Sunday School Lesson – “4 Ways to Use Words Better” James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4

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Our words are powerful!  As this lesson shows, they can be used to hurt or to heal; to edify or to tear down.  James wants us to choose life with the words that we speak.

VERSE DISCOVERY: James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4 (KJV, Public Domain)

Simon says, “Close your mouth!”  We all know the game.  Whatever Simon tells us to do, we do it lest we fear being counted out.  Oh, if only it were that easy to take command of some of our loose actions in life, such as ones that regard the mouth.  And yet, throughout the Bible, we are commanded to use our speech patterns in healthy and productive ways.  Not to be instruments for destruction and tearing one another down.

There is so much power bound up in the way that we talk.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”  Whatever is produced from our lips generates fruit.  Stuff grows, for the good or the bad, from what we say.

James is admonishing us to be mindful of the words that come out of our mouth for with them we can lift someone’s day, or we can emotionally kill them. 

What we say makes a difference in the lives of others.  Our mouths are vessels of influence. 

James 3 unpacks the truth of the power of the tongue and how people of faith should be cautious in how they unleash it. 

Using Isaiah 50:4 as a companion Scripture with those found in James 3, this lesson will uncover four ways all of us can strive to use our words better.

 1. Realizing the Weight of Your Words

James 3:1 “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

At the beginning of this lesson, I believe this is where many of us drop the ball, so to speak, in trying to improve our speech patterns toward others.  Many do not realize the weight of the words they speak and the impact those very words can have on the hearers.  Even if one is not trying to be purposely offensive, they would do well to think before speaking, asking oneself if the words that are about to come out of my mouth, necessary and/or helpful.  This step none can overlook, whether they are leaders or laypeople.  The responsibility of our words is just that, our responsibility.

So, starting with the leaders, James teaches, “Be not many masters.”  When it comes to bearing any title of leadership, often many will focus on prestige and tend to overlook the responsibility that comes with the job.  The Bible warns us, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).  There is a higher level of accountability for “masters” or “teachers.”  Those endued with the power to magnify the gospel in such a way must be particularly careful in how they use words.

Words are powerful and need to be measured out carefully.  One of the devices that Jesus’s enemies tried to employ against Him was to catch or trap Him in what He said.  Matthew 22:15 says, “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.”  One’s words can testify for or against an individual.  “Masters” and those in leadership carry the added weight of accountability for their words for the increased impact they can make.

This office is not to be taken lightly, for James said, “Knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”  At this level, there is a higher standard of living expected for the one who bears the title, and James included himself in this by saying, “we”.  Proverbs 10:11 says, “The mouth of the righteous man is a well of life.”  Those who belong to God and work at sharing His word must especially be careful that what is coming out of them is speaking “life” to the ears of the hearers (more on this later).

James 3:2 “For in many things we offend all.  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 

In your mind, raise your hand if you have ever messed up or “offend” another.  One of the easiest ways to “offend” and harm another is through the mouth.  People often speak rashly in the heat of the moment and without carefully considering the impact their words have on another.  These emotional outbursts cause us to come up with phrases like “My mouth ran away with me” and so forth.  On those occasions, the use of the mouth was not employed as a tool for edifying, rather just the opposite.

But the one that can control his speech is considered “a perfect man.”  Since the tongue is often known as “running away” on its own, the one that exercises great restraint over this defiant member is considered “able also to bridle the whole body.”  It is the taming of what some view as being untamable.   He or she who can moderate or put limits on something so difficult to deal with can often show great restraint in other areas of life.  “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth His life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction,” is what we find in Proverbs 13:3a.  If one can keep their mouth under control, they can often hold tight elsewhere, avoiding destructive patterns that would work to tear them down.

In both verses quoted above, we see the weight of words and their impact is the sole responsibility of the one speaking, regardless of their title or not.  What we say out of our mouths carries so much with it and, it would behoove us to use our words wisely, chew on it a bit before we say it, and think critically, if what we are about to say is needful for that particular moment.

2. Learn to Tame the Tongue

James 3:3-4 “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths,  that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.”

James gives us the best possible illustrations on the power of the tongue by referencing it to two things his readers, as well as modern-day readers, can easily understand.  Through these two examples: one of a horse and another of a ship, James shows that man has, down through the years, discovered ways to bring these powerful objects under control.  For the horse, it is using a “bit” in its mouth and, for a ship, “a very small helm.” 

Both instruments are used for controlling other things.  They both direct the course of which way the operator wants each to go, be it a rider or “the governor.”  Both are great examples of how these large, and strong objects, can be made to comply with the will of the one who is controlling that little, vital piece.  If there are these little things that can move great objects into obeisance at its master’s will, what more of the little tongue?

James 3:5-6 “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”

Just as those little instruments are applied to the horse and ships, the body has a little thing that tries to control it also: “the tongue.” 

First, it “boasteth great things.”  The tongue edifies itself.  It magnifies the capabilities of its owner whether or not they really can do something.  The tongue is swollen with pride.  Have you ever seen an owner walk a little tiny dog with the biggest yipper on it, tugging and tugging the leash?  Or have you walked past a yard to the tune of relentless barking thanks to a peewee-sized dog?  These little ones are tenacious in letting you know who they are.  These pint-sized sweeties have no problem in letting the world know that they are here, and they mean business.

Our tongues often act in the same way.  It is so small, and it has so much to bark about.  Yet, this barking, used in a nonproductive and selfish way, makes a lot of noise, and can lead to great destruction.

Secondly, James taught, “how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire.”  It only takes a small flame to bring on a raging inferno.  I often watch coverage on the news of fires that burn uncontrollably.  They are huge.  They are massive walls of orange-red destruction, eating and devouring everything in its path.  But they never start out that big.  Their origin is relatively small in comparison to the size they have grown to be.

James said, “And the tongue is a fire.”  The tongue can be the source of destruction that wreaks havoc on the things that get in its way.  It can chop and devour until it has consumed some with sorrow and some with despair when wrongly used.  The tongue can lash out and cause irreparable damage to the ears of its hearer if not used properly.

James described it as “a world of iniquity.”  Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”  A lot of running off at the mouth gives many opportunities for sin to rear its ugly head.  When the tongue is let loose, it lashes about without regard for hurt, feelings, or the devastation it leaves behind.  Like a whirling tornado, it ravishes, spinning around and around in sinfulness, wiping out all in its path.

Without restraint, all it knows how to do is upheaval.  Without being restrained, the tongue “defileth the whole body.”  Jesus taught, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh,” (Luke 6:45).  With that, we see that whatever comes out of the mouth, gives evidence to what already resides in the heart or the “body.” 

James 3:7-8 “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

Man, through the blessed ingenuity that God has given him, has developed ways to tame just about everything.  Yes, our lesson focuses on the taming of animals and birds, right down to the taming of serpents.  But, when we think about it, man has been able to take control of or tame many more things.  Since the Bible days, man has even found ways to harness energy through many means, including using the sun’s power.  Man has developed many ways to use the power of nature, such as wind and water, to harness their energies to benefit humanity.

Though he has been able to do so many feats (think of all the inventions through the years), the Bible says, “the tongue can no man tame.” It speaks to the “unruly evil” that it truly is.  It testifies to the power that it holds in its little self.  It is liken as being “full of deadly poison.”  Its work can destroy to the point of no return.  No wonder James’s warning is so strong and so severe.  Christians must learn how to put reins on this evil and stop its destructive ways.

Taming the tongue begins with not only monitoring one’s mouth but the things in the heart.  For the mouth cannot speak what the heart is not feeling.  Proverbs commands us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (4:23).  The word “keep” can be used in the same sense as “guard” or “monitor.”  When the heart is kept and dealt with rightly, so too will the words which flow from it.

One day, each one of us will give an account for everything that proceeds from our mouths (Matthew 12:36-37).  As God’s children, we must not be reckless in the use of our words.  Taming the tongue means working hard to make sure your mouth is as a “well of life” (Proverbs 10:11) and that the words we speak be words of grace and helpful to the hearers thereof (Colossians 4:6; see also Ephesians 4:29).

3. Speak to Give Life

James 3:9-10 “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”

In the beginning, God spoke His most beautiful words of creation: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26).  Verse 27 goes on to say, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  These words professed the climax of His creation.  These words speak volumes of the love relationship that God wanted to have with man who was made “in his own image,” or as today’s lesson says, “after the similitude of God.” 

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.”  The conundrum of man is that we love the Lord and seek to bless Him, but sometimes our attitude toward His creation, our fellow man, can cause us to have disgruntled feelings that may turn to cursing.  “These things ought not so to be,” James said.  That is not the way we are to behave toward one another.

1 John 4:20 says it like this, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”  Love for God and hate toward man equals “blessing” and “cursing.” Those two cannot, and should not, exist together.  They are incompatible roommates.  They are not a good fit to dwell in the same domain with each other.

James 3:11-12 “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”

To further illustrate this puzzling aspect of man to try and bless and curse from the same vessel, James points out things in nature that cannot happen, that are incompatible.  First, he uses “water” to demonstrate.  Can a water fountain bring sweet water and bitter from the same place?  Can a fountain have both salt water and fresh water?  The answer is an obvious no.  The same is true for looking for olives on the fig tree or figs on a vine where grapes would be.  It does not happen.

Nature is not confused about what it is to produce.  A fig tree is designed by God to bear fig fruit.  The same is true for olives and such.  If nature knows what it should produce, so should the Christians to whom James is writing.  They are to not act out of character to the way that God designed them.

In dealing with our speech toward others, we must be mindful of building up rather than tearing down.  Proverbs 15:4 reminds us that, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life…” Think about that for a minute.  The words that we speak about and to one another can bring healing to a hurting soul.  That is powerful!  Our speech goes beyond just saying words; they exhibit and send forth “life.”

Who are we raising to “life” with a timely and sincere word?  Are people enriched for the good when they sit down to have a chat with us or do they walk away feeling extra heavy and burdened down?  These things make a difference.  Not only do they make a difference to the one whom we are conversing with, but they also speak for us how closely we are walking in tune with our Savior and how He dealt with individuals daily.  On that note, on to our fourth point in this lesson.

4. Mimic the Speech of Jesus

Isaiah 50:4 “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”

If one seems to come short of all other attempts to use productive and positive speech patterns, all you have to do is look at Jesus and see what He did and how He communicated to those He came into contact with.

If one is going to learn how to use the tongue healthily, the best example is that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus had all the right words at the right time.  He knew how to speak compassion when it was needed most.  He knew how to speak conviction in truth without berating another.  And Jesus knew how to speak life.

Jumping out of the New Testament and going back to the old, there we see the prophesied Servant, whom we know to be the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Isaiah 50:4, He talks about the words He uses and the way He uses them to speak.  There He says, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary…” 

It amazes me how many people think they have something to offer and are quick to verbalize those very thoughts and ideas.  Never do we see Jesus in the Bible using words in a frivolous or lackadaisical manner.  We have already expressed the preciousness of words and how they are used, and Jesus, just as His Father, knew the value of words and used them as such.

Jesus’ heart was always, and I do mean always, to do the will of the Father (John 6:38).  In everything, right down to going to the cross, God’s will was His number one priority (Luke 22:42).  With the will of God governing His whole life and ministry, even the words He spoke had to be what “The Lord GOD hath given me.” 

In Isaiah, that which was given is described as “the tongue of the learned”; as one who had been taught by God what to say and how to say it.  You can speak something true, but how the message is delivered can affect how one receives it or not.

In John 12:50, Jesus said, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.”

Jesus never used words in a fly-away fashion.  With everything He spoke, it was either with a purpose, for a purpose, or to fulfill a purpose – or all three in one.

When we think of “with a purpose”, we can think along the lines of healing, miracles, and deliverances.  Jesus, in those instances, spoke with the intent to deliver an individual from some illness, spiritual oppression, or to perform a miracle such as the feeding of the five thousand.

