What My Grandbabies Taught Me About Theology

img_45318 ready-to-use, discussion-based Bible lessons on the topic: What My Grandbabies Taught Me About Theology. You might not think that a newborn could teach anything about anything. I mean, what does a baby know? Here is what I learned when I held my grandbaby for the first time:

I learned that I loved this little guy with an unconditional, unearned, unquenchable love. I would die for him. He didn’t have to do anything to get me to love him.

So it is with God. He loves us with an unconditional, unearned, unquenchable love. He did die for us. We don’t have to do anything to get God to love us.

I learned that I only wanted good for my grandbaby. I reflected on my own children and how I had never ever given them a rule that would harm them. I only wanted their good.

So it is with God. The plans He has for us are good plans. The commands He gives us are not burdensome. They are meant to bless us.

These are just two of the 8 truths my grandbabies taught me about theology. This is a great study for any small group, but especially for parents and grandparents.

Lesson #1
I am loved / Zephaniah 3.17; John 3.16

img_4576Lesson #2
God Protects, Even When I Am Not Aware / Psalm 34

Lesson #3
We Are All Sinners / Romans 3.9 – 26

Lesson #4
God’s Commands Are Good Deuteronomy 6.18; 
Hebrews 11.6; 1 John 5.3

Lesson #5
All God’s Children Are Unique 
Psalm 139; Ephesians 2.10

img_8913Lesson #6
Life Is Better When We Get Along
Psalm 133.1; Romans 12.18, 14.15; Hebrews 12.14

Lesson #7
He Has the Whole World In His Hands Matthew 6.25 – 34

Lesson #8
If You Want Something, Ask 
Matthew 7.7 – 11


This study is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Discipline without direction is drudgery

spiritual-disciplinesImagine six-year-old Kevin, whose parents have enrolled him in music lessons. After school every afternoon, he sits in the living room and reluctantly strums “Home on the Range” while watching his buddies play baseball in the park across the street. That’s discipline without direction. It’s drudgery.

Now suppose Kevin is visited by an angel one afternoon during guitar practice. In a vision he’s taken to Carnegie Hall. He’s shown a guitar virtuoso giving a concert. Usually bored by classical music, Kevin is astonished by what he sees and hears. The musician’s fingers dance excitedly on the strings with fluidity and grace. Kevin thinks of how stupid and klunky his hands feel when they halt and stumble over the chords. The virtuoso blends clean, soaring notes into a musical aroma that wafts from his guitar. Kevin remembers the toneless, irritating discord that comes stumbling out of his.

But Kevin is enchanted. His head tilts slightly to one side as he listens. He drinks in everything. He never imagined that anyone could play the guitar like this.

“What do you think, Kevin?” asks the angel.

The answer is a soft, slow, six-year-old’s “W-o-w!”

The vision vanishes, and the angel is again standing in front of Kevin in his living room. “Kevin,” says the angel, “the wonderful musician you saw is you in a few years.” Then pointing at the guitar, the angel declares, “But you must practice!”

Suddenly the angel disappears and Kevin finds himself alone with his guitar. Do you think his attitude toward practice will be different now? As long as he remembers what he’s going to become, Kevin’s discipline will have a direction, a goal that will pull him into the future. Yes, effort will be involved, but you could hardly call it drudgery.

When it comes to discipline in the Christian life, many believers feel as Kevin did toward guitar practice—it’s discipline without direction. Prayer threatens to be drudgery. The practical value of meditation on Scripture seems uncertain. The real purpose of a Discipline like fasting is often unclear.

Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 15–16.


I have prepared a 13-week study of Whitney’s excellent book, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

How to share Jesus like it matters

share-jesus-cover-green400How exactly can we share Jesus with people who do not know Him as Savior and Lord in a biblical, polite, competent manner? According to Jesus, most people are lost and need to be saved:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matt. 7:13-14).

Jesus was saying that the majority of people don’t enter the narrow, small gate (Jesus) or walk on the narrow way that leads to everlasting life (Heaven). Instead, most people enter the wide gate and walk on the broad road in life (a life without Jesus) and spend eternity in “destruction” (Hell). That truth should motivate Christians to share Jesus with lost people.

But how do we identify lost people? If most people are without Christ, then lost people are all around us. Who are they, and how can we recognize them?

Identifying Lost People

When I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1980, one of the Evangelism professors had just died. His name was Oscar Thompson. Dr. Thompson was writing a book entitled, Concentric Circles of Concern. After his death, his wife, Carolyn, helped complete his work in 1981. In that book, the Thompson gave seven strategic, “concentric circles” of relationships that help any believer discover lost people with whom they can share Jesus.

