Sunday School Lessons

Explore the Bible Lesson for September 2: True Gospel

August 21 2018 by Anteneshia Sanders, member, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham

Focal passage: Galatians 1:1-10
Who doesn’t love getting gifts? defines the word gift as “something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned.” When someone decides to give a gift, they don’t expect the recipient to earn it – then it wouldn’t really be a gift.
Paul wrote to the Galatian churches after hearing that some of them were doing just that – trying to earn something that had been freely given to them. False teachers had begun to convince them that they had to obey Jewish laws to be saved. In his letter, Paul reminds the Galatian believers that only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross could make them righteous before God.
For anyone to know the truth about Jesus and turn away from it was unfathomable to Paul. He highlights the absurdity of this by saying he was “astonished” (Galatians 1:6). He goes on to say that any gospel other than that of Jesus’ death and resurrection was a false gospel and those who preach it were cursed. While his words may sound harsh, they only highlight the seriousness of believing we can attain salvation on our own.
Our culture esteems those who work the hardest. We measure success by what we attain from our work. And there’s nothing like working hard for what you want. But when this idea seeps into our understanding of salvation, then we’re in trouble.
There is no amount of praying, Bible reading, fasting or church-going that will amount to Jesus’ death in our place.
Trying to earn the grace we have in Christ is legalism. We must guard ourselves from the temptation of believing works can save us.
Paul’s greeting at the beginning of his letter reminds us that grace and peace are only found by resting in Christ’s finished work on our behalf. This is Good News! Jesus did everything required for our righteousness. We can know true grace. We can know true peace. Salvation is a gift that is ours if we receive it.

8/21/2018 10:32:59 AM by Anteneshia Sanders, member, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 2: Reality Check

August 21 2018 by Tyler Frank, young adult pastor, Biltmore Church, Arden

Focal passage: Titus 3:3-11
At my house, we have a welcome mat with a pineapple on it. This is a traditional symbol of hospitality – in the South! We use this simple piece of material to greet our guests as they enter our home.
Like a welcome mat, our lives should greet others with the gospel. In the book of Titus, Paul is instructing Titus to develop church leaders and to encourage the believers to live in harmony both with each other and non-believers.
In chapter three, Paul shows that Jesus in the gospel welcomed us (vv. 4-5), and therefore our lives must reflect the good news with good works (v. 8). Because of His goodness and love, we can then devote ourselves to showing others the same. A fruit of the gospel, then, is the proud display of good works for all to see!
Before we begin to see ourselves as a welcome mat, it’s important to also see what Paul says before verse four. Paul describes the unconverted person as foolish, disobedient, a slave, full of malice and envy, and hating everyone. That’s the worst welcome mat ever!
However, this stands in direct contrast to the next verse. Jesus, in the gospel, is the one who saves, washes, renews and justifies us. Washed and renewed people are the type of people God can use! God welcomes us so that we can welcome others.
Does your life welcome others to God? When the gospel is at the center, we can “devote ourselves to good works” (v. 8) so others may see God through our lives. God’s good work is the foundation for our good works.
In the end, this is the way of Jesus (Matthew 5:16). We must let our lights (lives) shine before others – with the purpose that they glorify God and receive that gospel that has appeared (Titus 3:4). With the gospel as our home, may our lives be the welcome mat that beckons others to come in and join.

8/21/2018 10:32:48 AM by Tyler Frank, young adult pastor, Biltmore Church, Arden | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 26: Disciplined

August 9 2018 by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal passages: 2 Samuel 24:10-25
Deep regret struck David after issuing his order to count all his fighting men. It may have been pride in marveling at the size of his army or unfaithfulness by trusting in human might over God’s power. He was right to confess his sins as soon as he became aware, something that all believers should do.
We learn from 24:1 that “the anger of the Lord burned against Israel,” which is why He incited David to take the census. God was committed to the holiness of His people and would not retract from disciplining them with consequences for their sins; 70,000 people died as a consequence of the plague, proving that sin always carries consequences.
Still, believers can experience God’s gracious compassion and reach the point of humility that He wants for them. David was given three choices of discipline and he ruled out the one that dealt with him personally (2 Samuel 24:14). However, when he sees the angel striking down the people, he owns up to his personal responsibility as Israel’s shepherd (2 Samuel 24:17). David humbled himself and called on God to take his life instead.
Our Good Shepherd laid down His life to absorb the consequences of sin. God’s justice requires punishment, but His mercy provides a way for peace. In response, believers should follow the way of David who offered his best to God. He said “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).
True repentance costs. If it is easy and nothing changes, then it probably doesn’t represent the kind of life change that true repentance brings. In the end David purchased the land upon which Solomon’s great temple would eventually be built; on the site where the Lord relented from striking down the people.
Christians can joyously look to the cross of Christ where God’s love was poured out in another act of mercy, where a final sacrifice for sins would be offered and the temple veil torn in two.

