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Lesson 6: Jesus Mingled With People *

Introduction: Jesus and the Pharisees had different approaches to converting sinners. Jesus ate with them. The Pharisees thought sinners should aspire to be like them. We know converting sinners is an important business because conversions cause joy in heaven. How should we relate to sinners without having them convert us? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn on these important topics!

  1. God With Sinners

    1. Read Luke 15:1-2. What is the problem here? Why do the Pharisees "mutter" about Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them?

      1. Do you know the saying "A man is known by the company he keeps?" Is that the problem here?(I think so. Perhaps the Pharisees thought Jesus was encouraging sinners to remain sinful.)

      2. Read Luke 7:36. What larger picture does this give us of Jesus' dining companions? (Jesus would eat with anyone. He is not imposing character tests.)

      3. When I was young, I was taught (or at least I understood) that if I was involved in sin, God would avoid me. What do these verses suggest about that idea? (God does not run away from sinners.)

    2. Read Luke 15:3-6. What does this teach about God's relationship to sinners? (He not only runs after them, He carries them home!)

      1. In this story, who had the closer relationship with Jesus, the saved sheep or the lost sheep? (Jesus spent more time finding the lost sheep. It was the focus of His attention. The goal, however, was to make the lost sheep like one of the righteous sheep.)

      2. Let's revisit a discussion we had last week about evangelism. Recall that in Matthew 10:14-15 Jesus tells His disciples that if a person will not listen to the gospel message, "shake the dust off your feet" and move on. No chasing and no pestering those who reject the truth. How do you reconcile that instruction with Jesus chasing the lost sheep? (I don't think Jesus' parable of the sheep is about evangelism. I think it is about revealing God's attitude toward sinners.)

    3. Read Luke 15:7. What should be our attitude towards sinners who repent? (We should be overjoyed.)

    4. Back on the issue of evangelism, re-read Luke 15:1. Is Jesus chasing sinners? (No, they are chasing Him. The Pharisees' problem is what should happen once the sinners catch up with Jesus.)

    5. Read Luke 15:8-10. What is the focus of this woman? (Her lost coin.)

      1. As you know from recent lessons, I am fully behind a focus on making the worship service excellent. What does this parable suggest should be the focus of the church? (Both this parable and the parable of the lost sheep place the focus on finding the lost.)

      2. We concluded (or at least I concluded) that the lost sheep story was not about evangelism, it was about God's attitude towards sinners. Do you think that is also true of the lost coin story?

      3. Even if the point of these two stories is to show God's attitude towards sinners, don't these stories say something about evangelism?

  2. Giving It All

    1. As you know, I believe that context in the Bible is exceptionally important. Let's examine the teachings of Jesus that immediately precede His discussion of God's attitude towards sinners. Read Luke 14:28-30. What is the lesson from this story?

    2. Read Luke 14:31-32. What is the lesson from this story? (Both stories teach us to be good planners. We should not enter into a project unless we have considered how best to execute it and whether we have the resources to finish it.)

    3. Read Luke 14:33. Is this a bit jarring? In fact, isn't this conclusion just the opposite of the stories? The tower and the war required the builder and the king to have sufficient resources to finish the job. Jesus now says you should be willing to have no resources! Or, does He?

      1. The very next chapter starts with lessons on our attitude toward sinners. Why? (If we are preoccupied with being "above" sinners so that we avoid them, then we are not giving up our pride.)

    4. Let's move back even further to look at context. Read Luke 14:25-27. Does Jesus teach us to love everyone except our family? (No. The idea of literally hating our family is contrary to the rest of the Bible, including the Fifth Commandment ( Exodus 20:12). I don't think Jesus is telling us to give up our love for our family and replace it with hate. And, I don't think Jesus is telling us to sell everything and replace it with nothing.)

    5. Let's move back even further to look at context. Read Luke 14:16-20. You know this parable because it appears in more than one of the gospels. What prevents these people from coming to the wedding feast? (They are more concerned about the affairs of life.)

      1. Now, tell me what you think Jesus means about "hating" your family, giving up "everything" and eating with sinners? What is the lesson Jesus is trying to teach us? (We cannot let our jobs, hobbies, families or dignity get in the way of advancing the Kingdom of God. The Pharisees did not want to give up their dignity to eat with sinners.)

    6. Read Luke 14:34-35. You have ears, what do you hear? (Christians need to mix with the world. We cannot let our dignity, our sense of superiority, our jobs, hobbies or family get in the way of sharing with the sinners who want to associate with us.)

  3. Lot

    1. Read Genesis 13:8-13. Is this the choice that Jesus is teaching us to make? Move into the wicked cities and set up evangelism centers?

      1. Do you think Lot made this choice to evangelize?

    2. Read Genesis 14:11-12. Lot is literally captured by sinners! Should danger cause us to turn away from city evangelism?

    3. Read Genesis 14:15-16. What does this say about literally fighting the bad guys? What does it say about God's protection for Lot?

      1. Do you notice something different about Lot's residence? (In Genesis 13:12 Lot pitches his tents "near" Sodom. In Genesis 14:12 he is living "in Sodom.")

    4. Read Genesis 19:12-16. What is the real danger of a righteous person (or couple) moving to a place filled with sinners? (The danger is being co-opted by the surrounding evil influences.)

    5. Read Genesis 19:17 and Genesis 19:26. Why did Lot's wife look back? (When I parked my new car and walked away, I would turn around and look at it. Her heart, her life, and her things were in Sodom. She could not resist a last look at her old life.)

  4. John the Baptist

    1. Read Matthew 3:1-3. With the background of our lesson how do you explain John the Baptist? Is he a mingler?

    2. Read Matthew 3:5. Was it a problem that John lived out in the desert? (No. People came to him!)

    3. Think about the differences between Jesus, the Pharisees, John the Baptist and Lot. Can you begin to formulate some rules about reaching sinners? (The Pharisees teach us not to look down on sinners. John teaches us that if we have the right message, sinners will come to us. Lot teaches us that it is dangerous to our property and our salvation to move in with sinners. Jesus teaches us to be available to sinners and be willing to interact with them.)

      1. What should you do differently than you are now to reach sinners?

      2. What are you doing now to reach sinners that seems to be validated by the Bible?

    4. Friend, sharing God's word with sinners is an extremely important work. When sinners come to their senses and turn to God, it causes heaven to rejoice. Will you agree, right now, to formulate a Biblical approach to sharing the gospel and then put it into action?

  5. Next week: Jesus Desired Their Good.
* 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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