sin

Integrity - Acts 4:36-4:11

(Make an acrostic on the whiteboard using the letters for the phrase “Imperfect People”. Have members add words or phrases that describe qualities of people who make up the body of Christ—the church.)

 

1.      Should actions that damage the integrity of a congregation be addressed?

2.      What motivates people to give to organizations or causes?

3.      What differentiates gifts to the church from these causes? (Believers give to the church to support its mission to tell everyone about Christ. The early church experienced challenges soon after its founding. Churches are made up of people, and people are not perfect.)

God holds believers accountable for their actions and motives. Believers are to take sin within the church seriously.

4.      Do you think people who claim to be Christians but poorly reflect Christ should be confronted? Explain.

(Pause and pray for wisdom and understanding as we examine our Scripture passage from Acts 4-5 today.)

 

Exhibit A: Barnabas! Read Acts 4:36-37

 

The early church had experienced phenomenal growth since the day of Pentecost; however, these examples of Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira underscore God’s expectations of truthfulness and integrity within His church.

 

1.      What do we know from Scripture about Barnabas? (Given name was Joseph; of the tribe of Levi—all priests are Levites but not all Levites are priests, only Levites who were descendants of Aaron are priests; from Cyprus; key leader in the early church; prominent companion of Paul; cousin of Mark; nick-named “Son of encouragement”; stood up for Paul after his conversion; defended John Mark and stood by him when Paul refused to take him on a missionary journey.)

2.      What characteristic of Barnabas stands out more to you: his generosity, his devotion to the church, or his willingness to encourage and care for others? Why?

3.      How would you describe the relationship between generosity and encouragement?

4.      Can one be done without the other? (Encouragement can come in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is by our indirect actions and at other times it is our direct interaction with an individual that gives them encouragement.)

5.      How did Barnabas support the early church’s ministry? (The gift Barnabas gave was voluntary. The early church did not have any form of communal ownership of property and possessions. Participation and giving were voluntary.)

6.      When have you witnessed the actions of a modern-day Barnabas? (Some might see Barnabas’s actions as a way to get attention or personal acclaim. However, his generosity also can serve as a source of encouragement to others and is therefore worthy of being shared.)

If we were privy to only this incident in the life of Barnabas we might think it might be to gain attention but when we see his life as a whole we see it was a sincere offering to the Lord through his local church! It was meant only to help others and the motivation was pure.

7.      How were you encouraged by his or her example?

Luke highlighted Barnabas as an example to demonstrate the unity and generosity of believers in the early church.

 

Exhibit B: Ananias! Read Acts 5:1-6

 

1.      What do we know from Scripture about Ananias? (He was married; he sold a piece of property; he plotted with his wife to deceive the church about the selling price; he was given an opportunity to explain; he dropped dead; he was buried.)

2.      What factors do you think led to Ananias’ actions?

3.      What did Peter mean when he said Ananias did not lie to men but to God?

4.      How did Ananias’ and Sapphira’s actions compare with that of Barnabas? (They sold a field and gave part of the proceeds to the apostles, but claimed they gave all the proceeds just as Barnabas had done. However, Ananias kept back part of the money, or put it aside for himself.)

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was their deception in the pursuit of personal praise—for acting as though they were being generous while being stingy instead.

We must examine our motives for giving, realizing that not all motives are honorable.

5.      What happened when Peter revealed Ananias’ action?

6.      How would you explain the reason for Ananias’ sudden death?

7.      How did others respond?

8.      How might this have affected the credibility of the early church? (The credibility of the early church was compromised because of Ananias’ deception. Yet, most of all, he lied to the Holy Spirit. Sinful and selfish actions affect other people. They also harm the witness of the church as a whole.)

9.      What are some other ways Satan leads Christians to commit acts that can harm the local church?

10.  How should the church respond to the conduct of willfully disobedient believers?

 

Exhibit C: Sapphira! Read Acts 5:7-11

 

1.      What do we know about Sapphira? (Married to Ananias; together they plotted to deceive the church about the selling price of their property; she lied to Peter; she died and was buried next to her husband.)