When we think in terms of “for a purpose”, we can think along the lines of the parables He taught.  In those instances, He spoke for His audience to gain a greater understanding of something, particularly Kingdom principles.

And, when we think in terms of Jesus speaking to “fulfill a purpose”, we can easily associate this with prophecies such as the one He spoke from the cross: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Those exact words open the Messianic psalm found in Psalm 22:1.

By the way, the verses quoted above in John 12:49, 50 could also be looked at in a fulfilling fashion because they fulfilled our verse of study in Isaiah 50:4 regarding the use of His speech.

Jesus used His words with exactness and preciseness.  Back in Isaiah, we see His words were carefully chosen “that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.”  The right words at the right time, especially for the weary worn, are a special kind of sweetness to a soul that dreadfully needs it.  Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones,” and nobody could do this better than the Lord Jesus Christ.  He said, “…the word that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” (John 6:63).

Then, in Isaiah, He goes on to explain, “he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”  It was a daily thing for Jesus to have His ear tuned into the Father’s mouth, to hear what He has to say and express the very words He “learned.” 

In concluding this lesson, this last section may seem overwhelming in learning to speak like Jesus in this manner.  But, if we take everything into consideration and then look at what James taught earlier in his book: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19), following this, may help us to learn to have an ear as the Servant (Jesus), and be able to speak with words of grace (Ephesians 4:29).

Our words are powerful!  As this lesson shows, they can be used to hurt or to heal; to edify or to tear down.  James wants us to choose life with the words that we speak.  He wants us to take the high road and control of what is coming out of our mouths.  If we need help, we can pray the prayer of the psalmist and say, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3).

What we say and how we talk to one another really does matter.  It is all about how we use our words and to learn daily to use them better.

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Sunday School Lesson – “The Whole Armor of God” Ephesians 6:10-20

VERSE DISCOVERY: Ephesians 6:10-20 (KJV, Public Domain)

Being caught unawares, is there anything worse?  Can we effectively stand against opposition when opposition seems to have all the fighting power?  How can we successfully be soldiers in the army of the Lord without any weapons?  Are we going to be ready, when, not if, the occasion arises to fight?  Are we openly prepared to enter this battle?

Know that what you want to accomplish will not easily be handed over to you in this Christian life, and while you are contending for it you will need some backup.  Make no mistake about it, we are in profoundly serious times.  More and more we find ourselves knowingly facing the oppressor of this world.  Are we ready for the challenge?  Are we armed and ready for this fight?

In serving God there will be times of contests and contentions, and to enter any field or times as uncertain as these, one needs weapons.  God has made provisions that we should have everything we need to fight, and to win.

Adversity will raise its head.  It is up to us to be properly equipped to counteract its rising.

This lesson looks at Ephesians 6:10-20, which is a familiar portion of Scripture.  Here, the Apostle Paul tells of what we can expect to be contending with and then he releases valuable information of all the powerful weapons/resources we can adorn ourselves with to have a victorious outcome.

Please Note:  Do not let the familiarity of these verses cause you to pass by on a great learning opportunity to gain more insight into this fight we are in.  In this lesson, there are powerful truths that can be applied to our lives and the spiritual battles we face.

Learning how to stand in and fight for our faith is a part of worship; it is a way of life that is to govern our Christian walk every day.

Your Strength

Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

“Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”  Zechariah 4:6 tells us, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of Hosts.” With the many resources afforded to many in our modern-day culture, it is easy to get caught up in the attitude of self-sufficiency.  The Bible tells us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Right away, in dealing with this portion of Scripture, Paul wanted the church at Ephesus to know that God is not looking for them to do this Christian life or to be involved in any spiritual battle in their own strength.  They are to be dependent upon Him and the “power of his might.” 

I think this is where many drop the ball.  Our human inclinations are to try to figure stuff out on our own.  Come up with a plan for dealing with what is in front of us, execute that plan, and wait for the positive results we hope to see from that plan.

But life does not generally work that way.  We tend to run into more hiccups in our plans when our total reliance is on ourselves and we treat God as if He is the backup to our plan to pull out of our pocket when we cannot take it a moment more.

No.  From the first onset of anything we face, we recognize that “God, it is You I need in the midst of this adversity.  I may not understand everything I am dealing with or going through but help me to lean on You wholly, and completely depend upon your strength through it all.”

Your Fight

Ephesians 6:11-12 “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

With that, Paul encourages his readers to “put on the whole armour of God.”  We spend so much time speaking of the armor itself (and we will address each of the pieces later in this lesson) that we forget about the word “whole.” 

“Whole” speaks of completeness; not lacking in anything that is needed.  In this Christian life and dealing with the things that come against us due to this spiritual journey we are on, we cannot be half-way Christians for that will leave areas of exposure for the enemy to prod his way into our circumstances.

God has supplied a complete outfit for our defense and the ability to fight for our faith.  No parts were left unprotected.  To be successful in our campaigns we are to be garbed in all the Christian armament that He supplies.

It is only by being fully dressed; fully prepared that we will be able to “to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  God has beautiful and great, good plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  The devil’s main goal is to interrupt what God is trying to do; to try to stop His people from reaching any positive future here, and for eternity to come that He has in store for us.

1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The word “vigilant” screams at us to be on guard!

Be on guard because the enemy is crafty; he has many tricks up his sleeve.  Paul warned the Corinthian church, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ,” (2 Corinthians 11:3).  And the Lord Jesus Christ reminds us, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (John 10:10a); and he does so by working his “wiles” through cunning and crafty schemes.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  One of the most effective tricks the enemy uses against the people of God is to divert their attention from his trickery and cause them to focus on each other; “against flesh and blood.”  This will effectively bring contentions and disunity where there is supposed to be peace and a spirit of brotherhood.

The only way to stop a thief is to proactively protect what is rightfully yours.  Wrong thinking will make some believe that things would be better in life were it not for certain things, people, and circumstances interfering with them. A lot of the time that part is not going to change but how one responds to each situation makes all the difference in the world.  Be on guard to recognize which is which.

These can be looked at as distractive influences.  How diligent then are we to stand against the evil working behind the scenes and not the people who are positioned in front?  Paul adamantly lets us know that our fight is not with each other.

Yes, they may hurt you, hate you, talk about you, criticize you and yes, even despitefully use you.  While those things may hurt us and bother us, sometimes even daily, there is a more important struggle pressing before us; those forces of evil which threaten our very being and our faith.  They are the behind-the-scenes predators like the “principalities… powers… the rulers of the darkness of this world… spiritual wickedness in high places.”  These have planned attacks and have meticulously plotted to rip away our very portion of the greater prize and reward in God.

Your Weapons

Ephesians 6:13-17 “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:”

Knowing where our true source of contentions lie, Paul once again admonishes the church to “take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  When properly dressed; when properly prepared and protected, God’s people will be able to “to stand” even in the “evil day.”

We are in the midst of very real spiritual warfare.  It is nothing to be taken lightly.  Where are our weapons?  What do we have to fight with?  In the following verses, Paul begins to list and layout all the pieces of the armor of God that we will ever need.

In order to be proficient in this fight against sin and this whole army of enemies, we must “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”

What weapon that is formed against us can penetrate the defenses of “truth” and “righteousness?”  Can any snare that an enemy has set for you be effective when Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32)?  Deception is one of the most powerful weapons the enemy employs against people.  It has worked from the time of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) causing people to lose out on the paradise that God offers.

Therefore, the first line of protection is “truth.”  “Truth” encompasses so much of our Christian walk.  It tells us who we are in Christ, it guides us on the right path to walk if we will but follow it, and it guards against the lies of the enemy.  This belt of “truth” supports our lives and supports all the other pieces of armament we are afforded.  Perhaps this is why Proverbs encourages us, “Buy the truth, and sell it not…” (23:23).  “Truth” will hold you up if you hold on to it!  Do not let it go and do not try to fight without it!

Then, Paul tells us to have a “breastplate of righteousness.”  The breastplate guards the heart in battle while “righteousness” should govern the heart for life.  “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law…” (Isaiah 51:7).  Righteousness is a heart thing.

This right way of living is an inner commitment to have God and His ways as a priority in all that we do.  Only a heart that is truly devoted to God; a heart that encourages one to be shielded in His holiness will lead you down the path to receive God’s blessings.  Anything not in His holy will, will lead to destruction.  Paul writes in Timothy, teaching his readers, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness…” (1 Timothy 6:11).

“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”  As odd as it may sound, make sure your feet are covered and prepared as well.  People tend to think of the feet as really being insignificant in battle (besides the basic fact of needing them for walking and running).  All other care for them seems to be obsolete.

Not true.  If an enemy attacks, and takes your feet out from under you, then he takes away your established standing, causing you to lose your footing in the battle.  The Roman soldiers had something like spikes on the bottoms of their sandals to keep their footing sure and secure.  As part of our armament, we are to adorn ourselves with the readiness of the “gospel of peace” that will keep us founded in His truth and confidence as we march forward. 

“The gospel of peace” is the Good News.  When you are suited with the gospel of peace, covering your standing is the defense of everything that Jesus Christ has come to live, die, and now reign for.  Keeping your feet grounded in this truth will help the Christian to avoid all those slippery, hidden devices that the enemy throws at you to try to keep you from progressing toward your long-awaited victory.

With that readiness of protection is also the readiness to carry the message forth, even during times of battle.  Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”

No matter how you see it, keeping your feet covered with the gospel of peace can be for protection and mission purposes.  For protection, it serves to keep us in our foundation of faith when the fighting starts.  For mission, it gives us purpose, that even during the fight, we carry forth the message of all that Jesus has done and will do for the heart that believes.  The gospel is part of your equipment, but it also serves as your marching orders as well. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15).

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”  “Above all;” most importantly – the most vital thing over top of everything else, Paul says, “I want you to grab hold of your shield of faith.”  Mount it up on your arm and make sure the fit is proper (we do not want it slipping when you need it the most) so that you will be capable of going out into action.  You will be capable of blocking attacks from the enemy.

Everything that the enemy can even imagine attacking you with can be blocked by the “shield of faith.”  Why?  When you are under the protection of faith you are not relying on the strength or wisdom from any man.  You are dependent upon the power of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:5).  With that being said, who can possibly come against the power of God and succeed?

With our shield mounted, we can step boldly on the battlefield, knowing with God on our side, and we will be alright.  This reminds us of the promise He gave to the children of Israel when He said, “There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon…” (Deuteronomy 11:25).  If God did it once for them, He has proven over and over again in His Word that He will do it again. He will come to the defense of His people, fight for them, and win even now!

We are under the shield of faith.  We are believing and hoping in the power of God during this fight.  What dart can penetrate this shield?  With assurance resting on our side, we continue forth in battle, moving forward and not backward.  We can “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).  We have a destination of eternal life to march towards.  “Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14).

You can say, “With the shield of faith I have the power, through Christ, to quench and put out every one of those attacks by adversaries and deflect their advancement.”  Just as Jesus told the Centurion, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,” (Matthew 8:13).  The same still applies today.  Believe it, have faith, and it shall be “done unto thee.”

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Along with all the other equipment, Paul said I want you to make sure you have something to cover your head: “the helmet of salvation.” 

This is the only helmet whose materials are not fashioned by the hands of man.  This helmet was made by the redeeming blood of the Lord Jesus Christ; the one who came to die for our sins.  For without this helmet, we will lose our spiritual battle.  “For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).

It is only through the redemption that Jesus Christ has secured for us and through His name that sins can be removed.  Make sure you are covered.  Make sure you are under the saving grace of Jesus Christ before you even attempt to step out onto the battlefield.

Let the salvation that Christ secured for you guard your mind for this is where the real battle is fought.  If you are saved, then you belong to God, and that is a truth check that you can take to the spiritual bank and cash!  Here are some verses to help you know that you are now His (emphasis mine):

  • “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” (Romans 5:1-2).
  • “But we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement,” (Romans 5:11).
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (Romans 8:1).
  • “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” (Galatians 2:20).
  • “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” (Ephesians 1:7; also see Colossians 1:14).

