faith

A Living Hope - 1 Peter 1:1-12

1.      How do people use the word “hope” today? (Wishful thinking, maybe it will happen, maybe it will not happen, etc.)

There’s an older—now archaic—meaning for hope, which was active when the Bible began to be translated into English. The old definition was confident trust that some future event would occur. Jesus offers that kind of hope—a living hope—to all who place their trust in Him.  His resurrection gives believers a living hope! It is a living hope because the more we exercise it the greater our confidence grows that God will bring to pass His promises.

The word hope does not convey wishful thinking or express uncertainty but has the sense of confident expectation based on God’s ability. Hope based on happenstance or human ability can and does die. Christians’ hope is based on God’s ability, such hope never dies!

 

Read 1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter dictated this first letter to Silvanus (Silas), which accounts for the excellent Greek that was used. Although Scripture doesn’t record all of Peter’s travels, it seems evident that he had traveled through modern day Turkey. He seemed to have a close relationship with the people to whom he wrote this letter. The harsh, brash Simon had become the mellowed, loving, graceful Peter. God had done a real work in his life. It wasn’t a steady progression at times but progress was made none the less, much like in our lives. He had become “the rock” Jesus named him to be.

 

In these opening verses of his letter Peter included a number of important themes. These are: mercy, new birth, salvation, love, joy, faith and hope. 

Our real hope is only through Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

 

Hope Discovered! Read 1 Peter 1:3-4

 

1.      What caused Peter to break out into a doxology of praise? (We have a new birth.)

This new birth is because of God’s great Mercy!

2.      How did this new birth into a living hope come about? (“Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”)

Because of His victory over death, Jesus offered hope to those who were enduring persecution. The worst their persecution could do to them would be to take their lives, but because of the resurrection of Jesus, death was nothing to be feared. This was not some blind hope or false hope, but rather a living hope in Jesus Christ.

3.      What does a person’s response to suffering reveal about whom or what he or she places hope in?

4.      Which has the greater impact on those around us who are watching, how we live when things are going wonderful or when life caves in on us?

5.      How did Peter describe the nature of our inheritance? (Imperishable: It cannot be harmed by natural disaster, enemy, or theft; it is permanent. Uncorrupted: It cannot be touched by evil or sin; it is pure. Unfading: It never passes its peak; it is perfect. Kept in Heaven: cannot be touched by anything on this earth.)

The thought of an inheritance that does not perish, cannot be corrupted, and stays forever young naturally fills us with hope. We cannot attain this through our own power, but we can through Jesus Christ!

 

Though Peter explained the Christians’ inheritance as eternal in nature, the suffering believers probably wondered at times if they would be able to hold on to their hope in Christ!

Hope Assured! Read 1 Peter 1:5

 

1.      Have you ever wrestled personally with assurance of salvation or the security of your salvation?

2.      Based on verse 5, how would you counsel someone who is struggling with assurance of their salvation? (Our salvation is not based on our strength to hold on but on God’s great power through faith. You can’t hold on in your own strength, no one can. Only God’s power assures us of our salvation.)

Edward Mote said it this way:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.”

“When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest in His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.”

“When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found, Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”

“On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

3.      If someone observed your life for the past month, what evidence would they find that you have a living hope, one that is growing stronger in you?

 

Hope Celebrated! Read 1 Peter 1:6-9

 

Peter, who knew a little about suffering, described the trials they were experiencing like this:

·         They may be diverse in kind.

·         They will be limited in time.

·         They are needful in purpose. (Peter was sure that God never needlessly afflicts His people, even though grief may be involved.

·         They are positive in outcome. V. 7

The word “joy” in this passage is not the usual Greek word used by secular writers. Rather, it is a deep spiritual joy! Read Luke 1:46-46 and Acts 16:34.

1.      How is Christian joy different from a sentimental feeling of happiness?

2.      In what ways is it more satisfying?

3.      According to this passage, rejoicing is the appropriate response to trials or persecution. When you see someone focus on their salvation rather than their circumstances, how does that affect you? (Generally, when we witness hope and a joyful attitude in others, it compels us to question the source of their hope. Hope is about focus! When we focus on a secure salvation, we can rise above our circumstances and look forward with joy to the inheritance to come.)

