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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

"The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats" was the focus of our study last evening.  We saw how the judgement of God will be universal and no one can escape it.  God will divide the people into righteous and unrighteous, depending on their actions or lack of actions in this life.  Whatever we do to other people, whether good or bad, is something we have done to God.  We can rest assured that we will receive the reward or the punishment for what we have done or not done.

Enjoy the notes from our discussion.

January 30, 2012
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
Opening question: What is your favorite farm animal and why?
Today, we are going to look at a parable Jesus taught, which involved farm animals.  The Hebrew society at the time when Jesus walked this earth was mostly agricultural, so the examples he gave of sheep, goats and shepherds were very vivid and pertinent to their lives.  Perhaps there were some shepherds even among the people listening to him as he spoke.
The parable known as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is found in Matthew 25:31-46.  Earlier in this chapter, we find that Jesus has talked about the Kingdom of Heaven by using two other parables.  He is continuing the same thought here.  In this passage, we read:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I would like us to discuss a few things from this parable today.
A.        The Judgment of God is Universal
Many people do not believe in God or do not believe that God will judge all people.  Verses 31-33 tell us that when the Son of Man, that is Jesus, comes, the King, or God, will judge all nations.  Everyone who has ever lived will come in front of God and give an account for what they have done or not.  We can rest assured that all actions that we have done in this life will be made known to God, and we are going to give an account for them.
How does this affect us?
B.        Why are the sheep considered righteous?
Jesus will divide all the people from the nations in two groups.  One of them, the sheep, are considered righteous. 
Why?  What have they done to deserve such a reward as blessings from God and the Kingdom of Heaven?
In verses 35-36, we read that these people had shown kindness to God.  Even though they had not seen God in person, they had done these works (fed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, be friendly to the strangers, giving to the people in need and visiting the sick).  All the people in these categories are in need of something that is difficult for them to meet on their own.  The people who are considered righteous had fulfilled these needs of these people.  God considers these acts of kindness as done toward Him.
What does this tell us?  What does it encourage us to do?
In 1 John 3:16-18, we read that: 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This verse has a direct command for us, that we need to show our love with actions and in truth.
C.        Why are the goats considered unrighteous?
In verses 42-43, we read that these people had not shown kindness and generosity.  They did not do any of the things that the righteous people did.  No reasons are given here and no excuses are accepted.  They just did not love God.
What does this tell us?  What does it encourage us to do?
While we do not see God today, we are still expected to show our faith and love for Him by dong acts of kindness, goodness and generosity toward the people around us, whom we can see.  God sees everything and considers all actions that we do take as actions directed toward Him.  And, at the end, God will give us the reward for our actions or the punishment for our lack of compassion and generosity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Miracles Then and Now

Last evening, we had our first Campus Bible Talk for 2012.  Our topic was "Miracles Then and Now".  We looked and Jesus' and apostles' miracles and their purpose.  We discussed their importance in the initial sharing of the Good News.  Then, we focused on how things changed when the New Testament was completed and how we use the Word of God today to introduce people to Him and to the salvation God offers to all mankind.

Below are the notes of our discussion.

January 9, 2012
Miracles Then and Now
Opening question: Think of something great that has happened lately to you, for which you are truly grateful to God – an answer to your prayers or something you have been seeking for quite some time?
Sometimes people use the word ‘miracle’ to describe something good or great that has happened in their lives.  It could be that they got a job they applied for, their team won a great victory (a cup or a championship) or even when they got to work on time in a busy traffic day.
Today we are going to look at the Bible and talk about miracles.  What were the miracles that the Bible talks about and what about miracles today?
1.         Miracles in the times of Jesus and their purpose
In order to understand the true nature and meaning of miracles, we need to look at the miracles that took place during the times of Jesus and when the New Testament was being written.
In John 11 we find the story of Jesus and Lazarus.  In this story, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, as we read in verses 41-45: 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”  43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”  44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”  45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.
So, we see that a type of miracle that Jesus performed was raising someone, Lazarus in this case, from the dead.  The purpose for this miracle was so that the people could see the power of God and realize that Jesus was sent by God and that’s where His power to perform miracles came from.
John continued saying in John 20:30-31 that: 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Jesus did many other miracles about which we read in the Bible.  He healed sick people, made paralyzed people walk and blind people to see again and healed many people from their evil spirits.
Jesus’ apostles also had the power to perform miracles.  This power, given to them by the Holy Spirit, allowed them to do similar miracles like Jesus for the same reason: so that people may believe they were the messengers of God.
In Acts 1:4-8, we read about the apostles: 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
So, the apostles received the power to work miracles from the Holy Spirit and they went around the world, preaching the Word of God, the Good News of salvation that comes from God and doing miracles to prove to the people that they were truly from God, so that the people could believe in them.
Who else could work miracles besides the apostles?
The power that the Holy Spirit had given to the apostles allowed them also to transfer this power to other believes they considered as worthy to have this power.  These were trusted believes who shared in their work and who could also do good work by using this power.  So, the apostles laid their hands and transferred this power to them.
The expression “laying of hands” in the New Testament most of the time means the transfer of this power.  Occasionally, it means giving people authority, in the same way that today we give someone authority by using a seal or a certified document.
For example, in Acts 8, we read in verses 5-6:  5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  Then, in verse 12: 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.  And then in verses 14-17:  14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
So, the apostles could transfer the power to do miracles to other people, but these other people, in return, could not transfer this power to other people.  Otherwise, Philip would have done so and there would have been no need for Peter and John to go to Samaria.
2.         Miracles today
What about today?  Do we have miracles today?  Does the absence of miracles means that God’s power is not at work today?  How do people believe in God today if they cannot see miracles?
The Apostle Paul warned the Christians in the first century that the gifts that the Holy Spirit could give to people (which besides the healing powers were also the ability to speak in languages they had not learned and the ability to see the future and prophesy about it) would soon end.  He says in 1 Corinthians 13:8:10 that: 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When the last of the people on whom the apostles had laid their hands upon died, so did the miracles, the prophecies and the ability to speak in other languages without first learning them.  But what happened at the same time.  What is the thing that Paul is referring to in verse 10 – the perfect?
The Bible was completed at that time.  Tradition puts some of the books of the New Testament to have been written around 50-60 A.D., about 20 to 30 years after Jesus’ death, during the time when some of the apostles were still alive.  The rest of the books were completed over the next few years. 
When the miracles stopped, the people could read about it in the Bible.  In the early years, many of the people mentioned in books like Acts or the gospels were still alive and people could go and talk to them to check if the things were so.  Today, we have the Bible in the same form and in the same conditions as when it was first written.  Today, we believe in God and in His power to save us by studying the Bible and checking its accounts.  In the same way that someone is judged in a court of law, by listening to the eyewitnesses and people who know about the facts of the story, today we read the accounts of these witnesses, so that we too can be convinced of the miracles that God made and can believe in Him as well.  As we read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This is not to say that God is not at work today.  When we diligently pray, God answers our prayers.  We may not see His answer in a miracle way, like the people living in Jesus’ time did, but God answers prayers.  If it is His will for you to be healed by your disease, you will.  If it is His will for you to get this job or to be admitted to that school, you will get those things.  God is always at work and He always takes care for us and our needs.
There was a time and a place when God chose to use miracles to support the work of His son, Jesus, and His apostles.  This time ended when the last people to whom the apostles had given the power to do miracles dies.  Today, we learn about God and His power to give us salvation from our sins by studying the Bible and by checking its facts for ourselves.