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Lesson 11: Living the Advent Hope *

Introduction: If we think that we should live a life in accord with the teachings of the Bible and teach others to do the same, would the end result be a little more heaven on earth? Is that a reasonable belief? Or, is the presence of sin a permanent barrier to heaven on earth? Are Christians properly criticized for leaving the solution to problems to the Second Coming of Jesus? When the Lord asks us to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" ( Matthew 6:9-10), is fixing problems on earth something to be left to God? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. A Moderate Approach

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 8:14? Is there a predictable reward for right living? Will doing what is right bring a heavenly result on earth? (Solomon says that he observes that just the opposite happens sometimes. Bad people get good things and good people get bad things.)

      1. Is that what you have observed, too?

      2. If so, why do you think that is true?

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 8:12-13. Isn't this just the opposite of what we just read? Is Solomon speaking out of both sides of his mouth? (No. King Solomon once again states what any reasonable person has observed. Life is better if you obey God, and worse if you do not. However, there are exceptions that reflect the fact that we live in a sinful world.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 8:15. How does this fit into what we just discussed? Is this the "heaven on earth" goal? (We need to make the best of what we have now. The idea that there is a perfect cause and effect relationship in life is not totally true here on earth. Thus, Solomon explains that obedience to God is the rule, and you should try to enjoy life.)

  2. Bag Men

    1. Read Matthew 25:14-15. Who is the man going on a journey? (This is a parable about Jesus leaving for heaven while His disciples to wait for Him until the Second Coming.)

      1. Why are the servants given differing amounts? (The text says "each according to his ability.")

        1. What does this suggest about humans? (We are created equal in the eyes of God, but God also recognizes that we have different abilities.)

    2. Read Matthew 25:16-18. Do you think the five gold bag man is a more faithful servant than the two bag man?

    3. Read Matthew 25:19-23. Does God treat the man who earned twice as much any differently? (No. We have different talents, but what is important is faithfulness with what we have been given.)

      1. Did you notice the result for these diligent servants? (Happiness!)

    4. Read Matthew 25:24-27. Would it have been sufficient for the one bag guy to have put the money in a bank? (It sounds like it.)

      1. Notice that this one bag guy says that he was "afraid." Afraid of what? Capitalism? Investing? His master?

    5. Read Matthew 25:28-30. What are these bags? Are they money? Are they natural talents? Are they opportunities in life?

      1. Would the one bag man be considered the "least of these" because he had the least amount of bags, and he ended up with no bags?

        1. There are some who say, "If you want to know whose side God is on, find those who are doing poorly, and you can know God is on their side." What does this parable teach about that idea? (It is unreliable.)

      2. What spiritual lesson should we draw from this parable? (God wants us to be diligent with what He has given us.)

      3. What do you think it means to gain more bags of gold? Could that be helping the least of these?

      4. If the one bag guy is the least of these, why does the master take his bag and give it to the guy with the most bags? (I don't think the Bible generally promotes taking from the poor and giving to the rich. But, there is a strong thread in the Bible that disobedience and distrust of God leads to an unsuccessful life. Note what we previously read from Ecclesiastes: these general rules are not always true.)

  3. Hungry, Thirsty, and Sweet Smelling

    1. Read Matthew 25:34-37 and Matthew 25:40. This follows the "gold bags" parable we just studied. Are these two parables related? Are they making the same point? Are they making different points?

      1. Are they teaching us that going to heaven is a matter of multiplying our gold bags and helping the hungry and thirsty?

    2. Read Matthew 26:6-9. Let's assume that the disciples, just like you, were just considering the gold bag and hungry and thirsty parables. Would their conclusion be natural and obvious based on what they just heard? (Absolutely! The woman's "gold bag" just got poured out. The hungry and thirsty are still hungry and thirsty.)

    3. Read Matthew 26:10. How does Jesus characterize the reaction of the disciples? (They are "bothering" this woman. What they say is not correct.)

    4. Read Matthew 26:11. What is Jesus saying about the poor? Is this a problem that has a "heaven on earth" solution? (Jesus tells us that the poor will be a continuing problem on earth.)

    5. Let's step back a minute and re-read Matthew 25:40. What light does this add to this woman's actions? (This woman did not indirectly help Jesus by helping the poor, she directly helped Jesus.)

      1. Did the disciples consider themselves to be poor? Did they consider themselves to be hungry and thirsty? (They don't say that she could have sold this perfume and divided the money among the disciples.)

      2. If the disciples did not consider themselves poor, would they consider Jesus to be poor? (No. If they did, they would not have protested that the value of this could have helped the poor.)

    6. Read Matthew 26:12-13. What is the lesson for us? (Helping the hungry and thirsty is one way to show God's love, but it is not the only way. We can show love to all of those around us, not just those in need of help.)

      1. Let's go back and re-read what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 8:15. Is this the same thing that Jesus is saying to His disciples? Recall that Jesus was "reclining at the table" when the woman poured the perfume on Him.

      2. Are there conclusions about what we have read that we can be rather certain about? (If we are faithful with what we have, God will bless us. Helping the least of these reflects the love of God. Helping our family reflects the love of God. See, 1Timothy 5:4.)

      3. Are there conclusions from this that are less certain? (Solomon's point seems to be moderation. Sure, bad things are going on in the world. But our main focus does not have to be on that. Enjoying life is also important. Some bad things result from disobedience to God, and that creates a perpetual problem.)

      4. Was this unnamed woman being "moderate?" (There is no evidence that she is wealthy, other than having this expensive perfume. She poured it all out on Jesus.)

      5. If you regularly follow these lessons you know I often have you read Malachi 3:10-12. What important point is left unstated here? (Tithe is ten percent. God could have stated it differently, "Keep ninety percent and you will be tremendously blessed.")

        1. Does this support Solomon's approach - enjoy life with your ninety percent?

      6. A song comes to mind, "All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give." Were the lyrics composed by a Bible illiterate? (I understand this to mean that I am one hundred percent devoted to God and doing His will. Determining His will is the reason we are discussing the ninety percent.)

    7. Read Ecclesiastes 3:12 and Ecclesiastes 5:19. How does this combine the idea of happiness and joy and work? (God wants us to have joy in life, even in our work. This tends to explain that the five bag guy enjoyed his work on behalf of God, while the one bag guy was afraid. Advancing the gospel, helping the hungry and thirsty, loving our family, brings happiness.)

    8. Read Matthew 26:14-16. Do you think it is a coincidence that the story of the perfume lady and the story of Judas are next to each other in the Bible?

      1. How is Judas unlike the perfume lady? (She gives generously to Jesus in His last days on earth. He seeks to profit from Jesus' last days.)

        1. What is the lesson for us? Who ended up being happy?

    9. Friend, do not lose sight of the fact that you are saved by grace alone. Faith, not works, is the only way to heaven. It is a fact of life that we act in accord with our beliefs. Jesus' parables teach us that faith changes how we live. Living in accord with our faith generally brings happiness. Will you determine, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to understand God's will for your life and walk in His will?

  4. Next week: To Love Mercy.
* Copr. 2019, 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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