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Connections Uniform 7-3-16

Ignoring God’s Truth Within Us          Romans 2: 17-29

Focal Outline:           Romans 2: 17-24                   Not Teach yourself?

                                    Romans 2: 25-27                   The irony

                                    Romans 2: 28-29                   A matter of the heart

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. Paul says we can only address our sin problem when we acknowledge that we are sinners.
  2. Recognizing and admitting our own blind spots is a difficult issue for all of us.
  3. Humans often share public signs of inward commitments. But, these signs alone are not enough to matter.
  4. Acts of love and mercy might be the clearest outward signs of a circumcised heart.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What sin issue have you never confessed to God a need for help with?
  2. How often do I place confidence in outward marks of faith that have little to do with actual righteousness?
  3. What good are outward signs without the inward reality they represent?
  4. What do you think was God’s purpose for giving the Israelites the commands found in the Old Testament?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

One time, I met a new co-worker. A few weeks later, another friend asked me about this new colleague at a meeting, “So, how’s _____ going to do there?” I replied, “Time will tell. But, one thing I can tell you—that’s a good person there.” How wrong that statement would prove to be. For, my early impressions had been drawn mostly from outward signs. The honeymoon was still on, and the shine had not worn off. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one. Many of us had been fooled by the outward signs that did not match the reality that was going on inside.

We’ve all seen outward indicators prove to be wrong. The story in which one briefcase is swapped with an identical one. Only later does the victim realize he has been robbed. Or, the movie scene in which the wad of money appears to be all there. But later on that proves to only be a few bills wrapped around blank paper on the inside. A walk through the old town of Senoia, Georgia reveals a charming neighborhood. Which is true! But, locals can tell you which storefronts are real….and which ones are simply television facades built for filming that happens there. There’s nothing much behind some of those convincing structures.

The apostle Paul engaged in a dialogue with an imaginary teacher. In that conversation, he held up high standards for people of faith. Especially those who would teach. Titles ultimately mean little compared with substance. The Law sounded good, but all were doomed to fail in its keeping at some point. Hypocrisy is a serious charge, don’t you think? Yet here, Paul is willing to assert that there is some of that afoot. Ultimately, we’ll have to live out our faith in tangible ways in order for it to be proven real.

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. What is the most important commitment you have ever made? How do you think you fared in keeping that commitment? What made that challenging? Why did it matter if you didn’t?

 

  1. Why did wedding rings become such an important outward symbol? What, really, do wedding rings symbolize? Being as specific as you can, work as a group to list the commitments these rings speak of.

 

  1. Think about the last baptism you witnessed. What does baptism symbolize for the people in your congregation? What might it mean for us to “baptize our hearts”?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p66 of your Connections Uniform Teaching Guide. Why do we sometimes present ourselves as being more knowledgeable on something than we really are?

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

           Romans 2: 17-24                   Not Teach yourself?

Especially in ancient Judaism, how do v17-20 make the case that this should be a particularly upstanding person? What should be the assumption about people like this, as expressed in v21? Are v22-24 a list of accusations? How are we to hear Paul’s point so far?

 

Romans 2: 25-27                   The irony

Why does Paul use circumcision as an example of his point here? What does he add in v26 that illustrates his point? How would you sum up his thoughts here? How is v27 an irony?

 

Romans 2: 28-29                   A matter of the heart

What is the critical difference between outward vs. inward realities? Why is this a timeless message for you?

 

  1. On p76 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “How often do we place confidence in outward markings of faith that have little to do with actual righteousness?”   Paul’s questions should lead us to ask: How do my actions contradict my stated beliefs? Or, based on my actions—what would someone decide that I believe?

 

  1. How does Ps 139: 13-24 relate to our text? How about Mt 21: 28-32?

 

  1. On p78 our lesson writer says “If forced to choose between the inward reality and outward signs of a relationship, all of us would choose the inward reality.” What are some outward signs that Christians might put too much stock in—to the expense of ignoring some other, more weighty inner realities?

 

  1. In the Connections Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour gets right to work setting the context. On p51, what was the disconnect between Jews and God’s intended way? At the bottom of p51, how are Jews and Gentiles in the “same boat,” according to Paul? Top of p52, what is the “Jewish advantage”? But, later on p52 what is the Jewish problem? On p53, what are some examples of Paul’s charges against the religious leaders? On p54, what is the only identity that counts, according to Paul?

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions…

  1. Have you committed to do something for God that you have not done?
  2. Spend time in prayer confessing your shortcomings. Ask God for forgiveness and grace for life ahead!
  3. What are some of the ways we publicly commit to doing what God wants us to do? What sometimes gets in the way of our obedience to God’s commands? How can religious acts actually get in our way?

