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Lesson 2: Causes of Disunity *

Introduction: Why does God give us His laws? Is it a test to see if we are "good enough" to be saved? Or, good enough to be in a right relationship with Him? Many people think that, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Deuteronomy 4:5-8 tells us that God gives "decrees and laws" to make us "a wise and understanding people." God gives us His directions in life to bless us with a superior life. Living well brings glory to God and to us. Let's dig into our study of the Bible and learn more about God's laws and unity!

  1. Living the High Life!

    1. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-2. What results from paying attention to God's commandments and obeying them? (We are set "high above all the nations on earth.")

      1. Is this still true? Or, was this a promise made only to Israel? (Read Exodus 19:5-6 and Romans 2:28-29. In Exodus 19, the "covenant" for which God is preparing His people is the Ten Commandments. In Romans 2 we learn that we become spiritual Jews if we live a life led by the Holy Spirit. If you believe that the Ten Commandments are still God's road map for your life, and the Holy Spirit helps guide you toward right living, it is illogical to believe that the rewards for right living no longer exist. Rather, the Commandments are the manufacturer's directions for living a superior life.)

    2. Read Deuteronomy 28:3-6. Let's test this idea. Is having children and good crops and good livestock depend on your efforts? Can you see a direct connection to obedience? (We cannot control the weather. They could not control reproduction back then. Thus, we need to acknowledge that these blessings are not simply a mechanical thing - obey and prosper. The kind of prosperity that God describes involves His directed blessings. The most accurate view of this is that God gives us the directions to living a great life, and God intervenes on our behalf to make it even better.)

      1. Do you know people who doubt this? Don't we criticize the religious leaders of Jesus' time because they thought they were better because they obeyed and were blessed? (Every one of us has seen a person who has suffered because of disobedience. An honest observer cannot deny the connection between obedience and better living.)

      2. How do we explain the disciples, Paul and Jesus: didn't they all have a difficult life? (They had some very difficult times, but I think they were also in very specific and unique situations. Imagine what additional difficulties they would have faced if their lives involved regular disobedience to God?)

    3. Let's skip down and read Deuteronomy 28:9-11. Would you like "abundant prosperity?"

      1. Some debate what is meant by "prosperity." What kind of prosperity is God offering? Is it just feeling good about obeying? (Absolutely not. God describes exactly what He means by prosperity: many children and a successful business. If you still are not sure, read Deuteronomy 28:12.)

      2. Do you think that obedience to God is "all about us?" Isn't this an invitation to greed? (These verses identify our good life with our God. By right living and a prosperous result, we bring glory to God.)

      3. I have a friend from years ago who no longer seems concerned about obeying God. She is extremely critical of Joel Osteen, the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, because of his house. He lives in a 17,000 square foot home. Lakewood church averages 52,000 attendees each week! If every pastor lived in a house whose square footage was 1/3 of the number of people who attend his church, would that be a problem?

    4. Since our study is about disunity, what possible connection is there between prosperity and unity? (God's plan was to have a successful and prosperous people who would be a living argument for following the true God of heaven. If this group has similar goals and rules, and if they realize the value of being part of this community, that brings unity.)

  2. Kingdom Division

    1. Read 1 Kings 11:42-43. Was Solomon a great King?

    2. Read 1 Kings 12:1-4. Rehoboam is going to succeed Solomon as King, but it has not yet happened. What do the people ask of him before making him king? (To lower the high taxes.)

    3. Read 1 Kings 12:5. What do you think about Rehoboam's answer to this complaint? (He shows wisdom in not answering immediately.)

    4. Read 1 Kings 12:6-7. What kind of leadership style do the elders recommend to Rehoboam? (Servant leadership. Listen to the people and they will follow you. Rehoboam shows that he wants advice.)

    5. Read 1 Kings 12:8-11. What kind of leadership do the young men recommend? (Ruling through fear.)

    6. Rehoboam accepts the advice of the young men. Let's read 1 Kings 12:16-20. How do the people react to Rehoboam's promise to rule by fear?

    7. Let's go back and read a verse that we skipped. Read 1 Kings 12:15. Who is behind this rebellion? (God.)

      1. If you want to fully understand the background of the promise to Jeroboam, read 1 Kings 11. Later in life, Solomon was unfaithful to God. God promised Jeroboam, as part of the punishment of King Solomon, that Jeroboam would lead ten of the tribes after Solomon's death.

      2. Let's get back to the issue of disunity. What lessons should we learn from our study so far? Let's pose a few questions:

        1. Does success and wealth always lead to unity? (God blessed Solomon - in accordance with the promises we discussed in the first section. But, Solomon's wealth and success caused him to turn away from God. This resulted in harm and disunity in the kingdom.)

        2. What church leadership lessons should we learn? Or, does God's promise to punish Solomon override anything we might learn about leadership? (Rehoboam listened to the advice of those who were selfish and arrogant. These young advisors benefitted from the heavy taxation of the people. God's prosperity blesses all. The evil twin of prosperity, greed, takes money from others. The lesson for church leaders is to be faithful to God, and to avoid improperly burdening members.)

        3. Is rebellion sometimes God's idea? (In this case it was. But, the Bible consistently warns against being a rebel. E.g. Proverbs 24:21-22.)

  3. Church Division

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 1:10. How realistic is this? Can we just tell people to agree? Might there be some debate on the nature of the agreement?

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:11-12. What is the source of the problem? (People have favorite leaders.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 1:13. Paul now gets into his logical argument against division. What is Paul's argument? (That we are all united in Jesus. The role of the Christian leader is to point people to Jesus, not to himself.)

    4. What lesson can we find in this story to help bring unity to the church today? (We need to focus on our unity in Jesus. The person who converted us or baptized us should not be the focus of our spiritual life.)

    5. Read Acts 20:27-31. What other danger to unity exists? ("Savage wolves.")

      1. What is involved in keeping "watch over yourselves and all the flock?" Should we take active measures? If so, what should they be?

    6. Read Matthew 13:24-30. What is Jesus' solution?

      1. What is the meaning of Jesus' warning about "root[ing] up the wheat" while "pulling the weeds?" (Good Christians might not understand all of the issues. For a lot of problems, it is best to just leave it alone.)

      2. What if you have a teacher or preacher that is a "wolf?" (This is a more serious problem than just a weed growing along side wheat. This is like the enemy that sowed the weeds. The church should not financially support the enemy that sows weeds.)

    7. Friend, do you value unity in the church? If not, is it because you do not realize the full blessings of being in unity with Jesus? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to better show you God's will for your life?

  4. Next week: "That They All May Be One."
* Copr. 2018, 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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