Moving from the innermost circle of one’s “self” to the outermost circle of a person whom we have never met (person “X”), those concentric circles are: (1) self; (2) immediate family; (3) relatives; (4) close friends; (5) neighbors and business associates; (6) acquaintances; and (7) person “X.”

Circle 1—Self. The soul-winner who shares Jesus with lost people must make sure that he himself is saved. It would be a tragedy for someone to tell others how to know Jesus in salvation, only to discover at the end of life that he is not a genuine follower of Christ.

You might say, “That could never happen. Anyone who tells others about Jesus must be saved.” But the Bible clearly teaches that on the day of final judgment, many who think they are saved and en route to Heaven will discover they are not saved and are on their way to Hell.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” According to Jesus, “many” will think they are saved only to discover at the final judgment that they are lost! How dreadful!

Paul urged us to test and examine ourselves to see if we are really saved. He says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”

In chapter 6, we looked at several biblical indicators that assure a person of salvation.

You know you’re saved because the Bible says so. The Bible clearly states that whoever repents, believes in Jesus, and receives Him is saved.

You know you’re saved when you love other Christians.

You know you’re saved when you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

You know you’re saved when you desire to obey God.

You know you’re saved when you desire to read Your Bible.

You know you’re saved when you experience answered prayers.

These tests help you discern whether or not you are saved.

Circle 2—Immediate Family. Most everyone has immediate family members who are lost. Perhaps your spouse is not a Christian. Maybe your children have grown into their teenage years and have not yet trusted Christ as Savior. Maybe your parents or siblings are not saved.

As soon as Andrew became a follower of Jesus, he introduced his brother, Simon (Peter), to Jesus (John 1:35-42). Likewise, when the Philippian jailer received Jesus as Savior, he made sure his family also came to faith in Christ (Acts 16:34).

Circle 3—Relatives. Just as people have immediate family members who are lost, they also have extended family members—uncles, aunts, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and so forth—who are without Christ and need to hear the Gospel.

Years ago my wife began to pray for several of her relatives who did not know Jesus. She felt led to pray especially for one of her uncles who lived far from us. Within a year, he accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord. I’m convinced that my wife’s prayers helped to cultivate the soil of his heart so the seed of the Gospel could bear good fruit (Matt. 13:8, 23).

Circle 4—Friends. Do all of your friends know Jesus as Lord and Savior? One of the most sincere ways of being a good friend is to share Jesus with someone who is lost. It should be natural, especially since that person is someone with whom you already have a connection.

Paul loved his Jewish friends and wanted them to be saved. He said in Romans 9:1-4a, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites.” Paul was willing to forfeit his own salvation (be “accursed, separated from Christ”) if his Jewish friends would come to Christ! Now that is being a real friend!

Circle 5—Neighbors and Business Associates. Our neighbors, coworkers, and classmates provide excellent witnessing opportunities. My mentor in prayer, Don Miller of Fort Worth, Texas, once told me that every Christian should use the acronym, “N.E.W.S.” to share Jesus with his neighbors. It stands for “North, East, West, and South.” Every believer should get to know his neighbors to the north, east, west and south of his home, pray for them, and ask the Lord to give him the opportunity to witness to them.

The same applies to business associates. When I was in seminary, I worked at a grocery store. I made a prayer list of all my fellow employees and began to pray for them. God immediately started opening doors for me to share Jesus, and several of them became Christians!

A great example of witnessing to ones’ neighbors and associates is the Apostle Levi (Matthew). As soon as he began following Jesus, he invited his neighbors and business associates to his home for a meal so they could meet his new Savior, Jesus (Luke 5:27-29). Donna and I have friends who named their son Matthew, praying he will be a person who invites those he knows to Jesus. Matthew has grown into his parents’ vision and prayers; the boy has never met a stranger, and he invites them to Jesus and church!

Anyone can get to know their neighbors and associates at work, school, or other places, begin to pray for them, and then share Jesus as the Lord opens doors for that to happen. And He will open those doors!

Circle 6—Acquaintances. Most every day you interact with others such as bank tellers, store owners, waitresses, etc. These are people you see periodically on an ongoing basis. Write their names down and start praying for them. Ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to witness to them. It will be a fun adventure as you see God prepare the way for you to share Jesus!

Circle 7—Person “X”. This category refers to the stranger you meet for the first time and you sense that God wants you to share Jesus with him or her. God will do that sometimes. Philip had never met the Ethiopian eunuch before, yet God called Philip to share Jesus with him (Acts 8:26f).

Here in Memphis, I go periodically with others from our church to Beale Street to pray for people and share Jesus with them. It always surprises me how many are open to hear our personal testimonies and listen to us share a brief Gospel presentation.

