Week 3- #RelationshipGoals
We win because Jesus has already won!
Have you ever had to confront someone about something they did wrong? How did it go? How do most people respond when confronted with wrongdoing? Why?
Why don’t people generally like to take responsibility for their actions that harm others?
As sinners, we all do wrong, but seldom do we like to take responsibility for our wrongs. It’s part of our fallen human nature. As we’ll discover today, it’s been an issue since sin entered the world in Genesis 3. We blur, downgrade, and redefine truth to the point that we no longer recognize it as such and, therefore, believe lies.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Read GENESIS 3:1-7.
The irony of this scene is heavy. The Bible began with God speaking all things into existence—including the serpent. And now the serpent that was created by the word of God has questioned the authority of the One whose word created him! With one subtle question, “Did God really say?,” He usurped the clearly communicated word of God. The serpent knew that if Eve doubted the source of the command, she would disregard the command itself.
Let’s begin by comparing Genesis 2:16-17 with this passage. What did God really say? What did Eve change? What contradictions and lies did the serpent make?
What are some examples of how we change or redefine God’s commands as Eve did?
How are we tempted or deceived by influences that give similarly twisted messages? What are some examples?
In his attempt to deceive and tempt, the serpent (Satan) directly contradicted God’s words, cast doubt on God’s sincerity, and spoke partial truth. As this conversation unfolded, Eve’s own doubts emerged in the form of her adding a harsh exaggeration to God’s word. Eve belittled God’s word by adding to it. Her addition to the word of God misrepresented God as a harsh taskmaster.
When have you been forced to answer the question “Did God really say?” How did you respond to the temptation to distrust God?
What does the serpent say about God’s command in verses 4 and 5? What does he imply about God’s character?
When Satan can’t get us to undermine God’s Word through outright unbelief, he will try to get us to undermine it through misplaced trust. From this account we learn that one of the great dangers we face when handling the Word of God is the temptation to place ourselves in the seat of authority over it. What started as subtle skepticism became outright rebellion. Satan implied that God is a liar. Furthermore, he undermined the character of God by leading Adam and Eve to believe that God was withholding goodness from them.
Read Ephesians 6:10-20.
Why is it so easy to underestimate our spiritual enemies? Why is that something we must never do?
How have you become more aware that our battle is not against flesh and blood? How should that awareness influence how and who we fight?
Scripture does not go into a lot of detail about the dynamics of spiritual warfare, but it clearly indicates that spiritual warfare is very real and that believers need to be ready to do battle with Satan and his demons on a daily basis. Satan considers the mind of the believer to be territory he can use and control, even though it belongs to God. Thus, the battle for the mind is never over in this life.
What must a believer do to be strengthened by the Lord? How would you face each day differently if you recognized you were always under attack?
According to Ephesians 6:10-12, are believers expected to hunt down and destroy evil? Why or why not?
Why is it a struggle to keep our spiritual armor on at all times? How does knowing that the battle has already been won affect the way you fight?
Why is each piece of God’s armor so valuable? Which parts are defensive weapons? Offensive?
What are the spiritual realities that coincide with the soldier’s belt, body armor, and boots (vv. 14-15)?
Identify practical ways we put on truth, righteousness, and peace. How do these keep us prepared to battle evil and Satan?
What are the spiritual realities that coincide with the soldier’s shield, helmet, and sword (vv. 16-17)?
Identify practical ways we take up faith, salvation, and the Word of God. How do these keep us prepared to battle evil and Satan?
Which of these three actions (active trust in God’s power; hope of future salvation; applying God’s Word to the situation) is the most challenging for you? Why?
In their culture, the Ephesians would have been familiar with armor, as the Roman guards were visible all over the empire. Paul used a familiar sight as an analogy for the Christian life and the battle we must all fight. When we accepted Christ, we joined an army of Christian soldiers. We can trust that we haven’t been sent into battle unprepared. God has given us everything we need, but we must choose to utilize the things He’s supplied to keep us safe.
