Did You Find the Rose Garden?

Once upon a time… someone was promised a garden of roses.

We thought that was how it worked, didn’t we? Raised on Fairy Tales that all ended “happily ever after,” it seemed life–once we were grown–was going to be full of love, joy and roses. Shall I break it to you? It doesn’t happen that way very often.

We prepared for marriage, and hoped to get someone who would always love us unconditionally; we prepared for jobs, and were so fortunate if we got one that paid well. There were some where we had to follow orders simply because we were employed–orders that we sometimes questioned, or felt uncomfortable with.

One, I recall, was a huge, financially sound corporation. A directive came down the line from the people who sat in the plush offices several states away, who had little “hands on” experience to know how their decisions would impact those very people who made them profitable. This was one of the largest banking firms in the nation. A meeting was called, and the employees, all titled, sat at the conference center desk as the President laid out new rules: there would no longer be renewals on loans that were on the books, unless the customer had the cash to back up the loan. We’re not talking about small credit card debt, but commercial loans that might range up to a few million.

As the customers came in when their loan was up for renewal, and found it wasn’t going to be automatically turned over, they were floored. “I’ve never missed a payment, have impeccable credit, and a value of twice what I owe! How can you do this?!” These were real people, people we knew people well, and as we looked into their faces, we knew how incredibly hard it was going to be for them to keep bankruptcy at bay, just because corporate had made a decision, and now it was going to be mandated. So many went under. Our souls were full of guilt: should we fight or flee? How badly did we need the job?

Have you found the working world–or even school–full of favoritism, double standards and politics? Perhaps discrimination when one student, team, employee or person is favored above everyone else for no reason you’re aware of? That’s life today, isn’t it? At least we tell ourselves it is.

That was life thousands of years ago, as well! “There is nothing new under the sun,” Solomon wrote, and while he may have not meant technological advances, the incredible strides made with each generation still blow you away! Kitchen strainers and tableware artifacts have been found that are thousands of years old–and look like they are yesterday’s items.

The sermon yesterday at Thomas Road Baptist Church picks up on an employee–a soldier actually–who was ordered to do his job, and went out to do it. He had no choice, or probably his own life would have been in danger. This amazing story leaves you wondering what happened at the end, how did it turn out, was there a sequel?! Nowadays we would expect a trilogy, or even more. Click on http://www.trbc.org/sermons and then click on “Outsiders: Jesus at the Center,” preached by Charles Billingsley on March 26, 2017. You’ll be enthralled every moment as Charles brings one of the characters to life, fleshes him out, and gives you a beautiful picture of the love of Jesus Christ for each of us. Get your notebook to jot answers to the study below, a drink, a comfy chair, and if you have a friend to share the time with you, worship and study together. It will be a meaningful time of fellowship and feasting on the Bread of Life. Most of all, remember to praise God for the wealth of great teaching that we have available, and the possibility of changing someone’s life for eternity!

Outsiders: Jesus at the Center                                                                                                                                                                                                      Charles Billingsley

Open:

Sometimes we can attend a function, meeting, or study that is really important, but sit there feeling very disconnected from the group for any of a number of reasons. Can you think of an example? Jot your answers down if you’re alone, so you can keep a record of your thoughts.

This week we begin a new series, looking for four weeks at people who were part of the crucifixion of Jesus, but did not recognize His deity, and yet were touched by His grace. Whether their heart was changed, we will not know until eternity. Is it possible we—or someone we know—could hear the story of Christ week after week, be touched by His power, but never open our hearts to Him? Let’s look at the story.

Focal Passage: John 18:1-11 Further Passages: John 10:17-18, Luke 22:49-51, 52,53; Matt. 26:53,54; Rom. 8:38, 39.

Think About or Discuss:

The Power of Jesus is Undeniable

  1. Read John 1:3 and Rom. 1:20. What is said of Jesus in these passages? In Romans, what gives evidence there is a Creator? How would you describe His power?
  2. Read John 18:1-7. When Jesus answered “I AM HE,” what was the significance of the words? We think of people falling backwards; what if the soldiers fell forward, or their legs gave out: what would be their posture? What Scripture would have been fulfilled in the lives of those men? (Rom. 14:11)

The Love of Jesus is Unconditional

  1. Read verses 8-9. Who was Jesus concerned for as the guards came to arrest Him?
  2. Read Col. 2:13,14. What kind of love would cause someone to die for persons so vile as to be “dead” in their sins?
  3. Read Rom. 8:38, 39. How would you describe unconditional love? Do you struggle with loving like that?

The Grace of Jesus is Indescribable

  1. Read verse 10. What was significant about Malchus’ position in Jewish hierarchy? What was Peter’s intent (probably)?
  2. Read verse 11. Who can tell what happened next (from Luke 22:51)? Why was Malchus not “deserving” of the grace of Jesus?
  3. Think: Does anyone owe you something—perhaps money? Does it bother you? How does that compare with the grace you received from God?

Close:

There are not enough words for us to describe the power of God, with our finite minds and vocabulary. How can we comprehend a universe where the stars alone exceed a number over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000—and He knows them all by name? Such power is indescribable. The creation (Rom. 1:20) alone testifies to all men that there is a Creator, so no one who will stand before God has an excuse. When Jesus answered, “I am He,” He was using the words God used for His Name: the great I AM. It’s scary to think that perhaps we’ve become so used to going to church, talking about the Lord, singing, praying and even praising Him, that we have lost the awe and reverence of His power! Perhaps He is no longer  held in such high esteem that we, like Isaiah, would cry out, “Woe is me!” To be the recipient of the kind of love available to men by calling on His name is unfathomable. To have Him remove your vilest sins, casting them as far as the east is from the west, is incomprehensible, and yet we get upset or turn away when He does not answer our prayers, or give us what we want. Our knowledge is a drop in a bucket and His is as limitless as possible, and yet we often treat Him like a servant, or a genie in a lamp. We all need to fall to our knees and cry “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty!” Won’t you take the message of salvation you’ve been given and tell those whose hearts need to be changed by His love that it is available to them? It matters so much!

Memory Verse: John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Thoughts to Take Away:

  • (Verse 3): The soldiers came with “lanterns and torches” against the Light of the World;
  • They came with weapons against the Prince of Peace;
  • (Verses 4-8): Jesus was in Total Control: He knew all things; He went forward; He took the initiative; His words took them to the ground in response to His majesty; He told them what to do;
  • Nothing can stop the will of God;
  • We are protected by His love; we are perfected by His love;
  • As trials come, will we flee or fight?

Quote: “For evil to flourish, it requires only for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke.

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