I also embraced a great method of sharing Jesus with strangers back in 2006. A staff member at our church, Phil Newberry, and I were eating lunch at a restaurant. He asked the server to tell us her name. He then said, “We’re about to pray for our meal. Is there any specific way we can pray for you?” She teared up and said, “Yes, there is!” She then gladly gave us her prayer request. Later, we were able to share Jesus, even though before that day we had never met her! I’ve since used that simple witnessing method to share Jesus with hundreds of restaurant servers.

When the Holy Spirit prompts you to witness to someone, even if that person is a stranger, go ahead and do it. That prompting does not come from your sinful, fleshly nature. Nor is it from the devil. Every prompting to share Jesus comes from the Holy Spirit! And it is always good to obey Him.

You do not have to know someone personally to witness to him. You just need to love that person with the love of the Lord.

W. Oscar Thompson, Concentric Circles of Concern (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1981).

From Share Jesus Like It Matters This book is available on Amazon. It is also available at deep discounts by the case at www.auxanopress.com


I have just completed a 12 week Bible study based on this book. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that

correspond
with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Don’t skip this question, even though you might be tempted to

good-questions-have-groups-talkingRecently, I posted an article on, “What does the text say?” questions. There are two reasons we might be tempted to skip these questions.

  • They are not as interesting as later questions
  • We think everyone knows all this already

Dr. Curtis Vaughan told us the story of a preacher he heard one time who began his message this way, “The music went a little long today, we don’t have time to actually read the text. Let me share with you some thoughts I had as I studied this text this week.”

Well, let me share with you an opinion I have about that. If we have a choice between the Word of God and this preacher’s thoughts about the Word of God, I would rather have the Word of God itself. Now, in an ideal world, I would like to have both. I would like to have the text and his thoughts on it, but if I had to choose one or the other, I would take the Bible itself.

We assume people know. Often they don’t. Oh, they have vague ideas about the general theme of the Bible, but if you ask questions with any specificity, you will soon find we are all a little more ignorant than we would like to admit.

I have often asked this question at conferences to illustrate this point. (By the way, this is not some trick question, just a straightforward question of Biblical truth.) How many times did the people of Israel march around Jericho before Jericho fell? Correct answer: thirteen. Once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. I have asked this question to thousands of people in groups over the years and can tell you that there is not one person in a hundred that will get it right. And, the people I am asking are Sunday School teachers, who, presumably, are more biblically literate than are the people they teach. Not one in a hundred of them will get it right. We are all a little more ignorant than we would like to imagine.

You might be thinking, “Well, that is trivia. What difference does it make how many times they marched around Jericho.” True. But, often the power of the word of God is found in details of the text. Here is an example based on a different verse:

But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “ Mark 16:7 [NIV]

Question: Who did the young man tell the ladies to tell about the resurrection?

A picky detail in a way, but one pregnant with meaning. “Tell the disciples and Peter.” Peter, the one who had denied our Lord. Peter, the one who was likely embarrassed and depressed and defeated. Tell Peter. Don’t forget to tell Peter.

Some follow up questions will go like this:

  • Why Peter?
  • What do we learn about God from the inclusion of Peter’s name in this instruction?
  • Do you think of God as a God who cares about you as an individual, as He did Peter as an individual?

All those questions can follow, but we need to get the facts of “and Peter” on the table.

Often the power of the word of God is found in picky details of the text. This is a great insight, by the way, when you are dealing with a passage, like the resurrection story and Christmas story that we look at every year. The passage is so familiar we sometime struggle to find something new to say. When that happens, I always tell myself, “Slow down. Read the text one word at a time.”

We are all a little more ignorant than we would like to admit

Numerous research studies reveal the level of ignorance of people inside and outside the church. Here is one example:[1]

  • Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels
  • Many professing Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples
  • 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments
  • 82 percent of Americans believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse
  • 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife
  • A survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife
  • A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham

“Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.” – George Barna

I heard this story years ago and it is a great example of the idea that we are all a little more ignorant of the Bible that we would like to admit:

An older preacher told the story of a young minister interviewing for his first pastorate. The Pulpit Committee had invited him to come over to their church for the interview. The committee chairman asked, “Son, do you know the Bible pretty good?”

The young minister said, “Yes, pretty good.” The chairman asked, “Which part do you know best?” He responded saying, “I know the New Testament best.” “Which part of the New Testament do you know best,” asked the chairman. The young minister said, “Several parts.” The chairman said, “Well, why don’t you tell us the story of the Prodigal Son.” The young man said, “Fine.”

“There was a man of the Pharisees name Nicodemus, who went down to Jericho by night and he fell upon stony ground and the thorns choked him half to death. “The next morning Solomon and his wife, Gomorrah, came by, and carried him down to the ark for Moses to take care of. But, as he was going through the Eastern Gate into the Ark, he caught his hair in a limb and he hung there forty days and forty nights and he afterwards did hunger. And, the ravens came and fed him.

