Living by Faith
(a lesson series of faith)
How to Use This Lesson Series
If a cell group or small group meeting can be divided into four sections—Welcome, Worship, Word, and Work—then this pamphlet focuses only on the Word aspect. Each lesson will have points to talk about and suggested questions for discussions. In each point in the lesson, the leader can choose from among the provided questions what to ask to the group for discussion. Because the Word section is geared toward being finished in 45 minutes, I suggest that only one question per point is dealt with. But of course, if there is enough time, the leader has the prerogative to ask more questions for discussion.
The monthly attendance sheet at the end of the document will help the leaders monitor their small group/s. This will also help the leaders keep track of who are in need of encouragement and prayer.
This series is written by Dick O. Eugenio © 2017.
Faith of a Child
Matthew 18:2-4; Hebrews 11:6
At the end of this lesson, members should be able to understand what it means to have faith in God as a His sons and daughters.
The amazing fact is that “in Jesus Christ we are all children of God through faith” (Gal 3:26). This is of course the privilege of those who believed in Him (John 1:12). Elsewhere, Paul argues that this is the work of the Holy Spirit as well (Rom 8:14, 16). So what does it mean to be God’s children? How should we behave?
Without a doubt, faith is the essence of the Christian life. We are familiar with the verse that says, “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). This verse is interesting because we are always tempted to think that we please God by our actions and services to Him. Today, especially in evangelical circles, spirituality is often measured by one’s involvement. Basically, the more ministry involvement, the more spiritual one is. Or the more committee one is a part of and the more meetings one has throughout the week, the more spiritual one is. But we all know that this is false thinking. We often forget that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags to God (Isa 64:6).
According to the writer of Hebrews, we please God only because of our faith. This is why Paul admonished us to “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). External works do not please God more than the internal situation of the heart. This is very clearly taught in the story of Saul in 1 Samuel 15. When God ordered king Saul to attack the Amalekites, He also commanded Saul to spare no one and nothing, including the livestock (15:3). But when Saul saw that the animals of the Amalekites were fat and pleasing, He spared some of them (15:9). God was grieved and sent the prophet Samuel to confront Saul (15:10-12), but Saul defended himself, arguing that he spared the animals in order to present them as offerings to the Lord (15:15). He thought His actions were justified and what He did was pleasing to God. Unfortunately, God was not. But God said, “to obey is better than sacrifice” (15:22).
- In the light of the story of centurion (Matt 9:27-30), why is faith pleasing to God?
- What does it mean to have confidence in God? Apply this to your situation as a student, worker, youth, or any other concrete situation.
The clearest expression about the relationship between faith and pleasing God is found in Matthew 18:3, when Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” It must be remembered that the context of the statement is the question about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 19:1). Jesus should have shocked the disciples at this point. They would never have realized on their own that the way up is actually down. To be lifted up, one must be humble before God first (James 4:10). True relationship with God is characterized by trust and self-abandonment, not mature independency. We are summoned to be like a child who listens, and is empty of pride and ambition. A childlike confidence in the Father and reliance on the Holy Spirit is the way to please God.
Faith of a Servant
At the end of this lesson, members should be able to understand what it means to have faith in God as a servant.
At Pico Church of the Nazarene, their several pastors and the staff share an office. There are several tables interspersed in the room, each labeled in relation to the work of each of the personnel. This is obviously to help visitors and inquirers become immediately aware which desk they should go to in accordance with their needs. Interestingly, the pastor’s desk is labeled “Servant.” Both Simon Peter and Paul referred to themselves as servants of Jesus Christ (2 Pet 1:1; Titus 1:1). They were content to have such a label. Well, if Jesus Christ, although He was God, chose to take the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-7), why should we be ashamed to be called servants? We are certainly not greater than our Lord, aren’t we?
In English, the term “servant” may be limited to refer to a vocation. But in Greek, the word used is duolos, which is actually a highly relational term. Although the element of work is present, the primary emphasis of duolos is about one’s relationship with a master. So what does it mean to be a servant?