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p70 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. What is the danger of presuming that we are already righteous?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!


Connections Uniform 7-10-16

We’re All under Sin’s Power                Romans 3: 9-20

Focal Outline:           Romans 3: 9-12                     No one

                                    Romans 3: 13-18                   Wages of sin

                                    Romans 3: 19-20                   Now we know

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
  2. Humanity carries the power to hurt. Words hurt; weapons hurt. We know this, yet we continue to use them.
  3. We divide the world into good people and bad. As long as we can see someone worse than we, we feel good.
  4. We think of the most convicting words from God as applying to others, but rarely to us. We should try.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What part of “all” do I still struggle to understand? Why not me?
  2. How have we become so accustomed to hurting others as an option for living?
  3. What might be a helpful new way for me to evaluate my own sinfulness?
  4. What is the Bible’s toughest news that I ought to hear as applying directly to me?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

As I write, 49 persons were brutally murdered this week by a gunman inside a club at Orlando. An additional 50 were injured, and our culture recoils. While people square off around issues like gun control and LGBT identities, the result remains. Once again, humanity has turned on itself and done unthinkable damage. Also once again we have seen not only the power to hurt on a large scale, but something perhaps even more chilling. That is, the willingness to do so.

None of this is new. Paul lived in a world that also had violence done by sword, arrow and word. Recently, we watched a documentary on ancient Rome. The construction of the Coliseum began just after Paul’s time there. The show we watched explained the evolution of the great facility. Seems that the Coliseum was altered and renovated to accommodate the contests of the day. Many of these were killing games, as we know. The sheer brutality described in the show we watched caused Elizabeth to observe, “They just didn’t have much regard for life–animal or human. This really is barbaric what they entertained themselves with.”

But, we awake to our own times and realize how little has changed since Paul spoke to the Romans. The power to hurt, and even to kill, is not limited to the use of weaponry. Little slights and big insults inflict damage to personhood. Economic injustices and human trafficking kill more slowly, but surely lead to deaths of a kind. Words still cut sharply. Exclusion still marginalizes and separates. We have a vast arsenal at our disposal with which to sin. And, with which to do good. Our choices still lay at the heart of whether we will give life– or give in to the wages of sin that lead to death.

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. Think of the most recent news story that reminds you of the evil in the world. (You might declare political stories off-limits) What do you believe the Bible has to say that helps you gain perspective?

 

  1. What is there about words that carry such a power to hurt or to bless? Why words? They are so powerful, for good and for evil. Discuss this power within your group.

 

  1. What makes the word sin so unpopular? What makes admitting that we all sinners so difficult to do?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p73 of your Connections Uniform Teaching Guide. In what area of your life do you find it difficult to hear the truth?

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

           Romans 3: 9-12                     No one

What has led Paul to this topic as v9 begins? What is Paul’s true question in v9-11? How would you summarize what he is after there? How does v12 substantiate the point he makes by asking that? What does he quote in v10-12?

 

Romans 3: 13-18                   Wages of sin

Paul uses a collection of psalm quotes here. About whom is he speaking? What does v13-14 mean? V15-17 uses another triplet of quotes to make what accusation? How does v18 summarize the ills of this people?

 

Romans 3: 19-20                   Now we know

What is the intent of the Law in v19—and its limitation? In v20, how is this limitation substantiated?

 

  1. On p84 (lrge. print) our lesson author says, “Paul says that our sin problem is theological. People have no fear of God. They believe they can do whatever they want with no consequences.” How might that have been true then—and now in our age? What does this have to do with you?

 

  1. How does Ja 3: 1-12 relate to our text? How about Is 64: 1-9?

 

  1. On p87 our lesson writer says “We all know that the world is broken. Sin and evil continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives. But not all of us are ready to admit that our sinfulness is part of the problem.” How might this assessment be true? How does your own personal sin connect with the more horrifying societal ills?

 

  1. In the Connections Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour uses a lengthy movie synopsis to illustrate the dynamic Paul spoke to in Romans. On p57, what question has led to our text in v9? Later on p57, where do Paul’s quotations come from? On p57-58, why does Paul’s description apply to all of humanity? Late on p58, 2 key terms are explored to illustrate the power of words! On p59, why can neither Jew nor Gentile achieve “righteousness”?

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions…

  1. How do your words damage those who are made in the likeness of God?
  2. Spend time in silent prayer, confessing the times when your words have damaged other people.
  3. Spend time in prayer, laying your deeds and efforts before God. Confess how you have come up short. Ask for God’s mercy and guidance. Ask God to help you do what you cannot on your own.

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p77 of the Uniform Teaching Guide. Why do you believe Paul spends so much time in our text trying to convince people of their sinfulness?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!