Have your group play a quick game of "Taboo", "Charades" or "Win Lose or Draw". After a round or two ask these questions:
1. What is the greatest challenge of the game?
2. What was it like to try to describe something without using the exact words?
3. If you could change one rule of the game, what would it be?
Jesus often used parables to help his followers understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. They had never personally experienced the fullness of the kingdom of heaven. It is radically different than anything they had ever known He had to use ordinary life experiences to explain.
When Judgement Comes
In the "Sermon on the Mount" Matthew 5-6 Jesus lays out a whole new kingdom order. Essentially He takes the old laws that people had grown up with and set a much higher standard.
Read Matthew 5-6
and circle the number of times Jesus says, "You have heard it said". How many times does Jesus say "blessed are those..." in chapter 5?
Pretty radical stuff huh? Do you think it is possible to live up to Jesus' new standards? Why or why not? Does the Bible offer any suggestions as to how we can live such a holy life?
Questions about the thistles
1. According to this passage, how would you describe a "thistle" or "weed"?
2. The parable says the weeds are planted by the enemy. Why do you think the enemy would do this? Spiritually speaking, what impact do you think a "weed" would have on the whole crop?
3. The owner of the field chooses to let the weeds and the crop grow together. He does this so that the true crop will have a chance to grow and mature naturally. What harm would have come if attempts were made to eliminate the weeds before the harvest?
4. Read the following passages and discuss how they may apply.
1. What do you think Kyle Idleman means by a fan vs. a follower?
2. Do you consider yourself to be a fan or a follower?
3. When did you make the decision to become a fully devoted follower of Christ? What was that experience like?
4. What do you think it would take for you to make the move from being a fan to a follower?
No body likes to think about impending doom. Some find it difficult to believe that a good and gracious God would actually condemn us to eternal punishment. But, Jesus' words are hard to dispute.
5. Read and discuss 1 John 1:5-9
. What is the simple remedy that Jesus offers to us all?
What is the Kingdom of Heaven Like?
Have you ever had an incredible and unique life changing experience and then tried to explain it to someone else? It can be a little frustrating. Sometimes the only thing you can do is describe your experience in terms the other person can relate to. You would use different comparisons as you speak to different people: A cook, a farmer, a mariner or a fisherman. This is exactly what Jesus does in Matthew 13. He uses common every day experiences to help his disciples understand what the kingdom of heaven is like.
- "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field..." (Matthew 13:24"
- "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed..." (Matthew 13:31)
- "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field." (Matthew 13:44)
- "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls." (Matthew 13:45)
- "The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea..." (Matthew 13:47)
There are some common themes that emerge from the group of parables found in Matthew 13.
1. The good news will be imparted to everyone. But not everyone will choose to accept it. (Parable of the Sower and the Seed)
2. It is not always easy to recognize the true followers of Christ. (Parable of the Wheat and the Tares)
3. The enemy will always fight against progress. But the kingdom of heaven will advance and flourish despite efforts by the enemy. (Parables of the Farmer Sowing Seed, Mustard Seed, and the Levin)
5. Some day every Individual will held responsible before God. There will be a day of judgment which includes eternal rewards and punishments. (Parable of the Wheat and Tares and Parable of the Fish)
Jesus uses these parables to spell out plainly what it means to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven. This second lesson in our series on Jesus' parables brings us face to face with the same sobering question. Are you willing to move from being a casual observer to a fully devoted follower of Christ?
Wheat & Weeds
"When Christ first came on the scene, teaching and healing, many were drawn to Him. He was a curiosity, Someone to be impressed with and to talk about. Even the leaders of the people viewed Jesus as God's messenger (John 3:2).
But as Jesus' message became more clear, and as He confronted each hearer with the challenge to choose, attitudes began to change. Jesus' teaching, exposed more and more clearly the sinfulness of current attitudes and ways." (Lawrence Richards) It would have been very easy for Jesus to draw a line in the sand and declare, "Are you in or out?" But he didn't. Instead he used a parable to explain the natural process of discerning true followers from the false.
The Parable (Matthew 13:24-30; 13:36-42)
- A farmer sows good seed throughout his field. (13:24)
- He learns his enemy later secretly visited the field and sowed thistles among the wheat. (13:25-28)
- He knows that if he attempts to pull out the thistles, he will also harm the wheat. (13:29)
- He will wait until harvest time, when he will sort out the thistles from the wheat and burn them. (13:30)
Interpretation of the Parable
- The sower is Christ (13:36-37).
- The enemy is the devil (13:39a).
- The field is the world (13:38a).
- The good seed is believers (13:38b).
- The thistles are unbelievers (13:38c).
- The harvest is the end of the age (13:39b).
- The reapers are angels (13:39c-41).
- The granary is heaven (13:43) .
- The furnace is hell (13:42).
Not A Fan
In his lesson series Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman wrote,
"One of the most sobering passages of Scripture tells of a day when many who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus will be stunned to find out that He doesn't even recognize them. In the gospel of Luke chapter 13, Jesus tells of a day where everyone who has ever lived will stand before God. On that day many who call themselves Christians and identify themselves as followers will stand confidently in front of Jesus only to hear him say, "I never knew you. Away from me." Idleman's series is designed to help believers understand the difference between a fan and a follower.
Jesus is equally clear in Matthew 13:40-42. "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
More Than Just a Story
There's an old saying, "if it walks like a duck and swims like a duck, it must be a duck." The truth is, if it walks like a duck and swims like a duck, it might just be a goose. Sometimes it's impossible to tell who is a follower and who is a fan. Who are the true Christians and who is just faking it? Let's consider a few practical applications from this parable:
1. Counterfeit Christians are everywhere.There are times when you really can't tell who is a true follower of Christ.
2. We should not judge others. Only God knows the true intentions of a man's heart. We have far better things to do than to cast judgement on others. God calls us to a life of patience and grace.
3. One day we will all stand before God. Since He is righteous and just, there is no way we can scheme our way into heaven. If we have rejected God, He will reject us and send us to our just reward.