4.      What is the purpose of the trials and difficulties we have to go through? (Refining of our faith. Make it like pure gold!)

5.      What is the goal of our faith? (See verse 9)

 

The world says, “Seeing is believing.” Salvation says, “Believing is seeing.” We have faith in the One we have not seen. Read v 8-9.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Would you describe your faith as a living hope?

2.      Does it have purpose?

3.      Is it growing?

4.      Is it dynamic and breathing?

5.      Does it affect others?

If hope is about focus, then focusing on the right things can help your faith to grow. Spending time reflecting on the salvation of our souls is an expression of faith and hope. Reading God’s Word regularly will encourage your faith.

 

Rather than focusing on our difficulties and circumstances, focus on God and His power to see you through. We know Jesus has the power to change, transform or deliver us from our circumstances.

 

Ask God to help us with specific trials or tribulations we may be going through. Change our focus. Help us turn our eyes upon Jesus.

 

Worthy! - 1 Samuel 5:1-6:16

(Create a display of items that can become idols: a football, a guitar, a credit card, a family photo, picture of children, money, etc.)

1.      What do these items on the table have in common? (These are things that are common in all of our lives, to some extent, that we use and love.)

2.      How would you define the word “idol”? (1-An image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. 2-a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.)

I would add this definition: Anything or person that is placed above God in our lives.

3.      How can each of these things become an idol in our lives?

Anything we put before God has become an idol in our life! In today’s study, we will discuss the importance of putting God first by giving Him the respect He deserves.

In Isaiah 48:11 God says: “I will act for My own sake, indeed, My own, for how can I be defiled? I will not give My glory to another.”

 

Last week we studied about Samuel’s formal call by God to be His prophet. In 1 Samuel chapter 4 the Philistines killed 4,000 Israelites at Aphek in a resounding victory. So the Israelites decided to take the Ark of the Lord into the next battle with them, thinking with the Ark of the Lord they would be victorious. But they suffered an even greater defeat and 30,000 Israelite soldiers died along with Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas! And if that wasn’t enough, the Ark of the Lord was captured and carried off by the Philistines. When Eli received the news, he fell over backwards out of his chair, broke his neck and died!

The wife of Phinehas was pregnant and when she heard the news, she went into labor, gave birth to a son and then died herself. It was indeed a dark day for the Israelites!

4.      In what had the Israelites placed their faith? (The Ark of the Lord, not in the God, whose presence it represented!)

Let’s see what happens to the Ark in the hands of the Philistines, or better yet what happens to the Philistines in the hands of God!

 

The Holy God! Read 1 Samuel 5:1-5

 

1.      What did the capture of the ark signify for the Israelites?

In the Old Testament, the ark was God’s dwelling place on earth. It is where God met with the High Priest to give instructions for the people. The ark itself was not God, like other nations had man-made idols, but God used the ark to display His power and glory.

2.      How would you explain the taking of the Lord’s Supper to someone not familiar with this ordinance?

3.      How can its significance be exaggerated?

4.      How can its significance be understated?

5.      Should people regard the church building or a physical copy of the Bible as sacred?

6.      How might such ideas become dangerously exaggerated?

7.      How would you explain what happened when the ark was placed in the temple of Dagon?

8.      How would you describe to a friend the destructive effect of worshiping a false god instead of the God of the universe?

9.      How easy is it for us to be lured into actually worshiping something or someone other than the one true God?

 

Judgment Experienced! Read 1 Samuel 5:6

 

1.      By placing the arkat the feet of their idol Dagon, they were trying to say their god was superior. What happens when the holy things of God are treated as common?

2.      What does the glory of God mean to you?

3.      How would you explain the balance between God’s kindness and judgment?

4.      The ark was moved to three of the five major cities of the Philistines. By the time it was moved to the third city the people were trembling with fear. Do we have an appropriate fear of the Lord when we are disobedient to His laws?

