Category Archives: Bible study

The Lamb

Revelation Chapter 5 – The Lamb (Word doc available here)

In this week’s bible study the focus moves from the worship of God for his role in creation to the worship of the Lamb for his work in redemption. A scroll is revealed that contains the destiny of mankind, but it is sealed until the time of opening.

  1. Read v1-3, why is it significant that no one can be found to open the scroll? Why do you think this affected John so much?
  2. What makes us weep? How much do we grieve for the brokenness of our world; the plight of the lost; and the impurity of the church? What does Ezekiel 9.4-6 say about how much God values our brokenness over sin?
  3. V5, although a lion is introduced by the angel, John sees a slaughtered lamb. Why is a lamb on the throne instead of a lion? What do the 7 horns and 7 eyes signify (v6)? What attributes of Jesus does this emphasise?
  4. Jim reminded us that “this hero conquered not through strength but through weakness” – describe in your own words Jesus’ strengths and weaknesses from this chapter. How are these unlike other people’s strengths and weaknesses?  
  5. Read Daniel 12.1-4 & Ezekiel 2.9-3.3 – what connection do these passages have with Revelation 5? Why does God choose to come to his prophets (John, Daniel & Ezekiel) with visions of the scroll when they are in exile? How has God spoken to you in times of difficulty and isolation?
  6. How does the centrality of the slain lamb contradict the values that our society respects (1 Corinthians 1.18-25)? How does God overcome this stumbling block? Why do you think that God chooses humility and weakness rather than overwhelm us with his power and majesty?
  7. How does it make you feel to think that there are millions of angels worshiping Jesus right now? What difference will this reality make to how you go into your workplace, home and community tomorrow?  

We lift our voices with the heavenly host and praise and magnify the lamb that was slain:

“Come and weep, come and mourn, For your sin that pierced him here, So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail. All our pride, all our greed, All our fallenness and shame, And the Lord has laid the punishment on him. We worship at your feet, Where wrath and mercy meet, And a guilty world is washed by love’s pure stream. For us he was made sin, Oh, help me take it in, Deep wounds of love cry out “Father, forgive”, I worship, I worship the lamb that was slain.”

The Throne

Revelation Study 7) The Throne (Chapter 4) for word doc click here

From acting as a scribe, writing down messages for the 7 churches, John now becomes a seer, seeing into the heavenly realms. This chapter represents a powerful introduction to the spiritual world beyond the material world and begins with an overwhelming vision of the throne of God.

  1. Why does John’s vision begin with a throne room? What is the significance of a throne to the message of Revelation? What difference does it make that God is at the centre of the universe? 
  2. Jim reminded us that this is “a circumstance-defying vision for a sidelined people”. Do you feel that your faith sidelines you from society? How does this vision re-ignite our confidence? Why do we struggle to see through our circumstances to the reality of this vision? 
  3. Read Ezekiel chapter 1 – how does the imagery in this chapter compare or contrast with Revelation chapters 1 & 4? What is God’s purpose in granting such visions to his prophets? 
  4. Why would the imagery of this scene encourage the first hearers of this letter? What is the significance of the 24 elders, rainbow, thrones, sea of glass and living creatures? 
  5. What attributes of God do we see displayed and worshipped in this chapter? How does this compare with our praise & prayer life? Do you find it difficult to adore God’s greatness and glory, if so why do you think that is? 
  6. How do you think the churches in Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis and Laodicea would feel about entering the throne room of God of chapter 4? How might their emotions be different from the faithful but persecuted church in Smyrna? What does our response to God’s majesty tell us about the state of our own hearts? 
  7. What would you say to someone who said “I don’t understand this idea of a God who says, “You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it! It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me (ref).” How does this chapter explain why eternal adoration of God is not egomania?

This vision is a timely reminder to the 7 churches, and us, of God’s power and majesty. He truly is the Almighty, Awesome God; may this vision reignite our passion for praising and worshipping Him.

Faithful Church

Revelation Study 6) Philadelphia – Faithful Church (Chapter 3.7-13) word doc available here

 The church in Philadelphia is the only church to receive no rebuke from Jesus – and yet to all appearances they were the weakest church among the seven. Jesus’ words to his churches repeatedly hammer home the importance he places on faithfulness – about all other values. The challenge comes to us over and over again; do we love what he loves, hate what he hates? – do we share his values?

