Key Scriptures: Matthew 1-3, Genesis 3, Acts 7, Acts 2:14-41, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Galatians 3:27, Acts 8, Acts 18:8, Luke 10:27, 1 Corinthians 16:14, Matthew 5:16, James 2:14-18 and 26, Colossians 3:23-24, Hebrews 13:16, Galatians 6:9, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, James 1:27, Proverbs 3:27-28, Hebrews 6:10, Hebrews 10:24, Titus 3:8, Matthew 25:31-47, James 4:17, Romans 2:6-10, Matthew 7:21-23, Titus 1:16, John 14:15, 1 John 5:2-3, Luke 6:46, Luke 11:28, 1 John 3:24, James 1:22-25, John 15:10, 2 John 1:6-9, Matthew 28:19-20, Matthew 24:14, 1 Peter 3:15, Matthew 9:37-38, 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 10:13-14
Guiding Question: What is God’s vision for our lives?
Introductory Activity: Show students a piece of a jigsaw puzzle (preferably one with only a few total pieces) or a very small section of a work of art. Ask students if they can guess the entire picture with just the little bit you are showing them. Gradually add more pieces until students correctly guess the “big picture”. Ask them what could happen if so,etching important would have been gained or lost based on their earlier guesses. Have them share how just having a piece of the “big picture” of something can be confusing or misleading. Also have them share how having the “big picture” like the photo on the box of the puzzle can be helpful in knowing what needs to be done to complete the puzzle (literally or figuratively speaking).
Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) In some ways, the Bible is like a big puzzle. The various stories and scriptures fit together to create a “big picture” of God’s vision for our world, how sin destroyed that perfect version and how Jesus gave us an opportunity to restore God’s original vision. Briefly remind students of the story of Creation and the perfection of life in the Garden of Eden. Have them read Genesis 3. What happened to ruin God’s perfect world of the Garden of Eden? What were some of the consequences of this loss of perfection? What hope is given for its eventual restoration?
We call the introduction of sin into the world and its consequences, the Fall. If the story ended there, it would have been truly tragic. However, God immediately began setting the stage for redemption. Read Acts 7. How did the remainder of the Old Testament prepare for the arrival of the Messiah? Read Matthew 1-3. What clues do we have in these first three chapters that Jesus is not only the son of God, but also will provide the possibility of redemption for all people? Read Acts 2:14-41. What does Peter say that fills in the remainder of God’s vision for redeeming us? How did the people hearing this respond? Why did they respond in this way?
God’s plan for all people to be redeemed from their sins requires action on our parts. This action doesn’t somehow “earn” us salvation, but is a symbol of our obedience and dedication to God. It also models what Jesus did himself. Jesus had no sins to forgive, but wanted to set the example for how we were to have our sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Some people try to remove baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit from God’s big plan for our lives. They may remove baptism entirely, reduce it to a way to become a member of a denomination or try to let others make that choice for us before we are old enough to make it for ourselves. It’s sad, because they have to purposefully ignore verses in the Bible that explain the need for baptism more clearly than perhaps anything else in scripture. In fact, some churches will quote Acts 2:36-37 and purposefully omit verse 38 to try and “prove” their point.
Read the following scriptures. Outside of class, you may also want to read the entire book of Acts. After reading the scriptures, describe God’s plan for how we become a Christian.
- Acts 2:38
- Acts 22:16
- 1 Peter 3:21
- Galatians 3:27
- Acts 8
- Acts 18:8
(Note: For students with more questions about baptism, you may want to refer them to our free ebook A Student’s Guide to Baptism)
Once we become a Christian, there are certain things God wants us to do and other things He wants us to avoid doing. He sums up these commands in what are called the two greatest commands. Read Luke 10:27. What are the two greatest commands? Can you think of other commands of God and fit them under one of the two greatest commands? There is an underlying attitude God wants us to have as we try and fulfill His vision for our lives. Read Luke 10:27. What underlying attitude does God want us to have in everything we do? Why would that be important to God?
While he was on earth, Jesus repeated or clarified many of God’s commands. After Jesus ascended to Heaven, his disciples continued to explain God’s commands even more. Some people think they can become a Christian and continue to do whatever they feel like doing or want to do. The truth is that God demands our obedience to His commands. We will still sin from time to time and we can repent and be forgiven, but our goal should be obedience if we hope to fulfill God’s vision for our lives.
Read these verses and discuss what they tell us about God’s expectations for our obedience of His commands.
- James 4:17
- Romans 2:6-10
- Matthew 7:21-23
- Titus 1:16
- John 14:15
- 1 John 5:2-3
- Luke 6:46
- Luke 11:28
- 1 John 3:24
- James 1:22-25
- John 15:16
- 2 John 1:6-9
God’s vision for our lives is more than just a list of things He doesn’t want us to do. Even though He knows not doing those things is best for us, He also has some positive things He wants us to do. One of these is that God wants us to go about doing good works, but there are other things, too. Read these scriptures. What do they tell us about the positive things He wants us to be doing in our lives?
- Matthew 5:16
- James 2:14-18, 26
- Colossians 3:23-24
- Hebrews 13:16
- Galatians 6:9
- 1 Timothy 6:17-19
- James 1:27
- Proverbs 3:27-28
- Hebrews 6:10
- Hebrews 10:24
- Titus 3:8
- Matthew 25:31-47
It seems like it should be easy to do good works that help other people. God knows though that sometimes we won’t feel like doing good works. In Colossians, Paul reminds us that our attitude does matter. Sometimes, we try to convince ourselves that these verses don’t apply to us. For example, we may read those verses in 1 Timothy and feel they don’t apply to us because we aren’t rich. In reality, almost everyone in the United States is rich compared to the vast majority of the people in the world. The average person in many countries earn less than $3 an hour. In the United States, our lowest wage jobs pay two or three times that amount of money. We need to read all of these verses and try to obey them, rather than find excuses to ignore them or obey them with a bad attitude.
There is one more important vision God has for our lives. He knows that millions and millions of people have never even heard the name of Jesus. Even more have no idea what God wants them to do. Many have never read the Bible. God wants us to change that. He wants us to tell other people the stories of the Bible and what God wants from them and for them. He wants us to share our faith with everyone we can – just like the early Christians.
Read these verses. What do they tell us about God’s vision for us sharing our faith with others?
- Matthew 28:19-20
- Matthew 24:14
- 1 Peter 3:15
- Matthew 9:37-38
- 2 Timothy 3:16
- Romans 10:13-14
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Choose an activity that most meets the needs of your students.
- Divide students into four groups. Assign each group one of the areas of God’s vision for our lives – becoming a Christian, obedience, good works and faith sharing. Have each group think of practical things students can do to more closely align their lives with God’s vision. Those tasked with becoming a Christian should focus on ways they can help those who have not become Christians yet move towards it. Their answers may closely resemble those from the faith sharing group, but that’s okay.
- Have students pair up and practice sharing their faith. One person should pretend to be a seeker and ask common questions a seeker might ask. You may want to have them do it as a class first to become comfortable with how to share their faith. More advanced students may benefit from the handouts that can be found under volunteer training resources on our website.
- Have students create two self portraits. One should reflect how their life would look if they fulfilled God’s vision for it. The other would be how they see themselves now in comparison to God’s vision for their lives. Have students share their self portraits if they are comfortable sharing them.
Application Challenge: Review the scriptures from the lesson. Where does your life align well with God’s vision for it? Where are you struggling? What are some practice things you can do to make your life reflect God’s vision more closely. Try and do at least one of those things this week.