What role does prayer play in accessing the armor of God? How does prayer prepare us to resist the evil in this world?
How can we stay alert and persevere in prayer? How does prayer keep us alert and persevering?
How is the work of Christ on the cross a game-changer for Christians when we think about sin and death, the consequences of the fall?
In your own life, where might you be tempted to blur the lines of sin, to downgrade the issue, or even redefine it as something other than sin within yourself and your relationships?
Finish your time in prayer. Give group members an opportunity to privately resolve to confess to God any sins they are aware of. After a few minutes of silence, conclude with prayer asking for God’s forgiveness and thanking Him for His grace and mercy.
The woman’s claim goes beyond anything recorded in God’s instructions to Adam. Therefore it seems that Adam had given his wife an additional command beyond what God said, or else Eve herself exaggerated the command as Satan tempted her to view God as selfish and overly restrictive. The serpent, recognizing the woman’s confusion, found a point of attack. Knowing that the woman would not die by merely touching the fruit, he boldly contradicted what she had reported to be God’s command. He then skillfully lied by distorting God’s word, implying that God had prohibited people from eating the fruit only to keep them from becoming as knowledgeable as He. The woman was now fully deceived.
Since the woman did not die when she touched the fruit—in contradiction to what she had thought God said (v. 3.)—she ate it. Though Adam was with her at the time, he did nothing to stop her. Perhaps he wanted to eat of it as much as the woman did, but fearing the consequences, used his wife as a “guinea pig” to make sure it would not cause instant death. As the serpent had indicated, the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew, but instead of producing godlike power, the knowledge brought only a sense of human inadequacy, fear, and shame.
God took the initiative in reaching out to sinful humanity. This pattern—humanity sinning, then God seeking out sinners—becomes the primary theme of the rest of the Bible. Its ultimate expression is found in Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save people alienated from God because of their sin; in Him God once again walked on the earth in search of sinners.
When Adam heard God, he was afraid. Rather than walking with God as righteous men of later generations would do, Adam hid from Him. Through the use of two direct questions God brought Adam to accountability for his sin (v. 11). God does not overlook sin, but He can be gently firm in confronting it. Adam answered neither of God’s questions. Instead he sought to shift the blame for his sin first to the woman, and then to God. The woman passed the blame to the serpent and admitted that prior to eating, she was deceived (v. 13).
Though accountability began with God’s confrontation of Adam, judgment began with the serpent. Because of the serpent’s key role (being used of Satan) in bringing sin into the human experience, it would be permanently consigned to the position of ultimate shame, under the foot. Hostility between the first woman and the serpent would be passed on to future generations. This verse is the first foretelling of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though the woman had been deceived into eating the forbidden fruit, she was still held accountable for her act. Two penalties were imposed; both struck at the heart of a woman’s roles in life. More than would have been the case had sin not entered creation, bearing children would add to the sum of anguish in the universe. Marriage would also be marred; though the woman’s desire would be for her husband, sin would mar God’s plan for marriage and create tormenting inequality and subjugation. The latter is a description of the ravaging effect of sin on a husband-wife relationship, not a prescription for abusing one’s wife. Because Adam listened to and obeyed his wife’s voice in preference to what God commanded (2:17), a curse would strike at the heart of a fundamental relationship in his life as well. Adam’s relationship with the ground would now be forever damaged by sin. All the days of his life he would experience painful labor as he worked to bring forth the fruit of the earth.
The new name Adam gave his wife emphasizes the woman’s life-giving role that counteracts the curse of sin, which is death (v. 20). Yet the divine order calls for a reciprocity exhibited in male servant leadership and female submission, both of which are modeled in Jesus Himself. By making clothing out of skins, the Lord God graciously provided for humanity’s need in a way superior to what Adam and Eve had done with fig leaves. Because of sin, people now knew good and evil experientially (v. 22). Since the gift of life was directly tied to obedience, man’s sin meant that the penalty of death must be enforced.
