Read an Excerpt
Ten Keys for Unlocking the Bible Course
By Colin S. Smith
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2003 Colin S. Smith
All rights reserved.
SESSION-BY-SESSION GUIDANCE FOR DISCUSSION LEADERS
Since this is your first session together, take time to get to know each other before the message. Begin by asking everyone to share some basic information about themselves—where they live, what they do for a living, etc. Add a more informal question such as, "What do you like to do to relax?" or, "Where is your favorite vacation spot?" Then ask group members to share what they would like to get out of the study. This will give you a sense of people's expectations and needs and how you can tailor the course to meet their expectations.
Take a few minutes to explain the format for the evening, reminding the group that they will have an opportunity for discussion. Then read the short "Setting the Scene" section from the study guide and show the video. It is helpful to tell the group that the video runs for twenty-five minutes. If you have chosen to present the teaching material yourself, keep your presentation within this time frame.
Use the questions in the study guide for your discussion, but don't feel pressured to cover all of them. The goal is to have a lively discussion. Keep the discussion to the time you have stated. It is better to leave people wanting more than to extend the discussion until people tire of it.
After closing your time together, you can invite people to stay for more informal discussion.
End each discussion by reading the "Building the Story" point. This will reinforce the story line of the Bible. Remind the group that advance preparation is not necessary for this study but that the "Looking Ahead" section gives some direction if they would like to use it.
The Ten Keys study makes no attempt to defend the Bible or to demonstrate that it is true. The purpose of the study is allow the Bible to speak for itself. You may want to tell your group that the aim is not to discuss whether we can believe the Bible but to discover what it says.
Some people will have questions during session one about the truth of the Bible and Creation; during later sessions they may question evidence for the Resurrection and so forth. It is usually best to avoid making these questions the focus of discussion, but it is important to provide an answer. The Ten Keys web site (www.tenkeys.info) includes a range of helpful resources for answering these questions.
Nearly everyone has heard of the Ten Commandments, but many have not thought very deeply about why these commands were given or what role they play in the Christian life.
The goal of this session is to see that God's commandments are a reflection of His own character and that they reveal our need of Jesus Christ. This can be a tough pill for us to swallow, but it is essential for understanding our need of God's grace and forgiveness.
Some members of your group may feel that they measure up pretty well to the Ten Commandments. Jesus once spoke with a man who felt this way and asked him a question that revealed his fundamental selfishness (Matthew 19:16–22). You may find it helpful to refer to this story and to the portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus explains that the Law searches our attitudes as well as our actions (Matthew 5:21–30).
Questions three and four give good opportunity to probe the difficulty of keeping the commandments. As the group begins to think more deeply about the commandments, you will find that they will have a greater appreciation of how difficult they really are.
Your discussion here is important because it will help your group to understand why we need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to grow in fulfilling the law of God.
Question six moves the discussion onto our hope in Jesus Christ. No Christian ever fulfills God's Law perfectly in this life, but by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to move in that direction and to keep growing in all that it means to live in a way that is pleasing to God.
It will be important to end this discussion on the positive note of the life that is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Day of Atonement is a powerful visual presentation, explaining why Jesus Christ had to die and how His death can take away our sins. This will likely be a new insight for many.
Before viewing the video, walk through the "Setting the Scene" section carefully, pausing to see if anyone has questions. Also, review the layout of the tabernacle together.
In your discussion, pay special attention to question two. You may want to walk through the five acts in the drama of the Day of Atonement and let different members discuss how they would have felt as they watched these events.
Question four may open up some widely different ideas about the appropriate way of confessing our sins. The key point to emphasize is that our sins are to be confessed to God, and that if we have offended another person, we should also confess a specific sin to that person. While it may not be possible to name all our sins, it is important to be specific in identifying and confessing particular sins and asking the forgiveness of God.
The moment when the high priest prayed, confessing the sins of the people, was especially important. If your group can grasp the concept of guilt being transferred, they will be very close to understanding why Jesus had to die, and what it means for Him to bear our sins.
The Old Testament builds a framework for understanding Christ and His mission. One participant in the Ten Keys study found that the connection between the Day of Atonement and Christ's death on the cross became so clear to him that he could not imagine how Jewish people today could miss it. This demonstrates the important role of the Old Testament in helping us to understand the work of Christ. This man put his faith in Christ a few weeks later.
