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Lesson 13: A Step in Faith *

Introduction: Life is a series of choices. Taken together, your choices shape the direction and quality of your life. How have you been doing with your choices so far? While our choices on earth are sometimes difficult to reverse, Jesus keeps open our choice for eternal life. Our study this week explores what kind of choices the Bible suggests. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1.         Choice Example

  1.         Read Philippians 2:1-2. Verse 1 seems to be a series of questions. Who do you think is supposed to answer them? (I think they are directed to us.)

  1.         Here is how I see those questions:

  1.         Have you been encouraged by Jesus?

  1.         Have you been comforted by His love?

  1.         Has the Holy Spirit helped you with your spiritual walk?  

  1.         Has being a part of Christian fellowship provided affection and sympathy to you?

  1.         How would you answer those questions? (Hopefully, they are all answered “yes.”  If not, there is something amiss with your relationship with Jesus or wrong with your local Christian fellowship.)

  1.         If you answered, “yes,” Paul asks us to do something. What is it? (We are being asked to show that same encouragement to fellow church members.)

  1.         Read Philippians 2:3. Every important thing that I do reflects my ambition! How does “selfish” change the meaning of this instruction, if at all? (One commentary I read suggests that the first part of verse 3 modifies the last part of verse 2. That means ambition is just fine when I’m working with other Christians to accomplish ambitious projects. It is not fine when my ambition has me in conflict with fellow Christians.)

  1.         Read Matthew 6:5. What is the “conflict” problem here? (The one giving the prayer is better than others.)

  1.         What reward is given to those giving these prayers? (That people admire them - and that is it.)

  1.         Do people always admire them? (I recall a couple of prayers that involved bragging about the oil production of a person’s country or the scholastic achievement of a member of the family. I didn’t admire that.)

  1.         I don’t know a single person who wants to be a poor public speaker or who wants to be embarrassed in public.  How would you draw the line between wanting people to think that you do a good job and selfish ambition?

  1.         I treasure a conversation with William Shea on this topic. Bill was an extremely humble man who had no worldly reason to be humble.  I asked him when he preached if he took joy in having people think he did a good job? I pointed out the Matthew 6 discussion. Bill said that part of his motivation (ambition) for preaching was to advance God’s kingdom and in part he enjoyed being praised for doing a good job.)

  1.         Does this sort of “mixed motive” Bill discussed with me fix things in your mind? (Look again at Philippians 2:2-3. Reading these verses together seems to remove the “selfish” from any project in which you are in accord with other believers.)

  1.         The KJV uses the term “vainglory.” The Greek word used for this is “kenodoxia,” which means “vain conceit” or “empty glory.”  The IVP New Testament Commentary has a different take on this than we have discussed so far. It says the problem is taking glory when you have no reason to do so - the glory “seems baseless.”)

  1.         Look at the last part of Philippians 2:3. Are we required to consider everyone else better (“more significant”)than we are?  For the “above average,” that would be a lie!

  1.         Read Philippians 2:4. Has Paul moderated his advice? Are we now entitled to look out for our own interests? (Paul assumes that we are looking out for our own interests. He tells us to also look out for the interests of others - which is consistent with our discussion so far.)

  1.         Read Philippians 2:5-7. Who is our example in this? (Jesus!)

  1.         Let’s revisit my question about assuming everyone is better. Did Jesus assume that fallen human beings were better than He was? Better than God? (That, of course, would be a false assumption - not even close to true.)

  1.         When we see this applied to Jesus, how should we understand the “consider others more significant?” (You don’t have to believe the lie that others are better or more talented than you. What Jesus did was to give up what was best for Him to do what was best for us.)

  1.         Read Philippians 2:8-10. How did Jesus’ decision to help us turn out for Him? (He is exalted above all.)

  1.         Contrary to a lot of what is said, there are a number of valuable aspects of age. One of them is seeing how your choices turned out. A major choice when I was young was to go to law school so that I could work for the church. I had in mind a life of service and modest wages. God led me instead to work for a non-profit charity doing religious liberty litigation. This decision to serve others has been a blessing to me in every possible way! Had I decided to become a lawyer to get rich, I believe that would have happened, but my life would have had less joy.

  1.         Read Philippians 2:11. What does praising Jesus give to God the Father? (It brings glory to Him.)

  1.         Will this approach apply to your life? When you apply your ambition in an unselfish way will you be praised and that praise brings glory to God the Father?

  1.         Is it true that these (praise for you and praise for God) are not mutually exclusive goals? (They seem to be the opposite, but they work together when you have unselfish ambition.)

  1.         Peter

  1.         Read John 21:15. What, exactly, is Jesus asking Peter? (Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other disciples love Jesus.  Or, Jesus is asking if Peter loves Him more than fish. Let’s assume Jesus is talking about the other disciples.)

  1.         What is the temptation for Peter? (Read Matthew 26:33-34. Jesus is asking Peter a “do you consider yourself more significant” question.)

  1.         How does Peter answer? (He simply says that he loves Jesus without making a comparison to the other disciples.)

  1.         Read John 21:16. What is Jesus asking Peter to do? (He is asking him to lead a life of service to others.)

  1.         Read John 21:17. Is Peter sad about being asked this question three times? (The text says that he was “grieved.”)

  1.         What do you think about Peter’s answer? (Peter is exactly right that Jesus knows his heart. Peter’s answers are not as important as what Jesus’ knows about Peter.)

  1.         Why, then, did Jesus ask the question three times if He already knew the true answer? (Jesus was doing this for Peter’s benefit. Peter had been confident that he was the best, most loyal disciple. Jesus wants him to be willing to help without making comparisons.)

  1.         Read John 21:18-19. What kind of choice is Peter making in agreeing to follow Jesus? (He will be crucified for his choice.)

  1.         Will Peter die a young man?  Will he die “prematurely?” (There is much to appreciate in Jesus’ prophecy.  Peter will not die young. He will not give up his faith. He will not fail Jesus in the last test.)

  1.         Friend, are you willing to follow Jesus? As we have seen, it requires a choice to put the interests of others ahead of your interests.  But, the reward is honor and glory - forever and ever! Why not make that choice right now? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to aid you in that choice?

  1.         Next week: We begin a new series on Christian Education.
* Copr. 2020, 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.

© 2020 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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