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Life-Changing Doctrines: A 10-Week Study

By Coty Pinckney

In these 10 lessons we will study some of the basic doctrines of our faith, and examine how these doctrines are important for living the Christian life. Our theme is found in 2 Peter 1:5-11:

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these, you will never fall, and your entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

 The topics we will address and the primary scriptural references are:

1) What does it mean to become a Christian? Eph 2:1-10
2) What is the Bible? 2 Tim 3:12-4:5
3) Who is Jesus? John 1:1-18
4) Who is God the Father? Isaiah 45:18-24, Psalm 103
5) Who is the Holy Spirit? John 14:15-21; John 16:5-16
6) Who is Satan? Luke 4:1-13, John 8:44
7) What is Prayer? Matthew 6:1-13
8) The Nature of Christian Morality Galatians 5:13-26
9) Living the Christian Life Hebrews 3:7-4:16
10) Growing in Christ 2 Peter 1:3-11

Each lesson below contains the scripture reference together with questions to answer during your preparation. Note that some of the questions have a right or wrong answer, while others can be answered in different ways by different persons. Please commit yourself to spend time every week reading the passage, prayerfully reflecting on the questions, and answering them to the extent you are able. It would be helpful to keep this handout and your written answers together in a notebook or folder. In addition to the main passage, note that each sheet lists several additional passages on the central topic that you may want to study also. In each meeting, we will discuss your answers, and emphasize how to apply the truths we learn to our lives.

 

 


LESSON 1: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN

Main Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10

Passages for digging deeper: The entire book of 1 John, but especially 1:5-2:11, John 1:12-13, Romans 10:9-12, John 6:35-40, John 10:22-30, Matt 7:21-27

(1) List the characteristics of man prior to being saved, according to this passage. Can you summarize what these mean in a single phrase?

 (2) What did God do for us, according to this passage? (Note: Paul uses at least three different images here)

 (3) Why did God do these things for us? What attracted God to us?

 (4) What does it mean to be "raised with Christ"?

 (5) Where does faith come from?

 (6) What is the role of faith in salvation?

 (7) Did we cause ourselves to have faith?

 (8) After becoming saved, how do we change?

 (9) Can we lose our salvation by reverting to disobedience?

 (10) How can you know that you have salvation?

 (11) Can a person think he is a Christian when he is not?

(12) What does this imply for our attitudes and actions?

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LESSON 2: WHAT IS THE BIBLE?

 Main Passage: 2 Timothy 3:12-4:5

Passages for Digging Deeper: Hebrews 4:12-13, Psalm 119 (especially 9-16), Psalm 1, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Isaiah 55

2 Timothy is the last letter in the Bible that Paul wrote before being executed. He is writing to Timothy, who must carry on much of Paul's work in the churches that Paul began. It is an intensely personal letter, written to a man whom Paul regarded as a son.

 Read the whole passage several times before answering the questions:

 (1) Paul discusses two types of men in this passage: the man who knows and follows scripture, versus the man who does not. We will refer to them as the "godly man" and the "godless man." List the characteristics of each type of man, along with the verse number that gives the characteristic.

 (2) See vs 13. Who does the godless man try to deceive? In what way is he himself deceived?

 (3) What sort of teaching do people like to hear? Should a preacher try to please his listeners? What should be your attitude on hearing the Word of God preached, or when you read the Bible?

(4) In order to keep from being deceived, Paul tells Timothy to do what? (vs 14).

 (5) What is the difference between learning something and becoming convinced of it?

 (6) Why should Timothy be convinced of the teaching he has received?

 (7) When did Timothy begin to learn the Scriptures?

 (8) What are the Scriptures able to do in the life of the godly man?

 (9) How much of Scripture is inspired (God-Breathed)? What does this mean? What does it imply for the reliability of Scriptures?

 (10) What should we do if we encounter two passages in Scripture that seem to contradict each other?

 (11) In verse 16, Paul says that Scripture is useful in four ways. Describe what each of these words means. Think carefully about the difference between rebuking and correcting.

 (12) What is the result of learning and relying on Scripture? (vs 17).

 (13) What does it mean for Timothy to be prepared "in season and out of season?" Why is this important?

 (14) On what basis should Timothy correct and rebuke his listeners?

 (15) What is the result of not believing the Scriptures?

 (16) How can you reap the benefits described in this passage of knowing the Scriptures? (You may want to examine some of the additional passages when answering this question.)

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LESSON 3: WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?