“The next day, the three wise men came and carried him down to the boat dock and he caught a ship to Nineveh. And when he got there he found Delilah sitting on the wall. He said, “Chunk her down, boys, chunk her down.” And, they said, “How many times shall we chunk her down, till seven time seven?” And he said, “Nay, but seventy times seven.” And they chucked her down four hundred and ninety times.

“And, she burst asunder in their midst. And they picked up twelve baskets of the leftovers. And, in the resurrection whose wife shall she be?”

The Committee chairman suddenly interrupted the young minister and said to the remainder of the committee, “Fellows, I think we ought to ask the church to call him as our minister.

He is awfully young, but he sure does know his Bible.”

We are all a little more ignorant than we would like to imagine. Ask, “What does the text say?” questions. People have to know what the Bible says before they can understand what it means.

By the way, now is a great time to be a group leader. I heard this story years ago in a sermon and wanted to include it in a talk I do called Ten Marks of Incredible Teachers. I could not, however remember enough of the actual story to do it justice. I could not remember where I had heard or read the story. I asked my wife about it. She had heard it as well, but could not get me a foot note. She could, however, remember the phrase, “chunk her down boys.”  I did a search in Google for “chunk her down, boys” remembering to put it in quotations so it searched for this actual string. (If you don’t remember the quotations marks, it may come up with it anyway. Or, you can also use the advanced search tab.) Anyway, I plugged in “chunk her down, boys” and walla! The first entry was this story. Most stories that you have heard in sermons are on the Internet somewhere. Some preacher has included them in his sermon and posted that sermon online. In this way, every story you have ever heard is available, indexed and searchable for your retrieval. What a time to be alive! What a time to be a teacher!

[1]http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/top/bibillit.htm


You can find thousands of Good Questions as part of the Good Question membership series. You can get this and thousands of other lessons for as low as $12 per teacher per year (church plan), or $40 per year for an individual plan. Other plans also available. For more information, see http://mybiblestudylessons.com/

You can buy the book from which this excerpt comes from Amazon.

Slaying the Giant of Procrastination

slaying-the-giants-in-your-lifeBilly Graham was at a hotel in Seattle, fast asleep, when he suddenly woke with a powerful burden to pray for Marilyn Monroe, the actress and sex symbol. Graham understood something of the urgency of the Spirit’s prompting. He began to pray, and the next day the burden was just as strong. He had his assistants try to contact Monroe over the phone, but her agent made it difficult. She was too busy, the man said, but she would meet with the Reverend Graham—sometime. “Not now,” said the agent. “Maybe two weeks from now.”

Two weeks were too little too late. Two weeks later the headlines of America shouted out the news that Marilyn Monroe had committed suicide. She would never have that opportunity to find peace for her soul.

  1. L. Moody, the famous evangelist, was preaching on October 8, 1871, in Chicago. It was one of the largest crowds he ever addressed, and his topic was “What will you do with Jesus?” He focused on the decision that faced Pilate, and Moody concluded by saying, “I wish you would seriously consider this subject, for next Sunday we’ll speak about the cross. Then I’ll ask you, ‘What will you do with Jesus?’ ” The service was closed with a hymn, but the hymn was never completed—the roar of fire engines filled the auditorium. The streets erupted in panic. The famous Chicago fire of 1871 broke out that very night and almost singed Chicago off the map.

That sermon on the cross never came. Moody often said afterward, “I have never since dared to give an audience a week to think of their salvation.” The question haunted him: How many were ready? How many were hearing the voice of God, and would have laid their souls before Christ that evening? How many windows of opportunity closed at the first shrill whine of the fire engine?

As you finish reading this chapter, there is one question that confronts you: What are you waiting for?

David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 12–14.


I have just completed a 6-week Bible study based on this book. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Taking our discipleship as seriously as we take our sports

discipleship-as-sport-front300In recent years, I have also become a tennis dad. Tennis is a sport in which I only dabbled as a child, but now several of my children play competitively. I have grown to love the sport because of the sportsmanship inherent in the game and the fact that it is uniquely grueling and mentally taxing. My second oldest son, Will, says that while he has played baseball, football, and basketball, tennis is the most mentally challenging of them all. My oldest daughter, Lydia Grace, plays competitively, and my favorite match she ever played was one that she lost when she was twelve years old. It was a championship match against a very good opponent, and my daughter’s serve was torturously bad to begin the match. She lost the first set handily, and her opponent’s father began creating drama by yelling and arguing. To make matters worse, she started the second set by breaking a string on the only racket she had. We had to find her another racket to use, and she lost a point because of the delay. Things looked bleak, but she began to battle and won the second set. The match went to a ten-point tiebreaker, and she took an early lead but ended up losing 11–9 in the tiebreaker. I told her after the match that I was kind of glad she lost; I didn’t want her to think that my delight in her tenacity and ability to overcome obstacles was due to her winning.