5.      How would you explain the balance between God’s kindness and judgment?

We have seen terrible, horrific acts of violence in our own nation with increasing frequency. It is not for us to say that God is bringing judgment on any particular group of people. The violence that occurred in Orlando, FL this past week should be heartbreaking for all of us. While we don’t agree with the lifestyle of those involved, we are called to act with the love of Christ toward all people. The right to bring judgment on people is God’s and His alone. We also stand as sinners, and while we may try to live a holy life we too fail at times. The Baptist Pastor in California who basically said that we should not feel pity for those people and we should wish more had died was wrong! I am embarrassed that he calls himself a minister of the Gospel. He certainly does not show the love of Christ! We are to pray that somehow those people will hear the Gospel and respond positively by turning to Jesus.

 

The Philistines cried out to their leaders to send the ark back to the Israelites. So their diviners devised a plan that would determine if their problems were caused by Israel’s God or if it was just a coincidence. A cart pulled by two milk cows which had both just had a calf and had never been yoked to pull a wagon would pull the ark. If they went back to Israel then it was a “God” thing.

Instructions Followed! Read 1 Samuel 6:11-12

 

Living with God’s judgment and punishment, the plague of tumors for seven months, was long enough!

1.      In what ways have you witnessed God display His power in unlikely situations?

2.      What about us! We know God desires our obedience, so why do we sometimes choose to disobey? (At times disobedience might seem to be the easy road. Taking a stand against the culture and standing up for God can be a hard choice.)

Sometimes the shiny, sparkling enticement of sin seems to be fun. But it’s a short-lived pleasure that reaps a harvest of sorrow long term.

 

 

Worship Offered! Read 1 Samuel 6:13-16

 

1.      What was the people of Israel’s response to having the ark back in their possession?

2.      What does our attitude toward the holiness of God reveal to a lost world around us?

3.      Do you think the Philistines had a greater reverence for the God of Israel?

4.      Read John 4:24. What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth?

5.      Why are both elements of worship important?

6.      The Israelites were overjoyed when they saw the ark coming. How do we reflect the joy of salvation in our worship? (Emphasize that God deserves our very best in worship.)

One of the testimonies that believers give to a watching world is the heartfelt and dynamic worship of their Savior, Jesus Christ. Unbelievers’ exposure to true worship of God can plant seeds that have eternal impact on them.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How can we guard against idols in our lives today? (Carved idols are easy to avoid. Remember that idols are anything or any person whom we place above God in our lives.)

2.      If someone were to watch you closely from a distance for one month, what would they say you worship?

3.      Think about the ways you worship God. What step could you take to make your worship more joy-filled and meaningful?

 

There is a hymn written by Julia Cady Cory in 1902 called “We Praise You, O God, Our Redeemer.” The first verse is below:

We praise You, O God, our Redeemer, Creator

In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.

We lay it before You, we kneel and adore You,

We bless Your holy name, glad praises we sing.


Consider closing with the Doxology!

Faithful - Acts 5:12-42

1.      What are some words or phrases you would use to define or illustrate the word “faithful”? (Constant, dedicated, devoted, devout, loyal, pious, staunch, steadfast, steady, true, dependable, reliable, responsible, solid, tried, trustworthy.

“Firm to one’s allegiance to someone or something!” “Following an original exactly.”)

2.      What motivates people to stand for a cause they believe in or will be faithful to? (People who take a stand are motivated by passion for their cause. It also takes courage to take a stand, particularly when standing up for our faith.)

3.      What are some ways a person willing to take a stand might respond to opposition? (Challenges to our faith are inevitable, as illustrated by today’s Scripture passage. The challenges sometimes involve persecution and physical pain.)

4.      What does faithfulness to Christ and His church look like?

 

The leaders in the early church in Jerusalem were bold in the proclamation of the gospel, even in the face of persecution, as we saw last week. But the persecution would only get worse as the Apostles’ boldness in sharing the gospel grew.

 

Luke records in Acts 5:12-16 that the church was growing by leaps and bounds. People were bringing the sick out into the streets so that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them. People were bringing the sick from surrounding towns and they were being healed.

