the Good News, and be “saved!”

To be saved means to be “delivered.”  While there are a variety of things for people to be delivered from, the main thing they need to be delivered from is sin.  That deliverance will not come to pass because of you or me, but we are messengers that are sent to tell them about He who can save.

Do you remember when you were first born again, or got “saved”?  Do you remember the feeling?  Sometimes there’s a wholeness that is felt.  Sometimes there’s peace.  In some areas one may feel light and on top of the world (not in a self-centered, braggadocious way).  People, when they have accepted Jesus Christ and experience the new birth, tend to feel positively different.  A freedom that can’t be explained as the feeling of those shackles that kept one bound begins to fall away.

How many others are there out there who would like to know what that feels like?  How many would like to experience what you have experienced?  How many would like to be saved?  That can’t happen unless those that are sent, go.

Personal Testimony:  I remember not too long before I was saved, there was a time when I was sitting on the front steps of my house.  There was a church the next block up from our house that caught my attention.  It wasn’t the people, for I had never met them.  It wasn’t the program, for I had never been in their building.  I just remember that I wanted what they had.

People may not always be able to articulate what they are feeling, but there are still many who have not been introduced to Jesus; there are still many who want what you have.

Here in Mark, Jesus shows His desire for people to be “saved.”  And, until the end of the world, that harvest is not done being reaped (Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2; John 4:35).  There is still room in heaven for more, so to speak.  The time for the work of the Great Commission has not yet come to an end.  He wants, and we should want, more people that believe!

While the work to evangelize the world with the Good News must go on, there will be those who reject the invitation of Christ.  Jesus said, “He that believeth not shall be damned.”  Unfortunately, some will not believe.

Despite the love, despite the cross, despite the resurrection, despite the Good News – sadly, some will still refuse the new life offered through Jesus Christ.   Some will turn away their hearts and their lives from this great spiritual rescue.

Everything He did, everything He experienced and went through from birth to the grave and beyond, was to rescue mankind from being lost forever.  For those who turn away that great salvation, they will remain in that lost state and be “damned” because they don’t believe.

Just as eternity is set and settled for the believer, so too is eternity set and settled for the unbeliever.  Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  The believer, in Christ, has been released from condemnation.  For the unbeliever outside of Christ, their condemnation or “damned” state remains.

Knowing this, and teaching this to His disciples that they and we might understand the importance of the mission – He sends His followers out to reach as many people as possible in hopes that they who have yet to believe will hear the Good News, and believe, that they might dwell in life eternal with Him.

That’s the mission.  That’s the goal.  That’s the reason for the sending.  It doesn’t matter if one is receptive to the gospel or if they reject it, the disciples, and we, are commanded to still go and tell it.

Not matter where people are from or what their background is, God wants to see people saved.  But they must make the decision to want to be saved; to want to truly repent and be reconciled back to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Please Note:  During His earthly ministry, when Jesus delivered a message, often He would say, “He that hat ears to hear, let him hear,”  (Matthew 11:15; see also Matthew 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8 and 14:35).  There must be a personal willingness to open oneself up to take in the message of salvation for themselves.

Nonetheless, we are still commanded to go and tell it.

The Acts 1:8 Command

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

This was the last time Jesus would speak to His disciples face to face before He ascended, and the mission and the message were still the same: “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  You shall evangelize about Me to the whole world!

This will be done and able to be accomplished because of the “power” of the “Holy Ghost” each believer will be equipped with.  In earlier times, the Holy Spirit would come upon people temporarily, and for an appointed time and/or task.  When Pentecost would arrive, those gathered would be fully and completely engulfed and equipped in His power through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit (see Acts 2).

The fact is, this mission is His mission and He is the one that empowers each of us to fulfill the call He has summoned us to; He is the one that strengthens us and gives us all the tools we need through the power of His Spirit working in us to witness the world for Him (compare Luke 24:49).