And I could really go on and on and on and on.  What a wonderful position we are now in when we are in Christ!

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  All the armor discussed so far was given for our protection.  They will be there to help you walk through your troubled times.  But now that you are well protected, there is one final weapon given that will allow you to effectively fight back: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  This is the same weapon Jesus used when countering the attack of the enemy (see Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).

The Bible tells us, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12).

God’s Word is here to be put into action for you from the minute you open it up.  Wrapped in such a small package of sixty-six books it stands as the only weapon that will effectively penetrate all the forces of darkness.

Everything you need to help keep you strong in the battle is found in the Word of God.  Take up the Word of God in your heart and use it to fight.  God’s Word is a daily message to our hearts that we do not grow faint during the battle.  His Word is our assurance for the future.  In His Word, we can find all the promises laid up for those who continue to fight on the side of what is right before Him.

It does not matter what anybody else says, WHAT DOES THE WORD OF GOD SAY?

  • Depressed/broken heart? – “He healeth the broken heart, and bindeth up their wounds,” (Psalm 174:3).
  • Bound in troubles? – “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him,” (Nahum 1:7).
  • Heavy laden with financial burdens? – “The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it,” (Proverbs 10:22).
  • Lonely and seeking comfort when it seems none can be found? – Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you,” (John 14:18).

That is just a small portion of how the Word of God can fight for you.  If you will just walk in His Word, and carry it in your heart, and let it encourage you toward a life of righteousness (Psalm 119:11), it will fight for you.  Can you take Him at His Word?

Your Prayers

Ephesians 6:18-20 “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel. For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”  I have covered the subject of prayer extensively in previous lessons and posts.  Prayer is something that is very near and dear to my heart.  It is something I wholeheartedly believe in and cannot live without.  No matter which way you look at it, we are to be a people of prayer.  It is written repeatedly in the Bible and it is consistently taught throughout.  We cannot be strong warriors without a strong prayer life.  We are called to pray “always… in the Spirit.”

We are instructed that our prayers are not just for us; rather, “for all saints.”  Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to continually lift one another up in prayer!  If we don’t, who will?  We are all trying to reach the same eternal destination and we all need the power of one another praying us through.  (I encourage you to read my article titled  “Please, Pray Me Through to My Deliverance!” found on WordforLifeSays.com.)

Prayer is powerful!  Prayer is authoritative!  And prayer works!

Therefore Paul, chained in prison, admitted his need for prayer also.  While you are praying for the saints he said, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” 

As an “ambassador” who was not free; rather, he abode in “bonds,” he needed to still be able to speak freely and “boldly” for He whom he represents.  There are many causes for when one is in “bonds” to keep the mouth shut, yet Paul wanted his voice and His message to still be heard.

This was a request for those in Acts who also wanted to remain faithful to the message that needed to be preached.  They prayed, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,” (Acts 4:29).

If anything, during the battle the message of God’s saving grace still must go forth unhindered.  Sometimes, the ground on which we walk will not be favorable; rather, contentious.  Lord, grant us boldness to keep the truth of your message going.

It’s time to put on the whole armor of God!

PDF Full 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 – The Whole Armor of God

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – The Whole Armor of God

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – The Whole Armor of God

Blanks Journal Page: 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.

Review Sheet: The Whole Armor of God Review Sheet

Word Search: The Whole Armor of God Word Search  Answers: The Whole Armor of God Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Whole Armor of God Crossword  Answers: The Whole Armor of God Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Whole Armor of God Word Scramble  Answers: The Whole Armor of God Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: The Whole Armor of God Draw the Scene

How Many Words: The Whole Armor of God How Many Words

Memory Verse: The Whole Armor of God Memory Verse

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Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Blesses the Children” Mark 10:13-16

VERSE DISCOVERY: Mark 10:13-16 (KJV, Public Domain)

There is a familiar scene that plays out in many families between dad, mom, and the little ones.  It is the one where the father, playing with his children, tosses them into the air and catches them on a band of giggles coming from the child while the mother stands on the sidelines holding her breath.

The father with a sure grip and a steady hand has no qualms playing this innocent game.  The child, often young, just thinks it is absolutely hilarious to go for this free ride.  The child never worries about being caught.  The child never worries about being hurt.  The child only sees daddy.  Daddy loves me, daddy cares for me, I trust daddy and daddy will never let me fall.  Therefore, I will enjoy playing with daddy.

From the time that children are born, they have an innate capacity to trust.  They are literally at the whim of their caretakers and can do nothing for themselves.  Their dependency is constantly on others to feed, care for, and love them in their most vulnerable state.  In their innocence, they do not judge by anything outwardly but, only by the love they receive inwardly.

Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).  Children are our future.  These little ones will be the next carriers of God’s Word.  They will be the conduits through which generations after them will find their way to the Lord and His salvation.  At the same time, children can teach us so many things and one of the things they teach us is how to have faith.

Faith gets over-complicated in the adult way of thinking while children just simply receive, remain dependent, trust, and believe.  And that is all God asks from all His children, no matter what their age is.

 Parents Desire

Mark 10:13 “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.”

Teachings on the kingdom of God and examples of what true faith looks like were never far from Jesus’ vocabulary.  He took many times and opportunities to open the understanding of all who would listen and heed what God looks for in a true follower of His.

In this lesson, He gives us an undeniable example of both as parents in the crowd “brought young children to him.”  The desires of the parents in question are to have Jesus “touch” their children thereby blessing them. This was not an uncommon practice in this ancient culture.

The truth is parents always want what is best for their children.  If they find a good thing, naturally they would want their children exposed to it as much as possible.  Many modern-day parents spend an enormous amount of money each year to give their children the best clothes, education, housing… the best start in life, if and as they are each able to do.

The parents in today’s lesson saw Jesus teaching and healing and showing compassion to many people, many times over.  He was (and still is) the best thing they could give to their children.  Why would they not want their child exposed to Him?  Why would they not seek a “touch” from Jesus for their little ones if they could?

A child’s faith often starts with their parents (or guardian), and in the home.  It’s where God gave the command of responsibility to Moses for the parents to “teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house…” (Deuteronomy 6:7; see also Deut. 11:19).  There are many variables that go into raising a child.  Parents really must take into consideration and calculate what their children are exposed to on a daily basis and whether or not it is beneficial to their physical and spiritual wellbeing.  The guidelines given to Moses to pass down through the generations was to ensure that the most impressionable of society receive the proper exposure to the things of God; to what would benefit their children the most.  This would also ensure the longevity of the faith amongst the community as a whole.

Those in today’s lesson wanted to expose their children to Jesus.  They wanted Him to touch their little ones with a blessing.  They brought their children near to where Jesus was, giving them the opportunity to hear of His teaching and wisdom on life and the kingdom of God.  The Bible encourages us to, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6).  This stands as a strong lesson that if we want our children to be exposed to Jesus, then we, as parents, must take that responsibility and not depend on others to do it for us.  When it comes to our children’s faith there can be no complacent parenting.

“And his disciples rebuked those that brought them.”  The disciples didn’t have the same vision for the children as the parents did.  The Bible does not exactly state why their rebuke was so strong (although many speculate).  But they did prohibit the parents from bringing the children nearer to where Jesus was and made no attempts to hide their displeasure at the intrusion.

Did they think the children were unworthy of the Master’s time and consideration?  Maybe they believed Jesus was just too busy and important to deal with the likes of these.  Who knows?  Perhaps it would have been prudent for them to ask Jesus first instead of thinking to act on His behalf.  The fact of the matter is they stood in between Jesus and the children.  Something Jesus highly disapproved of.

Everyone MATTERs TO JESUS

Mark 10:14 “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Jesus intervened.  Jesus has never turned away a desiring soul.  He has never told a mom or dad no who sought physical or spiritual healing for their child.  And He was not going to turn down or turn away those who desired a special spiritual blessing or touch for their children now.

One of the most precious things I love about our Lord is His ability to see value in everybody.  Those whom society thinks are the lesser, non-important, are magnificent in the eyes of our God.  The Bible teaches us, “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows,” (Luke 12:7).

To Him, it does not matter where you live, what your social status in life is, or anything else like that.  It does not matter if you are aged with wisdom or new and in the innocence of your years.  He that knows the days then, the days now, and the days to come and sees beyond all of that, straight down to the very soul He loves.  With that, He invites or allows (“suffer” as this lesson puts it) them to come unto Him.

Previously I wrote in another lesson, “The feet of faith walk forward believing God is, “and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith in its highest form removes all worldly shackles and just rests in the truth that if it is His will, there is nothing that can hinder God from performing a miracle in one’s life.  Ethnicity, background, and prestige all fall away in the eyes of our Savior whose only view is that of an opened heart filled with belief,” (Word for Life Says/The Centurion’s Great Faith).  All are welcomed before Him: man, woman, and child.  Many are quick to write off young people, but our youths’ matter to Jesus, too!  Everyone matters to Him!

“Forbid them not,” Jesus commanded.  Do not prevent people, no matter who they are, from drawing nearer to Christ.  The constraints that society then and now may put on some people are not recognized by God.

Youths especially come packed with potential.  For example, Samuel was dedicated to God as an incredibly young child (1 Sam. 1:21-28) and became a righteous judge of God’s people.  Josiah, became king at the tender age of 8 (2 Chr. 34:1), and “in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images,” (2 Chr. 34:3) and eventually went on to make great reformations for God’s people in turning them back to true worship (2 Chr. 34-35) which all started while he was still young.  Timothy learned from his grandmother and mother about true faith and helped the apostle Paul during his missionary journeys and in the establishing of new churches (2 Tim. 1:5).  And, let us not forget our Lord Jesus Christ who was found at the age of 12 in the temple with the “doctors”, amazing all who saw Him and heard “his understanding and answers,” (Luke 2:41-52).   It is far better that potential is tapped in young people for the glory of God than for the things of this world.

I am sure the disciples thought they were doing their best in providing protection and care for their Master.  Yet, Jesus has always had an open-door policy when it comes to people.  People matter to our Savior, even the littlest people – the kiddos.  Jesus always had a heart that burned for drawing people near and exposing to them the kingdom of God.  He loves people.  He loves children.  And He loves you, too!

“For of such is the kingdom of God.”  God’s kingdom is made of those who trust Him with total abandon and are dependent without inhibitions; that have faith and just believe as through the eyes of an innocent child.  Too many adults are hindered in their faith due to life experiences.  But children just accept and believe and love and trust.  They are prime examples of how His sheep come to the Shepherd and humbly follow His lead.

Faith as a Child

Mark 10:15 “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

Continuing His line of teaching on the kingdom of God, Jesus reiterates the one who wishes to enter in must “receive” it “as a little child.”  Those who choose not, forfeit their right to “enter therein.”

Why? Because the same characteristics that made that celebrated faith like a child acceptable in heaven are not found in those who refuse to receive it.  In fact, the exact opposite is usually what is present.  Instead of trusting, one may see self-sufficiency, and instead of a heart surrendered in faith, one may see it being lifted in pride.  Of course, one does not have to go far in realizing these are things God opposes.  They are not found in His children, the accessors of that heavenly kingdom, therefore to them who refuse to receive it as a child, access is denied.

The promise of heaven awaits any and all who will humble themselves as these children do and put on those same traits.  Walking in a lifestyle that opposes the fruit of the Spirit which is often found in these little ones is to oppose the working of the Spirit in that life.  Flesh wins and carnality overtakes that individual prohibiting them an opened door into the heavenly realm.

Do not be like the children of Israel.  God led them through the wilderness, and they fell short of the promise that lay ahead of them.  Losing out on the spiritual blessings of entering heaven would be far worse with more significant eternal consequences than that of an earthly Promised Land.  Therefore, it is prudent that one takes on this faith, which He describes as being like a child in their trust and willingness to receive, that they may enter in.