8/9/2018 11:22:07 AM by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 26: Praise

August 9 2018 by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia

Focal passage: Nehemiah 8:9-12; 12:27-31a
Serving God includes celebrating His great work. On Friday mornings you can almost always spot me purchasing an overpriced latté at the drive-thru of my favorite coffee shop.
I know I can make delicious coffee at home for a fraction of the price, but sometimes you just need to celebrate making it through the week!
All the way to work and for most of the morning, as I sip my caffeinated treat, I’m reminded of how thankful I am for the challenges I’ve overcome and the relaxing weekend ahead. I love to celebrate my job success, but Nehemiah and the people in Jerusalem are an example to us of how we should always remember to celebrate the great work God chooses to do in and through us as we serve Him.
After the completion of the wall in Jerusalem, Ezra the priest read the book of the Law to the people.
As those listening began to hear and understand, they worshipped and repented, convicted of their sin. This was a good and right response to God’s holiness, and yet, the Levites instructed the people to stop mourning. Instead, they said, “do not grieve because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold” (Nehemiah 8:10).
The people responded with repentance and celebration when the Law was read. And then later, when the wall of Jerusalem was dedicated to God, a joyous celebration began.
Musicians from throughout the region gathered to sing and play for God’s glory.
The priests purified themselves, the people, the gates and the wall.
Then Nehemiah brought the leaders to the top of the wall and “appointed two large processions that gave thanks” (Nehemiah 12:31).
Perhaps you don’t like overpriced lattés; I’m not suggesting you join me in my weekly splurge.  But these men and women were not merely celebrating the end of a challenging work week.
They were celebrating the One who had provided for and protected them as they followed His plan in obedience.
As we serve the Lord, let’s be intentional to celebrate Him – the One who made us and called us and allows us to participate in His great work.

8/9/2018 11:21:59 AM by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 19: Thankful

August 7 2018 by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal passages: 2 Samuel 22:26-36, 50-51
David’s song of praise in this passage echoes Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10). It frames all God’s work in and through Israel with thankfulness. The Davidic dynasty is only a chapter in the larger story of God redeeming sinful people to Himself, reuniting them to His family and restoring them for a new creation.
Only God could have chosen a single people, Israel, out of all the nations so that they would become a light to all the nations. There is no other way they could have overcome their oppressors in Egypt, conquered their enemies in Canaan and established their kingdom without God’s powerful and gracious hand.
Every promise is fulfilled in this psalm, and the reason given is God’s character. In particular, verses 26-29 describe His holiness. He is just in His dealings with all people, acting true according to His character.
David even meditates on the sweetness of God’s character, calling Him a guiding light, when we know God’s holiness can also be fiercely intimidating.
The Lord proved His character to David through consistent action; the Lord, and no other, is the one true God and the Rock (2 Samuel 22:32). Every muscle and instrument for war was supported by His divine enabling to make David strong to fight the Lord’s battles. By expressing his reliance upon God, David was saying that everything he accomplished in life was owing to God’s working through him.
Believers today can read this psalm as more than a historical work, because it’s not just about the past but the future, too. The Lord who lives has chosen a King and Messiah to win great victories and to reign forever.
All the blessings experienced by David would be multiplied when his offspring, or seed (Galatians 3:16), is revealed in Jesus Christ. We should thank God for providing for our salvation through His Son, Jesus.