6:10. Paul’s concluding teaching challenged believers to recognize their spiritual weaknesses and to draw on the Lord. We cannot strengthen ourselves. We need power from outside. The Lord Jesus is the One who supplies spiritual strength. Paul had already used the phrase “His vast strength” in Ephesians 1:19 to refer to God’s active power in the lives of believers.
6:11-12. The full armor of God is required not only because we are weak but also because our spiritual enemies are strong. Our strongest adversary is the devil. We should never doubt that the devil is a real, supernatural person. He opposes God and His people with tactics, a term suggesting how wily he is. The believer’s responsibility, once clad in God-given armor, is to stand. We need not flee the devil, but rather we are to boldly hold the fortress of our own souls. We do not face a physical army (flesh and blood, human beings). We face a spiritual army. Paul listed some of these evil beings. Evidently there is a hierarchy of evil spirit-beings in hostile opposition to God and His people.
6:13. For the second time, the apostle urged believers to use the full armor of God—the complete kit of spiritual equipment. God the heavenly Warrior-King wears such armor (Isa. 59:17). He has now shared it with His people. In this verse, the verb “take up” is parallel to “put on” in verse 11. Both verbs suggest intentional action. “To resist in the evil day” means during the days until Christ’s return as the conquering King.
6:14-15. Paul likened the three pieces of equipment Roman soldiers put on at the beginning of a day to God-given character traits we believers are to build daily into our lives.
“Belt.” This wide leather strap kept a Roman soldier’s undergarments from getting tangled and also held his sword at the side of his body. By application, the belt stands for truth. Many Bible students believe this refers to a Christian’s sincerity or integrity of speech. For believers to lapse into intrigue or dishonesty is to fall into the devil’s own game.
“Armor on your chest.” The metal breastplate was standard for a battle soldier; it protected his vital organs during combat. For the believer, it stands for righteousness. Since Paul had Isaiah 59:17 in mind, he meant uprightness of character (godliness or Christlikeness). To neglect developing our character according to God’s standard of virtue is to give the devil a gaping hole through which he may attack us.
“Feet sandaled.” The Roman soldier’s hobnailed (cleated) shoes kept his feet from slipping. In the analogy, it stands for a Christian’s readiness for the gospel of peace. The meaning is probably the steadiness that comes to us because we have received the good news of Christ. Without assurance that we have peace with God through the gospel, the devil will gain a great advantage, throwing us into doubts of all kinds.
6:16-17. Paul went on to speak about three more pieces of equipment. Understanding these pieces shows us actions we can take when we face spiritual battles.
“Shield.” The Roman shield Paul had in mind was probably a long, oblong leather-covered device that covered much of the body during active battle. It was effective at dousing flaming arrows. In the analogy, this stands for a believer’s faith—active day-to-day trust in God to provide the strength to resist onslaughts that the evil one sends. Faith looks to the power of God when there is temptation.
“Helmet.” The soldier’s metal headgear provided both protection and decoration. Paul had written to the Thessalonians to put on “a helmet of the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8). So what is the salvation Paul had in mind? Probably he meant our hope or expectation of future deliverance when we receive full salvation at last. Confidence that we will be with Christ forever and that we will enjoy a future resurrection with Him provides believers strength to endure all devilish assaults.
“Sword.” The Roman short sword was used for both defense and offense. It was efficient in hand-to-hand combat. It stands for God’s Word. On the one hand, this refers to the entirety of the Scriptures, which has been inspired by the Spirit and is His gift to God’s people. On the other hand, it refers to the specific biblical message that is apt for the need at hand. (Ps. 119:11; Heb. 4:12).
6:18. Four times in this verse Paul used Greek forms for “all” or “every.”
• “All kinds of prayer.” There is more than one way to talk to God. Here, the apostle used both a general term (prayer) and a specific term (request).
• “All times of prayer.” There is no wrong time to pray! Morning prayers, mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, and battle-time prayers are all acceptable. Yet they are to be motivated by the Spirit, not just become a ritual or something perfunctory. Believers are to stay alert in prayer.