Blessed by Jesus

Mark 10:16 “And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

After His lesson on the benefits of having the same faith as these little ones that were brought before Him, Jesus granted the parent’s request and “blessed them.” 

Look at Jesus’ actions closely. He did not just speak a word over them as He could have.  He did not send one of the disciples to relay the blessings.  No.  He got personally involved with each child there in showing them the compassion of the Savior.  He lifted “them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”  I get the impression that He possibly took the time to lay hands on each child individually as any good father or spiritual leader would and speak a word of encouragement over each one of them (just my thoughts).

Remember our introduction: “The child never worries about being caught.  The child never worries about being hurt.  The child only sees daddy.  Daddy loves me, daddy cares for me, I trust daddy and daddy will never let me fall.  Therefore, I will enjoy playing with daddy.”  Jesus is calling for all of us to turn to Him with that same kind of innocent and trusting faith found in children.  Your heavenly Daddy loves you!  Turn to Him.

PDF Full 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 Blesses the Children

Suggested Activities:

Lesson Opener:  If you tried to put a picture to the word faith, what would that picture look like? What would it show? (As you present the questions in the following paragraph to open the lesson, have pictures ready that depict the scenes being spoken of.)

Would we see one authoritatively speaking with power to the multitudes (show picture)?  Would we see miracles and signs being performed (show picture)?  Or would you see the face of an innocent child (show picture)?

When Jesus taught about what those who enter the kingdom of God and what they would be compared to, in this lesson, He likened them to the picture of an innocent child.

While all the others are very real signs of things being done by those who profess and walk in the faith – what it all boils down to is if one wants to enter His heavenly kingdom, they must, in faith, receive it as a child.

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Jesus Blesses the Children

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Jesus Blesses the Children

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.

Paper Bag Puppet Craft:  Younger students can also put together a paper bag puppet depicting themselves and, on the back, attach the phrase from the printable available on site which states, “Jesus Thinks I’m Special, Too!”  Click here for the printable PDF.

 

Draw the Scene: Jesus Blesses the Children Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Jesus Blesses the Children Memory Verse

Word Search: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Search  Answers: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Search Answers

Crossword: Jesus Blesses the Children Crossword  Answers: Jesus Blesses the Children Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Scramble  Answers: Jesus Blesses the Children Word Scramble Answers

Copyright © Word For Life Says.com (Sharing any posts or lessons can only be done through the share buttons provided on this site from the original posts, lessons, and articles only. You can reblog from the original posts only using the reblog button provided, or share using the share buttons provided from these social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, etc., and they must be shared from the original posts only. All other repostings are prohibited. Posts and other items of interest found on this site MAY NOT BE COPIED AND PASTED, downloaded, uploaded, etc to another website or entity not listed (physical or electronic).  See COPYRIGHT PAGE for more details.

Sunday School Lesson – “Faith Without Works is Dead” James 2:14-26

VERSE DISCOVERY: James 2:14-26 (KJV, Public Domain)

Remember the days of “Show and Tell” at school?  It was an opportunity for one to not just talk about what they do or have, but to display visible evidence before their classmates of a possession or skill.

Jesus was a “Show and Tell” Savior.  He drew many crowds to Himself through the many miracles that He performed: feeding 5,000, healing the sick, raising the dead, and so on.  People would often marvel at what He could do.  He did more than just talk the talk or preach and lecture, He demonstrated the power of the Kingdom of God through Himself.

While you and I may not be multiplying a boy’s lunch to feed 5,000, we can through our actions and service toward one another, volunteer to feed some.  We may not be raising the dead or healing the sick (although, miracles really do still happen), we can volunteer to comfort and help those around us in need.  What this does is it shows that we are more than just talk; rather our faith is manifested in what we do.

James knew that people needed to see the church displaying tangible evidence of what they say they believe, especially when it comes down to how we treat one another.  Jesus, along with many others in the Bible, let their works speak for them.  And, how they worked showed what the real measure of their concern and faith was on the inside.

No Actions. No Proof.

 James 2:14 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”

This section of verses picks up right where James left off his teaching against having respect of persons and dealing with how we treat people.

In my opinion, right at the beginning of this lesson, James seems to be questioning the validity of someone’s faith without works, without evidence.  He said, “What doth it profit?”  What does it profit you?  What does it profit for others around you?

For a man or woman to say they have faith or are in the faith without evidence to back it up is like saying one is a doctor without a degree to prove it.  When I go into a doctor’s office, I am one of those people who will read the accreditations on the wall.  This is proof that they can take care of me.  What I see before me is speaking up on behalf of the individual to whom I am submitting myself for care.  Those papers hanging on the walls are little, personal testimonies.

Faith that is worked out operates in the same manner.  Faith is not silent.  Faith is full of action.  Faith is alive.  Faith is shared through works to testify of its genuineness and sincerity.  Faith does more than move mountains.  If it is lived out in the lives of the men and women of God, it can help move hearts toward salvation!

When one is living a life of faith people should be able to look at their life, their actions, as signs of accreditation that we belong to God.  They should be able to tell by how we operate and carry ourselves through our display of service, that we live what we talk.

Where is the profit if there is no proof?  What can you and I show to a hurting world that we have their best interest in mind; that we genuinely care about them as a person?

James 2:15-16 “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

Is this one’s faith real or not?  Words without supplying to the physical, emotional, or spiritual comfort and support of another in distress are what these two verses speak of.  But, all too often, how many times have we heard or spoken of what should be done to help others without putting in some work to help society move toward that goal?

All that talking becomes useless speech.  Unless we move past the act of just talking and show that we care through the act of doing; unless we put some backbone and muscle behind our mouths, the world will never see the true love of Jesus Christ in action.

That is what it’s all about, isn’t it?  It is going beyond pulpits and church walls to work at meeting the needs of the communities that we are in, to put the love of Christ on display through our actions and not just our words.  Obviously, some people, churches, and communities can do more than others.  That is not what James is after here.  He just wants us to get up, move past complacency, and just do something.

James saw no positive effect for others in just words alone.  Speaking “peace” without lifting a finger to physically help satisfy the present need, to him it was not true faith.  True faith believes and then allows that belief to be put to work.  True faith has heavenly aspirations that work out to show good on earth.  So, he asked, “What doth it profit” without it?  What is each of us doing now that is benefiting his fellow man and the kingdom of heaven?

James 2:17-18 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”

What you profess and what you do together should match up to display a well-rounded Christian.  People cannot claim they are heaven bound and yet show no heavenly fruit in their lives.  Such claims to faith are “dead,” meaning there is nothing in it to prove it is alive and real.

Don’t you know, you can start today to make a difference?  You can start where you are and with what you have.  You do not need a personal invitation to love and serve others.  What are you waiting for?  Show the world that God is alive in you!  Put some action behind those words you speak!

One may say, “Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”  Our faith, which comes through hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17) should compel us to actively participate in the things that are written of or spoken through that Word; it should get us involved in the things that God is concerned about.  The faith that shows that the Word is working in us is the faith that can do more.  Therefore, faith and works do not go against each other, rather, they support one another in proving that Christ is alive and active on the inside of the believer (compare with James 2:22 notes below).

When that happens, this, in turn, shines a light to the world reflecting Him.  Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” (emphasis mine).  This light shines by what it is doing; by “good works.”  This kind of faith can make a bigger impact in this world and draw more people to God.

James 2:19-20 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

One’s claim to faith goes beyond just believing in the very real fact that there is a one and only true living God.  It is living out that belief in one’s daily life.  It’s working His works.  James opened our perspective this way by saying that’s good; that’s a start, that’s right, “thou doest well” to believe.  Everything in our faith walk begins with believing.  But, where does it go from there?    

He goes on to say, “The devils also believe, and tremble,” but they’re still “devils.”  They know there is a God.  They believe He exists, but they are not bowing their selves to working His works.  They are not obeying Him.  They are not working His will.  They are not in a relationship with God; rather, they work against everything God is, loves, and stands for.

But, what of those who claim they are in a relationship with God through faith?  Where is the fruit of their faith?

Faith without fruit is not an operational faith.  It is stale.  It’s stagnated.  It does no good.  Real faith must act out what it is experiencing on the inside.  Real, genuine faith will not just be content in a life of mediocrity – never accomplishing or making a difference for His kingdom.  Real faith wants to see better in and for people’s lives.  Real faith shows itself and overflows to those around him or her.

Therefore, if faith is meant to be alive and active and shown to the world through works, then “faith without works is dead.”  The one who claims they believe without any evidence to support that proclamation is “vain,” useless, hollow, in other words, no good.

Rather, when we come to that great and glorious day, Jesus wants to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord,” (Matthew 25:23, emphasis mine).  Those who have put their faith into action and have “done” something with what He has given them can make a difference.  God can use people like this in the world.  But He cannot do that unless you work what He has given you.

If it is not working – it’s “dead.”  It’s lifeless with no functioning activities.  It is useless!

Much Action. Much Proof.

James 2:21-24 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

Genesis 15:6 declares of Abram, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”  This was after God told him to count the stars and see if he could number them.  God then told him, “So shall thy seed be,” (Genesis 15:5).

At another point, Abraham was forced to send Hagar and Ishmael away, but God gave him this promise: “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called,” (Genesis 21:12).

Then there came the day when Abraham’s faith was tested to see if he still believed in the God of those promises that were spoken unto him; to see if the faith and righteousness that was attributed to him was true on the inside and not just an outward, surface claim to faith.  By taking action to obey God in going forth with the procedure to offer “Isaac his son upon the altar,” he manifested through his works the very realness of his faith.  His faith, in turn, became a testimony before the whole world.  Abraham’s story does not just talk about faith, it shows how his faith was worked out (compare Hebrews 11:17-19).

His actions demonstrated his heart.  “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect.”  Pay attention to that word “with” (compare this to the notes above in James 2:18) which speaks to the accompanying factor of each coming alongside one another as agents together to show what he was really made of; to show his true belief in God alone, regardless of the way things outwardly appeared.  Jointly, they showed his true faith nature, and jointly, “by works was faith made perfect,” or complete.

“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.”  Referencing the above verse quote I noted earlier from Genesis 15:6, James saw a fulfilling of that verse through the actions of Abraham, through his obedience.  Abraham’s faith was real, and it was shown by what he did (compare Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6).

“And he was called a friend of God.”  Abraham’s experiences with God drew his heart closer to God in obedience and in turn, he was considered a friend of God (compare 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8), in such a way that God was even able to reveal to Abraham what His plans were for the destruction of Sodom (see Genesis 18:17-18).

Jesus once taught, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you,” (John 15:14-15).  As His Father revealed to Abraham, His friend, of His plans, so too does Jesus reveal the will of God to those disciples, to those who obey Him, for they are His friends, too.

James put the two together as in a great summation: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”  James was calling his readers to put their faith on display.  To show they had a lively faith.  To show the world that you are not just all talk, but the love of Christ is in you and manifesting through you to touch a world in need.  Put Him on display that when eyes see you, they might see Him.

The Apostle Paul put it like this, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  In the chapter before, he left off saying he was not seeking his own profit.  But in all that he did, he was seeking the “profit of many, that they might be saved,” (1 Corinthians 10:33).

While works cannot save us they show that we are saved, they are telling proof that we are “justified” and moving in the same direction as our Christ.  And, what we do, can, in fact, profit others (compare to Paul’s statement above from 1 Corinthians 10:33 regarding what he was doing was for the “profit of many” and James asking in the above verses (James 2:14-16), about what does it profit when the works are missing from the faith).

James 2:25 “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?”

Here is another example of WHAT YOU DO MATTERS!  I cannot overemphasize those words enough.  Rahab could have lost her life if she had been found helping the enemy of her people.  But she heard about all God had done in delivering His people against their enemies (Joshua 2:10) and it made the people of Jericho’s hearts melt (Joshua 2:11).  But Rahab believed for more. She said, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us,” (Joshua 2:9). Not only did she express belief in all that God has done and was still doing, but she also went as far as to take these men in her home and personally sought for their care and safety.  That was a bold step for her.  Her faith was put into action.  To make a long story short, for those in her house, their lives were spared in the fall of Jericho because of her active, working faith which landed her in the hall of fame of faith (Hebrews 11:31).