First, duolos refers to someone who belongs to another. Literally, servants do not have any ownership rights of their own. They do not have the right to make their own decisions or actions. In fact, in the Roman empire during the time of Jesus, servants do not even have the right to vote. All of their so- called human rights are revoked because of the fact that they belong to someone else. So why did the early Christians thought of themselves as servants? The answer is simple, like all servants, they were aware that they were bought at a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). In Jesus Christ, they were ransomed from darkness to light (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; Gal 1:4; 1 Tim 2:6). Paul’s statement is clear: “You are not your own… you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Hence, Paul can also say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Because Christ already paid for us, we are God’s possessions (Deut 7:6; Eph 1:14; 1 Pet 2:9). We are like cell phones bought by God from the store. After God paid for us, we became His properties.
- What are the implications of the fact that we belong to God, and that we do not actually own ourselves?
- What does it mean for God to own even our so-called human rights?
- What is the relationship between being a servant and being free (see John 8:36 and Gal 5:1, 13)?
It is fascinating that the early Christians actually considered it as a privilege to be called servants of Christ! The word doulos in the New Testament is used to refer to the highest dignity a human being can ever achieve. This is why Paul always referred to himself as a servant (Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1). The other disciples also did the same, like James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1:1). Even David in the OT talked about the honor bestowed on God’s servants (1 Chron 17:18).
- What is the honor attached to being a servant of God?
- Why is being a servant of God understood by the early Christians as a source of dignity?
Secondly, to be a servant can be best understood in relation to the master. There can be no servant without a master. In Greek, the word Kyrios is translated as master, lord, or sir. (This is why I do not wish to be called “Sir” because it basically means being called kyrios, which is a designation used by Christ Himself). To be a servant is to be someone who willingly lives under the authority of the master. Jesus is the boss. A true servant of Jesus Christ is one who obeys, follows, and submits to His will. The call to become disciples is also the call to become servants. It is a contradiction to claim to be a disciple without being a servant too. Relationship and work belong together.
- What does it mean to have a relationship with Jesus Christ as our Master (John 13:13)?
- What is the relationship between abandoning our rights and being a servant of Jesus Christ (see Matt 16:24)?
- If Jesus Christ is our Master, what does it mean to submit to Him (James 4:7)?
The word “servant” is very apt in describing our relationship with God. To have faith in God is to have our confidence and trust placed in God. We do not trust our own decisions because we admit our limited understanding. As servants, we abandon our worldly credentials and rely on God’s wisdom. We follow His guidance even if they don’t seem to make sense. We obey His words because He knows what is best for us and the world (Jer 29:11). We submit to His will even if it hurts (James 4:17). These are what it means to have the faith if a servant. We do not need to be ashamed of being servants. We must remember that in the parable of the talents, Jesus was talking to servants as the ones who will inherit the kingdom: “Well done, good and faithful servants… Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt 25:23). Only servants have the privilege to hear these words from Jesus someday.
Faith of a Sheep
John 10:1-18, 26-27
At the end of this lesson, members should be able to see themselves as followers of Jesus Christ in the light of the relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep.
The Bible is full of metaphors. They are used to describe different entities in Bible such as God, the world, and even the Christians. Common biblical metaphors that describe our identity as Christians include soldiers (2 Tim 2:3), runners (Heb 12:1; 1 Cor 9:24), boxers (1 Cor 9:26), salt and light (Matt 5:14-16; Phil 2:15), citizens (Eph 2:19), branches (John 15:5; Rom 11:16-21), living stones (1 Pet 2:5), letters (2 Cor 3:3), and vessels (2 Tim 2:21). All of these metaphors point to something very important about our identity, calling, and responsibilities as followers of Jesus in this world.
- What metaphor best describes who you are in relationship with God? The answer does not need to be one of the metaphors above.