• “All perseverance in prayer.” Prayer is to be continual. Jesus Himself made this clear in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8).
• “All objects of prayer.” Believers should pray for each other—all the saints—knowing that they are also experiencing spiritual warfare in their own lives.
6:19-20. Paul wanted the Ephesians to include him in their prayers. He too was engaged in spiritual battle. Perhaps as a prisoner he was tempted to be silent about his faith. He did not ask to be set free; rather, he prayed for two qualities that would enable the ministry of the word to blaze forth. First, he wanted clarity. When he spoke, he wanted the right message to be given. Second, he wanted boldness, not shrinking from delivering what God had entrusted to him—which he recognized as the mystery of the gospel. Earlier in the letter, Paul had called himself a “prisoner ... on behalf of you Gentiles” (3:1) and “the prisoner in the Lord” (4:1).
Now he called himself an ambassador in chains. As an ambassador, he was the accredited representative of Jesus Christ; and he would represent Christ before the emperor’s court. Even so great a Christian as Paul wanted prayer that he would be bold enough in Him to speak.
DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE
HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME
The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.
UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.
FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!
INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.
OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
In today’s world, many voices compete for our attention:
• the opinions of others
• the values of our culture
• our personal insecurities
• spiritual warfare & temptations
• even our own competing desires
All of these voices and more compete with Jesus’ voice for our attention. In John’s gospel we’re reminded that we relate to Jesus just as the sheep respond to the shepherd.
“…he calls his own sheep by name.” Jesus knows us each personally and intimately and is calling out to us.
“…he leads them out… he goes before them, and the sheep follow him…” Jesus goes before us and asks us to simply follow where He is leading.
“for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” We should recognize and respond to the voice of Jesus to the exclusion of other voices in our lives.
Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
1 Peter 5:8-9
Let me just start things off with this: Your spouse is not your enemy. Peter described your true enemy as Satan, who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
But it can be surprisingly easy to find ourselves reacting defensively or angrily when the person we love most disagrees with us, can’t it? Any number of issues can lead to trouble. We can find conflict in conversations about money, jobs, or priorities. Tempers flare. Next thing we know, we believe the person we love most is our enemy.
When Chris and I were younger, those were the mindsets we had when we fought. And boy did we fight. We were so wrapped up in our own wants that we would lose sight of the fact that we were supposed to be battling our common enemy, not each other.
Where is there regular division in your relationship? Divisiveness is actually a characteristic of our spiritual enemy. That’s not to say that every time you fight as a couple that you’re under spiritual attack from Satan himself. Still, the enemy would love nothing more than for you to view your spouse or significant other as your enemy. Don’t fall for it. The best way to kick the devil out of your relationship is to put Jesus at the center, together. Here are three ideas for moving in that direction.
Idea 1: Pray together. Every single day. And not just for each other but with each other. That’s right. Take a moment, hold hands if you want, and offer up your prayers as a couple.
Idea 2: Invest in one another. If you’ve been married a while, you know it’s easy to forget about this as the years pass. But we have to invest as much in our spouse in year 25 as we did in year one of dating. What would he or she view as an investment? Make those things happen. Make a reminder in your phone or put a sticky note in plain sight. Whatever you have to do to show them that you see them and appreciate them—do it.
Idea 3: Come together. What sets healthy couples apart is their desire for unity. A marriage consists of two people whom God calls one. So, we need to act like it. Sometimes we focus so much on our own needs that we lose sight of the other person. Chris and I try to start each day by saying, “I choose us.”
Lastly, no matter what the enemy throws at you, he’s fighting a losing battle. Christ won victory over the devil once and for all, and as long as you and your spouse work toward building a strong, Christ-focused relationship, the enemy won’t succeed in his goals. So, pray together, invest in one another, and come together, knowing that your future is secure.
Consider: What’s an area where you’ve fought against each other rather than alongside each other? What would it look like for you to do this differently next time?