2.      Why was Sapphira held to the same standard as her husband?

3.      What does it mean to test the Lord? (Peter based his confrontation on what Sapphira had done to the Lord—not specifically to the church. When we sin within the church, we sin unto the Lord.)

4.      What would happen if a leader in our church confronted one of our members in a similar manner? (Believers are to take sin within the church seriously. It is not something that can be brushed under the congregational rug.)

Read Acts 5:11 again.

5.      What was the result of what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira?

We must realize God takes sin seriously. Sin is visible to God even if it is invisible to man. Sin requires accountability. God expects those who are a part of His church to live holy lives.

6.      What are some reasons God expects Christians to live holy lives? (We are to be holy as He is holy. We are to set a good example for others inside the church AND outside the church. Our lives are to be different from the world so others can see the transformation that comes when the Holy Spirit indwells our hearts!)

7.      How do you think non-Christians in Jerusalem viewed the early church?

8.      Do you think the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira helped or hurt the early church in their community?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Barnabas demonstrated obedience, sacrifice, and encouragement through his actions.

Ananias demonstrated pride, greed, and manipulation through his actions.

Sapphira demonstrated a lack of courage and a willingness to deceive through her actions.

 

Self examination:

1.      Are my motives honorable?

2.      Am I being obedient?

3.      Are there areas of my Christian life where I try to deceive others by appearing more “spiritual” than I really am?

4.      To whom am I accountable?

 

Invite the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and point out characteristics that are unholy and unpleasing to the Lord.

Ask Him for strength and courage to live a life of integrity!

 

An Open Invitation - Matthew 11:1-30

1.      We all receive numerous invitations. How do you decide which ones to accept and which ones to decline?

2.      What are some reasons we ignore or decline certain invitations?

3.      How does the invitation to follow Jesus include both good news and bad news based on one’s response to the invitation?

4.      Why might people ignore the invitation that Jesus gave to follow Him?

 

Matthew 11 represents a great invitation that Jesus gave to people to follow Him. The invitation began with a warning for those who did not choose to follow Him, and then it ended with a call to the weak and weary to follow Him.

 

Promised Judgement! Read Matthew 11:20-24

 

(Locate each town mentioned on a map for the class or they could circle the towns in the Personal Study Guide.)

 

1.      Why do you think Jesus said it would be more tolerable for Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom than the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum?

2.      How does Jesus’ teaching in theses verses line up with the image of Jesus that you have in your head or that is popular in our culture? (Jesus promised judgment for those who won’t repent. This is contrary to the image of “gentle Jesus” that is popular. While Jesus is kind, merciful, and loving, He is also holy and righteous.)

3.      What sins would you list as the five most grievous and destructive contemporary sins? (Murder, sexual immorality, pride, injustice, and lying are among the top.)

4.      Based on Jesus’ teaching here, where should rejection of Jesus rank on the list? (Number ONE! With great revelation comes great accountability!)

5.      Based on these verses, how could these cities have avoided God’s judgment? (It is simple, repent and accept Jesus.)

That same truth applies to each of us as individuals today! We will be held accountable for what we do with Jesus—accept or reject.

 

Promised Revelation! Read Matthew 11:25-26

 

The doctrines of “divine sovereignty” and “human responsibility” are two of the most difficult doctrines to bring into resolution. While they are both truths found in Scripture they are not contradictory. It is like looking down a railroad track that disappears in the distance. Although they are parallel they come together in the distance.

1.      What elements of “divine sovereignty” and “human responsibility” are found in these verses? (Only those whom God calls can receive the message. And yet repeatedly Jesus invited His audiences to have ears to hear. It is a glorious mystery of God’s wisdom how these doctrines are a work in salvation. There is no contradiction between the sovereign purposes of God and the need for personal, volitional faith in Christ.)