I could continue recounting stories like these for the entirety of this book, but I will not. Both of the events that I just explained have led to countless conversations about what it means to follow Christ and to serve his church. They are reference points, lessons learned in smaller arenas, that have profound implications when thinking about the ultimate arena of life. My purpose in this book is twofold. First, I will examine sports from a biblical-theological perspective. Second, I will practically examine how sports provide a limited but genuine window that can help us apply our lives to the gospel story revealed in Scripture. I desire for this book to be a valuable resource in helping Christian coaches and players on all levels, from youth leagues to professional, as well as in assisting parents of athletes and fans in thinking biblically and intentionally as Christians about their participation in and enjoyment of sports. Along the way we will keep in mind Theodore Roosevelt’s helpful admonition, “I trust I need not add that in defending athletics I would not for one moment be understood as excusing that perversion of athletics which would make it the end of life instead of merely a means in life.”6

David E. Prince, In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship (Nashville: B&H, 2016).


I have just completed a 5-week Bible Study is a challenge to take your discipleship as seriously as you take your sports. The bible often uses the arena of sports as a metaphor to help us understand Christian discipleship.

Five sessions include:

Surrounded. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12.1 – 3.

Pursuing Holiness. Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:4–6

One thing. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on. Philippians 3:12–14

Run to Win. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24–26

Trained. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things. 1 Timothy 4:8

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that

correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The nature and need of salvation

share-jesus-cover-green400Both the nature of salvation and man’s need for salvation motivate Christians to share Jesus with lost people. Salvation in Jesus is a glorious, gracious gift provided by God for every person. Salvation enables people to live meaningful lives on earth and assures them eternity with God in Heaven after they die. Let’s look at the nature of salvation and man’s need for it.

The Nature of Salvation

God is sovereign. He is in complete control. He is above everyone and everything, lofty and exalted, ruling and reigning over the universe. God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-present), and omniscient (all-knowing). He is eternal, without beginning or end. He is self-sufficient, needing no one or nothing to endure. He created all that exists. He is holy, righteous, and sinless and because he hates sin, He must punish it. Yet this same awesome, imposing, magnificent God is also loving, gracious and merciful toward sinners. He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth in Jesus Christ.

These biblical facts concerning God explain why the nature of salvation must be by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ.

Salvation Is by Grace Alone

Salvation is God’s gracious gift to man. Man is sinful. He cannot save himself or earn his salvation. Man does not deserve salvation. All humans are born with sinful natures. When we reach the point that we comprehend we are breaking God’s laws, we become responsible before God for our sins. We are no longer sinners by nature only, but also sinners by choice.

This is why God must offer salvation by His grace. Grace means that salvation is a gift from God to man. Man is too sinful to earn salvation through good works.

God says through Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is an undeserved gift from God to man, not a payment to man for his religious works. If man could earn his salvation, he would boast about it.

Every other religion apart from Christianity requires man to earn his salvation by working his way up to God. However, God knew that man could never do that because man is are sinful and God is holy. So, when we could not work our way up to God, He graciously came down to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul said in Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

When Jesus came to this earth through the virgin birth, God offered to all sinners His love and forgiveness so He could reconcile them to Himself in salvation by grace alone.

Salvation Is through Faith Alone

The only way sinful man can appropriate and receive the grace of God is through faith. Again, Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Sinful man must trust Jesus to save him. That involves more than assenting intellectually to the facts that Jesus died for sins and rose from the dead. Sinful man must trust that Christ died for his sins and rose from the dead to give him eternal life.

In his renowned Greek commentary, the late Dr. A.T. Robertson, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, made this astute observation regarding the relationship between grace and faith in salvation based on Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace (τῃ γαρ χαριτι [tēi gar chariti]). Explanatory reason. “By the grace” already mentioned in verse 5 and so with the article. Through faith (δια πιστεως [dia pisteōs]). This phrase he adds in repeating what he said in verse 5 to make it plainer. “Grace” is God’s part, “faith” ours. And that (και τουτο [kai touto]). Neuter, not feminine ταυτη [tautē], and so refers not to πιστις [pistis] (feminine) or to χαρις [charis] (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part. Paul shows that salvation does not have its source (ἐξ ὑμων [ex humōn], out of you) in men, but from God. Besides, it is God’s gift (δωρον [dōron]) and not the result of our work.

God gives grace, but it is our responsibility to believe in order to be saved. God does not believe for us!

Salvation Is in Jesus Christ Alone

The object of one’s faith for salvation is crucial. There is only one way to be saved, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not the best way to God; He is the only way to God. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Referring to Jesus, Peter said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under Heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul taught in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” These passages all stress that salvation is in Jesus alone.

