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Lesson 6: Struggling with All Energy *

Introduction: Struggling. What a difficult word. Hebrews 12:4 speaks of the "struggle against sin." Is struggling what God wants of us? Is it all He wants? I feel so inadequate because God has to forgive me of the same sins over and over again. I teach others, why am I still struggling? God offers to lift our burdens, should I ignore my sin and let God handle it? If that is true, how can the Bible speak of the "struggle" against sin? When Luke 13:24 tells us "to make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many ... will try to enter and will not be able to" this sounds like serious work. I believe in righteousness by faith, not righteousness by works. How can these texts be true? Let's dive into the Bible and see what we can learn about the Christian's struggle!

  1. Struggle of the Few

    1. Read Luke 13:22-23. What question is asked of Jesus?

      1. What answer would you think Jesus would give?

    2. Read Luke 13:24. What is Jesus' answer? Does he say "Yes, only a few?" (He does not. He says "many" will try, unsuccessfully, to enter. Thus, it seems that more do not enter than enter. But, Jesus does not say only a few enter. It is a narrow door and many fail to enter.)

      1. How do we enter this door? (It involves "effort" on our part. "Make every effort to enter the narrow door.")

    3. Read Luke 13:25. What does this tell us about entering into the narrow door. What is the first requirement in our "effort?" (Act promptly. It is a limited time offer because "once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door" it will be too late.)

      1. What requirement does the owner give for entering his door, other than being prompt? (The owner needs to know the person who wants to enter. That makes sense. Who wants to let strangers into their home?)

        1. Since this is obviously a parable about God, what does the all-knowing God need to know? What does it mean "I don't know ... where you come from?" (The owner says that he does not know the most basic information about these people. He does not even know their background.)

    4. Read Luke 13:26. Do the people correct the home owner? Is this just a case of poor recollection?

    5. Read Luke 13:27. Does the owner admit this a matter of mistaken recollection? (No. Apparently, just being around the homeowner is not enough for him to know them. He does not deny that he taught in their neighborhood or ate with them. Notice again Luke 13:24 which says "many ... will try to enter and will not be able to." This paints a picture of people who want to enter. People who made some effort to enter. The rejected people heard the teaching of the owner, yet it does not say they followed the teaching. Instead, the owner calls them "evildoers.")

    6. Read Luke 13:28-30. What is NOT required to enter? (You do not have to be Jewish (or part of the accepted group). This is not a "group thing." People from all over are allowed to enter. You do not have to be "first" here on earth to enter. This is not a worldly status thing.)

    7. Is this just a message to the Jewish nation of Jesus' time? Or, are eternal principles stated here?

      1. If you say "eternal principles," what do these verses suggest is the key to entering? (Having the homeowner know you. Making "every effort" to enter the door. Not being classified among the "evildoers." )

    8. Read Romans 1:21-23, 28. What does this suggest about this idea of knowing God and God knowing us? (Just having the knowledge is not enough. We have to think the knowledge "worthwhile to retain" and we have to be thankful for it and use it to glorify God.)

    9. What kind of a link can you begin to see between "struggling" and being known by the homeowner?

  2. The Meaning of Struggling

    1. Read Romans 7:21-24. Does this sound like a struggle? If so, what is the struggle about?

    2. Read Romans 7:25. Jesus will rescue us. The question is: will He rescue us from the struggle or from something else? (Jesus rescues us "from this body of death.")

    3. Read Romans 8:1-3. From what do these verses suggest we are rescued? (We are rescued from "condemnation.")

    4. Read Colossians 1:19-23. What must I do to be free from accusation? (Christ's death on my behalf allows me to be presented "holy" "without blemish and free from accusation." Here we are rescued from "accusation.")

      1. What a glorious thing! We are rescued by Jesus from both accusation and condemnation! Is that the end of it? (The text looks towards the future. "If you continue in your faith... not moved from the hope held out in the gospel." Being saved is a free gift. Living the Christian life is a partnership with God.)

    5. Read Colossians 1:24-29. On what point is Paul struggling? (Read Colossians 1:28-29 several times. Paul is working with the power of the Holy Spirit (all His energy) to promote the gospel. He is a partner with God in getting the work done. My imagination sees Paul, like a fireman, holding a water hose with tremendous water pressure. It takes a partnership to do the best work to put out the fire of evil in our life and the lives of others.)

  3. Life Struggle

    1. Read Matthew 5:27-30. Here is the ultimate work in struggling - cutting off body parts! Let's assume for a minute that you regularly think lustful thoughts about the opposite sex. Would pulling out your right eye fix that problem?

      1. What if you have a compulsion to steal? Would cutting off your right hand stop you from stealing? (I suppose plucking out both eyes and cutting off both hands might slow us down a bit - but these things are more matters of the mind.)

      2. If Jesus is not asking us to cut off body parts - and I don't think He is - what does He mean by this language? (He is calling us to radical action to avoid sin. If you have a weakness for a particular sin, then you should avoid doing things that might not be sin, but which lead you closer to your favorite sin.)

    2. Let's ask the tough question. If salvation is a free gift from God, then how can Jesus refer to "making every effort" to enter the narrow door and cutting off body parts to avoid being sent to hell (i.e., missing the narrow door)? (We cannot earn salvation. Our reading in Colossians 1:22 tells us that Jesus' death on our behalf makes us "without blemish and free from accusation." Romans 8:1 tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. But, our Christian life does not end with salvation. God expects us to push on in partnership with Him. This partnership requires effort on our part to resist our character defects and to promote the gospel.)

      1. So, what about my struggle with the same sins? What about you and your struggle with the same sins? (I think this is what the Christian life is about. When you stop struggling, you are dead - eternally. Romans 7 & 8 are critical to this issue. If you are not familiar with these chapters read them. Now read Romans 8:12-14. I think this is where the struggle exists in the life of the Christian. We are "by the Spirit [to]... put to death the misdeeds of the body. We also struggle to bring the gospel to others.)

    3. Friend, how about you? Have you turned your life over to God? Have you determined to set your mind on what God requires, rather than what your nature requires? Are you serious about, through God's power and His partnership, putting to death the deeds of the body? God calls us to turn our hearts and our minds over to Him to live a life in accord with His will.

  4. Next week: Indestructible Hope.
* Copr. 2007, 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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