At the end of the discussion, read the short "Building the Story" statement, and end the session with prayer. Since this is your third week together, you may like to ask if group members have any prayer requests. Lead in prayer for these yourself, making sure that you cover each one.
This session ends with an opportunity to respond to what we have learned so far by trusting Christ as Savior. The video points out the differences among "looking," "trying," "knowing," and "buying," and includes a prayer for those who would like to receive what Christ offers. Some may be ready to make this commitment. Others will not, and it is important that nobody should feel pressured.
You might want to give people an opportunity to respond by simply saying, "What did you think?" This may lead to a fruitful discussion. If participants do not respond to that, you can simply dive into the questions.
Question five is especially important in this discussion. Many people believe that our good works play some part in our salvation. This question offers a good opportunity to open up that issue by showing that we cannot offer anything to God, and that salvation is about receiving what He offers to us.
You will notice that question six is labeled "for personal reflection," so it is important that nobody feels forced to share his or her response. You may consider asking someone who has come to know Christ as his Savior to share how he came to the place of "buying" in his own life. Make sure you ask the person in advance so he or she is not put on the spot.
If you are using Ten Keys in a large group format, encourage those who made a decision to follow Christ to share this with others in their group. One way of doing this is to have a response card at the table every week that participants would use to inform you if they are coming back the next week. You can encourage them to use this same card to also communicate suggestions, questions, or commitments of faith.
The outline in the workbook ends with a prayer that someone can use to receive what Christ offers. Remind the group that we can express our desire to "buy" through prayer. Tell them this prayer is a sample of the kind of prayer they could pray to express their response to God's invitation.
Session five introduces us directly to Jesus Christ, showing that He is God, He is man, and He is holy. These truths are foundational for understanding how Jesus can bear the sin of the world and reconcile humanity to God.
Questions four, five, and six address these central issues. If Jesus was not God, He would not be in a position to reconcile us to God. Christ's love for us is God's love for us, because Jesus the Son is one with God the Father.
Remember that the aim of the Ten Keys study is to explain what the Bible says. It is important to emphasize that nobody can fully understand how Jesus can be both God and man. Yet this is what the Bible reveals to us about Him.
If Jesus was not man, He would not have been able to stand in our place and bear the punishment for sin on our behalf. The animals sacrificed in the Old Testament could never take away sin. All they could do was illustrate the principle that a life had to be laid down. But it had to be a human life that was laid down for the sin of humanity.
The holiness of Jesus is our third learning point in this session. If Jesus had any sins of His own, He would not have been able to bear the sins of others. So the holiness of Jesus is of great importance. He is unlike any other person who has ever lived. He alone is God, man, and holy, and so He is uniquely qualified to take away the sins of the world.
Question seven is offered for personal reflection. Depending on the dynamics of your group and your experience last time, you could give participants an opportunity to share their answers if they feel comfortable.
Session six brings us to the heart of the Christian faith as we explore the significance of Jesus' death on the cross.
This presentation builds on important truths learned in the earlier sessions, showing how the story of God diverting the curse onto the ground in the Garden of Eden and onto the goat on the Day of Atonement was fulfilled as God diverted the judgment for our sins onto Jesus.
We also follow the story of the thief on the cross, tracing the five steps by which he came to trust in Jesus. These five steps are then offered at the end of the session as an opportunity for members of your group to consider where they are in relation to Jesus Christ and to take that final step of placing their trust in Him.
The video presentation ends with an opportunity for reflection and a prayer of response. Take the lead by closing your eyes as an example or give the group a cue, such as, "Let's close our eyes and follow along with the video."
This session is a good point to check in and see how participants are progressing on their spiritual journey. For the large-group setting, you will want to provide a nonthreatening way for participants to share with you if they have come to the point of trusting Christ.
For more information as to how you might follow-up with someone who indicates a commitment to Christ, see the Ten Keys web site at www.tenkeys.info.
In a small-group setting, look for opportunities to touch base with participants either in the informal time after the study or outside the meeting time. After the final Ten Keys session, you will ask participants to fill out a feedback form. This will give you another opportunity to see how the study has impacted the spiritual lives of those involved.
