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Lesson 5: The Seen and the Unseen War *

Introduction: Many Christians have one of two opposing opinions. They think that salvation turns on their good works, or they think that salvation is merely accepting grace and then continuing on their normal way. Our lesson this week reveals a third approach: relying on God in everything. This not only includes salvation, it includes all of the problems and victories of life. Let's dig into our study of Matthew and learn more!

  1. John's Doubts


    1. Read Matthew 11:1-3 and read Matthew 3:11-14. What has happened to John's faith in Jesus? (Read Matthew 14:3-4. John is in prison when he sends his disciples to Jesus. If you look again at Matthew 3:12 John predicts that Jesus will "clear ... [the] floor ... with unquenchable fire." Yet despite John's expectations of power, Jesus does nothing to free him from prison. Matthew 14:10 tells us that John died in prison.)


      1. What does this teach us about being arrogant about the way we think prophecy will be fulfilled? (We need to be alert and keep our minds open to the Holy Spirit. The Jewish nation (apparently including John the Baptist) expected that Jesus would exercise power and overthrow His enemies at that time.)


    2. Read Matthew 11:4-6. How does this answer John's question about why Jesus is not saving him? (Jesus' answer shows that He is defeating Satan, not Satan's followers. We need to remember that the real enemy is Satan and his demonic forces, not the people with whom we work and live.)


    3. Read Matthew 11:7-11. Explain how Jesus can say no human is greater than John the Baptist, yet the least important person in heaven is greater than John?


      1. What is the issue John's disciples raised? (Who is Jesus? This is the key issue in life. Will you believe in Jesus and trust Him with all of your problems and challenges? John was showing a lack of trust. Those in heaven will be there because of their trust in God - not because of their works.)


      2. What does this teach us about reliance on Jesus rather than on yourself, other humans or money? (Even John the Baptist wavered. We need to beware.)


  2. War


    1. Read Matthew 11:12-14. Who are these forceful men? (Consider the context. John the Baptist did powerful things to prepare the way for Jesus. He was "Elijah." But, Herod killed John. ( Matthew 14:6-11.) Satan brings human power against the Church when it is advancing.)


    2. Read Matthew 11:16-19. What does this tell us about having the wrong expectations? (We, like children, think God's workers should conform to our ideas. We are self-centered. God says look beyond yourself and see what God is doing through that person. Consider how God is moving in the world - even as the result of people who do not meet your expectations.)


      1. How many Christians do you know who are fighting each other, rather than fighting demonic forces?


    3. Read Matthew 11:20-24. We think of Sodom in connection with sexual sin. What does Jesus say is worse than that? (Ignoring the miracles that God has performed in our life. Think again about Samson. This fellow had a sex problem. Yet he is listed in the faith hall of fame ( Hebrews 11:32) because even in his last few moments of life he trusted God ( Judges 16:28-30).)


      1. Have you paid too little attention to the miracles God has done in your life?


    4. Read Matthew 11:25-26. Jesus was just criticizing His listeners by saying they were like "children sitting in the marketplaces" ( Matthew 11:16) and now He says God reveals to "little children" what is hidden from the "wise and learned." Which is it, should we have an attitude like children or not? What, exactly, is the child-like attitude that Jesus commends? (In both places Jesus is calling children "simple." They are simple in what they want and they are simple in their understanding.)


      1. Why is that good? (Jesus' point seems to be that the call of the gospel can be understood by anyone as long as they are not too arrogant to be willing to accept it.)


      2. Do you think God is hiding the gospel from anyone? That hiding good news is for God's "good pleasure?"(It would be hard to explain the great work of the Apostle Paul if it were true that God kept the gospel from the "wise and learned.")


      3. Read Matthew 19:23-24. Why is it hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? (This helps to explain the problem of the "wise and learned" understanding the gospel. Those who are rich, those who are smart, those who are highly educated have in common a tendency to rely on wealth, intelligence and education instead of God. This is the same point as Jesus made with John the Baptist. The central issue for John was whether he would trust Jesus in the midst of problems. The central issue for the rich, wise and educated is whether they will trust God or trust their money, intelligence or education.)


    5. Let's go back and read Matthew 11:15. Who is able to understand Jesus' message? (Everyone with ears!)


      1. What does that tell us about Jesus' comments about the gospel being hidden from certain people? (This helps prove the point that we all can hear and understand, unless we choose not to understand because of our arrogance and self-reliance.)


    6. Read Matthew 11:27. To whom has God revealed the gospel? (To Jesus! Jesus reveals God the Father to us. This reinforces Jesus' point that we must trust Him, we must put our confidence in Him.)


    7. Read Matthew 11:28-30. What practical advantage do we enjoy by putting our trust in Jesus? (He carries our burdens. He gives us rest. He is not arrogant and harsh with us. Instead, He wants us to succeed in life and to have eternal life.)


      1. Do you feel that life is a constant struggle? Why not rely on Jesus in everything?


      2. What do you think relying on Jesus would look like, as a practical matter? (It involves at least three things. First, asking Jesus in prayer to work out our challenges. Second, following the advice Jesus has already given us in the Bible. Third, looking for the Holy Spirit to guide us in the decisions we make.)


    8. Read Matthew 12:24. What is worse than relying on yourself, instead of relying on Jesus? (Thinking that Jesus relies on Satan.)


    9. Read Matthew 12:25-26. What do you think about this answer? (This is a very practical answer. I think Jesus is struggling against the problem He just identified, that truth is hidden from people who trust themselves.)


      1. What answer would be appropriate for those who rely on Jesus? (There is a war going on between Jesus and Satan. Why would Satan help Jesus? His goal is to destroy Jesus.)


    10. Read Matthew 12:27-28. Do you think that the Jewish religious leaders thought other Jewish religious leaders drove out demons by the power of Satan? (Of course not! Jesus says "Why would you judge Me by a different standard?")


    11. Read Matthew 12:29. What does this tell us about the reality of demons? (It tells us that Jesus not only believes in them, but he calls Satan a "strong man.")


      1. What does this say about Jesus? (He is stronger than Satan. He can bind Satan.)


    12. Read Matthew 12:30-32. What is the peril of saying that a fellow Christian is performing healings through the power of Satan? (This is very dangerous.)


    13. Friend, you have a choice. Will you live your life trusting Jesus? Or, will you live your life trusting yourself, or worse, trusting demonic powers? Jesus offers to lift our burdens and give us rest. Why not accept His offer right now?


  3. Next week: Resting in Christ.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2016 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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