James 2:26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

The body is a physical shell, so to speak, that houses the spirit.  At the time of death, the spirit departs and goes back to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7) leaving behind the lifeless shell that remains.  When we attend funerals and view our dearly departed all we see is what is left, the outer man, the shell.  “So faith without works is dead also.”  Faith, without the outward workings of tangible evidence, is just as dead as a body without a spirit.  Life is not represented there.

Our actions testify to the faith that we say we have in us.  What we do or how we live out our faith matters.  Jesus taught, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” (Matthew 25:40; read Matthew 25:31-46 for further explanation).

Let us remember, we are not saved by works: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Rather, works give proof to the faith living on the inside of you: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17).

No action.  No proof.  Much action.  Much proof.

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 – Faith Without Works is Dead

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Faith Without Works is Dead

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Faith Without Works is Dead

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.

Draw the Scene: Faith Without Works is Dead Draw the Scene

In getting across the idea of “Faith Without Works is Dead” I used crafts incorporating the hands (as seen in previous lessons) since that’s what we use the most to show other’s love to and help them (see below). Enjoy!

LACE IT UP HANDPRINT:

One craft idea is to simply have students trace their handprint on cardstock or use this Handprint Craft Cutout printed on cardstock for this project because it’s sturdier, and then cut it out.   Using a hole punch, go around the outer edges of the picture of the hand (these will be for lacing).  Students can then decorate and lace with ribbon, colorful shoelaces, or yarn (note: if you use ribbon like I did, you may want to wrap the ends in tape to make a little aglet like on a shoelace to make it easier to navigate through the holes).  You or your students can even write a memory verse reference directly on your project. (Example pictured below)

 

HANDPRINT NECKLACE:

Continuing with our hand theme, students can make a Handprint Necklace (example pictured below – I used construction paper with tracing).  Students can trace their handprint onto construction paper or cardstock or use this Handprint Craft Cutout and cut out.  Punch one hole in the top.  Using ribbon or yarn and cut up straws, beads, or whatever you have laying around (even loop cereal).  Let them have fun and decorate it as they see fit. You or your students can even write a memory verse reference directly on your project.

Charades: To bring home the idea of “doing”, have students play a game of Charades.  But, for this game of charades, have ideas in the bucket that people can do to help others, make them feel loved, and show your faith (ex. Sweep the floor for someone, pick flowers to show love, wash the dishes to be helpful, visit the sick, welcome everyone, etc.)  Emphasize there are a lot of ways we can show our faith through our “doings”.  You can even have students come up with ideas to throw in the bucket and see if others can figure out what they wrote.

Card Match: Play any card matching game (or make your own using ideas from the lesson) to highlight the idea of how our actions should “match” the faith we say we have.  If you do not want to do a “Show and Tell” as a lesson opener (as listed in the PDF lesson packet), this activity would work well in its place as an object lesson.

Word Search: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Search  Answers: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Search Answers

Crossword: Faith Without Works is Dead Crossword  Answers: Faith Without Works is Dead Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Scramble  Answers: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Scramble Answers

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Sunday School Lesson – “Count it All Joy!” James 1:1-12

VERSE DISCOVERY: James 1:1-12 (KJV, Public Domain)

What do you do when life doesn’t seem to want to play fair?  When all the boxes don’t check off in all the right places and everything seems out of whack – what do you do?

For some, remaining optimistic during trials is harder than others.  Firstly, every trial that every individual person deals with is not the same.  Some things that may be troubling to one, but in reality, is only a minor inconvenience and annoyance, to others, they may be battling tooth and nail to keep their head above the water of the adversity they are facing.

Then, we have each person’s natural dispositions on how they specifically handle tumultuous events.  Where one sees the dark clouds others can readily point out the silver lining.

For those whom James was addressing in his letter, he knew they were being hounded by real troubles and not just a matter of inconvenience.  He knew of the hardships and oppression they were experiencing.  Yet, through it all, he wanted these believers to focus on the positive fruit all the things they were experiencing in their life could produce.

Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work

James 1:1-4 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

This “James”, who addresses himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” is supposed by many to be the actual brother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  While Jesus was going about fulfilling His earthly ministry, his brothers were not part of those who supported that ministry (see John 7:3-5).  As a matter of fact, it is supposed that it wasn’t until after he had seen the risen Lord for himself, that James, the natural, half-brother of Jesus Christ, believed and became a follower and a leader in the early church (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14).

Which is why he is writing this letter “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  As a leader in the early church (Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13-22), his care for members of the body of Christ is evident in the time and care he takes to write to them about their personal growth in the Lord, the discipline of the faith, conducting personal behaviors pleasing to the Lord, and yes, remaining hopeful in the midst of it all.

In this section of Scripture, James didn’t downplay the suffering some were experiencing.  Rather, he encouraged them to remain focused on what truly matters.  Therefore, he begins this letter by admonishing then to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”

“Count it all joy” – when you really think about that statement, it’s naturally a very difficult thing to do.  It’s very similar to the Apostle Paul’s teaching to which he says, “In every thing give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Those words “all” and “every thing” can encompass a great many circumstances.  Circumstances that wouldn’t need encouragement to remain joyful and thankful if they weren’t adverse.  Nobody needs to be encouraged to be happy when they are already happy.  It’s when things become hard and unbearable that leaders such as James try to cheer them on to see that silver lining in a dark cloud.

James goes on to say, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” or, various trials.  You know what, I have given birth to four different children and each labor experience was different.  Some were scary, some were painful, some were eventful, while others were uneventful.  No two were alike.  Each one was different.  During one, I thought I was going to lose that baby, and during one, my own health was compromised.

But life is like that.  The degrees and variables surrounding each hardship are unique to that particular time, place, situation, and person.  They all don’t come packed in the same neat packaging, for if they did, we could really prepare our actions and reactions to each case.  Trials come looking and feeling many ways and sometimes it’s hard getting a grip on it all and adjusting one’s mindset to see the positive.

But James didn’t focus on the many things people see, feel, and experience now.  He focused on the many things it would produce.

First, he said, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”  If you have ever exercised with resistance bands, you know how difficult it can be.  You are using your own body’s strength, be it little or big, to purposely add pressure and pull to an already hard work out.

The “trying of our faith” is working for us, for our good, even though it seems to be opposing us.  That which is hard to deal with is actually teaching us in a way that an easy path, with no resistance, ever could.  It is producing in us virtues and spiritual fruit (Romans 5:3-6) that really will have no way of growing in us if it were not for the adverse circumstances we become occasionally planted in.

Here, in James’ teaching, he is showing them the flip side of what they are feeling.  He’s showing them that what they are going through, those things that feel like they are wearing their faith down, is actually producing “patience” in them.  This patience is all about endurance.  One will never know how to go through hardships and stand if they have never been given the opportunity to exercise that faith and endure.

We read about Bible characters and their stories, and we think, oh, put me in the lion’s den, or let me at Goliath, or some other situation alike, and I know what to do because the Bible tells us what they did.  When reading the lives in these stories, we must not become desensitized to the power and faith it took for an individual to keep remaining true to their faith despite a death threat or to face a monster of a man on the battlefield.  Until we have our own Nebuchadnezzar to stand before with the resolve to refuse to bow and worship a false image, no matter how hot the situation was getting, we will never know what it’s like to endure trials such as these that build our faith unless we go through it for ourselves.

“But let patience have her perfect work.”  If you want to grow and produce things conducive to strong faith, then let that same patience work it out in you.  Every Christian should strive for mature, tested, and tried fruit of these spiritual disciplines to be produced in their life.

Every day we should want to do better and to be better, but a lot of that will never come to be unless we work at letting “patience have her perfect work.”  Then, will we grow, being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the development of our Christian character, now being ripe fruit, fit for the Master’s use.

Ask in Faith and Don’t Waver

James 1:5-8 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

“Faith” is a key factor in this opening of James’ letter.  In the trying and in the producing, faith comes to the forefront of a must-have list.

“Wisdom” is needed in so many areas of life.  Proper wisdom is needed all the more when facing opposition.  Wisdom is one of the best tools one should have in their arsenal when navigating or combatting trying times.

Previously I wrote,

“Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might.  Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity.  Wisdom is dependent upon God.  ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,’ Proverbs 1:7.

Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose Author is God?” (Wisdom is Better/Word for Life Says).

James said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”  It is very possible to be in the midst of contentions and not know what to do or how to respond.  God has opened Himself up to us to receive what we need to succeed in this Christian journey.  The Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples, wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3; emphasis mine) and that includes wisdom.  God gives it to the one who asks, but when he or she asks, it must be done in “faith.”

Faith supports faith.  The one here, who is in a trial and dealing with contentions because of their faith, are to ask in faith, of the Father, for the proper wisdom of how to continue forward in their faith while going through.

Steadfast, believing faith is necessary for every aspect of our Christian walk.  To “waver” in that is to sway in that belief and in the one who is the Author of that belief.

James gives the picture of this one being “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”  I love the ocean.  I love the beach.  When vacationing, it’s one of my favorite places to visit.  One of the things I most enjoy while there is standing on the shoreline and watching the waves come in and go out.  The ebb and flow of the waters are always moving, never still, and never steady.

While beautiful to look at in nature, in our Christian character that’s not what we’re looking for.  We want to be rooted and grounded in what we believe and whom we believe – that He is able to answer our prayers and give us the wisdom we need.  To shun that, through not asking in faith, is to shun the benefits one would have received otherwise.

James warns, “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”  Too many are living the faith they profess to have without living in complete faith and assurance in the “Lord.”  It may be possible for people to live in compliance with regulations of the faith and have the spirit of faith missing.

This one has a divided mindset.  James considers them to be a “double minded man” who is “unstable in all his ways.”  If he or she can’t get off the fence here, before the very foundation of their faith, when praying and asking of God, other areas of life are guaranteed to be constantly shifting and fluctuating as well, being blown about in uncertainty.

But for the one, who in complete faith, is asking God for wisdom, God will give it “liberally” and “it shall be given him.”  Wow!  What a promise!

Endure, There is an Eternal Reward

James 1:9-12 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.  For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.  Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter.  Everyone will experience trials.  And, everyone can be taught valuable lessons through those trials.  All social classes and backgrounds can find joy during times of adversity.

How is that?

James explains it like this.  For the poor, or him of “low degree,” such a one can “rejoice in that he is exalted.”  This one’s “right now status” does not determine their joy in life.

It is easy to see the ones without… without as much as others, without as many financial resources, without proper education, and anything else this world stores up as markers for success and happiness.

This one may think he is justified in being sullen, withdrawn, and living a pity-party lifestyle that no one wants to attend.  Contrarily, James points out the opposite.  Regardless of what he has or didn’t have; no matter how others view his lowliness, or even how he views himself, James declares that joy and rejoicing should still be found in his heart because of the God whom he has placed his trust in, and not his haves and have nots.

In this, too, he can “rejoice.”  When it’s all said and done, when he parts from this world, it is God who will “exalt” him to the things he has never seen with human eyes or even imagined (compare 1 Corinthians 2:9).  He may not have as much as another, but in his trials and temptations, he can still count it all joy!

When Jesus was teaching the Beatitudes, at the end of all those “blessed are” statements that would point out circumstances in which one wouldn’t normally find joy in, Jesus speaks these words: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:12).  His comments were spoken in relation to being persecuted, something James’ readers are all too familiar with, yet, what He points out is that even in that hardship, Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice!”

And, He wasn’t teaching anything contrary to what He Himself was not willing to do.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”

As those who are linked to Him in faith, James said every believer can count it all joy no matter their privileged or underprivileged status and life.

And the “rich” are to remember, in humility, that though they may have a lot right now, their days are moving just as fast as anyone else’s in this lifespan each of us has been allotted.  Life is a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14).