The relationship between God and humanity explained in terms of Shepherd-sheep relation abounds in the Bible. Even in the Old Testament, God is often described as a Shepherd to His people (Gen 48:15; 49:24; 2 Sam 5:2; 1 Chron 11:2; Ps 23:1-6; 28:9; 80:1; 95:7; 79:13; 100:3; Isa 40:11; 63:11; Ezek 34:11-22, 31; Jer 3:15; 23:1; 31:10; Micah 5:4; 7:14; Zeph 11:16). In the New Testament, the relationship between the Good Shepherd and the church is also repeatedly mentioned (Matt 2:6; 18:12-14; 25:32-36; Luke 12:32; 15:3-7; Acts 20:28-29; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 5:2-4). It can be argued that the Shepherd-sheep metaphor is one of the most important and used metaphors that describe our relationship with God. But why is this metaphor so important? (We cannot highlight everything about this topic in this lesson, owing to the broadness of the topic, but we can look at John 10:1-18 as our guide in this lesson.)
Jesus mentions the “sheep pen” (John 10:1). This is quite odd in comparison to other Shepherd-passages, because here the concern is not primarily about what the Shepherd does or about the needs of the sheep. Whereas in Psalm 23, for instance, we are reminded of the neediness of the flock to be guided, and the role of the Shepherd in providing these needs, in John 10 the picture is that of contentment and rest. The sheep pen is a place of security. Only when the flock is in the sheep pen that they can properly rest, because the shadow of death is at least minimized. The fence that envelopes and separates the sheep from the rest of deadly predators gives them a sense of peace.
- What security and peace do followers of Jesus Christ experience (Isa 26:3; John 16:33; Phil 4:7; Heb 4:1-10)?
- What does it mean to have contentment as a sheep (Phil 4:11-13)?
The sheep pen is important because they become protection against predators that are lurking in the night wanting to devour us (1 Pet 5:8). Jesus tells us in the parable that there are also thieves that come in the pen in order to kill and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus describes these thieves as jumping over the fence in order to cause disturbance. These are the people who come to tempt us, to deceive us, to accuse us of our past sins, to make us doubt, to make our faith waver, and to destroy peace by making us hate each other. Although the pen is a place of security, we cannot be too confident, for even in our very own turfs thieves can come and rob from us the joy, peace, and security we possess in Christ.
- What does it mean to be protected by God?
- What are the thieves in your life right now that are attempting to rob you of your salvation?
- What are the things that are easily stolen by thieves from Christians?
There is another kind of thieves in the parable, which are actually more dangerous. Jesus said: “The man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1). If the sheep pen is the place of security, rest and salvation, Jesus says that He is the way, the only proper way, through which we may enter. Jesus says that He is the gate to the pen (John 10:7, 9). The second class of thieves are those who enter the pen, those who wish to attain peace, security, rest and salvation, (a) by looking for other ways and (b) by avoiding the only and Good Shepherd. They are the black sheep and goats who wish to enjoy the benefits of the pen, but are unwilling to go through Jesus. These thieves are also essentially selfish unbelievers. They are selfish because they are the sheep who only desire for the wages without wearing the worker’s uniform. The problem is that these unbelievers are already mixed with the true sheep in the sheep pen, so they are hard to identify. These are sheep who did not come through Jesus Christ, but through the back door, silently joining the church without actually having encountered Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, and Friend.
- How do we know that we are genuine sheep of Jesus Christ and not thieves who went to the pen via the backdoor?
- What does it mean to encounter Jesus Christ and go through Him as the door to the pen?
What is the faith of a sheep? It is a faith that has peace because we know that we are embraced by the Shepherd. It is a faith that needs to be protected because there are lions and beasts in the light wanting to gobble us down. It is a faith that trusts in God. But most important, it is faith in Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). If we are church-goers but we have not yet encountered Jesus Christ as our personal Lord, Savior, and Friend, then we might be kidding ourselves that we are already a part of the flock. We need to see if we are actually thieves or are genuine sheep who are in the sheep pen.
(Leaders can guide their members to self-introspection whether they are already true Christians. If they have not yet encountered Jesus as the Lord and Savior, you know what to do.)