  1. Would you rather be part of a small, unknown, struggling church or a large, well recognised, active church? If we didn’t have Jesus’ analysis, how attractive would Sardis and Philadelphia be to us, honestly? 
  2. What are the characteristics of a faithful church? What does it mean to be faithful in our beliefs, desires, ambitions, suffering, commitments, service, actions, finances & relationships? Do you think we are more tempted to be unfaithful in our theology or practice? 
  3. What is the difference between tradition and faithfulness? How do we remain faithful to Jesus and his words, without becoming out of touch? How do we combine such faithfulness with our desire to be relevant to an “image over substance “society? What are some of the areas where we can be creative? 
  4. How does Jesus’ message for this church challenge our perceptions about a successful church? Are numerical growth and spiritual growth connected, or not? Which one is our primary concern for CBC? How should this express itself in our ministry priorities? 
  5. Where has God provided us with an Open Door? What is our confidence as we walk through it? How does v7 encourage us to preserve in hard times? 
  6. How does our external environment compare with that in 1st century Philadelphia? Is it harder to be faithful in times of comfort than in times of persecution? Why or why not? 
  7. Do you think our affluence and materialism saps our willingness to be socially ostracised for the sake of the gospel? What would a truly faithful believer, family, church look like in our day?

While it’s true that spiritual apathy breeds in calm waters, God can and does visit his children with times of refreshment and blessing in every age. May God grant that we would know this reviving touch in our day and in our church, come Lord Jesus, come.

Sleepy Church

Revelation Study 5) Sardis – Sleepy Church (Chapter 3.1-6) word doc available here

This is the 5th church to receive a letter from Jesus. To their credit the church at Sardis had not given in to false teaching or sinful living as some of the other churches had, but Jesus still has a tough message for them – there were things that needed to be put right, and quickly.

  1. How would you describe the church in Sardis in your own words to someone who was a new Christian? What does the reference to chapter 1.16 at the start of the letter signify?
  2. Sardis had a reputation for being alive, but in reality was dead. If a reputation can be so misleading, should we strive to have a good reputation (compare 1 Timothy 3.7)? What are the danger signs that we are relying on our reputation rather than the Spirit?
  3. If being asleep is characterised by a lack of alertness and zeal for the things of God, do you think this a particular danger in our day? How can we guard against slowly drifting off to sleep and becoming comfortably numb?
  4. In v3 Jesus tells Sardis to remember, obey and repent. What things were they to remember? Compare chapter 2.5, 16 & 22. Why do you think repentance is so important to Jesus in these letters? Why is this spiritual discipline so unfashionable?
  5. In times of revival, history shows that they were preceded by steadfast prayer and spontaneous repentance. Is a lack of repentance hindering the movement of God’s reviving Spirit? Are we willing to take the pain of being woken up by God? Do you pray for revival in our day?
  6. V4 tells us that not all of Sardis was asleep – there were some who were awake. What things are promised to the obedient in verses 4 and 5? What is the significance of the white robes (compare Revelation 4.4, 6.11, 7.9 & 13-14, 19.14)?
  7. Read Revelation 14.14-20. How do you think Sardis and Thyatira would respond to such visions of judgement? Why do you think Jesus complements his warnings and admonitions with visions of the future?

The point of Jesus’ message to the church in Sardis is this – watch out and wake up! The application for us is not to take the place of Jesus, sitting in judgement of others we believe are sleeping, but rather to make sure this can never be said of us. We must avoid pride and a judgemental spirit, as much as spiritual apathy. May God grant that we would combine faithfulness with fervency, passion and purity, in the work of the Lord, and may He give us a heart that is burdened for the needs of the lost, the purity of the church and the glory of His name.

“Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord”, you know it’s all I ever hear, no aches, no one bleeds, no one even sheds one tear, but he cries, he weeps, he bleeds and he cares for your needs, but you just lay back and keep soaking it in…The world is sleeping in the dark, that the church just can’t fight cause it’s asleep in the light. How can you be so dead when you’ve been so well fed? Jesus rose from the grave, and you, you can’t even get out of bed. Keith Green “Asleep in the Light”

The Too Tolerant Church

Revelation Study 4) Thyatira: The Too Tolerant Church (Chapter 2.18-29) – word doc available here.

The church in Thyatira had become corrupted with false teaching. An influential leader, calling herself aprophetess, had led many of the church into sexual immorality and idolatry. In a powerful and scathingcritique of her true motivations and methods, Jesus calls back his wayward church to repentance and a deep-hearted commitment to his authority alone.

