VILLAINS SERIES OVERVIEW
Some of our favorite stories are filled with good villains - Darth Vader, the Joker, Voldemort. As it turns out, history and the Scripture are full of villains as well. This youth series explores the compelling and enlightening stories of five villains from the Scripture in an effort to see what NOT to do in certain situations.
Week 5 Recap - Roman Emperors (2/1/2017)
Life for American Christians is pretty easy. We can gather together freely, worship freely, give freely, and serve freely. Unfortunately, it was not as easy for the first century Christians in the book of Acts (See Acts 7:54-8:3).
They watched as friends and family were brutally murdered. The whole world turned their backs on them. They would be forced from their homes and families, all because people wanted them dead for believing in Jesus.
WORLD'S PERSECUTION: CONVERT OR DIE
Roman emperors were known for their persecution for Christians. One, named Nero, falsely blamed a fire that had spread on Christians and had many murdered. Trajan, another emperor, had thousands killed each day who would not renege on their faith.
CHRISTIANITY'S TENSION: REVENGE VS. LOVE
Amazingly, the Christian response was not rage or vengeance. Most didn't become bitter and hateful. Instead, the first-century Christians suffered with dignity and grace and transformed the world. Why? Because they expected to be treated like this. Jesus had promised that persecution would come (see John 15:18-19).
OUR REALITY: EXPECT SUFFERING
We should not be surprised when we encounter suffering as Christians in this world. Jesus suffered. The early Christians suffered. We will suffer. Thankfully, we don't live in a society where our faith is physically dangerous. Here we have religious freedom, so we won't be fed to the lions for following Jesus now.
However, we are still no strangers to suffering and trouble. We should expect it.
- Expect to be ridiculed for following God's guidelines on sexuality and purity. You'll be different from many of your peers. You'll stand out. I know this isn't very fun, but it's what we are called to do in Jesus.
- Expect regular suffering common to all. Just because we are Christians does not make us exempt from losing a family member, struggling financially, etc.
- Expect the pain of rejection. Relationships in your life can and probably will change because of your following Jesus.
YOUR GREATEST OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE JESUS MAY BE WHILE YOU ARE SUFFERING.
Take note that the suffering of early Christians did not stamp out the faith. Instead, it did quite the opposite! Christianity grew and grew and grew. Thousands upon thousands of lives were transformed even amid suffering.
Suffering can be our greatest opportunity to share. When we encounter pain and discouragement, how we react in these moments, how we treat people, the things we say, can powerfully share Jesus! We don't have to survive suffering. We can thrive in suffering!
Week 4 Recap - Judas Iscariot (1/25/2017)
Every one of us has experienced betrayal in some form. Jesus experienced betrayal in the worst way. You see, Jesus chose 12 young men to follow Him and be His disciples. For three years, they went everywhere together. They ate together, laughed together, told stories together. They watched as Jesus took on the religious elite and perform miracles. These guys were like family. They were incredibly close and devoted to each others.
And yet, even after all of this, one of them betrayed Jesus. Judas turned Jesus over to the religious leaders and the Romans who executed Him. I can only imagine how this felt to Him. We aren't alone in our experiences of betrayal. We have a Savior who knows how it feels to be betrayed.
SCRIPTURE TELLING THE ACCOUNT OF JUDAS' BETRAYAL: Luke 22 & Matthew 26-27
WHY WOULD JUDAS DO THIS?
Disappointment - Judas was looking for a Messiah who would come and deliver his people from the Romans, a warrior who would lead them to military victory. Many followers assumed this about Jesus, and they were let down when He wasn't the Messiah they were expecting!
Judas wasn't a horrible person. He was just horribly disappointed. Sometimes we can feel disappointed by God. We feel like we follow Him and then He "lets us down." In this, we find that we're not that different from Judas after all.
Opportunity - Judas had expectations and Jesus didn't meet them. In his disappointment, Judas finds himself with an opportunity to make some money. Judas had a problem with money. As treasurer for the disciples, he sometimes took money for himself. He had a weakness and that weakness ends up being exploited when an opportunity came to walk away from Jesus and take some money while He was at it.