 Main Passage: John 1:1-18

Passages for Digging Deeper: Hebrews 1:1-12, 2:10-18, 4:14-5:10, John 8:48-59, Matthew 17:1-8. Philippians 2:6-11

  John was written decades after the other 3 gospels. At that time several incorrect beliefs about Jesus were becoming prevalent. Throughout the book, John is careful to show the reader who Jesus is, and what importance that has for the believer.

Read the whole passage several times before answering the questions:

(1) How many different words does the author use to refer to Jesus in this passage? List them and the verses in which they are found. What do they tell us about the character of Jesus?

(2) What does the author tell us of the relationship between Jesus and God the Father? Look at the entire passage, but especially at vs 18.

(3) Was Jesus created? Defend your answer from this passage.

(4) Was Jesus a man? Defend your answer from this passage.

(5) Are your answers to questions (3) and (4) consistent with each other?

(6) What does the author tell us about the relationship between Jesus and the world?

(7) What is glory? 

(8) Who is the man named "John" referred to in this passage?

(9) In verse 15, John is quoted as having said that Jesus was coming after him but was before him. How can this be?

(10) Why did Jesus come into the world, according to this passage?

(11) What impact should understanding who Jesus is have on our lives?

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LESSON 4: WHO IS GOD THE FATHER?

Main Passages: Isaiah 45:18-24, Psalm 103

Passages for Digging Deeper: John 4:23-24, Acts 4:23-31, Psalm 100, Revelation 4 & 5, Romans 1:18-21, Romans 11:33-36, Daniel 9:4-19, 1 John 4, Isaiah 6:1-8

This week we are discussing the characteristics, or attributes of God. These attributes cannot be separated from our response to them. The Isaiah passage is from a section in which God is speaking of the return of Israel from exile and, at the same time, prophesying about the coming of the Christ and the eventual restoration of the kingdom of Israel. The book of Psalms is full of praise for God's attributes and shows us clearly man's appropriate reaction to them. We could study almost any Psalm; 103 is a well-known example of the praise for God's character found throughout the book.

Read both of the main passages several times before answering these questions.

(1) List the characteristics of God found in the Isaiah passage (don't stop until you have found at least 7!).

 

(2) Now supplement that list with those additional characteristics found in Psalm 103. How many of the same characteristics do you find? How many additional ones (and don't stop here until you have found at least 3 additional ones)?

(3) Go back to your list for questions 1 & 2 and, for each characteristic of God, state a problem that results for the Christian who does not fully understand that God has this characteristic.

(4) Which of these characteristics do you know the least about?

(5) What does "holy" mean?

(6) Given these attributes of God, what should be our response? What does God expect of us? What clues can you find in these passages?

(7) From this study, write a brief definition of worship.

(8) Why is worship of God so vital for a Christian? What can we do to improve our worship?

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LESSON 5: WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?

 Main Passages: John 14:15-21; John 16:5-16

 Passages for Digging Deeper: Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 12:11 & 13; Romans 8:14 & 26 & 12:6-8; Acts 8:20 & 13:4; Genesis 6:3; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30, & 5:18; Galatians 5:22-23; John 7:37-39; I Peter 4:10.

 1. Why were the disciples feeling anxious (observe the context of John 14:1-14) and insecure at that time? Why would the promise of the Holy Spirit help to comfort them?

 2. Looking at 14:15, why did Jesus talk about obedience before mentioning the gift of the Spirit?

 3. What help does 14:16 give us about understanding our eternal security in Christ?

 4. What titles does Jesus give for the Spirit in 14:15-21? What does each title tell us about His ministry in our lives?

 5. Why can only a true Christian have the Holy Spirit living in him?

 6. Why did Jesus say in 16:5-7 that it was really better for His followers if he left them to go to Heaven? Do you think that they believed Him at first?

 7. What is the convicting work of the Spirit, in regard to the unbelieving world and to the Church of Christ? (see 16:8-11)

 8. In 16:13, what work does the Spirit do in our minds and understanding? How do we see the unity of the Trinity in this verse?

 9. In 16:14-15, observe the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How do they work together?

 10. Why did Jesus wait until close to the time of His death to tell His disciples about the Holy Spirit?

 11. In what other ways does the Holy Spirit work in the lives of believers? Examine the passages for digging deeper.

 12. What sins can a believer commit against the Holy Spirit? See Matthew 12:31, Acts 7:51, Ephesians 4:30-32, 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Explain the nature of each of these sins.


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LESSON 6: WHO IS SATAN?

 Main Passages: Luke 4:1-13, John 8:44

 Passages for Digging Deeper: Revelation 12:7-11 & 20:7-10, Ezekiel 28:12-19, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Ephesians 6:10-18, Genesis 3:1-5, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

"Know your opponent" is useful advice for athletes, generals, -- and Christians! Information about Satan is scattered throughout the Bible, with no long passages describing his character. As always, the questions this week concentrate on the main passages, but since all the additional passages are short, I recommend strongly that you take the time to read through all the passages for digging deeper.