Buddha cannot save you. Allah or Mohammed cannot save you. Your religious works cannot save you. Only Jesus can save you. If you don’t know Jesus in salvation, you don’t know God. If you die without knowing Jesus in salvation, you will spend eternity in Hell, not Heaven.

This brings us to our next emphasis—man’s need for salvation.

According to Scripture, why does every man need to be saved?

Man Is a Sinner who Needs a Savior

Every person needs to be saved because each of us is a sinner. We have broken God’s laws. We are spiritual lawbreakers. Our “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). We are born with a sinful nature (Ps. 51:5). By nature, we are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). We have a propensity toward sin.

In time we all choose willfully to sin. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:6, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners who need someone else to save us. The only person who qualifies is Jesus.

A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Eph 2:8. Electronic edition.

From Share Jesus Like It Matters This book is available on Amazon. It is also available at deep discounts by the case at www.auxanopress.com


I have just completed a 12 week Bible study based on this book. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that

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with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The boring but crucial question you must ask in effective Bible study

good-questions-have-groups-talking“We have to know what the Bible says
before we can understand what it means.” 
-Walter Hunt (my dad)

Too often groups want to skip this step. We want to move on to the good stuff–discussion about the nuances of what the text means and how it relates to this theology and that and how it is supported by this cross reference and that and (occasionally) how it can be applied to our lives this way and that. All that is good and we will get to that. But first, we have to know what the Bible says before we can understand what it means.

I remember my first pass at trying to understand the book of Revelation. (I have had several and still don’t understand it. John Calvin wrote a commentary on every book of the New Testament and many of the books of the Old Testament but did not write one on Revelation. He was asked why he did not write one on Revelation. “I don’t understand it” was his simple reply.) Anyway, my first pass was during college and I began reading commentaries and such on Revelation. My dad offered some advice: just read the book. Read it several times, beginning to end. Get to know the book itself. You have to know what the Bible says before you can understand what it means.

Pace

The pace of a question is important to every question. How you ask the question has a lot to do with how the question is answered. If you ask in a crisp, quick tone, people get the idea you want a simple, straightforward answer. You are not looking for a dissertation. You are looking for “yes” or “no” or “he said this” or “she went there.” Short. Simple. To the point.

Imagine you are looking at the resurrection story from John 20. Let’s look at this passage:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 20:2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 20:3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 20:4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 20:5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 20:6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 20:7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 20:8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. John 20:1-8 (NIV)

Before we get into the subtleties of what it means, we might ask a few, “What does the text say” questions. In my online lessons I often provide footnotes to the teacher. These sometimes answer the questions. More often, they explain why I am asking the question. I have provided a few such comments in the footnotes here. In other words, please read the footnotes!

  • Who ran the footrace between Peter and the other disciple?[1]
  • What did the other disciple do when he won the race?
  • Where was the burial cloth that had been used to cover Jesus’ face?
  • What did he (John) do when he did finally go in.[2]

Now, I probably would not ask all these questions in this order quite this way. I am grouping them together here so you can see them all in one place. An actual lesson would mingle these kinds of questions with other questions that we will look at in subsequent chapters. An actual sequence of question might look like this:

  • Who ran the footrace between Peter and the other disciple?
  • What did the other disciple do when he won the race?
  • What does this tell you about Peter?[3]
  • Where was the burial cloth that had been used to cover Jesus’ face?
  • Is the application here that we should fold our clothes and make our bed before we leave the house?[4]
  • What did he (John) do when he did finally go in?[5]
  • What do you think “believe” means in this context? Surely John believed, in some sense, before this. He had been following Jesus for years. What does “believe” mean for John now?[6]

Don’t miss this crucial point. “What does the text say” questions are first in terms of logic and purpose, but they are not all asked first in terms of sequence. Don’t ask too many in a row. They should be interspersed throughout the lesson, especially as we move through the passage into new material. So the sequence might look like this:

  • What does the text say?
  • What does the text mean?
  • What are we going to do about it?

Next section

  • What does the text say?
  • What does the text mean?
  • What does this tell us about God?
  • What does this tell us about Christian living?
  • What are we going to do about it?

Of course, it is rarely that clean. Group life is messy. What you are creating here is a structured conversation. It is a road through the biblical material. Conversations tend to take on a life of their own. Like a road following the contour of the land, the lesson must follow the contour of the biblical text. That is, there are certain rules for asking questions, but these rules are implemented and affected by the actual text itself. Here is statement of the obvious: the text of the Bible should influence its study more than the rules of study. So the text itself influences what questions we ask in what order. The rule is to ask, “What does it say? What does it mean? What do we do about it?” but it is rarely that simple, or implemented that cleanly. If it were, it would do damage to the study of the text, and make the study a whole lot less interesting. Let the Bible itself influence the sequence of questions.

