These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 43 ~ Oct. 19-25
Matthew 15-18, Mark 7-9, Luke 9:18-11:54, John 7-10
Sin. That word can cause us to think of a lot of different things, from our sin, to people who have sinned against us, to forgiveness. Today, we’re going to hear what Jesus has to say about five different aspects of sin.
Causing Another Believer to Sin (1-5, Matthew 20:20-24)
Have you ever noticed that the disciples asked a lot of interesting questions? Why do you think they wanted to know who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Pride? A desire for clout or recognition? The disciples and Jesus lived in a society in which people were acutely aware of who had rank, recognition, and power (the Pharisees, scribes, Saducees, lawyers, priests, and Levites), and who did not (everybody else, including Jesus and them), when it came to the way Judaism was structured. We talked last week about what people, even the disciples, expected the Messiah to be: a conquering king who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel to prominence and prosperity. Here, as in the case of Mrs. Sons of Thunder asking if her boys could sit on either side of Jesus’ throne (Matt. 20), they were likely thinking of their offices in the new government they imagined Jesus would head up once He reestablished the kingdom.
Once again, Jesus had to set them straight. “It’s not about how high on the power ladder you can climb, Boys. It’s about how humble you can be, as humble as a little child.” And why did Jesus have to set them straight? Because they had been, skandalizo, “entrapped” or “tripped up” as verse 6 puts it, by faulty teaching from those who were responsible to rightly handle God’s word. The disciples would soon be in the position of teacher and preacher themselves. It was imperative they had a correct understanding of God’s word and God’s ways so they could accurately teach the new “little children” coming into the church.
When we share the gospel with others, teach the Bible, offer others advice or counsel, etc., we must make absolutely certain we have a correct understanding of what God’s word says. Otherwise, we might be tripping others up by leading them to believe things that are in conflict with the Bible. Jesus takes that very seriously saying (7) “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Pretty strong words.
Recreation of a millstone used for pressing olives in Nazareth, Israel.
When I Am Tempted (7-9)
What about when someone else tempts me to sin? Again, Jesus has strong words for anyone who entices someone into any kind of sin: “woe.” What are some ways we can cause people to sin or be drawn into someone else’s sin, even in the church? Gossip, adultery, inciting other church members against the pastor or other leaders, playing “politics”, etc.
But whether tempted by a church member or the world, Jesus paints a serious picture of how we should respond to that temptation. Now, Jesus isn’t suggesting we literally maim ourselves, because, if you think about it, even a blind person can lust. Sin is an issue of the heart. Jesus is saying that we are to get away from temptation to guard our hearts, whatever the cost. Your relationship with Christ is worth it.
What might “gouging your eye out” or “cutting your hand off” look like for someone facing a certain temptation? For a person tempted to drunkenness, it might mean not drinking at all or not going to certain social events where they know the booze will be flowing freely. A person tempted to lust and adultery might need to make certain she is never alone with a man she’s not married to. She may even have to avoid spending any time with certain men she’s attracted to. Sin is serious, and we sometimes have to take big, inconvenient steps to stay out of it, but our relationship with Christ is completely worth it.
When Another Christian Sins (10-14, Romans 8:1)
Our brothers and sisters in Christ are going to sin. There’s just no way around it. How should we respond to a fellow Christian who has wandered off into sin? Ignore it and hope she’ll stop? Stop speaking to to her? Castigate her? No. We are to respond to her the same way Jesus does with the lost sheep:
10- We are not to treat any of our brothers or sisters unkindly; we are to treat all with kindness and love.
12- We remember that Christ came to save the lost from their sin. Of course, He does not want those He has saved to wander off back into their sin. Jesus goes after the wandering sheep to bring it back into the safety of the fold. We are to do the same. If someone wanders off, we don’t just let her go. We go after her in love and concern to bring her back to where she needs to be.
13-14- “If he finds it…” If is kind of an interesting word to use here, since Jesus is the shepherd in the story. Will there ever be a case in which Jesus can’t find someone who has wandered off? No. God is sovereign over all things. He knows where we are, what we’re doing, and the state of our hearts at all times. These verses are referring to the lost sheep who is willing to be found and return to the fold with Jesus. When a Christian repents and returns to Christ, Christ rejoices over her. While there may be consequences of the sin to face, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom.) Isn’t that awesome? When that repentant sheep comes back to the fold, we are to have the same loving, embracing, and forgiving attitude towards her that Christ has. Christ’s desire is always restoration and reconciliation, and that should be our desire as well.
When Another Christian Sins Against Me (15-20)
One of the most important things we can focus on in this passage is the word “sins”. In the church body, there are going to be times when things happen to us that we don’t like. That doesn’t necessarily mean these things are SIN. Maybe we don’t like the style of music, or a particular mannerism of the pastor. Maybe somebody tells us a truth we need to hear that stings a little, or someone is annoying or inadvertently hurts our feelings. Our feelings don’t determine what sin is, the Bible does. When deciding whether to confront the person, we first need to determine if what she did is sin according to the Bible (not according to our opinion), or if it’s a non-sinful offense, and we can overlook it and extend grace, realizing that people have probably done the same for us on many occasions.
On the other hand, if the person IS sinning, we can’t shy away from an awkward conversation with her about it. Remember the wandering sheep? We need to have the same love for that wandering brother or sister and try to restore and reconcile him/her. First, we go to the person privately -not in front of a group, not on Facebook- one on one, and, remembering the way we would want someone to approach us, kindly and lovingly, yet firmly, talk to her about her sin. If she repents and returns, let the rejoicing and forgiving commence! If she persists, we take a couple of other Believers with us to kindly, lovingly, and firmly approach her again. If she still persists in her sin, the next appropriate and required step is to take the matter before the church body for disciplinary action. If the person still refuses to repent, we are to treat her as “a Gentile and a tax collector.”
What does that mean? Are we supposed to shun her? Hate her? No. Look how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors (like Matthew and Zacchaeus). He loved them, shared the gospel with them, and called them to repent and believe in Him. In other words, He treated them like the unbelievers they were. People who persist in unrepentant sin show us that they are not Believers. When we have exhausted all attempts at restoration, we agree with their behavior that they are not Believers and treat them that way. We remove their names from church membership and remove them from any positions of leadership or responsibility in the church, but we keep loving them, keep sharing the gospel with them, and keep praying for their salvation.
Why We Forgive (21-35, Ephesians 4:32)
This parable can be summed up in the words of Ephesians 4:32:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Who is the king in this parable? Jesus. Who is the first servant? Me. How big is our sin debt to Jesus? Verse 24 describes it as ten thousand talents. One talent was a unit of money equal to twenty years’ wages for a laborer. Therefore, ten thousand talents would have equaled 200,000 years’ worth of wages, an impossible amount to even begin to repay, just like our sin debt. But when we throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ and repent, He forgives us that enormous debt. Just wipes it right out. Any sin that anyone can commit against us, no matter how egregious, is peanuts (verse 28 calls it 100 denarii, or 100 days’ wages) compared to the grief and agony we put Christ through on the cross. How can we, knowing how hugely we have sinned against Christ, refuse to forgive others anything they might do to us?
There’s an old Carman song that contains the line
“Black is black, and white is white.
And Hell is hot, and sin ain’t right.”
It’s a pretty good “sin-opsis” of the what sin is. It is Christ’s desire that we stay out of sin ourselves, not lead others into sin, rescue others who have fallen into sin, and forgive those who have sinned against us.