To reach others on the level that He calls means we need to depend on sources outside of our own selves in order to literally get the job done, and the only source we need for a job/commission such as this is the source of the “Holy Ghost.”  We cannot perform this duty or do what He has called us to without the power of His Spirit (compare Zechariah 4:6).  We need to rely on He that works on the inside of us in order that we may be able to do the greater outside work (refer to the Explore section of this lesson packet).

Each Christian believer now has the role and responsibility to, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled,” (Luke 14:23).       The Master is looking for each of us to go, but when we do, we go in the “power” of the “Holy Ghost.”  We go in His power!

Once, the Apostle Paul testified of his own mission, saying, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ… But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts 20:20-21, 24).    May we all be as tenacious in our faith and devotion to witness the world for Christ.

The call belongs to all believers, and to all His followers, Jesus says, “Go!”

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Jesus Sends His Followers

Suggested Activities:

Draw the Scene: Jesus Sends His Followers Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Jesus Sends His Followers Memory Verse

Blank Journal Pages: These pages, one designed for adults and one for children, can be used to bring out, remember, or write a particular part of the lesson you wish for you and/or your class to focus on.  Click>> Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages to access the journal pages.

Matthew 28:19 Earth Craft: Earth Craft Matthew 28 19 This craft serves as a reminder and our responsibility as Christians to take the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world and do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission.  (This page can be used simply as a coloring page or to make an easy craft.  You can print on cardstock paper and attach it to a craft stick for a fun project.  Also, you can print it on cardstock and color.  After coloring simply cut it into many shapes to be reassembled again and again as a quick and easy puzzle craft.)

Word Search: Jesus Sends His Followers Word Search  Answers: Jesus Sends His Followers Word Search Answers

Crossword: Jesus Sends His Followers Crossword  Answers: Jesus Sends His Followers Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Jesus Sends His Followers Word Scramble  Answers: Jesus Sends His Followers Word Scramble Answers

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Love Your Enemies” Matthew 5:38-48

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Matthew 5:38-48 (KJV, Public Domain)

What does true Christianity look like?  How do people know that we are a child of God?  What marks us as being different from anyone else?  When we decided to do the things that God does and love the way He loves, then people can readily tell whom we belong; who is our Father.

In life, there are going to be times of being wronged, hurt, and/or misunderstood.  What do we do in these instances?  Do we vehemently seek revenge or try to get even? 

No.  Part of being a Christian or living life as God’s people is to extend God’s love to those who refuse to show us kindness in return.  It’s going against our human nature to when offenses happen by extending the heart of God to those who oppose or war against us; to those whom one would consider being an enemy.

When we choose to say no to what our flesh wants to do and yes to what is right in God’s sight, then we are on the right pathway of living lives that are pleasing to Him.  We are purposefully living like Jesus did – choosing to love, even the worst, like God does.   

Going Against Human Nature

Matthew 5:38-42 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

It is during His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus lays out the disciplines necessary for a life lived for the Kingdom of God, where this lesson text is found.  In that teaching, He clarifies a few points He wants His followers to adhere to.  Jesus wanted to set aright some misunderstandings concerning the Law and offers a more Kingdom-approached mindset.

Part of laying out the law in Exodus was to ensure that when people committed a wrong against another or injured another, proper retribution was made.  This portion of the law, and similar portions like it, were put in place to keep everything fair and balanced, not only for the offended but for the offender.  Both parties would be protected to ensure neither party involved would go overboard in exacting from the other what they believed was due them or deserved.  Those who were to receive something in return for an offense would get what’s coming to them – nothing more, nothing less.  And, those who caused the offense or injury, those on the punishment end of the spectrum would get or give what is their due – nothing more, nothing less.

Basically, laws like this not only promoted fairness, but it limited extreme actions from being taken by another for the least little bit of infractions.  The punishment had to fit the crime and not be exaggerated, out of the proportion, or go too far for what was called for.

That’s the meaning behind the phrase/verse, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, (compare Exodus 21:24).  It was not a license for retaliation and revenge.  It was a law commanded to keep everything fair and balanced.