Using “What does the text say” questions to draw out individuals

A good group discussion is inclusive. It involves everyone. This is nearly always a struggle it is rare that everyone speaks the same amount. Usually, you have some real talkers and some that are a little quieter. To some degree this is normal and you shouldn’t try too hard to even things out. But, we can gently push those who are quiet to speak up. We want to train them that they can contribute. But, we want to do this gently because if you push too hard you can easily push them out the door. If they just don’t want to talk, respect their wishes. If they just need a little push, give them a gentle nudge. “What does the text say” questions can be used to do this.

I will often call on people by name when I ask the question. In fact, I will begin the question with their name. “Bob, take a look at verse 8. . .” This brings them out of the coma that we are sometimes in when our mind wanders. It is funny how calling on one person by name tends to get everyone’s attention. I suppose people have an awareness that since you called on Bob, you might call on me next so I had better pay attention. “Bob, take a look at verse 8 and tell me what this other disciple did when he went inside the tomb.” As easy as this question is, Bob will hesitate for a moment. If he hesitates too long, I might give him some further help, “right there at the end of the verse.” If he still struggles, I will answer it for him (this rarely happens), “He believes, right, Bob?” Bob will nod. “So,” I pretend that this was all part of the original question, “What does this tell you about the meaning of the word believe? Surely this disciple–presumably John–believed before now. How is this belief different from the belief he had before?” Now, we make a turn, “Anyone can answer.” I look around the room to let Bob off the hook.

In this way I can push Bob to join the conversation, but not so hard that I embarrass him. Usually, in contrast to the scenario above, Bob does come up with the answer. I have made it fairly easy for him. When he does, an amazing thing happens. His confidence grows. He is more apt to contribute to the conversation now that he has successfully answered this question.

Calling on an individual for “what does the text say” questions has another benefit. It keeps these questions moving along. You don’t want to get bogged down here and, although these are the easiest questions to answer, people often hesitate. The reason people hesitate has to do with the kind of questions people like to answer. People like to answer questions that are on the edge of their knowledge, not in the center. People like to answer questions that they think no one else know the answer to. These questions will inherently be easier than the other questions we will look at. They don’t require a lot of creativity or thought or background knowledge. They just require that you read the passage in front of you. You might even be tempted to skip these questions.


[1]The answer doesn’t need to be long and complicated. One word will do: Peter. Your pace and tone as you ask these questions will suggest to the group that you want this to move along. Someone says, “Peter” you say, “Good, next question.”

[2]Believe.

[3]You might go from here to talk about other examples of Peter’s impulsiveness.

[4]All that from the word “fold”? I’d put this in the category of a jump-ball question that we will look at later. I am not sure that you can draw this much out of the word fold or the idea that Jesus folded this cloth before he left. But, I feel certain that those who believe “cleanliness is next to godliness” may not be in the Bible but should have been will have a hard time admitting that it is not the more spiritual thing to fold your clothes and make your bed before you leave. Here is a follow up question; can you be godly and be a slob? This is why the Bible says that God’s mercies are “new every morning? If you squeeze the passage hard enough, you can always see things you have never seen before. Of course, if you squeeze it hard enough, you may find things in the passage that even God didn’t know were there because He didn’t put them there. As we will see later, truth is nearly always a mid-point between two extremes. There may be some virtue in folding your clothes and making your bed, but I am not sure you can get it out of this passage and it can certainly be taken to an extreme.

[5]He believed.

[6]We will explain this later, but these questions will go a little more slowly. Let people think. What is the difference between believe and this “really believe”?


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You can buy the book from which this excerpt comes from Amazon.

The respectable sin of lack of self-control

respectable-sinsI think of an acquaintance, a committed Christian, who used to consume twelve cans of soda every day. I think of my own craving for ice cream years ago when I would have a dish of it at dinner and another at bedtime. In that situation, God convicted me of my lack of selfcontrol by causing me to see that a seemingly benign practice greatly weakened my self-control in other more critical areas. I learned that we cannot pick and choose the areas of life in which we will exercise self-control.

One of the ways we can exercise self-control is by removing or getting away from whatever tempts us to indulge our desires. In the case of the ice cream, I asked my wife to no longer keep it regularly in the freezer. Instead, we now buy it for specific occasions. Even though I made that decision more than thirty years ago, I still have to exercise self-control. Recently I was on my way to mail a package at a contract post office that is located in an ice cream shop. As I drove, I began to think about having a dish of ice cream. As I wrestled with that strong desire, I concluded that it was a time when I needed to say “no” to myself just for the purpose of keeping that desire under control.