We can be guilty of the same thing. Often when we are experiencing a season of disappointment with God, certain opportunities always come up to do something that we shouldn't. The opportunities almost always relate to explicit weaknesses we have. For some, it may be friends that aren't good for us. For others, it's a temptation to waste time in more video games or Netflix. Whatever it is, it's important to understand what our weaknesses are so that we don't give in and make a poor choice in the midst of our disappointment!
SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM JUDAS?
Misunderstanding Jesus is dangerous to your faith. We have to understand that the plan we have for our lives cannot compare to God's plans for us. Instead of following our script, we need to follow His script and trust that He knows what is best for us!
Hidden sin can do incredible damage in your life. If you have sin in your life that you aren't dealing with, it will come out. It will make a mess. It will eventually hurt you and others around you. Whatever you are struggling with, it is best to confess it and get some help. Sin is powerful and will wreck havoc in your life if you try to hide it and control it.
Week 3 Recap - Pharisees (1/18/2017)
Have you ever been 100% right and 100% wrong at the same time? This is what the Pharisees were known for. They had very good perspective in some ways that was completely and totally distorted in other ways.
"Pharisee" comes from the original biblical language word for "separate." This was their motto. They wanted to be separate from everyone else because they considered everyone else to be wretched sinners. They believed the answer to all of the world's problems was to follow God's Law to the letter. They even created additional laws to keep them from violating the actual laws.
Now, all of this sounds well and good - but there was a problem. The Pharisees were so holy, yet Jesus was so against them. Why? Well, consider the first portions of three straight verses of Scripture in Matthew 23: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
JESUS WAS NOT A FAN OF THE PHARISEES! Why?
The Pharisees lacked brokenness (Luke 18:9-14).
The Pharisees had forgotten their own brokenness and sin. As a result, their hearts grew hard towards the things of God. They weren't grateful for grace and mercy - their hearts had grown cold to it because they thought they didn't need it. They believed their rule-following won them God's favor, but that's just not how it works. They were 100% right about personal holiness and 100% wrong for thinking they didn't need grace.
The Pharisees lacked God's heart (John 8:3-11).
The Pharisees wanted a woman dead for her sin. Jesus challenges them to go ahead - if they don't have any sin of their own they need to deal with. In the end, the only one standing with the woman is Jesus (the very one who could have done what the Pharisees wanted her to do). His challenge instead - "go, and sin no more." he Pharisees were 100% right about God's standard and 100% wrong about God's heart.
The Pharisees missed God altogether (Gospels).
Ultimately, the Pharisees were so hyper-focused on holiness and God's standard because they were looking towards the coming Messiah who would come and deliver them from their oppressors. The funny thing is that they were so focused on that that they missed Him. In fact, they didn't just miss Him - they rejected Him and had Him killed! he Pharisees ended up being 100% right about most everything and yet they still completely missed God and what He was doing in the world.
IT IS COMPLETELY POSSIBLE TO "LOOK THE PART" AND MISS GOD AND HIS HEART!
You can be the most religious person in the world and completely miss out on a genuine relationship with Jesus. Think for a minute, what is God doing around you? What is He doing in your family? In your school? What is God up to? Are you even paying attention?!
The Pharisees completely missed Jesus, and we can be just as guilty in not paying attention to how God is moving around us. Let's not just "look" the part. Let's not be a Pharisee.
Three Attitudes to Embrace: "I am broken, but God meets me with grace." // "I am living in a culture of sin, but God's culture is to restore and heal, not condemn and alienate." // "It's all about my relationship with Jesus."
Week 2 Recap - Nebuchadnezzar (1/11/2017)
Nebuchadnezzar (we'll call him Neb for short) was a powerful king who lived about 500 years before the time of Jesus that ruled over the Babylonian Empire. He commanded a powerful army, ruled over a beautiful and prosperous city, and led an expansive empire.
Unfortunately, he used his power to do some terrible things. He killed the king of Judah, looted Jerusalem, and made thousands of Jews his slaves. He even killed the sons of a "puppet" king who rebelled against him, gouged that king's eyes out, and then destroyed the city and temple of God. He was one bad dude.
