When Did God Become a Christian? Leader Guide: Knowing the God of the Old and New Testaments

When Did God Become a Christian? Leader Guide: Knowing the God of the Old and New Testaments

by David Kalas

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Overview

Why does the God of the Old Testament seem so different from the God of the New Testament? Throughout history, seasoned church goers and newcomers to the Christian faith have all struggled with this question.

In When Did God Become a Christian?, David Kalas identifies some common experiences, troublesome passages, and natural reactions that we all encounter while reconciling the God of both the Old and New Testaments. In twelve chapters, Kalas explores the unity of Scripture, biblical history, and the two primary attributes of God, love and holiness, to help readers clarify the integrity of the nature of God. With a better understanding of the Bible's unity and of God's integrity, they will come to love, worship, and trust God more.

The Leader Guide contains everything needed to guide a group through the six-week study including session plans and discussion questions, as well as multiple format options.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501830983
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 03/07/2017
Edition description: Leaders Gu
Pages: 64
Sales rank: 859,439
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.20(d)

About the Author

David Kalas is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is the author of The Gospel According to Leviticus, When Did God Become a Christian?, Savior on the Cross, and has also contributed to several collections of sermons and preaching resources. Kalas is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Union Theological Seminary of Virginia.

Read an Excerpt

When Did God Become a Christian? Leader Guide

Knowing God Through the Old and New Testaments


By Lori Jones

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2017 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5018-3099-0



CHAPTER 1

SESSION ONE

Exploring the Rumor Going Around the Church

Planning the Session


Session Goals

Through this session's discussion and activities, participants will:

• Consider the question, "When did God become a Christian?"

• Examine the misconception that God is different in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.

• Consider how our perceptions affect our faith.

• Think about how we deal with conflicts in our faith.

• Invite the Lord into their questions and doubts about God and faith.


Preparation

• Read and reflect on the first two chapters, "The Rumor Going Around the Church" and "Nothing New Under the Sun," in When Did God Become a Christian? Knowing God Through the Old and New Testaments by David Kalas.

• Read through this session outline in its entirety to familiarize yourself with the material being covered.

• Read and reflect on the following Scriptures:

* Exodus 19:1, 18-20; 31:18

* Deuteronomy 32:4

* Psalm 33:11

* Proverbs 30:5

* Malachi 3:6

* Matthew 5:1-12

* Mark 4:35-41

* 2 Timothy 3:16-17

* Revelation 22:13


• Have a marker board or large sheet of paper available for recording group members' ideas.

• Have a Bible, paper for taking notes, and a pen or pencil available for every participant.

• For the activity in "The Comparison Game," write the word pairs on a marker board or prepare copies to be handed out to each participant.

• Participants should keep a journal throughout the study. Encourage them to bring their own journals, but be sure to have enough blank paper on hand for each person to use for journaling.


Session Outline

Opening Activity and Prayer (15 minutes)


Welcome participants as they arrive. Invite each person to briefly introduce himself or herself and talk about why he or she is interested in this study. How much time you spend on introductions will depend on how familiar participants are with you and one another.

Since this session will explore a rumor of sorts, open your time together with a couple rounds of the Telephone Game.

• Begin by writing down a simple statement on a slip of paper and giving that slip of paper to one participant. Make up a statement of your choosing, but keep it simple. (For example, "My friend Sally went to the store for some milk.") The first person should whisper the statement to the person sitting next to him or her; that person, in turn, should do the same to the person beside him or her. This process will continue until each person has heard the statement whispered in his or her ear. It is important that each person only speak the statement one time. The last person to hear the statement will then repeat aloud to the group what he or she heard. How did the statement change as it passed from one person to another?

• Do another round of the game using a more complicated statement. (For example, "My friend Sally went to the store for some milk, but when she got there, she saw her friend Jane and found out about the fire at their neighbor's house.") Discuss how complicating the statement affected the game.

• Say something like: "We encounter rumors all the time. They range from little, seemingly harmless tales to malicious lies that do lasting damage to people's hearts and lives. In this session we will look at a rumor that has gone around the church for much of the church's history and that seems to have gained popularity in recent years. Let's open our time together by asking the Lord to open our hearts and minds to hear what God wants to show us today."


Prayer:

Lord, as we begin this study, we thank you for the opportunity to slow down and spend these weeks contemplating who you are and what you want us to know about you. We pray that we will be open to hear from you, no matter how challenging it may be to put aside long-held perceptions and ideas. Throughout this study, direct our attention to the grand story you are telling and how we fit into it. Thank you for your abundant love and mercy, and bless our time together as we seek you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Study and Discussion (35 minutes)

Rumor Has It

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Author David Kalas says that, as a pastor who has served in many congregations of all sizes and types, he has heard a particular rumor about God pop up again and again. Here's the rumor: The God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament.

Note: Although this study is dedicated to disproving this rumor and revealing the danger of believing it, be sensitive to those who may believe the rumor or those who are unsure. Be careful not to shame or disparage those who might have deep questions about the God of the Old Testament, because some such people are likely in your group! Some Christians may even feel this way without even realizing it. Make this group a safe place to ask questions and express doubts so that those questions and doubts can be illuminated by God's Word.