 Read both of the main passages several times before answering these questions.

 (1) When Satan says "If you are the Son of God" in the Luke passage, the Greek words used could also be translated "Since you are the Son of God." Satan is not here tempting Jesus to question his relationship to God, as the English words may lead you to believe. Instead, what different desires is Satan appealing to in Jesus?

 (2) Can you summarize the general nature of Satan's temptations in Luke?

 (3) How does Jesus counter Satan's temptations in every case?

 (4) Why would it have been wrong for Jesus to turn the stones into bread?

 (5) Did Satan ever tempt Jesus again? (Hint: the answer is in this passage).

 (6) List the characteristics of Satan that are revealed in this passage. For each of these, list also an attribute of God which is the opposite.

 (7) Given these characteristics of Satan and the response of Jesus to temptation, what can we do to prepare ourselves to deal with Satan's temptations?

 (8) Think of three of the most prevalent lies that Satan has used in his temptations of you. Do your best to think of a verse in Scripture that counters this attack. We will share these lies during class. Ask for help in class if you have a hard time finding a verse that counters the Devil's lies.

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LESSON 7: WHAT IS PRAYER?

 Main Passage: Matthew 6:1-13

Passages for Digging Deeper: Luke 9:18, Luke 11:1-13, Romans 8:26-27, Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 1:15-19 & 3:14-21, Philippians 4:6-7, John 15:5-10 & 17:1-26, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Daniel 9:1-19

(1) Verse 1 presents the theme of the first half of Matthew 6. Why is it so important not to perform religious acts in order to be seen? Does this command contradict Matthew 5:16?

 (2) (Verse 5) In what way have the hypocrites "already been paid"?

 (3) Is Jesus telling us not to engage in public prayer meetings in verse 6? What does it mean to be alone with God, and why is this important?

(4) Can I be certain that my prayer life is in good shape if I pray for an hour every day?

 (5) Verse 8 says that "your father already knows your requests before you speak them." So why is it necessary to speak them?

 (6) Examine verses 9 through 13 carefully. Jesus here lays out a pattern of praying. Note that there is an invocation, followed by 6 or seven requests.

(a) What is the purpose of the invocation?

(b) The first three requests are all of what type? What about the last three or four requests? What implications does this have for us as we pray?

(c) What does it mean for God's kingdom to come?

  (d) Consider the order of the requests in verses 11 to 13. Why does Jesus put physical needs ahead of spiritual needs?

(e) Does verse 12 say that God forgives us because we have forgiven others?

(7) When can we be certain that God will answer our requests affirmatively?

(8) What lessons have you learned that you can apply to your own prayer life?

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LESSON 8: THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN MORALITY

 Main Passage: Galations 5:13-26

Passages for Digging Deeper: The rest of Galations, Matthew 5:17-48, Mark 12:28-34, 2 Timothy 2:22, Romans 6, 7, & 12:1-2, John 15:1-10, Colossians 2:20-3:4

In the book of Galatians, Paul is energetically countering a heresy that had developed: some Jewish Christians were requiring Gentiles to become Jews in every way prior to being recognized as Christians. These requirements included being circumcised and following all aspects of Jewish law. Paul argues in the first four chapters that this idea is completely opposed to the Gospel, because through Christ's death we are freed from the law. But the logical question arises: if we are not under the law, can we follow our natural desires and act however we wish? Paul answers this question in 5:13-6:10.

  Read the passage through several times before answering the questions.

  1. If we follow our natural desires what will happen to us?
  2. Given your answer to (1), what is wrong with laying down a set of laws or rules to control and limit these natural desires? (You may want to look at Romans 7 and the Colossians passage here also).
  3. What is the role of the Spirit in Christian morality?
  4. Is a man who is led by the Spirit under the law? Will a man who is led by the Spirit obey the law?

 (5) Some non-Christians say, "If I become a Christian, I will have to stop doing so many things that I will miss out on life!" How can you use this passage to counter that argument?

 (6) "Christian morality is based on the desire to avoid doing wrong." Is this statement correct or incorrect? Explain your answer.

 (7) What implications does this study have for the way you live your life?