1. In Jim’s sermon he summarised Jesus’ message to this church as “hold on and look up” – what had they been given to hold onto? Why did they need to look up? How similar is our situation in 21st century Dundee to theirs?

2. What are the physical metaphors that Jesus uses to describe himself in v18? How does this compare with the description in chapter 1.14-15? Why do you think his eyes and feet are specifically mentioned? How does the fact that Jesus sees and knows all things make you feel?

3. What five characteristics does Jesus use to describe his examination of this church in v19? What does this say about how Jesus assesses the spiritual condition of a church and individual believer? Which of these five areas do we need to strengthen and how?

4. In v20 Jesus compares one of their false prophets to Jezebel. What were the sins of Jezebel? (1Kings 16.29-32, 18.4, 21.7-10)? How was she able to exert such an influence over Israel (1 Kings 21.25)? How is the “prophetess” in Thyatira similar to Jezebel?

5. What does v22 teach about the connection between sin and suffering? How does this verse compare with John 9.1-3 and 1 Corinthians 11.29-32? Given these verses, how do we avoid the false extremes of attributing all or none of our suffering to the consequences of our sin?

6. Jim reminded us that at the heart of the immorality at Thyatira was a misplaced allegiance. They were listening to the words of a false prophetess over Jesus’ words. What or who strives for our allegiance today? Who would Jesus name “Jezebel” in our day?

7. Not all the church had been deceived by the prophetess – what task is given to these believers? Why would what Jesus says in v26-28 encourage them to remain faithful?

The church is given a stark choice, repent and return or receive the punishment. It is a final warning to a wayward church. If this is how Jesus responded to a single corrupt church, how his heart must break when he looks at the state of the church in the UK today. Surely great judgement is awaiting many of our churches that have abandoned the truths they were given to hold on to. May we be found diligently defending and declaring the gospel that was handed down to us by our forefathers.

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2.2

Compromised Church

Revelation Study 3) Compromised Church (Chapter 2.12-17)

Word doc download available here and sermon by Jim Turrent here.

In our series in Revelation we come to Pergamum, a church that was in need of some corrective instruction by Jesus. His words are incisive and painful but like a good surgeon the wounds are intended to bring healing and wholeness, if they will repent in time.

1. Jim reminded us that “Pergamum was an impressive place, but Jesus says it is hell’s headquarters” – how did this opposition manifest itself against the church? What are the spiritual consequences of living so close to such a dangerous place? Do we feel the pressure to conform that this church faced?

2. While Jesus commends the church for its faithfulness under persecution, they are rebuked for their immorality. Their personal integrity didn’t match their public profession – they are being defeated from within. Where are our greatest challenges to be faced? Does a lack of integrity inhibit our (collective and individual) public witness?

3. What would you say to someone who said “everyone is compromised – the bible itself says there is no one who is perfect, so don’t be a hypocrite and criticise me”? Does wholeheartedness mean sinlessness / perfection, and if so is it unobtainable? What do the following verses say about the “blameless” or “righteous” person?  (Psalm 15, Psalm 19.12-13, Psalm 66.18-19, 2 Tim 2.20-21).

4. Why does Satan use sexual immorality to destroy the witness of this church? What are the spiritual consequences of sexual immorality? In a sex-obsessed world, how can we protect our personal integrity?

5. Jim reminded us that the church in Pergamum had two problems, “those who fail, and those who fail to speak out” – some had been seduced and others had remained silent. Are there things that need to be put right among us? Do we need to be more willing to confront sin in each other? How do we do this with grace and love? (Matthew 18.15-17, 1 Timothy 5.1)

6. “The compromised church is in more danger from Jesus than from its enemies” – what are the marks of a compromised church, of a compromised individual? What is the remedy to compromise? (Revelation 3.19-20)

7. For those who give themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus he has the ability to sustain them. Are we struggling to live for Christ in our own strength or in His? Do we utterly trust Jesus to fill us with his joy that is greater than our short-lived thrills?

To the socially excluded Jesus promises acceptance, identity and victory. What a message to take to an anchorless and orphaned world! May God grant that we would know the depths of our union with Christ, so that we would be able to choose to live a life of costly faithfulness over superficial mediocrity. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” Jim Elliot

The Voice

“The Voice” – Revelation 1.9-20 (word doc available here)

In this passage John is confronted with a majestic, overwhelming vision of the risen Lord Jesus. The vision reveals a Jesus who is no longer the humble itinerant preacher, or the humiliated prisoner, but a victorious all-powerful conqueror.  John is commissioned to the role of prophet and scribe of the things he is about to be shown.