Supporting the true nature of the law, Jesus taught, rather than seek revenge, go above and beyond what normal human nature would demand of in times of offense.  Do something radically different: Resist not evil.  Proverbs 20:22 explains it like this: “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he will save thee,” (compare 1 Peter 3:9).  The focus of a Kingdom-minded individual is not seeking to render evil for evil.  The focus of a true child of God is to live life like Jesus did, with love and compassion toward one’s fellow man.  Even their enemies.

And, if it’s the Law the people want to quote to justify themselves in rendering to another their “just desserts,” then they also must remember that it is also the Law that states, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt  love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD,” (Leviticus 19:18).

People can be very self-seeking in matters of avenging and holding grudges.  These two things will tear relationships and people down rather than heal and restore.  And, that defeats the purpose of the original intent of the Law.

Therefore Jesus, to further drive His point home, continues: But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  During the Roman occupation, people in Jesus’ day would suffer many assaults from these soldiers and governing authorities.  And, surely too, there would be times when one’s own countrymen would strike out in unjust ways.  But, the response of the Christian is not to behave in the same manner as they.  They were to respond opposite of what society or their normal human character would dictate.

Other scenarios Jesus gave, such as, if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also, and, whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain, demonstrate the previous point He made about not getting caught up in revenge, retaliation, and the seeking of one’s rights.  Here, He is instructing them to once again, go above and beyond that, to the point of doing more than what was insistent upon.  The Christian is not called to live and act like everyone else, getting caught up in matters that surround the here and now or being entangled with the cares of this life, 2 Timothy 2:4.  He/she is called to live and love people as God Himself does, and that often goes against the grain of human nature.  And, sometimes it will require one to do extra or more than necessary in order to show the love of God.

When someone has been hurt and broken the last thing on their mind is the benefit of the one who has inflicted the harm.  Jesus, knowing what He was going to accomplish on the cross, was teaching His disciples to operate in this world as He would.

All these things that He speaks of in the above verses, all the scenarios of wrongs committed, were to be situations that Jesus Himself would live through, love through, and forgive the offense of others through.  They would be things that He would actually demonstrate through His own life: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth,” (Isaiah 53:7).

Jesus was teaching His disciples that to live as Kingdom-minded people, you will not only have to go against the status quo and cliques of society, but you will also have to fight against your own natural inclinations that don’t want to seek the good of those who cause harm.

In addition to that, be giving.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.  God gave us the greatest gift one could ever hope to receive, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16), who would freely and willingly suffer so much wrong to lay His life down for us.  Is it too much for us to give as He gave to those in need?  Jesus didn’t turn others way or turn a blind eye to genuine needs.  Do we?

Love Like God Loves

Matthew 5:43-48 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Love your enemies.  Loving neighbors is one thing, but the words love and enemies don’t exactly coincide with one another according to human standards; rather, they usually collide with one another head-on.  But Jesus is calling us to use God’s Spirit within us to operate on a supernatural level that surpasses our view which is usually obstructed by this natural world.

When one is an enemy that means they are against us.  Yet, Jesus’ command is to love them anyhow.  Show them the same compassion as He did when He allowed them to drive the nails through His hands and feet.  He told His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane at the time of His arrest, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  He could’ve taken care of His enemies with one swoop of prayer, yet love compelled Him to offer Himself for their release from sin.  He had a heavenly view for loving His enemies.  In that, He laid it all down for them and us and showed just one of the ways one can do good to them that hate you.

Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.  No one said these sayings were easy, because they’re not.  If they were, everybody would be doing them.  But they are doable because everything that Jesus is telling His followers to do, He did, or would go on to do.

They cursed Him, yet He prayed for them: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34).  They struck Jesus on the cheek (John 18:22; compare with Matthew 5:39 from above), and they divided His clothes (Luke 23:34).  He went through it all and never sought His own revenge but continued forth in love.