8/7/2018 11:16:15 AM by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 19: Prioritize

August 7 2018 by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia

Focal passage: Nehemiah 6:1-3, 15-16; 8:1-3, 5-8
God’s Word must be central to our lives to truly serve Him. My grandmother’s kitchen is filled with beautiful memories. It’s been over a decade, but I still recall family dinners overflowing with laughter, lessons in making the perfect gravy and the delights of taste testing homemade pickles.
One of my favorite moments was the year she baked the sweetest cornbread I have ever tasted.
When baking, one must remain focused and pay careful attention to each detail of a recipe. Omitting just one ingredient or changing just one amount may result in disaster. In the same way, when serving God, one must determine to make God’s Word central to all of life and ministry.
In a world where distractions are numerous, we must remain focused on God’s call. As Nehemiah rebuilt the Jerusalem wall, many men attempted to distract him from his work. In response to requests that Nehemiah leave the project to meet with them, he asked, “Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).
Serving God also requires that we pay careful attention to His Word. After the completion of the wall, all the people gathered in the public square. As Ezra the priest read the Law of Moses for multiple hours, “all the people listened attentively” (Nehemiah 8:3).
And yet, simply hearing God’s Word was insufficient. The people in Jerusalem did not merely listen. Instead, they responded with worship and a longing to understand. Some “knelt low and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6). Others listened as Levites translated and taught the meaning of the words being read.
On the day my grandmother baked her infamous sweet cornbread, my family decided to examine her recipe. It took just moments to discover her error. My grandmother had followed the recipe incorrectly, and instead of cornbread, we were eating yellow cake!
If we want to bake successfully, we must pay close attention to every detail of the recipe. If we desire to truly serve God, we must devote our lives to studying His Word, allowing Him to transform our lives as we seek His will.

8/7/2018 11:15:54 AM by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 12: Resolved

July 26 2018 by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal passages: 2 Samuel 21:1-6, 10-14
The agricultural cycle was intricately woven into Israel’s life, so imagine the disruption caused by a three-year famine. In the Bible, famine stories provoke strong emotions of fear, suspense, longing and questioning.
Abraham, Isaac and Joseph were all affected by famines, and the book of Ruth describes God providing in the midst of a famine. In some cases, scripture clearly states that famines were used by God to chastise Israel or other nations (Deuteronomy 28:22-42; 2 Kings 8; Amos 8:11.)
Whether a famine is a trial permitted by God in the course of life in a broken world, or something sent by God in the course of practicing justice and discipline, the example we receive from these stories is to seek God’s favor.
We learn from David’s encounter with the Gibeonites in 2 Samuel 21 that God provides direction and strength when His people face trying times. David “sought the face of the Lord,” and was told that an oath had been broken between God’s people and a neighboring people, and for this reason a famine had been sent. It was not God’s intent to destroy Israel for this sin, rather He was disciplining them with a view toward redemption. The Lord’s reputation of being righteous and just was at stake if He did not act with justice toward all people (Joshua 9:1-15).
Prayer enables God’s people to endure even the most difficult times. Once again the land produces its harvest after addressing the complaints of the Gibeonites. This resolution comes as an answer to many prayers on behalf of the land (2 Samuel 21:14). So then, prayer in the midst of trials should lead us closer to God’s will for our lives, and sustain us while we endure difficult days.
Remember, it is not always the case that trials represent God’s discipline (Matthew 5:11-12; James 1:2), so we must seek the Lord’s face to understand how He may be using trials to sanctify us and glorify Himself. 

7/26/2018 12:38:13 PM by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 12: Protect

July 26 2018 by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia

Focal passage: Nehemiah 5:1-13
As Christians, we cannot separate who we are from what we do.
A few months ago, one of my friends was caught in a terribly cold rainstorm on the grounds of Duke University. Although she made her way to the campus store and had access to a vast supply of Blue Devil umbrellas and rain gear, my friend chose to risk pneumonia instead of making a purchase.
You might be wondering why someone would do such a thing. Well, my friend loves the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. As a Tar Heel fan, it would go against her very identity to wear royal blue. My friend would rather end up at urgent care than break her allegiance to her favorite college team.
As Christians, our allegiance is to Christ. We are to honor Him in all areas of our life. And yet, we are often tempted to live and act in ways that do not bring Him glory. 
Nehemiah faced this same challenge while rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem. He and other officials were obedient to God’s direction in reconstruction efforts, but at the same time they were exacting unfair interest from their fellow countrymen. These leaders claimed allegiance to God while taking advantage of the vulnerable in their own communities.
After listening to the outcry of the people, Nehemiah realized these actions were not right. He understood that how we treat others is a reflection of how we honor God. He asked the officials, “Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God and not invite the reproach of our foreign enemies?” (Nehemiah 5:9). Nehemiah and his companions repented of their sin and committed to honoring God in the way they treated the less fortunate in their community. 
My friend in the rainstorm was acutely aware that even purchasing a Duke umbrella would distort her identity as a Tarheel fan. Nehemiah realized that by exacting unfair interest, he was distorting his witness to the foreigners around him.
As Christians, we must be quick to repent when we realize our actions do not faithfully represent the God we serve. In doing so, we protect our fellowship with God and proclaim our devotion to His Kingdom.

