Lessons for Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jesus Calls Us from Sinful Selfishness to Selfless Service

 

Hosea 5:15-6:3 - "Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.  And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me."

"Come, let us return to the LORD.  He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.  Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."

 

Here are a few questions to consider from this lesson that explore "selfless service." (Some more exploration and possible answers to the questions can be found at the end of the post.)

How had God threatened his people?

How did the people respond?

Was this what God wanted?

 

Genesis 37:1-11 - Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.  This is the account of Jacob.  Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.  Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him.  When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.  Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.  He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it." His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

 

Here is a question to consider from this lesson that explore "selfless service." (Some more exploration and possible answers to the questions can be found at the end of the post.)

What do we learn about the choice between selfishness or selflessness from Joseph?

 

Romans 8:1-10Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

 

Here are a few questions to consider from this lesson that explore "selfless service." (Some more exploration and possible answers to the questions can be found at the end of the post.)

Why are the opening words (verse 1) so triumphant?

While the Law no longer condemns us, it still has a function. What is the Law’s purpose for us now? 

 

Matthew 20:17-28 - Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

 

Here are a few questions to consider from this lesson that explore "selfless service." (Some more exploration and possible answers to the questions can be found at the end of the post.)

What was the “cup” of which Jesus spoke?

Why is pride such a dangerous sin?

How do Jesus’ life and ministry provide a model for us?

 

ANSWERS

Hosea 5:15-6:3

How had God threatened his people?

God threatened to turn away from his people because of their sin.  Our sins separate us from our God, and separation here is described as "misery."  The misery and guilt from sin has a tendency to linger with us.  That's why God encourages us to confess our sin and place our burden on Jesus, our Savior.  That's the only way to find relief from this misery is turning to the face of God.  God's threat here is a gracious one - he wants to help his people.

How did the people respond?

They turned back to the Lord even though it was his law that made them feel the burden of their guilt.

Was this what God wanted?

Consider the context of this lesson carefully.  True repentance and selfless service are about more than saying the right words.  On their face, this confession of Israel is beautiful, but at its heart it is empty. (Look at Hosea 6:4-6 for a description of this).  This is unrepentant Israel's kind of "repentance."  The words sound nice, but there is no confession of guilt, God doesn't receive it, and fruits don't follow.  This is a selfish "repentance" that is, in fact, merely made out of self-interest.  True repentance leads to confession, trust, and fruits of selfless service that were absent in Israel.

Genesis 37:1-11

What do we learn about the choice between selfishness or selflessness from Joseph?

The life of Joseph illustrates Jesus' message that whoever wants to be first must be your slave.  Selfishness led to Jacob's favoritism and his sons' jealousy.  Selfishness led Jacob and his sons to such pride that they could not imagine God's prophecy about Joseph coming true.  Their selfishness forced Joseph into the role of slave and servant, yet God in his grace would save many people in spite of their sin.  Sold into slavery and jailed unjustly, Joseph would trust in God and selflessly serve his fellow man.  Ultimately, God brought the prideful low and raise up humble Joseph.  In doing so, God both fulfilled his prophecy and also saved the family of God and countless others.

Romans 8:1-10

Why are the opening words (verse 1) so triumphant?

Paul has already discoursed at length on the reality of sin and its consequences as well as on God’s faithfulness and his gracious forgiveness in Christ. As Christians, he acknowledged that we are still struggling daily with the sinful nature that is part of us, but that we are being rescued by Jesus Christ (7:21-25).  Now the triumphant confidence naturally follows: THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE FOUND IN CHRIST! What a comfort. What a relief for sin-challenged Christians!

While the Law no longer condemns us, it still has a function. What is the Law’s purpose for us now?

The “righteous requirements of the law” speak not of achieving God’s demanded perfection. Remember that there is no condemnation in Christ! This use of the Law is referred to as the “guide” or “rule,” which we obey out of love for God through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

Matthew 20:17-28

What was the “cup” of which Jesus spoke?

The cup was Jesus’ suffering and death, which he was headed to Jerusalem to drink.

Why is pride such a dangerous sin?

It is incorrect to consider one sin more punishable than another, but pride causes a person to ignore his need for spiritual help, and that can be a damning mistake.

How do Jesus’ life and ministry provide a model for us?

Jesus revealed the plan of the Father to his disciples: the Son of God would leave his heavenly throne and selflessly give his freedom to his enemies, his body to the torturer, his life to the executioner in order that he might be our Savior. Rather than marveling at the depth of his love and self-sacrifice, the disciples argued about places of greatness in glory. The sons of Zebedee wanted to sit at the right and left of Jesus, but were only promised that they would join in drinking his cup. The other disciples were indignant, but not righteously so. Jesus corrected them, too. Followers of Jesus drink his cup and find greatness in selflessly serving others. For our motivation and our model, Christ points back to God’s plan for the Son of Man who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.