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LESSON 9: LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Main Passage: Hebrews 3:7-4:16

Passages for Digging Deeper: Zechariah 4:6, 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, Hebrews 10:19-25, Romans 8:1-17, Philippians 1:6, 2:1-16 & 4:13, John 13:1-17 & 15:5, James 1:2-4, Colossians 1:29 & 2:6-7

The book of Hebrews was written to Christians who were becoming discouraged. There is evidence that at this time, about thirty years after Christ's death, miracles were becoming much less common, that some of the excitement of the early years had worn off, and that some Jewish Christians were considering returning to Judaism. This fairly difficult passage is one of the most extended passages dealing with how to live the Christian life. Read it slowly, concentrating on the line of argument, and then use the questions to help you re-read the passage.

(1) After reading the entire passage, pick out three or four words that occur several times in the passage and seem to you to be the primary topics of discussion.

(2) The passage begins with a quote from Psalm 95, and can be considered an inspired commentary on that Psalm. What is the "time of testing in the desert" to which the Psalm refers? In what sense had these people heard God's voice?

(3) How is verse 12 related to verses 7 through 11?

(4) Summarize in your own words the implications of verses 12 and 13 for the role of Christian fellowship in living the Christian life.

(5) From verse 16, what was special about these people? Why is this important for the flow of the author's argument?

(6) In verses 18 & 19 the author gives two explanations for why these people did not enter God's rest. What are they? Are these two separate reasons, or are they related to each other?

(7) In 4:1, why does the author conclude that "the promise of entering his rest still stands?"

(8) From verses 2 & 3, in what ways are we today like the people of Israel? In what way can we be different?

(9) Did Joshua fulfill the promise of entering God's rest when he brought the Israelites into the promised land? Defend your answer from this passage.

(10) Why is it important to the author's argument that David wrote Psalm 95 long after Joshua lived?

(11) Verses 10 & 11 are the conclusions to this line of argument. What does it mean for us today to "enter God's rest?"

(12) Read verse 4:11 carefully. How can one "make every effort to enter that rest?" Isn't this like saying, "Use all your energy to go to sleep?"

(13) Verse 12 -- an important verse describing the role of the Bible in our life -- begins with the word "for." It is thus linked with the preceding argument. What is the link between verses 12-13 and the preceding verses in this passage?

(14) Similarly, verses 14-16 begin with the word "therefore." What is the link between these verses and the preceding argument? (Hint: look carefully at verse 16.)

(15) Summarize the implications of this passage for living the Christian life. How does your added understanding of this topic affect the way you will live this week?

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LESSON 10: GROWING IN CHRIST

 Main Passage: 2 Peter 1:3-11

Passages for Digging Deeper: Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21, Hebrews 11 & 12, Phillipians 1:3-11, 3:12-16, 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:13, 2 Timothy 2:1-13

Like 2 Timothy, 2 Peter was written when the author knew he would be dying soon. Peter here reminds his readers of what he has already taught them, particularly emphasizing the necessity of growth, the danger of false teachers, and the certainty of Christ's return.

1. What must we do in order to live a godly life (verses 3 & 4)?

2. What promises do you think Peter is referring to in verse 4?

3. What does "corruption" mean? Think of an example from the physical world of something being corrupted. How do we avoid this corruption?

4. Verse 5 begins "For this very reason." What reason is Peter referring to?

5. Verses 5-7 describe a "ladder" of Christian growth, with 8 "rungs" in the ladder. Why does Peter begin with faith?

6. Consider the rungs on the ladder one by one. In what sense does each rung build on the previous rung?

 

7. Is it possible to skip a rung? What is the result of doing so?

8. What is the meaning of "godliness" and why is it included in the list?

9. Where are you on this ladder? How long have you been there? Are you climbing up, staying at the same level, or (!) falling down?

10. If you are not moving up the ladder, what happens to your Christian life? What are the two possible explanations for your lack of movement up the ladder (verses 8 & 9)?

11. Is it possible to grow in the Christian life to a certain stage and then to stay the same, without any more growth?

12. Verse 10 begins with the word "therefore." Why? What does Peter mean by saying we should make our calling and election sure? What does the ladder have to do with our election?

13. If possible, consult both a New American Standard and a New International Version for translations of verse 11. Note the differences. If we are moving up the ladder, when will we be blessed with this abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord & Savior?


14. Finally, sum up the lesson, and the entire study: How do we grow in Christ? What will you do -- this week and in the weeks to come -- to ensure that you continue to grow?

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Copyright © 1993, Thomas C. Pinckney. This data file is the sole property of Thomas C. Pinckney. Please feel free to copy it, but only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.

This data file may not be copied in part, edited, revised, copied for resale or incorporated in any commercial publications, recordings, broadcasts, performances, displays or other products offered for sale, without the written permission of Thomas C. Pinckney, tpinckney@williams.edu, c/o Community Bible Church, Harrison Ave, Williamstown, MA 01267.

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