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Who do I choose to belong to/associate with?

We were not created to be alone. We were created in the image of God so we would have fellowship with him, the God ordained marriage and with it families, and then the Church. God wants us to be one even as he is one, John 17:20,21. Relationships is central to how God created us, but the not all relationships are good. So, the question is, who will choose to belong to/associate with?

Rationale

In the Parable of the Weeds, Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God as a field in which a farmer planted a crop, but his enemy came and planted weeds in among his crop. When the plants came up he suddenly found that mixed with the crop he had planted were weeds. The parable ends that this would remain the situation until the end of the age when God will separate then from each other. The practical outworking of the parable, is that in the world there are two kingdoms growing, both of which seek to claim our allegiance, and both of which are calling our students to pledge their allegiance. There is no way for us, or for them, to avoid choosing, for not choose Christ is to choose against him.
 
In the Old Testament people were part of the nation of Israel because they were born into it. In the New Testament you are not born into the Church. You must choose to belong, first by putting your faith in Christ and second by choosing to belong to the Church. Further, we must also choose who we will model our lives on. There are good examples and there are bad examples. We all follow others, so it is not a matter of if we will follow but who we will follow. These examples can be both those we know and those who have lived before us. The intention was not that we would simply having nothing to do with non-Christians. Jesus did not live this way. He loved people as they were and did not judge them, but called them freely to himself. He never compromised, though. His message of repentance never varied but they knew he loved them and he welcomed any who would come. Jesus then models both engagement with the world and a separateness from the world, meaning the values of the world, not the people. There is a danger of bad company. Such dangers are very real, especially for young people, and so there is a there is a need for wisdom. Yet, there is also a need for rejecting having nothing to do with people with its almost invariable self righteous and judgemental attitudes.

Key Concepts

  • We were created in the image of God to know him and to glorify him by being like him
  • When sin entered into the world, there came into begin two competing kingdoms. Those who worshipped the Lord, and the those who followed after the Prince of this world.
  • The relationship between these two kingdoms is perhaps best described as warfare
  • In the Old Testament God separated his people from the other nations to keep them pure
  • In the New Testament the Church is God's people, called out to be different from the world and belong to God
  • Our brothers and sisters are there to encourage, teach, uplift and strengthen us
  • Bad company leads to moral failure, so we are called to be separate
  • Yet, we are also called to love and reach out to those who do not know Christ and to be his people in the world. So, a balance must be struck

Scripture References

The Call to be Separate
Genesis 1:26,27 - created in the image of God
Genesis 3 - sin comes into the world and fellowship with God is broken
Genesis 4 - the two lines: Cain and Seth
Genesis 5-9 - the two lines grow, one which leads to the destruction of the world by the Flood, and other salvation through Noah
Genesis 10,11 - the line of rebellion grows again in the Tower of Babel
Genesis 12 onwards - God now directs his attention to Abraham and Sarah and through them the nation of Israel, through which will come Jesus
Genesis 17:1; 35:2 - calls to be separated to God and to put away all other Gods
Exodus 19:1-6 - to a holy nation belonging to God alone (Deut 14:2)
Proverbs 1 - warnings about falling in with the wrong crowd (many warnings in Proverbs)
Matthew 5-7 - the Sermon on the Mount, establishing the kind of holiness God wants. See especially Matthew 5:2-16, the Beatitudes, and Matthew 5:48, be perfect
1 Corinthians 15:33 - bad company corrupts good morals
Revelation 2,3 - the 7 churches, the good, the bad and the ugly
 
God’s love for the Whole World
Genesis 12:3 - all the nations will be blessed through Abraham and Sarah
Genesis 49:10 - all the peoples will bow to the Messiah
Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:1-7; 11:6-10 - all the nations will come
Matthew 8:11 - the nations will come
Matthew 15:21-28 - healing the Gentile woman’s child
John 3:16 - loved the world
John 4:7-42 - the woman at the well from Samaria
Acts 1:6-8 - the Gospel will be preached to the whole world
 
Jesus - friend of sinners
Luke 19:1-10 - Zacchaeus the tax collector
Luke 7:36-50 - The sinful woman
Matthew 11:18-19 - Accused of being a friend of sinners
  
Other Passages
1 Cor 5:1-13 - need to deal with sin in the Church but it does not mean we have nothing to do with others
1 Cor 12 - one body with many parts, all needing each other
Ephesians 4 - a body, joined together, growing together to be like Jesus
Hebrews 10:23-25 - meet together to stir each up to good works 
 

Resources

http://www.basicsofchristianity.com/growth/new-believer-basics-fellowship.htm - basic instruction in the importance of Christian fellowship
http://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/ - the persecution of Christians in the world today
 
YouTube
 
Persecution of Christians (use with caution)
 

Ideas/Strategies for Lessons

Discuss peer pressure and then role play various scenarios in which young people are confronted with peer or related situations in which they have to make good choices
View YouTube videos related to peer pressure and discuss
Students create their own social experiment to see how people’s behavior can be affected, following the example of the YouTube videos
Look at Christian Martyrs, especially present, and discuss why they were/are not willing to compromise (Note: This is a confronting topic, so use with regard to age appropriateness)
Share your own experiences of Christian fellowship, invite students to share their own experiences
Read key passages on the call to holiness and discuss
Read key passages on Jesus the friend of sinners, and discuss at length the people Jesus befriended and how he reached out to them. Look for connections to their lives.
Model small home church setting (typical NT church) in which you sing songs, share the Word, share needs and pray for each other and have communion
Look at modern Christian mission and humanitarian organizations and discuss how they reach out to the world and at the same time seek to be faithful to Jesus