HIS ISSUE: PRIDE (DANIEL 4:28-33)
Neb had a pride issue. He was proud of all that he had accomplished - his power and his prestige. Thus, he completely took God out of the equation. In response, God punished his pride by causing him to - for lack of better terms - lose his marbles. He made him basically think that he was a cow, relegated to eating grass alone in a fenced-in field.
PRIDE IS DANGEROUS! (PROVERBS 16:18)
We have to watch out for pride ourselves because it often leads to destruction. In fact, pride oftentimes serves as the greatest contributor to our life's biggest mistakes. It's those times when we think "I can handle it" or "I can get away with it." It's times when we say, "That would never happen to me" or "I'm better / stronger / smarter than that." This is pride.
We have everything within us to make us capable of failure and sin. We never get past that point. We have to remember that we need the power and grace of God in our lives to keep us from those things which can derail our faith.
PRIDE PUTS US ON THE WRONG SIDE OF GOD! (JAMES 4:6)
God hates pride. It is a huge deal to Him because in it's sinful sense, pride elevates us above God. This is an absolute recipe for disaster. You can't be God. So when pride rules our lives, the Bible tells us that God resists our efforts. Instead of having the blessing of God in certain areas, we find ourselves in direct opposition of Him.
HUMILITY SHOULD BE OUR GOAL!
The good news is that if we are humble, then God gives us the grace to continue. When we acknowledge our need for God, God shows us favor.
What's the basic difference then between humility and pride in God's eyes? Pride says, "I don't need God." Humility says, "I need God in everything." Humility acknowledges that God has a HUGE role in who we are, what we are good at, what we have accomplished, and who we've been surrounded by.
Neb eventually turned back to God and admitted that it was God who was ultimately in control in his life (Daniel 4:34-37). Neb embraced his role and it changed how he spoke about God. As a result, God restored his mind and his place in his kingdom.
WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE FOR US TO EMBRACE HUMILITY?
Give credit away. Instead of talking about how awesome you are, talk about how the other people in your life are awesome!
Embrace your role in God's story. Begin to take time each day to recognize that you aren't the main character in His story. Invite God into your day. Allow Him to be your authority.
Week 1 Recap - Satan (1/4/2017)
Many have a goofy picture of Satan. Some picture him as some red dude with horns, a pointy tail, and a pitchfork. Others think of him as fictional. The reality is that he couldn't be any more real.
HIS BEGINNINGS (REVELATION 12:7-9)
He got his start as a top-ranking angel. He was considered quite attractive and very wise. Somewhere along the line though, he became full of himself and rendered himself equal with God. He would lead a rebellion, fail, and get kicked out of heaven. This would begin his second phase of attack - seeking to "deceive the whole world."
HIS TACTICS (I PETER 5:8; GENESIS 3:1)
He hunts his prey. The Bible often refers to Christians as sheep. The author depicts the Devil then as one of the biggest threats to sheep in biblical times - a lion. Satan hunts those that are weak, tired, injured, and wandering. He finds us at our weakest points, our most tired moments, when we are isolated, and he capitalizes on them.
He uses deception. Satan twists the truth to lead us into trouble. His game is simply to make God look bad and make sin look better. He desires to plant seeds of doubt in our mind about the goodness of God because when we begin to doubt God's goodness, then we doubt that He wants what is best for us. Then we begin to doubt boundaries that God has placed us in because we fall for the lie that God doesn't want us to be happy. This couldn't be further from the truth.
SUGGESTED ACTION STEPS
Examine yourself. What kind of state are you in right now? Are you weak? Are you tired? Are you wandering about on your own apart from those godly people that care for you? Any of these put you in a prime position for an attack from the enemy?
Stay close to the Shepherd. Jesus is referred to as the Great Shepherd. He keeps an eye on us. He is with us day and night, protecting and caring for us. The only way to empty our minds from the lies of the Devil is to fill our minds with the promises of God. We have a Good Shepherd who loves us and protects us. When we are close to the Shepherd, we have nothing to fear!