Discuss:

• Have you encountered this rumor or idea, and what do you think about it?

• Why, do you think, are so many people drawn to this idea?


Read aloud or summarize for the group:

By their very nature, rumors are almost always imprecise, if not wildly inaccurate. As the word gets passed from one person to another, it picks up layers of individual insight and personal leanings. And because rumors often have a loose relationship to facts, they lend themselves to reinterpretation.

Those who have bought into the rumor that God in the New Testament is different from God in the Old Testament often argue that, in the Old Testament, the Lord appears more angry, destructive, and impatient. There's a lot of judgment and death. God seems exclusive, favoring some groups over others.

Those who feel this way suggest that the Lord in the New Testament, by contrast, appears kind and gracious, merciful and forgiving. God's basic posture in the New Testament seems to be inviting, and the invitation is open to all.

But is there truth in this rumor? Is there really a difference between God in the Old Testament and in the New?


Discuss:

• If there were truth to the rumor that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament, what would this mean for our faith and our understanding of God?

• How is this idea at odds with truths we know about God?


The Comparison Game

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Our endeavor in this study is to see the two testaments more clearly so that we have an accurate picture of God. When we're done, we will be better acquainted with the unity of Scripture and better equipped to wrestle with difficult passages in a framework that encompasses the Old and New Testaments alike. And, in the process, we will rediscover the one who is the God of the whole Bible.

In order to be more aware of our perceptions of God and the Bible, let's do a little comparison activity.


Activity:

On a marker board or large sheet of paper, write these word pairs found below. Or, if desired, provide paper copies for each participant with the word pairs listed.

Law
Gospel

Jehovah
Jesus

Old
New

Circumcision
Baptism

Prophets
Apostles

Passover
Communion


Going pair by pair, give participants several minutes to jot down words or thoughts or images that come to mind as they consider each word in the pair. For example, Law might evoke words such as judgment or restriction, and Gospel might prompt words such as grace, redemption, invitation.


Discuss:

• What came to mind when you read each word?

• What sort of picture or image did each word inspire? Did you notice a difference in the pictures that came to mind for each pair of words?


Read aloud or summarize for the group:

There is one more pair of words that might be helpful for us to consider:

Mount Sinai
The Mount of Beatitudes


• Read aloud Exodus 19:1, 18-20; 31:18.

• Read aloud Matthew 5:1-12.


Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Mount Sinai is the place where Moses received God's Law. The Mount of Beatitudes is the Galilean hillside where Jesus is believed to have delivered his Sermon on the Mount. In a sense, these two famous mountains emotionally represent the two testaments because they are the locations of two of the seminal moments in Scripture.


Discuss:

• What comes to mind when you picture Mount Sinai and Moses receiving the Law from God? What comes to mind when you picture the Mount of the Beatitudes and Jesus delivering his Sermon on the Mount? What are some similarities between the two? What are some differences?

• What are some other parallels between the Old and New Testaments? (Examples might include jealous kings, important bodies of water, persecuted prophets, and so forth.)

• What thoughts do you have about the similarities and differences between the Old and New Testaments? How do these thoughts affect your understanding of God?


A Long-standing Conflict

Activity:

Have participants gather in the middle of your meeting space. Ask everyone to think about whether they align themselves more with the Old Testament or the New Testament. In doing this they should focus on which testament most informs their beliefs, influences their decisions, and shapes their understanding of God. Have one side of the room represent the New Testament and the other represent the Old Testament. Invite participants to move to one side or the other based on which testament they align with more closely and the degree to which they align with this testament. For example, someone who feels like the New Testament is the only part of the Bible she or he relates to at all would move far to the New Testament side. Someone who feels a strong connection to both testaments but is partial to the Old Testament would take a few steps toward the Old Testament side but stay fairly close to the center.

After participants have moved to indicate which Testament they align with more, ask people standing in different parts of the room why they chose to stand where they did.


Read aloud or summarize for the group:

While Christians have always recognized the authority of both the Old and New Testaments, there also have always been those who consider the New Testament more important or more authoritative. One early and extreme example of this involved an influential theologian named Marcion of Sinope. Marcion, who was born in the late first century to a Christian bishop in Asia Minor (current-day Turkey), was an outspoken critic of the Old Testament. As he read and studied the Bible, he came to the conclusion that the God portrayed in the Old Testament was arbitrary and vindictive, as opposed to the loving and compassionate God revealed as Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He concluded that, while the New Testament God of Christ desires to be loved, the Old Testament God instead demands to be obeyed.

Because Marcion believed there were such stark differences between God in the Old and New Testaments, he decided that each testament referred to an entirely different God. In Marcion's view, the New Testament God was the God of Jesus Christ, and Christians should have nothing to do with the Old Testament God. And Marcion didn't even care for all of the books of the New Testament; his version of Scripture included only certain letters of Paul and his edit of the Gospel of Luke.


Discuss:

• What do you think about Marcion's conclusions? Why, do you think, did he decide that God in the New Testament was different from the God of the Old Testament?