  1. In verse 9 John joins the theme of suffering to kingdom and patience. How are these three things connected together? How were each of these elements brought to fulfilment in the cross (e.g. suffering – Acts 26.22-23; kingdom – Colossians 1.13-14; patience – Acts 17.30-31)?
  2. When speaking of our attitude to the Lord’s day (v10), Jim stated that “grace is the greater impetus” over legalism. Share an example of how you invest in the Lord’s day for your spiritual benefit. What principles do we live by on a Sunday? How do we build good spiritual practises into our Sunday’s without becoming legalistic?
  3. The voice begins by commanding John to write the things that he sees in a book (v11). Why does Jesus want these things written down? What does this say about how God chooses to communicate with people? What does this say to those who demand the miraculous before they will believe (compare Luke 16.31)?
  4. Read verses 13-16 – how does this description compare with how most people think of Jesus at this time of year? How does this image challenge our perception of Jesus as “holy infant so tender and mild”?
  5. In verse 13 Jesus is walking in the midst of the 7 lampstands, representing the 7 churches. This image is intended to encourage those churches, but if he is so close, why did Jesus not defend some of these churches from persecution? Why does Jesus wait so long before giving them their message of encouragement or rebuke? What is Jesus’ ultimate goal for his people? Are we willing to embrace affliction if that is what it takes to know Jesus better?
  6. 60 years after his last conversation with Jesus, John unexpectedly meets his Saviour again. How would you have felt hearing the voice of Jesus after all those years? Why does this vision overwhelm John (v 17) despite his previous experience in seeing Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17)?
  7. In verse 18 Jesus states “I hold the keys of deaths and Hades” – Jim commented that “in a prison he who holds the key is king”. What do people today think about the afterlife? If death is the final taboo in our society, why is so much of our media obsessed with ghosts, vampires, zombies etc? Why is this message of hope in the face of death not more popular? 

Jim reminded us that “when the word of God is preached, the voice of God is heard”.  The voice of God still speaks today through this written testimony. Moreover, through the faithful, biblical ministry of our pastors, we hear God speak to us each week. The challenge to each one of us is this – are we listening and responding to the things God is saying to us? May God grant that we have ears to hear.

Apokalipsis

Revelation Study 1) Apokalipsis (Chapter 1.1-8) (Word doc available here)

In our study of John’s Gospel we were on a journey of discovery into the true identify of Jesus of Nazareth. John’s aim was to convince us that Jesus was the Son of God and enable us to enter a living relationship with him (John 20.31).  Now, through the Spirit, John switches the focus to the battle we are entering and how we can ultimately stand victorious at the end of our journey.

1.     Why was the book of Revelation written? Read verses 1-3, describe the five stages in how this message finally reaches us (i.e. from God to Jesus to…)? What does this authorship say about the importance of its message?

2.     What is our perception of the book from our Christian experience so far? Are we intimidated or confused by it, if so why? How would you describe this book to someone who is new Christian?

3.     Verse 3 gives us the first of seven beatitudes in the book (1.3, 14.13, 16.15, 19.9, 20.6, 22.7 & 22.14). Look up each of these verses – what are the underlying themes uniting these seven blessings? How do these verses encourage us in our spiritual journey? How do they complement the stern warnings also included in this book (22.18-19)?

4.     Jim reminded us “this book is written not to obscure but to reveal”. What does God want to reveal in this book? How does its message impact how we live in, and how we interact with, an often anti-Christian society?

5.     How is Jesus described in verse 5? What do each of these images reveal about his coming role in this book?  What has his victory achieved for us (v5-6)? How does this encourage us to preserve in times of difficulty and be faithful under pressure?

6.     Jim summed up the message of Revelation as: “God is sovereign, Christ is the key to history and that the lamb wins”. Which of these three truths do you need to hold onto tonight? Share a time in your Christian walk where you have found strength in remembering one of these truths.

7.     What promise and warning does verse 7 contain? How do we balance the desire for vindication in the face of a hostile world, with the tender compassion required to reach this same world? How can we share a message of judgement compassionately? What practical steps can we take to demonstrate our love for our enemies?

“If Genesis gives us our identity, Revelation gives us our destiny”. The encouraging message for the church is, God wins! We know the final result and have seen the closing scene. We now have to live in the light of this knowledge – knowing that each sacrifice, each faithful testimony and each life laid down in service of this King will be fully and finally rewarded. On that day when we will stand and receive our crowns and become “more than conquerors though him who loved us” (Romans 8.37).