Following His teachings, even when it’s hard, and mimicking the things He did, helps to identify the Christians as true children of your Father which is in heaven.  In normal, familial relationships there will be some sort of resemblance between parents and children.  Certain traits, characteristics, features will be prominent, assuring the fact that this child belongs to me.  And, the same is true for those who claim to be spiritual children of God.  As His children, some of Him should be seen in us.  As we were originally created to be in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), so too should we represent His image as we have been recreated with a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

God is a good God (Psalm 100:5) and “He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God,” (3 John 1:11).  In His goodness, He does not withhold the natural graces of nature even from those who are considered evil and unjust.  He allows the sun and rain to benefit them all.  How much more in kindness should we operate if we are mimicking our Father?

It is easy for anyone to love or salute those who love and salute them back.  Jesus, to make sure they understood this concept, used as an illustration one of the most despised people of their day: the publicans.  The publicans were the local tax collectors on behalf of the Roman government.  They placed exorbitant charges on their fellow countrymen and gave to the Romans what belonged to them while pocketing the overages for themselves.  Because of this, they were greatly despised among their own people and seen as traitors.

With that being said, Jesus is making His point, that it is no great thing to treat ones with love and compassion who show the same toward you.  Even the most despised of people usually do the same.

It is when one goes above and beyond – that’s what sets them apart as true children of God.  When one can step away from their natural tendencies of wanting to retaliate and get even and decide to walk the path that leads us to perfect living; one that mimics our Father which is in heaven is perfect, can they truly say they are loving as God loves.  They are seeing people the way the Father sees them.  That even enemies, and those that war against us, would be viewed in our sight the same way the Father views them and treats them.

After all, we were once enemies as well.  “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13).  But, in His love, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  He didn’t wait until we were doing right and walking perfect and checking off all the right boxes and treating everyone fairly before He died for us.  He did it while we were in our mess.  He did it while we were sinners.  He did it while we were enemies.  Now, it’s our turn to show others, even those who may hurt us and be called our enemies, the love of God in us.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Love Your Enemies

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page – Love Your Enemies

Kid’s Journal Page – Going the Second Mile

Memory Verse: Love Your Enemies Memory Verse

Draw the Scene: Love Your Enemies Draw the Scene

Word Search: Love Your Enemies Word Search  Answers: Love Your Enemies Word Search Answers

Crossword: Love Your Enemies Crossword  Answers: Love Your Enemies Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Love Your Enemies Word Scramble  Answers: Love Your Enemies Word Scramble Answers

“Love Your Enemies Activities” (Tom and Jerry anyone?  Yes, what a great example about getting along with someone you are always fighting with.  Enjoy!)

“Love Your Enemy Children’s Lesson”

“Love Your Enemies Group Activities” (Several great ways to bring this lesson out.  Enjoy!)

“Love Your Enemies Activity Sheets”

“What Would Jesus Do Printable Craft”

“What Would Jesus Do Activities” (I really like the section on Visual Activities.  I think using this technique is a great way to open up and introduce the students to this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“What Would Jesus Do, Mirror”

“Jesus Knocking Craft” (Though this does not go with today’s verse, I think this easy printable can be nicely applied to today’s lesson.  Use it to make a Jesus door hanger that will help remind students to ask WWJD?  Enjoy!)

 

Sunday School Lesson – “The Love of God” 1 John 4:7-19

Photo: Pixabay/PhotoMIX-Company

VERSE DISCOVERY: 1 John 4:7-19 (KJV, Public Domain)

Love is a subject very near and dear to my heart.  It is probably one of my most written about topics to express.  And, we find out from today’s lesson that love is the essence of who God is.  We will learn deeply how our love is an identifying factor in proving us to be of Him and it shows the depth of all He feels for us.

