1. How can admitting that sin is slavery help us in our battle against temptation?
One of Satan’s most successful strategies involves convincing God’s people that sinful practices are liberating. This was a significant part of his approach to Eve (Genesis 3).
One of the most crucial and successful techniques to resist Satan in this regard involves the willingness to call sin what Scripture calls it: bondage (compare Hebrews 2:15). No one in his or her right mind would find the thought of slavery appealing. Yet many do not acknowledge the enslaving power of particular sins until they experience it firsthand. By classifying sin accurately at the outset we allow the Holy Spirit to guard us against temptation. There is a very real sense in which “forewarned is forearmed.”
2. What are some ways that we, like the ancient Jews, might be tempted to allow ancestry and tradition to produce an inaccurate view of our spiritual status before God? How do we guard against this?
Those who come from devoutly Christian families might be lulled into assuming that that “godly aura” guarantees a right relationship with God. Due to the impact of their upbringing, people who come from a particular Christian heritage or denomination can at times find it difficult to let the Bible speak on its own terms.
Practices such as the singing of familiar songs, gathering with familiar people, and worshiping in a familiar place can provide great security. However such spiritual rhythms can become dangerous, if they become ends in themselves rather than as means to authentic relationship with God.
3. What are some practical lessons the example of Jesus can teach us regarding how to present the exclusive claims of the gospel?
We can never compromise the gospel message by communicating that salvation can be found in any way apart from an acknowledgment and acceptance of Jesus’ person and work. We must also strive to make sure that if people take offense at the gospel message it is due to the message itself and not to our presentation of the message.
If we suffer rejection for the sake of the gospel, we need to examine if that rejection is a reaction to the gospel message or is a reaction to our own obnoxious or abrasive attitude (1 Peter 3:15, 16).The example of Jesus shows that strong and dramatic language sometimes may be necessary to help people see their spiritual condition. We caution ourselves with the realization that Jesus could see into people’s hearts, but we cannot.
4. How should you as a Christian witness to someone who fears death? How would your witness to a Christian and a non-Christian differ, or would it?
Examining your own view of death is an important first step. Our view should be that death is an enemy, but it is a defeated enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Next, finding out why a person fears death is important. Some fear death because it is a great unknown. Some fear death because they dread the painful and difficult ways that people sometimes die. The list goes on.
Christians are not exempt from the pain of death. Yet we know that Jesus has emerged victorious by God’s power, that’s our hope. The fear that each Christian or non-Christian goes through is unique to him or her, so a canned approach will be counterproductive. Pray!
5. In what ways can Jesus’ example help us in efforts to share the gospel with Jewish people today? What are some cautions?
We must be careful not to make blanket comparisons between modern Judaism and the Judaism of Jesus’ opponents in the text. Modern Judaism manifests itself in various streams of belief (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed) that are not precisely parallel to the Judaism of Jesus’ day.
Even so, Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life. To the modem Jew we can demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah anticipated in the Scriptures. One thing we dare not do is give the idea that a person can reject Christ, stay within Judaism, and still be saved. The missionary work and teaching of the apostle Paul dispels any such possibility (Acts 13:44-46; etc.). Doing all from love is crucial.