2.      What is the connection between those who arrogantly think themselves wise and those who are blinded to God’s wisdom? (They can’t hear because they refuse to hear.)

The theme of wisdom hidden from those who think themselves wise appears frequently in the Old Testament—Job 12:2; Isa. 19:11-12; Jer. 8:8-9; Ezek. 28:3-12.

3.      What is the meaning of “infants” in verse 25? (Those with child-like faith.)

4.      How does God react to those who come to Him by faith? (It’s His “good pleasure” to grant us wisdom into the truth of the gospel. God loves to save people, and our attitudes should reflect His!)

5.      Do you consider yourself “wise” or are you an “infant”?

 

Promised Relationship! Read Matthew 11:27

 

1.      What role does Jesus play in our relationship to the Father?

2.      How do we come to know God the Father? (Jesus reveals Him to us. He knows the Father and will lead us into a deep intimacy with the Father like He experiences.)

In putting our faith in Jesus, we are promised that we will know the Father and be brought into a relationship with Him. This is important because we will face periods of doubt and worry, especially when we are struggling with temptation. Here we are given hope and assurance for those times.

3.      What did Jesus reveal to us about God the Father as He lived on this earth?

4.      How do you respond when people label Christians as narrow minded and uncharitable for asserting that Jesus is the only way to the Father, with no other alternative?

5.      What implication does the truth that Jesus is the only way, have on our view of evangelism and missions?

People who don’t have Christ don’t have a relationship with God and are lost. Therefore, we must be intentional about sharing the gospel of Jesus with people who have no faith, and with people of other faiths, as Jesus is the only way to God and eternal life.

 

Promised Rest! Read Matthew 11:28-30

 

While verse 27 heavily emphasizes the sovereignty of God, these verses emphasize human responsibility, as Jesus invited all the weak and weary to come to Him.

 

1.      How did the description of Jesus in these verses contrast with other religious leaders of His day, including the scribes and Pharisees? (The Jews had expanded the Ten Commandments into 613 laws or rules you had to follow to be accepted by God. No one could be totally accepted by their rules. They overburdened the people rather than helping them.)

2.      What comes to your mind when you think of putting on a “Yoke”? (Work. Restriction.)

3.      What did Jesus tell the people about His yoke?

4.      Jesus promises that following Him is a life of rest, serving Him is an easy yoke, and bearing His burden is light. What factors make this true? (Usually a yoke was for two animals, so they could pull together. When we are in the yoke Jesus is on the other side. We are operating under his guidance and strength. Yes it is work but it brings joy, peace and contentment.)

5.      How does the character and promise of Jesus contrast with what the world offers us? (In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees heaped difficult rules and burdens on the people as they thought this was the way to salvation. Today, our world encourages us to achieve salvation ourselves, but this leaves us burdened because there is no way it can be attained apart from the grace of Jesus. Jesus on the other hand, shows us that the gospel is concerned not with our effort, but with faith in Jesus’ righteousness on our behalf.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      In light of Jesus’ invitation, how might you explain to a nonbeliever or a person who has been “burnt” by religion, that Jesus’ message and promise is different?

·         Explain that Jesus calls us to come to Him and rest in Him. He has done the work on our behalf.

·         Jesus asks for faith, while man-made religion demands that we do things to earn God’s favor. This is Satan’s ploy to convince us that it is useless to try.

·         The difference is that we can never do enough to earn God’s favor. Jesus instead asks us to stop, come to Him, rest in Him, and follow Him.

2.      In light of the truth that Jesus offers salvation to all who trust Him as Savior and Lord, what might we do that we are not doing now in efforts to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus?

 

There is a person in your life that needs a relationship with Jesus. Be intentional by making a conscious decision to pray for His or her salvation and needs every day this week. Also, make an opportunity to personally share the gospel with him or her.