“As the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”  Riches cannot increase his time or secure him a better end.  He, too, must depend on the same salvation, the same saving grace, as one who may be without and lacking.  The businesses, the homes, the money – nothing he has accumulated in this life will account for anything in eternity.  Outside of Christ, low or high, rich or poor, we are all nothing.

So, when this one faces trials and temptations, he too can count it all joy for he is made keenly aware that his days and life here are very brief.  That awareness brings him “low”; it centers and focuses him on what matters the most.

Both types of trials and temptations are a gift for they both, whether for the rich or poor, should keep us before the Lord in humility and dependence.  Not a one has a reason to glory in his own flesh or circumstances.  Before God, it’s the heart of the man that matters the most.  Not what he has or doesn’t have.

James adds, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.”  Counting it all joy is not because we have avoided temptations and trials from ever happening to us.  Counting it all joy for the blessedness that is ours for enduring the times of testing they brought.

Even Jesus was tried, tested, and tempted.  Hebrews reminds us again, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15).

Endure!

Let patience have her perfect work!  Because in the end, when the trials and trying times are all over with, that one that was “tried” and endured with faith intact through it – that one “shall receive the crown of life.”

Now, that’s real success.  That’s the real goal.  That’s the real reason to be happy when troubles just won’t seem to let up.

At one point or another, and many times in between, we are all going to be touched by the finger of adversity.  But, as the Word of God declares, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13).

Don’t lose your joy!  There is a “crown of life” waiting for you with your name on it.  We are going through and enduring because there is a prize laid up for us at the end of this race (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Your running is not in vain.  Your joy is not in vain.  The “Lord” has “promised” this wonderful gift “to them that love him.”

it is spoken.  It is written.  It is ours if we remain in our holy joy and keep pushing for it and not giving up.

The opposite of the joy we are called to have is words like misery, sadness, and the like.  When one keeps swimming in the pools of these waters, they will soon feel overcome by the displeasure found there, let go of their grip, and drown.

Life may not be perfect but maintaining your spiritual joy will keep you buoyant in the murkiest of waters.

So, count it all joy!

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 – Count it All Joy

Suggested Activities:

Lesson Lead In/Happy or Sad Activity: Print out one happy face and one sad face (you can just do one set for the teacher or multiple sets so that each student can have their own). Attach the faces to craft sticks. Prepare a list of things that might make one happy or sad (finding money, losing a tooth, receiving an unexpected gift, losing a puppy, etc.). Ask the class, using the faces, to show how each thing listed would make them feel, and why? Then ask, Is it possible to feel joy even in sad times? (Give them space to answer.)

Use this as a lead in to the lesson. Say, James wrote to people during a very hard time in life and one of the things he did was encouraged them to count it all joy. This concept is difficult for some adults to grasp, let alone children. Let them know a Christian’s joy is never based on the goodness of their circumstances. Rather, their joy is based on the goodness of God, who will give us the wisdom we need to make it through hard times.

Frown Upside Down Craft: Make your own frowning face that can be turned upside down to make a smiling face. If you don’t know how to do this, search the internet for great examples. Use this as a supplement to the lesson Count it All Joy.

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (These pages are great to use with the other journaling exercise provided in the PEARL lesson packet or to use to bring out any other area of the lesson you choose to focus on.  Enjoy!)

Draw the Scene: Count it All Joy Draw the Scene

Word Search: Count it All Joy Word Search  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Search Answers

Crossword: Count it All Joy Crossword  Answers: Count it All Joy Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Count it All Joy Word Scramble  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Scramble Answers 

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Sunday School Lesson – “Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth” Luke 1:26-38

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 1:26-38 (KJV, Public Domain)

One moment in time that would change history forever; affecting not only the life of one individual but for all mankind that ever was and that will ever be born upon the face of the earth.

Mary, the young Jewish woman from Nazareth, surely knew of the prophecy that was taught to her people down through the generations: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Is. 7:14).  But, never could she have imagined that she would be that one; that she would be that virgin spoken of so many years ago, (see Mt. 1:21-23).

As we enter into the celebration of the Christmas season let us not become so familiar with the story that we pass it by without a second glance.  Rather, as the angel Gabriel introduces to Mary the great feat that God is about to do in her life, let us reintroduce ourselves to His great power and plan to bring salvation to all men

Lesson Summary

Luke 1:26 “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,”

In the verses leading up to our lesson a dramatic event unfolded.  Zacharias’ lot was drawn “to burn incense” in the temple of the Lord, (Luke 1:9).  Whilst there, “Gabriel,” the same angel in today’s lesson, informs Zacharias that he shall have a son that he “shall be great in the sight of the Lord,” (Luke 1:15).  Zacharias, though working in the temple of the Lord, doubted what God could do in his life.  This caused him to be stricken “dumb, and not able to speak, until the days that these things shall be performed,” (Luke 1:20).

His wife Elisabeth conceived as was told by the angel Gabriel and “hid herself five months,” (Luke 1:24).  Today’s lesson picks up “in the sixth month” where we see the same Gabriel who spoke to Zacharias in the temple now appearing to Mary in “Nazareth.”

Once, when Jesus would first begin His ministry, Philip, after being approached by Jesus and told to, “Follow me,” (John 1:43) went to get Nathanael to come as well.  Coming upon Nathanael, Philip said, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth…” (John 1:45).  Nathanael’s response was, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).  He said that because “Nazareth” was a place nobody really paid attention to.  It was a little village despised and rejected as not being worth consideration.  But it is from this obscure place that Gabriel is sent to announce to a young woman there of her participation in the coming of our Savior into this world.

Luke 1:27 “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

Mary was “espoused” or as we like to call it in modern terms “engaged” to a man by the name of “Joseph.”  Unlike modern times, to be engaged then carried far more weight of commitment then it does today.  Those “espoused” were considered husband and wife without partaking in the intimate affairs of the relationship at this time.  That would come a year later when she would go to be with him as a wife in every sense of the word.  At this point in their relationship, only a divorce could break off their engagement.

Luke 1:28-29 “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.”

“The angel came in unto her, and said, Hail.”  In most depictions of this encounter, one gets the sense that this encounter took place outdoors.  But here it states that when the angel Gabriel greeted Mary, he “came in unto her,” giving us the impression that Mary was indoors during this holy encounter.

He spoke, “Thou art highly favoured.”  Now, to be real I think in our day we hear so much preaching on the word favor that we have missed the real significance of the word.  Too many people associate favor with the plethora of prosperity messages.  In the Bible, “favour” is associated with “grace,” and grace is, after all, God’s unmerited favor.

It’s something that is not earned or deserved.  But God, when he looked upon Mary saw something special in her to choose her to be the one to partake in this life-changing, world-changing, history-changing mission.  In God’s eyes, she was “highly favoured.”  I like the fact that the Bible does not go into greater detail of why God chose Mary outside of being “highly favoured,” lest we think of it as a list of criteria to try to emulate to gain favor when this is all done through grace.

“The Lord is with thee.”  How many times in her life would she need to reflect back on that promise?  When the news got out about her pregnancy; when all the gossips and tongue lashers had their way, how many times would she need to reach back to this promise that God is with her?  What about when uncertainty in the turbulent times of the day where people would seek to threaten the life of her child?  Or, even moving beyond this story to the scene of Jesus’ death, how often would she remind herself of those words of blessed assurance?  Is this not one of the greatest promises associated with the birth of the Messiah?  He is “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us,” (Matthew 1:23).

“Blessed art thou among women.”  No woman on the face of this earth would ever, and I do mean ever, experience what Mary did.  Not only in being chosen for this mission of God but also in every aspect of life this journey would take her through from His conception to death.  In that, she is “blessed.”  Women have conceived since the time of Eve, but none has ever been a virgin overshadowed by the Holy Ghost.  Women have carried children in their womb, but none else has ever or will ever carry the Son of God.  She is “blessed.”

“She was troubled at his saying… what manner of salutation this should be.”  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a humbling verse and it asks, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visited him?” (Psalm 8:4).

This could be imagination on my part, but I believe one of the reasons behind Mary being “troubled at his saying” and her questioning of “what manner of salutation this should be” is rooted in the same spirit of humility that Psalms 8:4 expresses.  “What is man?” – “Who am I?” must have been running through her head that an angel of God would greet her so.

There would also be a healthy dose of godly fear intermingled with her personal response.  After all, it isn’t every day that God dispatches a messenger from heaven to speak face to face with a person.  This was truly an awe-inspiring event.  Anytime an angel appeared to speak directly to an individual it was often “troubling” to the receiver (compare to Luke 1:12).

Luke 1:30-33 “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

“Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”  Gabriel spoke words meant to calm the fright she was experiencing on the inside.  “Fear not” is one of my favorite sets of words in the Bible.  It is spoken over and over again on many occasions to many different people; approximately 365 times, one for every day of the year.  My favorite is found in Isaiah 41:10 where these words of assurance are found saying, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  “Fear not” pleads with mankind and is pleading with Mary to trust God wholeheartedly.

Gabriel then reiterated that Mary “hast found favour with God.”  With the task she is about to receive she would need this double dose of reassurance of God’s favor over her life.

“Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.”  “Shalt” means that it is going to happen.  God has a plan for her that begins and ends with “JESUS.”  She, in the very near future, would carry a child in her “womb.”  Though her year of being espoused is not yet up and the final marriage preparations have not been done, she is told she will “bring forth a son and shalt call his name JESUS.”  When the angel spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, he confirmed the name of this special child would be “JESUS.”  That name, with the meaning of salvation, is where many would find life eternal (see John 20:31).

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.”  He would be no ordinary child by any means of the word.  Jesus will later say of Himself, “I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world,” (Jn. 8:23).  He knew His origin was different than any other man that had been born on the earth.  Here, Gabriel tells Mary her son will be from the “Highest,” (see also John 3:31).

“And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David.”  For centuries the hopes of the Jewish people’s awaited Messiah sprang from the promise that God made to His servant David when He said, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever,” (2 Samuel 7:16, see also 1 Chronicles 17:14).

David desired to build God a physical house, but God desired to build off his legacy a spiritual house that will never fail.  The son that Mary would carry in her womb would hold the keys to that spiritual house.  He would be the one to occupy the “throne” forever.

“He shall reign… and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Earthly kings would come and go down through the course of time.  Some would be good kings, and some would be evil.  For some they would do what was right in the eyes of God while others would rule as polar opposites.  One thing they all had and still have in common is no matter who they are, and no matter the motivation, the location, or the rule – sooner or later their reign will end.  Either by death, usurping of the throne, or by some other kingdom-shifting event they would eventually lose their right to rule.

The child that Mary would carry would always “reign.”  Even when it looked like death may have won for a short space of time – He was just revving up to rule forever.

Luke 1:34 “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”

When all was said and done and her stomach would begin to grow with child, most people would never believe Mary’s statement: “I know not a man.”  People judge by what they see with their natural eyes.  But, for Mary her statement would forever stand as truth in the eyes of all who believe that this virgin would conceive the Son of God.

Mary knew the means in which one would normally conceive a child.  She also knew that though she was espoused, she has remained untouched in this manner.  The Bible confirms that “before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost,” (Matthew 1:18).  Her questioning was more of a “How in the world will this happen?” statement rather than of doubt.  She knew her pure state.  How was God going to accomplish such a thing in her?  Her body would produce a miracle – but, how?

Luke 1:35 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee… shall be called the Son of God.”  Gabriel answered Mary’s question.  In His own way, a way that only God Himself can explain or understand, “The Holy Ghost” will come upon her and “the power of the Highest shall overshadow” her.  Though the Holy Ghost had previously and temporarily empowered people to do something for God, here He was playing a key role in the incarnation of Christ in whom “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” (Col. 2:9).  John 1 recognized Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, (VSS. 14, 18).