In fact, the whole of our human story has been entirely of God’s love for us.  From our beginning in Genesis to the ending of the story to come, God’s love for humanity has been at the forefront of His relational chase of us.  If you have followed me and my writing for any amount of time you have probably come across a time or two an article I have written titled, Know Real Love.  In that I write:

“God loves you! Throughout the pages of the Bible, the overflow of all He feels for us is pronounced over and over again. He has plenty of evidence to mark the extremes of His love for us . . .  in Deuteronomy 23:5, He is noted as reversing a curse because He loves His people. But His ultimate show of love came when He initiated His plan to reverse the curse of sin once and for all. The plan was successful, but it didn’t come without a price. His love for us cost the life of His Son, John 3:16. All that was done so that one day we might experience the joy of what it really means to be loved; such a tender embrace wrapped around us that can’t be felt anywhere else.” (Word for Life Says/Know Real Love).

Because He loves us so, may we extend that same love to one another, is the pleading of this lesson.  We are His real-life examples to a lost world.  We are the only Bible that some people may read in their entire lifetime.  Let the story they see in you and I be one of love.

Think of it, in a world filled with hatefulness, selfishness, and condemnation, I personally believe we can never tire of hearing of the love of God.  And, as Christians we constantly need to be on our toes; to be retaught over and over again the importance that we show that same love God gave to us to one another.

The ugliness of this world’s characteristics DOES NOT have to infect us.  We can shine brighter above it all knowing that we are loved in a special way by Him.  With that knowledge, we too can return what we have received of Him to others.

When we truly know how much God loves us, we can love others better.

God is Love

1 John 4:7-10 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we mighty live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God doesn’t birth ugliness (nasty characteristics and ungodly traits).  If one is born of God, then as His spiritual children that one should possess the character and nature of their heavenly Father (just as natural children inherit some of the nature and traits of their parents).

False teachers and naysayers will always try to usurp what God wants to do in the life of the Christian and how they ought to live.  In his letter, false teachers are an enemy that John had to deal with and because of them, he had re-educate the people on what God says is true and encourage people to live and follow that truth which revolves, here in this lesson, around love.

As a matter of fact, John opens chapter 4 with this warning: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,” (1 John 4:1).  After that he gives a summation of the contrast between the Christian and the world; “Ye are of God, little children . . .” (1 John 4:4), and “They are of the world. . .” (1 John 4:5).  Immediately following this comparison of who is in truth and who is in error, 1 John 4:6 begins to admonish the saints how we ought to live.  How the love of God is to be manifest in our culture.

Christians are to operate in a love culture for this is what we have learned from our heavenly Father.  For John to keep pushing this key point means there must have been a serious disturbance and dissension going on in the church that made it necessary for this subject’s continual address.  I wonder how many disturbances in our modern-day churches are due to a lack of this godly love culture being produced within its walls.

With that, John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God.”  God loves us – Yes!  Love comes from God – Yes!  Now, the responsibility to share that love falls on the shoulders of the believers; of the body of Christ, the Church.  As Christians, God has lavished on us the best of His love through our Lord Jesus Christ (as well as being offered to the whole world if they will accept Him).  Therefore, as Christians, our relationship with one another should express that same spirit of love because what comes out of us gives testimony to what’s inside of us (see Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 15:16-20).

For a Christian to claim he is of God means that individual should express the same attributes that are characteristic of the God they say they represent.  To be without those attributes is to be without proof of who you say are and whose you say you are.  The things that come out of our life tell more about the real us than any words of the mouth.

In taking up the responsibility to love one another we are daring to stretch out beyond our personal comfort zones to the benefit of another soul in need.  We are putting our faith in action through the course of loving others.  We are pushing past the popular feelings of emotions and commanding of ourselves and our lives to give unto others what we have received from God.  We are personally making it our goal to imitate the Father’s love toward us.

Romans 12:10 tells us, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all of the same holy family.  We share spiritual kindred and as such we should be devoted to one another in well-being and care expressed through a loving relationship as a family should.  Our love for one another is to be marked by fervency (see 1 Peter 1:22) which means we should have an on-fire, zealous love for one another in Christ.

Love is of God; love is from God and He has demonstrated His love toward humanity when He sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him, (see also John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 which we will see later in this lesson as well).  The sacrifice of Christ proved to us (manifested; made clear) and the world how much God loves us and now we are to make that same love evident to all through our daily living and sacrifice.

