Explore the Bible Study: Being Useful

6:58 PM

Would someone describe you as a useful or a useless Christian? This might sound harsh, but this is what the apostle Peter challenges us to consider in this week's Explore the Bible study: Being Useful. Our study this week takes us to 2 Peter 1:1-11 as Peter challenges his readers to grow in their faith.

I have incorporated two optional illustrations into the study that can be used during the LOOK UP, LOOK IN, and LOOK OUT portions. One illustration concerns the growth and nurture a child needs in order to grow into a healthy adult. The second illustration concerns the care needed in order to keep a potted plant alive and healthy.

I am also treating 2 Peter 1:1-2 as a part of the introductory materials as I establish the message and purpose of 2 Peter.

TEACHING HIGHLIGHTS

LOOK UP: Getting focused on the text
OPTION ONE: Child Growing
  • Display (In advance): What does a child need in order to grow?
  • Direct: Option 1 (Instruct as the group enters): List one thing on the markerboard that a child needs in order to grow. Option 2 (Once group arrives): Work in two’s or three’s and prepare a list of what a child needs in order to grow.
OPTION TWO: Potted Plant
  • Display: Bring a potted plant to class, and display as the group gathers.
  • Ask (Once most adults have arrived): How many of you are able to keep a potted plant alive?What is needed in order for a potted plant to live and grow? Isn’t it enough just to place a plant in a pot and let it grow on its own?
Explain: We know that, in order for anything that is alive to thrive and grow, it must be nourished and given the proper care and environment. This is equally true for those of us who have experienced new life in Christ. If we have been born again, we will –we must – grow in Christ. It is unnatural for us to not grow.

Transition: We begin a study today of 2 Peter. Peter is most likely near the end of his life as he writes believers, encouraging them to grow in their faithfulness to Christ. He also offers wisdom regarding how to deal with false teachers and reminds them to hold on to the promised hope of Christ’s return. He begins with a powerful opening that is full of truth regarding believers' relationship to Christ.

Read: 2 Peter 2:1-2
How would you describe Peter's tone with his audience? What is significant about Peter's description of himself as a slave and apostle?
  • SLAVE: He belongs to Jesus by right of purchase – see 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Peter, as a slave, was under the authority of and submitted to the lordship of Christ. It was viewed as a position of honor. 
  • APOSTLE: Peter has an authoritative commission and speaks God’s words. 
  • SUMMARY: He wrote as a commissioned slave of Jesus Christ and his appointed apostle. He wrote authoritatively to a church threatened by false teachers.
Ask: 
  • How did he describe their faith? Why was this important? (The ground at the cross is level ground. We all come to Christ through faith. We came to faith just like Peter did! We receive the same faith and grace Peter did!)
  • How was Jesus described by Peter? (God – Jesus – Our Lord) What does this communicate about Jesus? (That He is God)
  • What was his desire for them? (That grace and peace be multiplied)
  • How can grace and peace be multiplied? (Through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord)
Explain: Peter was espousing the fact that believers should be growing in the knowledge of the salvation they have already received through the free gift of salvation. Knowledge refers both to the knowledge of God they had at conversion and to its increase in their lives.

Transition: Peter's introduction is important because it sets the tone of everything he will be sharing regarding Christian growth. Peter then begins to explain how we have been given everything we need in order to grow in Christ.

LOOK IN: Unpacking the text

2 Peter 1:3-4
  • What do these verses communicate regarding how we obtain all we need? Is it something we find within ourselves? (No, it is given to us – His divine power has given us everything (v3); He called us by His own glory and goodness (v.3); He has given us (v4).
  • What were the promises Christ gives? (I.e: Conquer sin; provide salvation; provide eternal life; return again)
  • Instead of being corrupted by the influence of an ungodly environment and evil desires, you are given God’s power to share in His divine nature. Christ has come to dwell with you (John 14:23) which gives you everything you need in order to grow in His virtues. Peter called this a great and precious promise.
  • How would you use this truth to encourage a fellow believer who is struggling with old desires? How does it apply to your faith journey at this time?
  • Do you believe everything you need to overcome temptation, frustration, discouragement, or doubts is available to you through your relationship with Christ?
Transition
OPTION ONE: Child growing
  • We began our discussion by talking about what a child needs in order to grow. 
  • How many of you would encourage children to take some type of multi-vitamin? Why would you do this?
  • Just as we know the importance of supplementing a child’s growth with some type of vitamins, Peter emphasizes how important it is that we supplement our faith with vital nutrients that will help us grow in and live out our faith in Christ.
OPTION TWO: Potted Plant
  • We began our discussion by talking about what was needed to keep a potted plant alive.
  • Have you ever seen or used potted plant fertilizer spikes? (Note: Consider showing a potted plant fertilizer spike).  What is the purpose of the spike? 
  • These spikes are important because they supplement the nutrients a plant receives from the soil and water. They cause a plant to remain strong and enhance the beauty of the plant. Peter knew that believers must supplement their faith as well so that they could remain strong and live a life that reflected the faith they claimed to have.
2 Peter 1:5-7
  • Is Peter only offering advice, or is he giving a strong command to these believers? (He is strongly commanding . . . make every effort to supplement your faith)
  • Peter begins with the foundation of faith based on the work of Jesus Christ that secures a believer’s eternal redemption. On that foundation, Peter strongly commands believers to build intentionally and methodically by practicing the virtues of goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
  • Review the eight virtues in verses 5-7. Circle the virtue in which you have experienced good growth during the past year. Underline the virtue for which you need to experience the most growth during the year ahead. What steps will you take to “make every effort” to grow in this area of your life? 
Transition: Write the word “Useless” on the markerboard.

2 Peter 1:8-11
  • Imagine coming to the end of your life, and your faith in Christ is examined. Upon examination it is labeled as “useless” or “unfruitful”.
  • How would you respond to knowing that your faith was described in this way by someone else? 
  • How should this statement from Peter change the way you view how you live your faith from day-to-day?
  • What does Peter say is wrong with the person who doesn’t grow in their faith? (blind and shortsighted)
  • Can you give examples of how people claim to believe but seem to be blind to the ways of God?
  • Can you give examples of how people claim to believe but act in ways that are shortsighted?
  • Do verses 10-11 indicate that someone could lose their salvation, or do they indicate that someone who refuses to develop their faith might not truly know Christ?
Emphasize: Though Christians fail and sometimes give in to temptation, the sum of our lives should reveal spiritual progress. Peter urged his readers to examine themselves for signs that they are in a relationship with Christ or to “confirm their calling and election.” Spiritual growth happens over time and is an outward sign of an inward change.

LOOK OUT: Responding to the text.

OPTION ONE: Child growing
  • We began our study today talking about the importance of helping a child grow up to be a healthy adult.
  • What evidence points to your spiritual growth since placing your faith in Christ? Which virtues are you making an effort to put into practice? Are you truly growing into a healthy, mature Christian?
OPTION TWO: Potted Plant
  • We began our study today talking about how we help a potted plant remain healthy and growing.
  • What evidence points to your spiritual growth since placing your faith in Christ? Which virtues are you making an effort to put into practice? Are you truly growing into a healthy, mature Christian? Is this how people would describe you?
Challenge: Don’t let the words "useless" or "unfruitful" be how your faith in Christ is described by others. If you need to talk with someone about your relationship with Christ, let me know. If you are struggling as a believer to add to your faith those virtues Peter listed, then talk with someone who might become your encourager and prayer partner.

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