Luke 1:36-37 “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

“Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age.”  Mary never asked for a sign but what a sweet reminder of the grace of God at work.  How many times had God blessed a barren womb in the Bible?  Elisabeth’s son would fulfill a prophecy of his own (see Isaiah 40:3) and would forever be remembered for his greatness in going before the Lord.  Even Jesus spoke of John and said, “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist,” (Luke 7:28).

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Oh, how often have we quoted this and yet underestimate His power at work in it?  God, the Creator of all heaven and earth, was still fashioning things into existence in a miraculous way.  “Nothing” is outside of the scope of the power of God!  There isn’t “no-thing” that He can’t do!  “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God,” (Psalm 62:11).  Revelation 19:1 declares, “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto thee Lord our God.”  With God, it will happen!

Luke 1:38 “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.  And the angel departed from her.”

Mission accomplished.  The angel delivered his message and departed after she accepted the mission at hand.  Let us not downplay Mary’s acceptance of this calling.  The situation could have ended her life.  The situation would bring shame and ridicule to her and her family.  It is hard to accept some of the things that God asks of His people.  At one point in His own ministry, Jesus’ teachings would invoke this response: “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60) questioned some who followed Him.

For Mary, the task she was accepting was in fact very hard, but she acquiesced to the hand of God and His will over her life.  Jesus later would accept the harder calling of God, and said, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done,” (Matthew 26:42).  Following God’s way will not always be easy, but it will always be right.

These little details that surround the greatest story ever told can get lost in the bustle of the celebration.  But, if we take the time to sit and listen as Mary did with the angel, we too can find assurance in the plans that God has for us in our lives.

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 – Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth

Draw the Scene: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Draw the Scene

Craft Idea:  Bouncing off the idea expressed in the Draw the Scene section, for a simple Craft Idea students can cut out different pictures of an angel, a woman, and other items out of old magazines, books, or even different coloring books in an almost collage format to recreate the scene of Gabriel speaking to Mary as in today’s lesson.

Memory Verse: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Memory Verse

Word Scramble: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Scramble  Answers: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Scramble Answers

Word Search: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Search  Answers: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Word Search Answers

Crossword: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Crossword  Answers: Gabriel Foretells of Jesus’ Birth Crossword Answers

Sunday School Lesson – “An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth” Luke 1:8-20

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 1:8-20 (KJV, Public Domain)

Before Gabriel spoke to Mary, he appeared to another person in relation to the future Messiah.  He came to a man by the name of Zacharias and foretold of the child he would father.  This child would grow to be a messenger before the Lord and would be he of whom it was prophesied as the one who would be characterized as, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” (Mark 1:3). 

Imagine for a moment, the president, king, or any head of a country, coming to an area to visit.  Before their arrival, another would have been sent ahead to announce and make the proper preparations before they get there.  Such as it was in ancient times when kings came into town.  And, so is the ministry of John the Baptist, the child whom Gabriel speaks of in today’s lesson as a promise to Zacharias, when the King of all kings makes His arrival on this earth.

Zacharias’ Duty

Luke 1:8-10 “And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.  And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.”

Righteous before God.  Walking in the commandments.  Blameless.  These are some of the noteworthy characteristics of Zacharias and Elisabeth his wife (see Luke 1:5-6).

Although he was a faithful priest in the eyes of the Lord and his wife modeled the same holy qualities, they had no child.  Being well-advanced in years, their time for this possibility seemed to be over until God steps in and shakes up their way of thinking and reorders their life with a great and precious promise.

The number of priests available to serve in those days was large.  Some estimates put them in the tens of thousands.  With that, 1 Chronicles 24:1-9 lays out the divisions of the priests.  There were 24 in all and from these divisions, the duties that were to be performed in the temple were selected by “lot.”  Using the term “lot” it describes the system of selection that depended on God to choose who will do what and when they will do it by the drawing or casting of lots.

On this particular day, Zacharias had the privilege to experience the opportunity to serve before the Lord.  “According to the custom of the priest’s office” (see 2 Chronicles 8:14), as the lots were cast for the duty of burning incense (see 1 Chronicles 23:13; 2 Chronicles 29:11), Zacharias’s name was chosen to perform this job “in the temple of the Lord.”

This was a highly desired position and considered a great honor.  Before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice was offered, the chosen priest would burn incense before the altar symbolizing the prayers of the people who were positioned outside of the temple (“praying without”), during this time.

An Angel Encounter

Luke 1:11-14 “And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.”

Above all else, we believe God to be sovereign.  We believe Him to be in charge of time and circumstance.  And, although Zacharias is considered old at this time, we believe God held his name in remembrance to appear on the scene and receive the promise of he who would be chosen and work to prepare the way of Christ at this chosen time in history.

While reverently going about his duties which, as already noted, had to be performed twice a day (see Exodus 30:7-8), “there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord.”  Imagine, if you will, being in that holy atmosphere where one might not hear anything but the burning of coals and the shuffling of his own feet; an atmosphere where everything is sacred and yet, God chose you to come before Him in the temple to perform this holy calling.

With the aromas of spices filling the air, off to the right side of the altar, beyond the ascending fragrant cloud, Zacharias sees “an angel of the Lord.”  Some depictions of this encounter may have Zacharias just hearing the angel, but the Bible says he “saw him.”

And when he “saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.”  Throughout the Bible, any time an angel appeared directly to an individual it was often unsettling and troubling to the individual (see 1 Chronicles 21:30; Matthew 28:2-4).  God does not do anything frivolously, especially regarding having a heavenly host appear to mankind.  This was an occasion to take seriously.  Not knowing at that time, the exact reason for the visit, “fear fell upon him.”

“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias.”  Zacharias’s reaction wasn’t necessary, and the angel sought to ease the millions of horrific thoughts that may be running through his mind.  God’s dispatched angel came with a message of promise, not of peril; therefore, he spoke, “Fear not;” the same comforting words he will give to Mary in Luke 1:30.

“For thy prayer is heard.”  Zacharias was a righteous man and he was a praying man and according to God’s holy word, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry, “(Psalm 34:15; see also 1 Peter 3:12).  Knowing the heartbreak and shame of being childless; I don’t know how many years Zacharias prayed, but in His perfect, pre-ordained time, God let him know He “heard.”

In a previous article titled Know That God Hears, I wrote: “Our deepest heart’s desires do not fall on deaf ears.  God is not playing cat and mouse with us.  He wants us to seek Him that He may be found: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near,” (Isaiah 55:6).  Then, He can respond!” (Word For Life Says)

And, respond He did.  The angel told Zacharias of what would be.  He said, “Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”  A woman, who like her husband is “well-stricken in years,” (Luke 1:7) will finally, not only have a child and know the joy of motherhood, but she will “bear thee a son.”

Just think, after all those years of let downs.  After feelings of disgrace have surely washed over them and it seemed all hope is gone – God favored them.  They would know what it is like; they will experience their very own fulfilled promise in the form of a son named “John.”

His birth would not only bring “joy and gladness” to the parents whose hearts longed to hear a babe crying in their home, and to hold and coddle their own flesh and blood – but, “many shall rejoice at his birth.”

As time goes by and Elisabeth does give birth, we see in Luke 1:58, “her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her,” (emphasis mine).  I believe the angel’s words were meant to have a much farther reach of impact in the lives of the people who will respond to his call of repentance, and eventually be led to Christ.

John’s Foretold Character

 Luke 1:15 “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord.”  When Jesus came on the scene, during His years of ministry, He testified of John and said, “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist,” (Luke 7:28; see also Matthew 11:11).  Jesus’ ministry obviously is superior in depth and importance than that of John the Baptist’s (read John 1:29-34 for John’s own testimony of the Lamb of God’s ministry; He [Jesus] that is preferred before him [John the Baptist]).

Nevertheless, because of his position and unique ministry as the one who would prepare the way before the Savior, John the Baptist stands out and is extraordinary among the name of the prophets.  From the time of the womb, he would bear witness of the Christ (see Luke 1:41; John 1:15, 29-34).

“And he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.”  This is reminiscent of the instructions we see given to Samson’s parents when an angel appeared to them.  The withholding of oneself from “strong drink” as well as other strict requirements, was in keeping with what is known as a Nazarite vow (compare Judges 13:4-5).  This devoted life would be a sign of the holy and set apart nature of the individual; that God was doing something special in his life.

“And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”  John the Baptist would be heavenly empowered and enabled from the womb to fulfill the role as that prophesied voice and that holy messenger, heralding to all who would listen, before the arrival of the Savior (compare Isaiah 40:3).  Anything done for God must be Spirit-powered.  Many today try to operate in their own power but fall short of producing godly fruit for the Kingdom.  John’s life and mission would be infused with “Holy Ghost” power!

John’s Foretold Ministry

Luke 1:16-17 “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

“Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.”  When John the Baptist came into his ministry, he is seen “preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:1-2).  People from all over the area came: “Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins,” (Matthew 3:5-6).  He was working to turn hearts back “to the Lord their God.”  He was winning souls to the Kingdom, fulfilling this prophecy over his life.

John’s style of clothing (camel’s hair garments) and eating choices (locusts and wild honey) did not detract from the impact he made on those who came out to see and hear him.  The love for people, the Kingdom, and the ingrained ministry in him compelled him to reach out and help those who were seeking “the Lord their God.”

“And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.”  In the Old Testament, it was prophesied, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me…” (Malachi 3:1).  When we study the New Testament, particularly the sayings of Jesus on the subject, we see that John was, in fact, he that came “in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah],” (read Matthew 17:11-13 for further clarification).

“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.”  In correlation with this prophecy of John the Baptist being compared to Elijah, here too we see another O.T. promise being fulfilled through his life and ministry.  With almost exact wording, Malachi 4:5-6 talks about Elijah coming again with a focus on restoring familial relationships.  The very fabric that makes up the strength of the home is relationships; those connections would have “hearts” renewed in love and peace for one another again.

Some see it in a different way, perhaps referring to the turning of the hearts of the children of Israel back to the way of their fathers, the patriarchs.

Regardless of how one views it, his ministry softens “hearts” that will be ready to receive the healing that Christ will offer.

When John the Baptist does arrive on the scene to do the work of the Lord, the people would have been 400 years without hearing the voice of a true prophet of God.  The above quotation from Malachi 4:5-6 were among the last words spoken by a prophet in the Old Testament.

“And the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  The ministry of John the Baptist would change hearts and minds from unjust behavior to “just” behaviors; leading people to look for the greater gift of salvation which is found in Jesus Christ.  As such, he was making “ready a people prepared.”  John the Baptist can be seen as the opening act, while Jesus Christ, without a doubt, is the main event.

Zacharias’ Doubt

Luke 1:18-20 “And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.  And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.  And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”

“Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.”  Surprised at the announcement.  Overwhelmed at the possibility.  Over-thinking the proposed miracle.  All this and more led Zacharias down a path of doubt.

Here, Zacharias’s prayer was heard, and God sent a messenger to declare he’s getting what he prayed for.  But the faith that caused him to ask in prayer was missing at the declaration of the miracle.  Rather than respond with rejoicing, he responded with questioning.

What happened?

He looked with human eyes at human conditions and made up his mind for God, that it just wasn’t possible.  Let us be reminded of this great biblical truth: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6; emphasis mine).

Zacharias was a “diligent” seeker of the Lord (as noted earlier in this lesson).  God was ready to reward him, but he just couldn’t see with his natural eyes the miracle ahead.  Therefore, he asks, “Whereby shall I know this?”

What God speaks always comes to pass, so the angel, who is revealed as the same “Gabriel” who speaks with Mary – his response below is just.

“I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.”  Coming as a holy messenger of God, what “Gabriel” brought was good news!  As if it isn’t awesome enough to see an angel, period – this one brought a promise with him.  Most would think this is convincing enough, but for Zacharias, he met the miracle with misgivings about his situation and wanted something more: “Whereby shall I know this?”