I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on those who enjoy ice cream or soda pop, or even those who go to Starbucks every day for their favorite coffee drink. What I am addressing is our lack of self-control—a tendency to indulge our desires so that they control us, instead of our controlling those desires.

A second area where Christians often show a lack of self-control is with one’s temper. Some believers are known to be hot-tempered or to have a short fuse. A hot temper is a quick but intense burst of anger often followed soon afterward by a calm disposition. A person with a short fuse is a person who tends to become easily angry or irritable and who exercises little or no control over his emotions. Quite often a person who is hot-tempered also has a short fuse. Our expression for such a person is “He easily flies off the handle.”

We will take up anger as a separate subject in a later chapter, but here the focus is on one’s lack of self-control over his anger. Anger, in most instances, is sin, but with the short-tempered person, there is the added sin of a lack of self-control.

Outbursts of temper are usually directed against anyone who displeases us. It may be another driver who cuts us off on the freeway or an umpire who makes a bad call at a church softball game. Unfortunately, it is often directed toward one’s own family members.

There are a number of warnings against a quick temper in Proverbs. For example, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly” (Proverbs 14:17) and “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). In the New Testament, James admonishes us to be “slow to anger” (1:19). Remember, we are to store up God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him (see Psalm 119:11). We can store up these verses from Proverbs and James to help us exercise self-control over our tempers.

A third area where many Christians lack self-control is in the area of personal finances. Recently I heard a national radio speaker say that the average American household has a credit card debt of $7,000. Undoubtedly there are times when an individual or family may get into that kind of debt because of an emergency situation. But the fact that $7,000 is the average debt indicates that Americans are spending beyond their means. As a nation, we are not exercising financial self-control; rather, we are indulging our desires for what we want: new clothes, the latest electronic or digital devices, expensive vacations, and a host of other goods and services that appeal to our desires.

That this is a problem among Christians is attested by the fact that several Christian ministries are dedicated to the purpose of helping Christians get control of their finances. They are simply helping people learn to exercise self-control.

However, it is not just those in debt who fail to exercise self-control over their spending. Many affluent people, including some Christians, indulge themselves in whatever their hearts desire. They are like the writer of Ecclesiastes (presumably Solomon), who said, “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them” (2:10). Indulging in whatever my heart desires, even if I can easily afford it, is not the way to gain that self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit (more on this in chapter 20).

There are other areas in which we may need to learn self-control. I think of the person who spends an inordinate amount of time at his computer, even if not viewing pornography. Other areas would include watching television, impulse buying, engaging in hobbies, and playing or watching various sports. For men, a big need for self-control is over our eyes and thought lives in this age of increasingly immodest dress.

No doubt there are other areas that can easily lend themselves to a lack of self-control, so I encourage you to reflect on your own life. Are there desires, cravings, or emotions that may be out of control to some degree? Remember, this book is about “respectable” or “acceptable” sins, the sins we tolerate in our lives. And because the virtue of self-control receives so little emphasis among Christians, we may find that we, at least in certain areas of life, do lack self-control. As you seek to grow in the area of self-control, remember it is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22–23). It is only by God’s enabling power that we can make any progress.

Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2007), 17–19.


I have written just completed a 6-week Bible study based on this book. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Slaying the Giant of Jealousy

slaying-the-giants-in-your-lifeThere comes a time when we have to stand up and face the giant, and the strategy may be a painful one: We must renounce our jealousy as sin.

Please don’t deal with jealousy as a personality disorder. Avoid thinking of it as a genetic trait you never chose. Don’t ascribe it to social environment or upbringing. The Bible never points to any of those factors to discuss jealousy. The Scriptures do, however, deal with it as sinful disobedience. Galatians 5:20 includes it in a group including “hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions.” That’s a deadly gang, and jealousy can cause each of the other four sins listed there. Paul included envy as a sign of “the debased mind,” describing those who are “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness” (Romans 1:29). Again, an unpleasant roll call of personality traits.

It’s clear from God’s Word, then, that we need to face the sin of jealousy with deadly seriousness. Peter says we are to lay it aside and leave it—to walk away briskly (1 Peter 2:1). James says we will find envy and self-seeking in the places where confusion and every evil thing lurk (James 3:16). Paul wrote to the Romans about jealousy, and he said, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness [lust] and lewdness, not in strife and envy” (Romans 13:13). According to Matthew, it was envy that delivered Jesus Christ to the cross: “For he knew that because of envy, they had delivered Him” (Matthew 27:18). It’s the ace up the devil’s sleeve, the weapon that never fails.

Jealousy and envy, according to the verses we’ve seen, are right up there with lust, lewdness, drunkenness, murder, and evil-mindedness. We can’t afford to dismiss these as personality disorders.

David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 12–14.


I have just completed a 6-week Bible study based on this book. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

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