The Missional Church Part 4

Missional Church (part 4) – The Moving – Acts 6.1-15 (click here for word doc)

In this fourth and final study in our Missional Church series we look at how the early church dealt with internal and external challenges. Internally they were facing pressure on resources and externally severe persecution was coming soon. And yet through it all they grew rapidly under the blessing of God.

1.     What roles did both the leadership and congregation play in determining the solution to the Hellenistic widows’ difficulty (v1-6)? What responsibility did the leadership give to the congregation (v3)? How do we model this pattern in our church body and tradition?

2.     What is the result of the process the church leaders followed (v7)? How reliable are increasing numbers to indicate spiritual growth or wise decisions? What assumptions do we make when church attendance decreases?

3.     Jim stated that the key to overcoming problems is “a wise and united leadership and a fellowship facing in the same direction”.  How does good management enable the Spirit to work? For those of us working in the business world, do you think secular management practises are helpful or a hindrance in the church? What would you say to someone who said that “there is no sacred / secular divide – only good management practises and bad ones”?

4.     Jim reminded us that a growing church is sure to face problems. What problems do we face at the moment as believers? How can we see this as an opportunity? Do we need to re-organise our structures in order to respond to these challenges?

5.     The church leaders organised the church so they could focus on “prayer and the ministry of the word” v4. What is the breadth of meaning within the term “ministry of the word”? What other things do our leaders have to deal with today? How much do these things encroach on our leaders that distract them from these priorities? Is there anything we can do to release them to greater emphasis on these two?

6.     “In Christian work the frontline is the place of prayer”. Are we taking ground in the spiritual battle or have we been wounded? What are the barriers that prevent us from praying more? Who or what do we need to commit to pray for more faithfully?

7.     In this part of Acts we see that Stephen and Philip, although they were not apostles, have significant preaching ministries. They both saw themselves as ministers of the word. Do we see ourselves as receivers of the word, or ministers of the word? Who are we ministering to and are we intentional / deliberate in our ministry?

Jim’s key message for us was that “a well taught, united church, facing in the right direction is powerfully usable in the Holy Spirit”.  Spend a few moments thanking God for our progress so far and asking for his help in further growth in understanding, unity and devotion.

The Missional Church Part 3

Missional Church (part 3) – The Model Sending Church – Acts 13-15 (word doc available here)

In this third study in our Missional Church series we look at a model sending church in order to learn how it planted new churches and overcame the challenges that resulted.

1.     The key to being a spiritually influential sending church is to be “Spirit-led and Word-centred”.  Spend a few minutes summarising how this demonstrated itself practically in the Antioch church. How does it show itself in our lives and in the life of Central Baptist Church?

2.     The Antioch church had a number of gifted leaders, for them “it wasn’t a status thing, or a political thing, but a spiritual thing”. How would these different motivations reveal themselves in leaders? Are we intentional in our developing of leaders? How can we be more proactive in identifying and training godly new leaders?

3.     Jim reminded us that “if God entrusts a work to a church, that church needs to be tuned in”. How spirit-led are we in our daily lives? What would our prayer life reveal about how important we consider it to abide in Christ? Are we ready for God to entrust us with His mission?

4.     In Acts 15v5 a wrong understanding of the law (in the form of circumcision) threatens to wreck the new church. What are the false gospels that come against the true gospel in our day (Galatians 1v6-8)? How has the church, as a whole, responded to these challenges? Are we able to demonstrate the error of these false gospels from the bible?

5.     Jim warned us that “Satan’s strategy is to get God’s people fighting each other, rather than fighting him”. How does he manage to get us fighting each other? Is there anyone you are currently fighting against, in word or thought? Make a promise to yourself to speak to them before the end of the day.

6.     If our individual grasp of biblical doctrine is key to discerning truth from error and defending the true faith, why is it that so many see theology (the study of God) as dry and boring? How are we growing in our doctrinal understanding of the faith? What steps can we take to increase our understanding of Christian doctrine?

If a sending church needs to be Spirit-led and Word-centred then that means each of us, not just the leaders, must be replicating this pattern. In a world of competing demands and distractions it is the call to a deep-routed relationship with God that daily feeds off his word and listens to his Spirit. It is the call to engage in deliberate spiritual warfare for the cause of Christ. May God grant that we will be those who make the sacrifices required to develop such an intimate knowledge for the greater reward of sharing in his kingdom work.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the Devil’s schemes…Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Ephesians 6.10-18