Thus, the angel Gabriel said, “Thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed.”  If we fast forward to the birth of John, particularly the eighth day when it was time for him to be circumcised according to custom, which would also be the same time when he officially gets his name, we see Zacharias wrote the babe’s name “John” on a tablet.  And when he did so, “his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God,” (Luke 1:59-64).  Until that day he was “not able to speak” according to Gabriel’s words because he “believest not.”

Remember, what God promises, He is able to perform (Romans 4:21).  Believe Him for it all.

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 – An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth

Memory Verse: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Memory Verse

How Many Words: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth How Many Words

Draw the Scene: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Draw the Scene

Word Search: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Word Search  Answers: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Word Search Answers

Crossword: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Crossword  Answers: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Word Scramble  Answers: An Angel Foretells of John’s Birth Word Scramble Answers

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 – “Saved by Faith” Luke 7:36-50

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 7:36-50 (KJV, Public Domain)

Forgiveness is something none will make it to heaven without.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what one has done in life, from the highest to the lowest, without accepting the life Christ offers through His salvation and forgiveness, we will not make it in.  The Bible records, “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared,” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Who could stand?  Absolutely no one! (See Romans 3:10). Without His covering and remission of sins, the pathway to heaven will be blocked.  It doesn’t matter if one’s walk of life is a Pharisee or a prostitute (as some suppose the woman in this lesson was).  There is not an individual who is worthy enough to enter the gates of glory without Jesus’ forgiveness.

Question: What would happen if today God sat down and took account of all the wrongs we have done?  What would it be like if we stood before Him unable to pay what we owe?  We were there!  Jesus knew the predicament that humanity was in.  He knew that man could never get himself out of the debt of sin, so through Him we obtain that freedom along with grace, mercy and compassion as a people who don’t deserve it.

The Bible reminds us, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8).  I guarantee if we were to look at ourselves, we could not fathom how many times our accounts would have gone unpaid had it not been for the blood of Christ. But thank God, He acted in love to save to us!  No just us – but everyone who comes to Him in faith regardless of the background of sin.

The verses of study in this lesson will tell of one woman’s enormous expression of love for Jesus at having her sins forgiven and the criticism it brought.

 A Sinner’s Precious Gift

Luke 7:36-38 “And one of the Pharisees desired him that he could eat with him.  And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

It wasn’t unusual then nor is it today for a respected teacher/preacher of God’s word to be invited to dine with officials.  Jesus opened Himself to people from all walks of life (even the Pharisees who were often seen at odds with Him), and without reservation “he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.”

We are not told exactly how long He was there but during the process of the meal came a disturbance at dinnertime.  “A woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment.”  At this point of the lesson it is not immediately known her plans but just the fact that this woman of ill repute, who many suppose her to be a prostitute, dared entered a Pharisee’s house and draw near to a respected Rabbi drew eyes of speculation at her coming.

Some reading her story today may think how bold of her to come near to Jesus in her dejected state.  Rest assured, those at dinner didn’t think her bold.  They probably thought her even more rude and full of sin to think to defile the atmosphere with her presence.  Honestly, what Pharisee would normally let the likes of her come into his very home?  It was unheard of.  Since the crowds often gathered to hear Jesus speak wherever He went, she came in amongst some of the others until who she is caught the attention of the religious elite.

Nonetheless, she was there with all that she had in her facing the shame of her wrongs she saw etched in the faces of the onlookers.  Yet, they were not the audience whose attention she was seeking.  Her heart drew her to the feet of Jesus.  This is where she stood humbly holding her precious gift, an “alabaster box of ointment,” (an expensive gift to say the least which spoke volumes of her sacrifice).  With the feelings of all that she was as opposed to all that He would do for her – it was overwhelming.  This is what happens when sin meets with Savior.  The tears would not be bidden to stop.  The heart and spirit within spoke through the flow from her eyes.

Living in sin for so long she recognized her unworthiness before the Sovereign.  It doesn’t take a genius for us to see that she saw herself and Jesus in a different light than everyone else present.  Did no one else there see their sin for what it was?  Did any present even believe they had sin to repent of?  Or, was it just the nature of her sin drew extra scowls as opposed to the hidden things in other’s hearts?

Regardless, her heart response came through “weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”  Her actions there may have seemed inappropriate to those eyeballing her, but she received no correction from Jesus.  Sorrowfulness over one’s sins is always a most appropriate response and she expressed that sorrow in the humblest way she knew how.

The feet were particularly dirty, especially in the day where sandals and dirt roads met daily.  From a previous article titled Wash Me Jesus, I wrote (speaking of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet):

“In case you didn’t know, this was a very gross job reserved for the lowest of servants in the house.  The roads were not paved but rather dusty and muddy and littered with all types of animal material left behind (if you catch my meaning).  Open sandals were the norm of fashion which really didn’t do anything to keep the elements of all that had been stepped on out.  Feet stank and were blistered, sore and probably repulsive to us today.  No such thing as a pedicure back then.” (Word For Life Says)

Yet, this is where this sinful woman positioned herself and performed the task that others didn’t want.  She did it without complaint, rather she cried over her pitiful state compared to His holiness.  Her tears become the water basin and her hair became the towel.  Anointing his feet with the costly gift of love, somehow, she knew despite its extravagance, it would never be enough to repay what He would do in taking away her sins.  Therefore, with love and sorrow meeting together in her heart, she kissed His feet unashamedly.

Christ’s Precious Gift

Luke 7:39-43 “Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.” 

As if her actions weren’t appalling enough, Simon the Pharisee thought Jesus’ were more so.  The self-righteous have a way of silently judging the actions and suppositions of others while maintaining a high regard for their own interest and view of self.

This Pharisee was taken aback more by Jesus, I think, then this woman.  She was a noted sinner, and nobody expected better of her.  But, Jesus…  He had his mind made up about Him.  Whatever reason pressed on him to invite Jesus to dinner in the first place, the fact is at this point he thinks of Jesus in a low fashion to the point of questioning in himself whether or not He is truly a man of God at all or not: “If he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”

The word “if” tells the story of where he believes Jesus is coming from.  A prophet is a holy man of God.  Throughout history they have been special vessels set aside to be God’s spokesmen.  One who claims connections with God as tight as Jesus claims should know or at least sense sin when they see it.  Therefore, why would He let the likes of her even come near Him, let alone touch Him as she has done? One conclusion comes to mind as far as the Pharisee sees.  To him, Jesus is not a real prophet.

Too bad so many focus only on what appears to be so on the outside in that day as well as our own.  Earlier, explaining His choice to eat with sinners, Jesus taught, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick,” (Luke 5:31).  Jesus was not, and has never, and never will entertain sin!  Please get that right!  However, Jesus knows that people from all manner of life need a Savior regardless of how the rest of the world views them.  It may be harder for those such as the self-righteous Pharisees to see their need, but for this woman and others like her, she had no problem weeping at the feet of Jesus.

Jesus, knowing what he was thinking, used this as an opportunity to shed some spiritual light on the darkness of his heart and others in the room who may be inwardly scowling as well.  With a parable He spoke of a “creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.”  Both owed the creditor, one more than the other, significantly so; yet, neither had means to pay back accordingly.  In either situation they were both subject to whatever the creditor should do to penalize their faulty stance.

In that day they couldn’t file bankruptcy and get a clean slate to start over.  There were no government assisted credit remediation programs.   In other areas of the Bible it tells of stories where children could be taken to work off debt (2 Kings 4:1-7); he and all his family could be sold into slavery (Matthew 18:24-25); and, so on.  A debt owed would be a debt repaid one way or another.  I find it no small coincidence that when teaching the disciples how to pray they Lord’s Prayer, the words rendered in midst, plead: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” (Matthew 6:12), for truly it is and was a debt owed that could never be repaid by human standards.

Nonetheless, in the telling of His parable, Jesus noted the actions of the creditor.  He took it upon himself, as the one who had the power to demand payback, to remit the balance and cancel the charge against both.  “He frankly forgave them both.” 

Simon was probably startled a little by its telling because not too many persons would cancel a debt so easily and not demand payment.  Rarely does one walk away from money, especially if it was yours to begin with.  The creditor had the right to obtain what was lawfully his, but he chose, out of compassion (we are assuming), not to do so.

Drawing him out of his musings, Jesus asked, “Which of them will love him most?”  Simon’s response, whether he wanted to admit it or not, was appropriate.  He said, “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.”  He that stood to lose the most but gained the most grace instead – it is he that will be the most grateful and “love him most.” 

When forgiveness erases debt and pardon has been enacted that a life may remain to thrive in freedom, it inspires love.  “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love…” (Proverbs 17:9).  If this is true for a man how much more with God?  Jesus therefore said, “Thou hast rightly judged.”

Luke 7:44-47 “And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

If Simon failed to do what was according to custom for an honored guest one must question his real motives for inviting Jesus to dinner at all.  Was there a genuine interest in Jesus and what He represents, or was it another worked up ploy of some of the Pharisees to trap Jesus in words or actions?  At this point one can only speculate.

According to custom everything the woman did in an over the top fashion should have already been performed as normal service for a guest coming into a house, especially the house of a respected Pharisee.  We have already discussed about the feet being washed (which Simon failed to provide for).  But, other social codes performed were the kiss of greeting by the host (which Simon failed to do; for examples see Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12), and anointing the head with oil (which again, Simon fell short of social courtesy).  These were ways to express honor and respect, and help refresh one when coming into a house, particularly to a dinner or feast.  But this sinful woman offered up extravagant oil for His feet whose perfume would fragrance the whole house.

Jesus said of her, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.”  Her actions spoke volumes of being remorseful and repentant.  No, her works did not save her.  No, her expensive gift did not make room in heaven for her.  At some point she realized the great relief Jesus could bring to her messed up life.  Did she hear Him through a previous teaching?  Who knows?  What matters now is her humility of heart before the Savior seeking forgiveness.

Jesus said, “For she loved much” because she was forgiven much.  Whereas one who believes they are alright may not express the same deep regard for forgiven sin.  As opposed to “whom little is forgiven,” that individual may take for granted the gift of grace, as hinted at in the story of the two debtors.

Luke 7:48-50 “And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.  And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?  And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

“Thy sins are forgiven,” were the blessed words the Savior spoke over the sinner here and in our life as well.  Jesus didn’t justify what she did, but He forgave her.  Let me make this very clear again, God will never, ever condone our sin or pat us on the back for it, but we can be free from them.  Like that woman, we could be standing in the midst of our mess, but He is ready, holding the keys to your release.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).   Turn to Him in all humility of heart, confess and accept it today!

“Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”  Coming to Jesus with all our wrongs and trusting Him to heal and forgive is a walk of faith; steps that begin with believing in Him as the Savior of our soul.  It’s the only way to find true peace in one’s life.

No matter who you are or where you are from, Jesus can forgive any sins of those who come to Him in faith and trust in His free gift of salvation.  Today, if you are not born again and you want to find release as the woman in today’s lesson did, I urge you to take care of it immediately.  Above, I quoted 1 John 1:9 which was written to a church of believers who already knew Christ as their Savior.  If you want your confession to work you must be born again, then like the woman we too can find release and forgiveness.

Speaking with Nicodemus one night, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” (John 3:5).  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” (Acts 2:38).

Be blessed, come to Him in faith and accept His forgiveness today!

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 – Saved by Faith

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Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Saved by Faith

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Saved by Faith

Word Search: Saved by Faith Word Search  Answers: Saved by Faith Word Search Answers

Crossword: Saved by Faith Crossword  Answers: Saved by Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Saved by Faith Word Scramble  Answers: Saved by Faith Word Scramble Answers

Alabaster Flask Lace-Up Craft: Alabaster Flask Lace-Up Craft (Cardstock is best to use.  I used gold ribbon due to the expensive nature of the gift and cut a slit for “oil” to flow out of the top.  Enjoy!)

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Alabaster Flask Lace Up Craft-001

Draw the Scene: Saved By Faith Draw the Scene

 

 

Memory Verse: Saved By Faith Memory Verse

 

How Many Words: Saved by Faith How Many Words