Overarching theme: Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.
Instructions: When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.
Core Point: We are focusing on the words and actions of people as they follow Jesus as disciples. The salient point of this series is that as Christians we are called into community with other believers to be a holy nation representing the grace and love of God in the world by both word and deed. This will be the final week for this series.
Start point: This week, the scripture focus is found in the Letter of Ephesians. This letter was written by Paul to the church and surrounding people of Ephesus sometime around 60 A.D. Paul wrote this letter from jail, and probably wrote the letter to the Colossians about this same time. Paul’s ministry at Ephesus totaled about 3 years, so he was very knowledgeable about their needs and issues. Ephesus was the most important city in western Asia Minor having a harbor that opened into the Cayster River. That river emptied into the Aegean Sea making accessible by ship very easy. Consequently, the city was an intersection of major trade routes, and a strong commercial center. It boasted a pagan temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana, or Artemis in Greek, which served the fertility religion of its time. Paul wrote to expand the horizons of his readers, so that they might understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2) and come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church.
Reflect on this Scripture:
Ephesians 4:17-5:2 (NRSV)
17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you from this passage?
What does it mean when the author encourages one to put on the new self?
What does it mean to not let the sun go down on your anger and not sin?
How do you see yourself as living in holiness and true righteousness, or not?
How does forgiveness work in your life and with those you forgive?
What in your life holds you back from experiencing forgiveness? What do you need to get rid of in your life in order to live in forgiveness?
On the last day of this Sunday series, Words of Wisdom, we finish with where we started. The words we speak and the attitude in which we convey them show what is in our heart. If bad is in the heart, then bad will come out of the mouth. Conversely, if good is in the heart, then good will come out of the mouth. Following the text, we find Paul encouraging the followers to stop doing the bad stuff they did when they were not a follower. So, stop being ignorant, hard hearted, greedy, lustful, and allowing the devil to have influence over life. Realize, your mouth can have cursing, slander, and bitterness that reflects the pain in your heart. That is not what God and Paul want for us. God desires us to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, and imitators of God. Basically, God desires the followers to embrace a new form of living that relies on the heart instead of just the mind. Be transformed by the renewing of the mind. The body and its activity will follow where the mind goes. Allow your heart, changed by Christ, to rule over you mind to change your words and behavior to show who you are as God’s follower. One of the most important aspects of living into being a new creation is forgiveness. Forgiveness sets the record clean. When someone forgives, it helps the mind and the heart release the hold of a transgression suffered. Many times, forgiveness helps the person who was offended by releasing them from holding something detrimental. Forgiveness is a powerful activity if lived out in someone’s life.
Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:
Would you share a time in your life when you were either forgiven by someone, or you forgave someone? What was that like? What was the positive outcome?
Is forgiving the same or different as forgetting?
What would it look like if you had a forgiving nature?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
1. Memorize and internalize this scripture: Ephesians 4:22-24 (NRSV)
“22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
2. This week, focus on how you can develop a forgiving nature in regards to other people and yourself so you can help build a stronger community around you.
3. Sign up for “the People’s Supper” dinner and training Wednesday, September 11, 6:30-7:30 pm in Wesley Hall. Make an investment in building community (Social Meaning) this week.