God is love (vss. 8, 16), something I hinted on earlier.  The word is can be compared to words such as be or exist.  God doesn’t just love.  God doesn’t just have love.  God isn’t just in love with us.  Loving is not just a part of Him.  God is love.  It’s what His entirety is.  Thus, whoever claims to be in an intimate relationship with God and knows God should readily and willingly demonstrate the same character He is.  In contrast to that, he that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

This love relationship we get to experience didn’t start in or with us.  God has been the chaser of mankind since his creation.  Love begins and ends with God as the bookends that hold everything together.

To prove His love, He provided a means for mankind to be redeemed from the rift of sin that has torn apart his relationship with God.  He sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.   The fact of the matter is sin destroys.  And, there is no way around atoning (offering of propitiation) for that sin and restoring humanity’s relationship with God outside of shed blood.  Hebrews remind us, “Without shedding of blood is no remission,” (Hebrews 9:22).

With that being said, Christ became that shed blood sacrifice, sent by God, which permanently atoned for our sins.  The Bible tells us, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Hebrews 9:24-26), where He not only covered our sins but, took them away forever.

Now, that’s love!  That’s what God’s love looks like!  Therefore, our response should be to love like God loves.

Love Like God Loves

1 John 4:11-13 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.  No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.  Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”

Since God showed us the kind of love that would give up His only begotten Son, the command is, we ought to also love one another.  Whatever little meager anything we think we may lose or give up in extending love can never be compared to what God already gave.

Love is the key that opens the door to the reality in showing that we love Him.  God will not dwell in an environment of hate and selfishness.  If those are present, God is not.  If we, as His children, are showing His characteristics of love, then we know that we dwell in him, and he in us.  Love or lack of it is the marker that shows one’s stance in his/her relationship with God.  Anytime the individual or church is not operating in love, they are not operating in God and He is not in the midst.

There is a personal responsibility that John is pointing to for each individual believer to follow.  Approximately 10x’s John uses the word we throughout this lesson alone, not including the rest of his book where there are many, many more instances and identifying words which incorporate and reference the whole body of Christ with the use of words like “us” and “our.”

“We” identifies us.  We” states what we believe.  We,” tells our mission.  “We” also have His Spirit living on the inside of us and as such should operate the way His Spirit operates; in love.

Every true, born-again Christian, must possess the indwelling of His Spirit.  The effective and powerful Christian life cannot be lived out without His Spirit.  His leading and guiding on the inside is the separating factor between us and the world.  The world caters to the things of the flesh while the Spirit hones in on the things of heaven; the things of God.  Therefore, he hath given us of his Spirit and His Spirit should lead every Christian down the path of showing the same love He has shown to us.

1 John 4:14 “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

Here, we see the word “we” again.  In this usage of the word, John is speaking from his personal experience with Jesus.  John was not doing a retelling of a story passed down; rather, he was attesting to the real-life knowledge of the ministry he witnessed following Jesus Christ personally for those 3 ½ years.  This is a ministry that he has seen with his own eyes and now lives to tell about it or testify to others.

And, what does he testify?  “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world!”  How incredibly AWESOME is that!  He knows and witnessed His workings while here on earth that Jesus Christ was no less than the Son who has come to save!  He is the love of God in action!

Jesus Himself told Nicodemus, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved,” (John 3:17). This is nothing short of the ultimate act of love.  This, throughout every facet of His ministry, John gave witness to, testified of and wrote as a record in the books that bear his name.

1 John 4:15 “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

Earlier in this same book John wrote, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father,” (1 John 2:23).  This goes back to his combatting the false teachers and their teachings.  He stated very bluntly in the verse prior to this: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son,” (1 John 2:22).

Not only are they a “liar,” but have been identified with the “antichrist.”  That’s a heavy dose of truth.  Christians have to be on guard where they are getting their information from and where they are allowing it to lead them.  But he that shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

The false teachings are out there.  We are to make sure we are following the way of truth in love.

