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The Good Thing or The God Thing?

Everybody had an agenda for Jesus – do you?
Lesson 51 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

– Mark 9:31–32

From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

– Matthew 16:21–25

He began explaining to His disciples the true nature of His mission. He told them that soon He would be given over to the religious leaders and killed. Three days later He would rise from the dead. His disciples heard what He was saying, but they could not bring themselves to embrace the full meaning of His words.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As the end of His earthly ministry neared, Jesus began telling His disciples that soon He would suffer and die, and three days later rise from the dead. From the Mark 9 excerpt above, “they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him,” it is clear that His disciples had no place in their thinking for what Jesus was saying. And what’s more, His words were so hard for them to handle that they feared to ask for an explanation.

The response from Peter in the Matthew excerpt above is even more dramatic. Peter didn’t simply fail to understand, but boldly rejected what Jesus was saying. “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Peter is saying “God forbid it” to Jesus, who is God! Jesus responds to Peter so strongly that it is almost startling. “Get behind Me, Satan …you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Jesus was essentially saying that Satan himself was working through Peter to protest God’s will in action.

Jesus then spoke words that apply not only to Peter, but to everyone who wants to follow Jesus, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

What a contradiction to our natural way of thinking! If you want to save your life, you’ve got to give it up for His sake. This statement challenges the hearer to go far beyond simply acknowledging that Jesus is the Christ (the Deliverer), the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16)! The challenge here is complete abandonment to His will. Continue reading


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Joseph – Submitted to His Purpose

A living example of Romans 8:28.
Lesson 32 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

– Genesis 50:20

Jacob had twelve sons, but there was one son named Joseph whom he loved very much. And Joseph’s brothers were very jealous of him. So they seized Joseph and threw him in a pit. Then they sold Joseph to some traders who were going to a land called Egypt. The brothers dipped Joseph’s clothing in blood, and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild beast.

Joseph entered the land of Egypt as a slave. But in Egypt, God placed Joseph in the service of powerful people. And in time, Joseph was summoned to appear before the ruler of all Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh. Joseph was asked to interpret a dream. God gave Joseph the correct interpretation concerning a great famine that would come upon the earth. The Pharaoh was pleased with Joseph, and so it was that he placed Joseph in authority over the land of Egypt.

Now when the famine came over the earth, Joseph’s family suffered greatly in the land of Canaan. But in Egypt Joseph had filled the storehouses. And even though Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, he still had a deep love for his family. Because of the position God had given Joseph, his entire family was permitted to come and live in Egypt, escaping starvation. And so it was that a people through whom God promised to bless the nations came to dwell in a land that was not their own.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Many Bible students believe that Joseph’s life foreshadows God’s promised Deliverer, who we will soon study in upcoming chapters of The HOPE. In fact, the similarities between Joseph and the promised Deliverer are truly amazing.

Consider that both Joseph and the promised Deliverer …1

As we study the lives of Joseph and the promised Deliverer, we see another similarity, one that allowed all the similarities listed above to be manifested. Both Joseph and the promised Deliverer were submitted to a purpose that was not their own doing. They understood that their lives were part of a greater plan, and they co–operated with that plan. In  John 6:38, the words of the promised Deliverer are recorded, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

In Joseph we recognize the evidence of a purposeful divine influence guiding the events of his life. Like a leaf that has fallen into a great river, Joseph’s life was moved by the powerful flow of a divine current. And with each event that came into his life (even the difficult ones), Joseph submitted to that flow rather than resisting it. God used Joseph’s life to accomplish exactly what He had planned beforehand, bringing good to Joseph and to others, and glory to Himself.

ASK & REFLECT

  •  From Joseph’s life, what can we learn about God and about our relationship with Him?
  •  Why do you think God would orchestrate Joseph’s life to have so many similarities with the life of God’s promised Deliverer?
  •  God creates every person with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). In retrospect it is not difficult for us to recognize the purpose of Joseph’s life, but what about Joseph himself? Do you think that Joseph always understood the purpose of his life, or the reason for the events that came into his life?

DECIDE & DO

You may not yet know the purpose of your life or the things that come into your life, but you can know the One who gives purpose to your life. And like Joseph, in every circumstance you can submit to the flow of His divine current in your life.

Do you know God like Joseph knew Him? Are you confident of His guiding presence? If not, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study guide.

Has God brought a difficult circumstance into your life? If so, follow the example of Joseph. See it as an opportunity for God to work in and through you, bringing good to you and others and glory to Himself. For “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Footnotes

1Some of this listing was suggested by “Parallels between Joseph and Jesus,” Life Application Study Bible: New International Version. (Tyndale House Publishers, 1997).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB


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The Certain End of the Great War

God will one day vanquish Satan, sin and death forever!
Lesson 15 from The HOPE Study Guide

Introduction

Our adversary, Satan, seeks to usurp God’s power and thwart God’s purposes in our lives. But the Bible is clear, Satan will not win his war against God. The last word belongs to God, and God alone. The HOPE says it like this:

Satan cannot defeat God, for God is all–powerful. And the day will come when Satan and all the demons will be thrown into the place of eternal torment God has prepared for them, a place called the lake of fire. But until then, Satan will do all he can to hurt God by attempting to destroy that which God loves.

– The HOPE, Chapter 2

Observe & Consider

The final book of the Bible tells us of a day when Satan will be cast into a lake of fire forever.1 In that same book we learn that after Satan is vanquished, God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

What a day that will be! Do you long for it? Does a world without suffering, sorrow or death even seem possible to you? According to God, not only is it possible, it is certain. From your current vantage point, particularly if the place you’re in is filled with pain, it may be hard to even imagine such a day. But God sees what we cannot see. He has a different vantage point.

Consider this illustration. Tapestry is a form of textile art, where many threads are interlaced or woven on a loom. If you look at a finished tapestry from front side, it may depict a beautiful design or scene. But if you turn the canvas over to the backside, the yarns will often look completely chaotic. It may appear to have no resemblance at all to the image on the front side. The backside can be ugly. Continue reading