The last four sessions of our study deal with the Christian life and give a taste of the life promised to every believer in heaven. Participants will find this message encouraging, and it will likely give them a new perspective on life after death.
Remember that our purpose in the Ten Keys study is to present the story of the Bible in its own terms. The focus of this session is on the story of the women discovering the empty tomb, and the significance of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for us.
Some participants may be interested in exploring evidence for the Resurrection. You will find suggested resources for further study at the Ten Keys web site (www.tenkeys.info).
The apostle Paul recognized that the Resurrection is central to the Christian faith. "For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:16–17). You may want to use this Scripture to enhance the discussion of question three. You could look up the verse and ask your group if they agree with the apostle Paul.
Most people believe in some form of life after death, but many imagine it to be something less that the life that we experience here. In the Bible it is clearly more. "To ... be with Christ ... is better by far" (Philippians 1:23). You may find it helpful to prompt the group's imagination by asking them what life would be like if our world was without evil, sickness, and temptation. Remind the group that the best joys of life on this earth are only a taste of what God is preparing for His people.
Question five gives an opportunity to emphasize the uniqueness of Christ. Other religions set out a system of beliefs and a way of life. Christianity is about a Person who is able to bring us into eternal life. The risen Lord Jesus Christ invites us to believe in Him and to follow Him.
Session eight tells the story of Pentecost and is especially important for people who have come to believe in Jesus but still have the sense that the Christian life is making an effort to live a better life.
The Holy Spirit indwells and empowers all believers. This is a wonderful truth but one that many find difficult to grasp. Some see the Holy Spirit as an impersonal source of power that we can tap into in order to accomplish our goals. This could not be further from the truth.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead. He lives within us and empowers us to accomplish the will of God. The first two questions in the discussion will lead to a discussion of who the Holy Spirit is and will provide an opportunity to clear away confusion.
The central aim of this session is to show that God wants to use every believer to advance His purpose in some way. Every believer is gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry. Coming to faith in Christ is the beginning of a life of discipleship and service lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Question six gives an opportunity to affirm gifts that God has given to different members of the group. This discussion can be a time of great encouragement. If there are members of your group who have come to faith recently or through the study, it will be important to affirm the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and help them see how God can use them.
With only two more sessions left after this one, you should consider providing a next step for participants should they be interested in further study after this course. There are a number of options. Ten Keys for Unlocking the Bible is based on the larger four-volume series Unlocking the Bible Story, which takes you through the Bible in much greater detail. Study guides are available to take a small group through each Testament in one year. See the web site (www.tenkeys.info) for details and additional options.
Session nine gives another opportunity for participants to consider where they are in their spiritual journey. We are introduced to three characters. Two of them, Hostile and Helpless, represent people who have not grasped what it means to be a Christian.
"Hostile," as the name suggests, is someone who is fundamentally antagonistic towards God. It is unlikely that someone who is hostile would be part of your group, but it is possible.
"Helpless" represents the person who would like to live a life that is pleasing to God but finds that he or she is not able to do so. You may find a number in your group who feel that this is their position.
This session provides a great opportunity to talk about the realities of the Christian life. It is important both to acknowledge the difficult struggle that we all face and to affirm the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us into victory.
The key teaching point in this session is that the Christian life is a winnable war by the power of the Holy Spirit given to every believer. It is about God's making possible what we could not do alone.
Participants should not be pressured to share which of the characters they identify with, but you can offer the opportunity for them to do so if they would like to.
The video presentation ends with a prayer that could be offered by somebody who identifies with any one of the three characters. This gives an opportunity for every member of the group to respond in some way.
Question four provides a good opportunity for the group to express how a person becomes a Christian. Remember that the difference between Helpless and Hopeful is that Helpless is simply making a personal effort to live a more moral life. He says nothing about Christ, and he knows nothing about the Holy Spirit. He is not a Christian. Trusting in Christ and living in the power of the Holy Spirit are the twin towers of the Christian life.
Excerpted from Ten Keys for Unlocking the Bible Course by Colin S. Smith. Copyright © 2003 Colin S. Smith. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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