The Jewish religious leaders were filled with jealousy so they arrested the Apostles and had them put in the city jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the jail doors and told the Apostles to go proclaim the Word of God in the temple complex and they obeyed.

Read Acts 5:21-24.

 

At this point you would think the Jewish leaders would simply repent and accept the truth of the gospel, but that didn’t happen.

 

Returning to the Scene! Read Acts 5:25-28

 

1.      Why do you think the Sanhedrin didn’t address the miraculous escape from jail?

2.      What motivated the religious leaders to silence the apostles?

3.      How is that motive seen in today’s world?

4.      What do these verses reveal about the apostles’ determination to share the gospel amid opposition?

5.      How does the apostles’ opposition compare with what most believers experience today?

6.      How faithful will we be in sharing the gospel when opposition comes?

 

Standing Their Ground! Read Acts 5:29-32

 

Peter did not deny that they had deliberately disobeyed the orders of the Sanhedrin; he did, however, indicate that they were following instructions from God.

1.      What is civil disobedience? (Refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest.)

2.      When is it appropriate for believers to submit to earthly authorities?

3.      How can we know when it is appropriate to disobey our civil laws? (We should obey laws in general, but sometimes it’s necessary to disobey laws that are contrary to God’s directives. We can depend on the Holy Spirit to lead us in the right direction.)

Key Doctrine: God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word.

4.      What message did Peter choose to share before the Sanhedrin—again?

5.      Why was this message more powerful than other things he could have said? (The gospel is the power of God unto salvation!)

 

Waiting During Deliberations! Read Acts 5:33-39

 

1.      Why might their rage have caused them to consider killing these men? (The Jewish leaders almost lost control of their emotions by acting impulsively.)

2.      What do we know about Gamaliel from this passage and others? (Gamaliel took a bold stand by addressing the Sanhedrin. He was most likely one of the older members of the council. He was a highly respected Jewish teacher and a Pharisee. Paul learned at the feet of Gamaliel. He was a voice of reason.)

3.      What wisdom do you see in Gamaliel’s proposal to the council?

4.      How might his words help believers today who face opposition to the gospel?

5.      Have you ever been guilty of fighting against God?

6.      What was the result?

Gamaliel stated that the test of time would prove the apostles’ message as true or false, and it has!

 

Rejoicing for the Opportunity! Read Acts 5:40-42

 

1.      What would you say to give a recap of what happened in these verses? (The apostles were punished that day; they received a severe beating and were ordered once again to STOP teaching and preaching in the name of this man Jesus.)

2.      How did the apostles respond to their treatment by the council?

3.      How can opposition to the gospel produce encouragement and courage in believers? (Jesus was also opposed by those in power, so we are in good company when we are opposed for proclaiming the truth of Scripture.)

4.      How does opposition and persecution provide a platform for the gospel to be shared and lived? (Even today when Christians are told by the authorities to either do something that is against the teachings of the Bible or stop doing something that the Bible clearly teaches us to do WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN! Nothing has changed in the last 2000 years, we must be faithful to God, no matter what others say or do.)

5.      How can we turn opposition for our faith into an opportunity to speak up for Christ? (Remember that the truth of the gospel is trustworthy and can be shared with confidence. We, as believers, can rejoice when persecuted, realizing that the gospel was proclaimed in the process.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Self-evaluation:

1.      When has my faith been challenged or opposed by others?

2.      When have I boldly proclaimed the truth of the gospel in the face of persecution?

3.      Consider times in your life when someone challenged your faith. How did you respond?

4.      What can you learn from the response of the apostles to help you respond when facing opposition in the future?

 

We don’t actually know how many of the apostles were involved in this incident, but we do know it was more than one. We know from personal experience that it is much easier to stand for what is right when we are not standing alone! We need to stand together for the truth of God’s Word, but if the situation should come when we must stand alone know that the Holy Spirit is right there with you and will give you strength to do what is right in the face of opposition.

 

Rely on God’s strength to be faithful to Him in all circumstances.

 

Close with a prayer of commitment.