• Marcion believed the only way to resolve his questions was to fashion a kind of Bible of his own: the portions he read, the parts he followed. Though few today would have the audacity to take scissors to the Bible the way Marcion did, we still have ways of taking out the parts we don't like. In what ways, do you think, do Christians "edit" the Bible today? When have you been guilty of ignoring or dismissing parts of the Bible that you don't like?

• What are the dangers of dismissing the parts of the Bible that we don't like or aren't comfortable with?


Two Dilemmas: Intellectual and Spiritual

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

When we come up against stories or teachings in Scripture that challenge us or make us uncomfortable, how do we respond? For some, the challenge is intellectual; for others, it's spiritual.

Those with intellectual challenges struggle to harmonize what they read in the Old and New Testaments and pit them against each other, as though they were in opposition. This usually leads to choosing one testament over the other and, as a result, either undermining the character of God and/or the unity of Scripture, both of which are fundamental to the Christian faith.

• Read the following verses aloud regarding the character of God. Title a marker board or large sheet of paper "Character of God" and list characteristics of God given in the following Scriptures:

* Deuteronomy 32:4

* Malachi 3:6

* Revelation 22:13


• Read the following verses aloud regarding the unity of Scripture. Title a marker board or large sheet of paper "Unity of Scripture" and list characteristics of Scripture given in the following verses:

* Psalm 33:11

* Proverbs 30:5

* 2 Timothy 3:16


• What do these Scriptures about the unchanging nature of God and of God's Word tell us about the dangers of dismissing one testament or part of the Bible?


Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Even if we believe, on an intellectual level, that God is unchanging and that all of Scripture is important, we likely will encounter doubts about what we believe. When our views of God, Scripture, and truth are challenged, we need to know that we are not alone in our doubts and struggles. Nor are these doubts unique to our era or generation. We see in Scripture just how old and how common these obstacles to belief are.

• Read aloud the following Scriptures about believers who struggled with belief:

* Genesis 18:10-15; 21:1-6

* Mark 4:35-41

* Mark 9:14-29


•What is your typical response to Scriptures that you don't understand or make you uncomfortable?

• How have such Scriptures challenged your faith?


Closing Activity and Prayer (10 minutes)

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Many of us struggle with belief, but the struggle is necessary to bring us to a deeper understanding of God. The key is not to give up, because the Lord wants to work in and through our questions so that we can deepen our relationship with God and God's Word.

Take five minutes to open the floor and encourage participants to verbalize any questions they've come up with during the session. This isn't a time to answer those questions, but to let participants verbalize what they are thinking and feeling and to validate those who may have similar questions. You will do this at the end of every session.


Read aloud or summarize for the group:

During this study, keep a journal of the questions and struggles that come to mind as we go on this journey together. At the end of each session, we will take some quiet time to pause and reflect on what we've learned and discussed.

Use this time to write down what questions, doubts, or affirmations about God and Scripture have come to mind or been voiced by others during this session. Commit, during the coming week, to spend time in prayer asking that God would meet you in those questions and doubts and answer you in a mighty way. You might also search Scripture for answers or talk with your leader or pastor for help as you explore those questions and doubts. As we work through this struggle together, we will discover beautiful truths about God and God's Word.

Take about five quiet minutes for everyone to jot down his or her thoughts before closing in prayer. Remind participants that next week you will be discussing the content in chapters 3 and 4 in When Did God Become a Christian? Knowing God Through the Old and New Testaments by David Kalas.


Prayer:

Dear Lord, we thank you for your faithfulness to us. You are patient with our questions and doubts and you lovingly speak to us in our fears. Open our hearts and minds this week as we continue to seek truth in your Word. Thank you for revealing yourself to us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

CHAPTER 2

SESSION TWO

Affirming the Unity and Reliability of Scripture

Planning the Session

Session Goals

Through this session's discussion and activities, participants will be encouraged to:

• Discover how we see unity in Scripture, particularly through the words of Jesus and the apostles.

• See that the entire Bible preaches salvation through faith.

• Explore the reliability of Scripture.

• Invite the Lord to step into their questions about Scriptures that can sometimes be difficult to comprehend.


Preparation

• Read and reflect on chapters 3 and 4, "The Write-In Candidate" and "Out on a Limb with a Saw," in When Did God Become a Christian? Knowing God Through the Old and New Testaments by David Kalas.

• Read through this session guide in its entirety to familiarize yourself with the material being covered.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from When Did God Become a Christian? Leader Guide by Lori Jones. Copyright © 2017 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

To the Leader,
Session One: Exploring the Rumor Going Around the Church (Chapters 1–2),
Session Two: Affirming the Unity and Reliability of Scripture (Chapters 3–4),
Session Three: Getting a Clearer Picture of God (Chapters 5–6),
Session Four: Seeing God's Holiness and Love in the Old and New Testaments (Chapters 7–8),
Session Five: Identifying the Continuity of God's Purpose and Plan (Chapters 9–10),
Session Six: Different People, Same God (Chapters 11–12),
Notes,

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