1 John 4:16-19 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  We love him, because he first loved us.”

Here, the love issue is unwrapped and exposed for us to understand.  What do we understand?

  1. We know and believed the love that God hath to us. – Before one can dish it out to another, they must believe the love that God has for them. God loves you! We are more than familiar with the John 3:16 statement of love, but what about the Romans 5:8 statement of love: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were yet in our mess – God loved us so much to send His Son to the cross for us. That’s powerful love!
  2. God is love. – Again, as already has been stated in our lesson, God cannot be separated from the character of who He is.  Love is not what God does, it’s who He is. Now, everything that the world identifies as love does not mean that God is in that.  If it is in opposition to His Word, He ain’t there.  Point blank.  Plain and simple.
  3. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. – God’s love was a demonstrative type of love; one He put on display through action, particularly in the sacrificing of His Son. In John 15:13 Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He who possesses the same marks of love He did, has the same “God in him.” He that lives in the life of love lives in God.
  4. Perfect love – We can experience His perfect love.  When the day of judgment comes we can stand with no fear in us because we have already been covered by His love. Therefore, we fear no sense of judgment or separation.  Romans 8:38-39 reminds us, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, no powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is no fear in His perfect love.  Perfect love casteth out fear, therefore if any remain in fear he is not in love and needs to reevaluate their relationship with God. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father,” (Romans 8:15; see also 2 Timothy 1:7).
  5. We love him, because he first loved us. – Make no mistake about it; humans cannot take credit for this. As already stated before, love originates with God.  “God loves you!”  You, my friends, are so very much and incredibly loved by the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.  There is so much that we face daily that tries to speak contrary to the blessedness we have in Him.  But, my God loves you with an undying love.  His heart is tied to His people.  His people need only to rest in the promises of His mercy, grace, power, and authority that make their hearts soar on the wings of the hope we have in Him all because He chose to love us first despite our sins and flaws.

And, when we truly grasp the understanding of the love of God for us, then can we learn to love others better.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes for teaching): Sunday School Lesson – The Love of God

Object Lesson Ideas:

“How Much Are We Worth?”

“He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not”

“God’s Love Letter”

Craft Heart: Create a simple heart craft that expresses God’s love for them. Simply fold a piece of construction paper in half and cut into the shape of a half heart.  When the students open the heart fully, they can write in the middle “God is Love” and decorate their heart by making designs, or adding stickers, glitter, or other embellishments to it.

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – The Love of God

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – The Love of God

Memory Verse: The Love of God Memory Verse

Draw the Scene: The Love of God Draw the Scene

Word Search: The Love of God Word Search  Answers: The Love of God Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Love of God Crossword  Answers: The Love of God Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Love of God Word Scramble  Answers: The Love of God Word Scramble Answers

Additional Activities/Resources/Links:

“Love Bible Printables” (Yes, printables!  Originally for Valentines Day but goes very nicely with today’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Bible Lessons, Crafts and Activities about Love” (Several to choose from that can be nicely incorporated in this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Love One Another” (How does making “friendship stickers” sound?  This and another activity can be found on this link.  What a creative way to show love!  Enjoy!)

“Love One Another” (A creative classroom project which involves a big red heart and students’ self-portraits.  Very nice!  Enjoy!)

“Heart Crafts” (Several for Valentine’s Day that can be used creatively for our lesson.  Enjoy!)

“As I Have Loved You” (Children’s Bible lesson and activities with printable sheets and group activities that include a “Sucker Relay,” “Bubble Popping,” and more.  Enjoy!)

“Teaching Kids How to Love God and Love Others” (Sunday School Lesson Help)

“Love Bible Verses for Children” (Easy printable activity for kids.  Enjoy!)

“Love One Another Printable Mobile” (AWESOMENESS!  ENJOY!)

“Love Crafts” (Many unique love crafts to choose from that can be adapted to today’s lesson.  Click to check it out.  Enjoy!)

“Three Bible Stories that Teach About Love”