(Write the following statements on the board.)
· Religious Liberty is on the decline in America.
· American Christians face growing intolerance.
(Ask your class for a show of hands if they agree with the statements individually. Share the following with the class from the Leader’s Guide.)
“LifeWay Research surveyed Americans about their perceptions regarding religious liberty. Sixty percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement “Religious liberty is on the decline in America.” Almost two-thirds [63%] agreed with the statement, “American Christians face growing intolerance.” Religious liberty has become an increasingly contentious issue in American culture.”
1. What actions should be taken in places where Christianity is actively persecuted or suppressed?
2. Are we like the frog in the pot of tepid water, with the fire heating it up ever so slowly until we die without resistance?
Will we sit idly by while those who defy God’s values take control and make laws designed to silence God’s people!
Christianity was not tolerated as a legal religion anywhere in the Roman Empire of the first century. False religions had infested the city of Corinth. When Paul wrote to encourage believers who faced persecution, he was dealing with a much more challenging cultural situation than most of us have faced up to this point. Amid these challenges, Paul focused on how God was shaping him and using him to share the gospel!
Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-4
The “god of this age” is Satan and his influence was and is strong!
Proclaim! Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
1. What is Paul trying to make clear to his readers here? (He is not promoting himself but Jesus! He is simply a “slave” to Jesus.)
2. Sharing the gospel with power is one of the principles Paul taught. What did he express as the essentials for sharing the gospel? (Paul explained that he did not talk about himself when he preached. The gospel message is exclusively about Jesus Christ; therefore Paul focused his message on Christ!
Paul did not want to rule over the Corinthian church. He saw himself as a servant of God and the church. Jesus is the One to whom everyone should submit.)
3. How would you describe God’s illuminating work in the hearts of His people? (Jesus shines in the darkness of our hearts as we allow Him to live in us His light overcomes our darkness!)
Moses face shone brightly simple reflecting God’s glorious light and he had to wear a veil over his face, but Jesus’ face is shining brightly to overcome the darkness in our hearts. Christ alone is the One to proclaim.
Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them!
4. How can we allow the “light” of God to be seen in us?
5. Taking verse 5 and 6 together, what are the implications and consequences for proclaiming someone or something other than salvation in Christ alone? (We will live in darkness without God’s illuminating truth in Jesus!)
Heb. 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature.” Jesus is “the image of God”!
* When Paul preached he did not say, “Look at me!”He said, “Look at Jesus Christ! And there you will see the glory of God come to earth in a form that a man can understand.”
Live! Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-15
1. What “treasure” is Paul referring to in verse 7? (The indwelling Spirit of God! Along with the gospel that brings light to us.)
This “treasure” is valuable and costly, while “clay jars” are weak and common! The weakness of the vessel allows God’s extraordinary power to be shown and for others to realize the power came from God and not from us.
Read 2 Cor. 8-9. (Discuss each paradox.)
* After he has stated the great paradoxes of the Christian life Paul goes on to give the secret of his own life, the reason why he was able to do and to endure as he did.—He was well aware that if a man would share the life of Christ he must share his risks, that if a man wished to live with Christ he must be ready to die with Him. Paul knew and accepted the inexorable law of the Christian life—“No Cross, No Crown.” … When a man has the conviction that what is happening to him is happening literally for Christ’s sake he can face anything.
Reflect on the challenges or difficulties you may be facing. Write in the margin of you book “I am __________. Briefly describe your situation in the blank. Then complete the rest of the phrase “but not ________. Write the words that reflect God’s power.
Earlier this week I had to write several large checks and found myself complaining about it. I was reminded that I should be thanking God that the resources were there to cove these unexpected expenses. God had provided once again!
Read Gal. 2:19-20
2. How is it that we must carry the death of Jesus in us so that the life of Jesus can be revealed in us? (The more of self we have living in us the less influence Christ has in us However, the more we die to self the brighter the light of Christ shines through us!
3. What is the hope expressed in verses 14-15? (We have the hope of resurrection with Christ! We are not forsaken.)
4. Why did Paul continue to preach the gospel of Christ despite the dangers? (For the sake of those who have not yet heard the Good News about eternal life in Christ!)
Paul didn’t dwell on death, but instead magnified life!
Focus! Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
1. How did Paul contrast life on earth with eternal life in Heaven?
2. How does the inner person get renewed daily?
3. How does that daily renewal fuel and motivate the believer? (Read Lamentations 3:22-24.)
4. How may Paul’s suffering cause some believers to be discouraged? (We must look at the whole picture. Paul’s sufferings did not cause him to become discouraged. He maintained his focus on the message of Christ no matter what else was happening to him.)
Paul believed that the sufferings he endured did not compare to the glory that lay ahead of him!
Paul encouraged other believers to focus on the “unseen,” which Paul said is “eternal,” and not on the “temporary,” which is what can be “seen”. Paul reminded them that focusing on the eternal would produce an incomparable reward in heaven!
5. How does the glory reserved for us in the future serve as motivation in the now to be faithful and courageous in suffering?
We think of salvation completed in three distinct stages: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. We can also think of it this way: God loves us so much He accepts us just as we are, but He loves us to much to leave us just as we are. Sanctification is the process of our earthly man dying and Christ living through us!
Summarize and Challenge!
Recap of truths:
· Christians are to exclusively proclaim Jesus as Savior!
· All people can live victoriously through faith in the resurrected Jesus!
· As Christians, we are to focus on things with eternal consequences!
Even though we are frail (jars of clay) we hold a great treasure (the gospel of Jesus). We are commanded to share this treasure. Though we are weak God’s power can impact others through us!
Pray thanking God for His grace and intrusting us with this great treasure! Pray we will be faithful in sharing it with others.
* The Daily Study Bible Series, The Letters to the Corinthians Revised Edition by William Barclay