7/26/2018 12:38:00 PM by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia | with 0 comments

Explore the Bible Lesson for August 5: Averted

July 24 2018 by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

Focal passages: 2 Samuel 20:1-2, 14-21
The trumpet sounds twice in this story of near civil war within David’s kingdom. The first trumpet sounds when Sheba, a known troublemaker, calls “every man to his tent, Israel” (2 Samuel 20:1). The second trumpet sounds when Joab, the fierce military commander, declares victory over the rebel and calls every soldier back to his home (20:22).
Right on the heels of Absalom’s rebellion, this conflict carries forward Israel’s narrative with gloomy foreshadowing of a divided kingdom between the northern tribes and Judah. In the case of Sheba’s rebellion, the crisis is averted thanks to God’s wisdom given through a wise woman to Joab. Calling her townspeople “the peaceful and faithful in Israel,” she negotiates a truce with the attacking forces in exchange for Sheba’s life.
Psalm 34:14 says, “Turn from evil and do good: seek peace and pursue it.” In numerous places in scripture, Christians are called to live at peace with one another, and not to pursue quarrels.
This does not equate to an avoidance of conflict, although conflict is actually a healthy component in relationships. Nor does it disallow sharing alternative viewpoints through debate and dialogue, even with authority figures.
Rather, we learn from this passage that sin leads to questioning God’s provisions and leaders, which can result in terrible consequences for God’s people and their mission in the world. This is precisely the reason why scripture issues such a strong warning against stirring up discord and conflict among God’s people.
Called out from among all the peoples on the earth, Israel was chosen by God to represent Him to the world. This kingdom of priests was blessed in order to be a blessing, culminating in the Savior being born out of the line of David.
May we all consider in our own day how to protect the priority of the gospel against turmoil, grumbling and infighting by gospel messengers.

7/24/2018 12:00:12 PM by Logan Sides, local missions director, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem | with 0 comments

Bible Studies for Life Lesson for August 5: Persist

July 24 2018 by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia

Focal passages: Nehemiah 4:1-3, 6-9, 14-18
Doing God’s work brings out detractors and opposition. As I write, a rescue operation is underway in Thailand to free 12 young soccer players and their coach. The team has been trapped by monsoon rains in an extensive cave system for almost two weeks and can only be reached by professional divers.
These rescue workers face daunting obstacles. The cave is narrow, oxygen is scarce and several boys cannot even swim. The task ahead seems almost impossible.
We may not have our diving certification, but as followers of God, we too have been given a great task. We are to obey God by serving Him and proclaiming His salvation. And, like the experts in Thailand, we must expect great challenges.
Nehemiah’s persistence in the face of opposition is an example to us of how to respond in times of trial. As Nehemiah and the people of God rebuilt the wall in Jerusalem, they were mocked by those around them. Some asked, “What are these pathetic Jews doing?” (Nehemiah 4:2). Others predicted the wall would never be built successfully.
The workers at the Jerusalem wall were not surprised by such derision. Instead, they sought God in prayer and kept building, positioning guards around the wall for protection both day and night. When we face opposition while working for God, we must prayerfully commit our work to the Lord and continue in faithful obedience.
The workers on the wall also vigilantly prepared for opposition. Laborers knew danger could be imminent, so they “worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other” (Nehemiah 4:17).
When we work for God, we must be prepared to face the dangers before us. Instead of cowering in self-preservation, we must press on, trusting the One who has called us to work.
The divers in Thailand are persistent. Instead of giving up, they delivered medication, taught the boys to swim, and lined the tunnels with oxygen tanks. As followers of God, we must be persistent in our work as well, trusting in the faithfulness of the One who has called us to serve.

7/24/2018 11:59:45 AM by Emily Kistler, member, Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia | with 0 comments

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