1. How can we speak so that both believers and non-believers can appreciate the contrast between the holiness of God and the awfulness of sin? Should we use different language to the two groups in this regard? Explain.
Non-believers may tune us out when their sinful behavior is described as filthy and polluted. Yet if sinful behavior is allowed to be perceived as normal, then it is hard for individuals to examine it from another perspective.
Perhaps one way to begin is to focus on the holiness of God and how His commandments flow from this characteristic. Anything short of that standard fails miserably by comparison.
2. How can leaders in the church stumble into following the bad example of the religious leaders described in our text? How do we guard against this?
There are malicious religious leaders who followed the customs of the day rather than being beacons directing people to God.
3. People are often asked to evaluate how they would act if Jesus were standing beside them. But what if we turned that idea around?
If we watched God as He worked in the midst of sinful situations as He tried to bring people back to Him, we could have a guide on how to do the same.
4. How can the church teach young people—or indeed anyone—that shame, guilt, and remorse are appropriate reactions to sin?
We are surrounded by a generation of young people who seem not to be embarrassed about seeing or participating in any activity. There will be no shame, guilt, or remorse where sin is not recognized as sin. Helping people see the truth of this concept is vital.
If your class is made up of older individuals, this question may lead them into rehearsing a long list of the things the younger generation does that really irritates them. But a mannerism or behavior by one person that irritates another isn’t necessarily sinful in the eyes of God.
5. What descriptive models can we create to communicate an accurate picture of the awesome force of God’s anger? Or should we jus tsay what the Bible says and not be too “creative” in this regard?
Lead the class in formulating a list of possible ways to explain God’s reactions of anger and judgment; then help them evaluate the effectiveness of these models in today’s culture. One po-tential problem is using modern disasters as examples of His anger. We cannot be sure if they were judgments from God or just occurrences of nature. Passages such as Revelation 8:6-9:19 are powerful enough without embellishment!
6. What safeguards can the church put in place to keep the focus on winning the lost rather than fighting over interpretations of prophecies?
The fulfillment of the prophecy in verse 9 has been explained variously as (1) the return of the Jewish people to rebuild Jerusalem, (2) the unity developed as the church began, (3) a set of circumstances that will unfold just before the second coming of Christ, and (4) the final unity in Heaven. Rather than immediately focusing on disagreement, it is undoubtedly better to focus on what all Christians can agree with: God is in charge and His plans will be revealed in His time frame.
Yet we need not merely stop at that point, sweep our disagreements under the rug, and say, “God will work it out; let’s not worry about it.” We can dig deeper to see if there are further areas of agreement. For example, another thing we can agree upon is that in prophecy more than one interpretation may be true in a “double fulfillment” kind of way.