Adapted From: http://bible.com
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Jesus is the mighty victor who has defeated all of evil’s hosts; conquering death, the power of sin, and the devil himself. As Christians, our concern is conquering power dwelling within us (Ephesians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:7), and that inward dwelling should bear heavily on our outward living.
Jesus’ prayer for us was to be in the world, amidst danger, but shielded and protected from its source (John 17:15) living victoriously over temptation. Too often, we find ourselves buried in the same habitual sin, with real victory seemingly miles away. The early Church faced the same issues, and just as the Apostle Paul advised them we, too, must put on the whole armor of God.
A soldier, when his enemy is near, doesn’t pick up his shield and leave his helmet on the shelf! He takes up his entire suit when he goes to battle. So must we, as Christians, don the entire suit the Lord has made available to us. He has provided for us a defense against the schemes of the devil and temptation to sin, and has given us strength in our weakness, enabling us to live as warriors for the faith instead of casualties.
It is easy to intellectually hold that Christ’s power is greater than our temptation and struggle, but it’s another matter entirely to functionally live out that truth. Put feet to your faith then, as you gear up and put on the whole armor of God.
Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.org
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.
1 Kings 18:36-40
In today’s Christian culture, faith is often seen as a possession that affects just its owner. Because of our love for independence and self-sufficiency, we’ve in many ways lost the sense of community and outreach that the church is meant to embody. We live like little islands in our own “personal relationship with Christ,” but God wants our faith to influence others, both within and outside the church.
Elijah’s faith influenced the entire nation of Israel. By believing and delivering God’s message, he was an example to them in word and deed. When he asked the Lord to reveal Himself as almighty God, fire fell from heaven and the people believed.
The prophet’s motive in the showdown at Mount Carmel was to draw the people back to the Lord. We usually think of “sharing our faith” with those who don’t know Christ, but our confidence in God can also encourage weak or wayward believers. Likewise, those strong in faith can strengthen us when we are struggling with doubt.
The church is described as a body whose parts are all interconnected. (See 1 Cor. 12:12.) God never intended that we be autonomous, living in our own personal faith. We are not like a bag of marbles; rather, we’re to be like a bunch of grapes whose juices blend in times of pressure.
Guard against living an isolated Christian life. Share your confidence in God’s faithfulness. Your testimony could help others’ faith to grow. If you’re troubled by doubt or fear, let go of any pride or shame, and seek help from a strong believer. Mutual blessing awaits when we reach out to one another.
Adapted From: http://intouch.org
Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
No doubt there have been times when we may have hindered the work of God in our lives because of unbelief. Scripture tells us that Jesus could do no mighty work in His hometown because of unbelief (see Matthew 13:58).
Clearly there is a place for faith in prayer. However, I disagree with those who say it is all about faith and that if your prayer isn’t answered, it is because you lack faith.
Sometimes I only have so much faith. I think of the man whose child needed Jesus’ healing touch. This desperate father said, "Lord, I believe." Then he added, "Help my unbelief!" (see Mark 9:24). We read that Jesus delivered the boy from demon powers. Do you know why? It was an honest prayer: Lord I believe. Help my unbelief! Lord, I believe, but sometimes I have lapses. Sometimes I have doubts.
Sometimes there is a lack of faith in our prayers. We all have had doubts. But that is when we take the Word of God and apply it to that doubt. As Romans 10:17 tells us, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
The early church had their doubts when Herod had Peter arrested and thrown into prison. But they prayed. And even though their prayers were weak, they were still mightier than Herod. Why didn’t God answer their prayers earlier? Did He want to teach the church perseverance? Or, was it to teach Peter faith? Their story reminds us that prayer is warfare, and the battle is not won through human strength but on our knees.
It has been said that prayer is striking the winning blow; service is gathering up the results. So let’s go. Let’s start barraging God’s throne with requests that will bring glory to His name.
Adapted From: http://harvest.org
One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.
Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.