Lesson Objective: In this lesson, group members will come to a clear understanding of what true holiness verse false holiness is.
The subject of holiness is not talked about often. It is often identified with words such as: righteousness, godliness, religious or pious. Many have a misunderstanding of the true definition. Because of this, we will bring out both sides: holy and unholy living. This way, group members will not be confused with artificial attempts at holiness.
Start this first session by asking group members their thoughts on the subject. Questions you might ask are: What image do you get when you think of someone who is holy? What public figures (past or present) would you consider to be holy? In your opinion, what characteristics does someone have to have to be considered holy? What comes to mind when you think of unholy? Can you identify a few characteristics of unholiness?
Also included are more personal questions. If you feel comfortable and the group seems open, ask the following forthright questions. Do you consider yourself to be holy? Is there someone in your life who you would identify as holy? If so, what characteristics do they have to lead you to this conclusion?
These questions are asked to bring out common thoughts of what we perceive as holy and unholy. Some may be right others wrong. At the end of the study, group members should be confident enough to discern between the two.
Pass out the student handout #1 and allow time for group members to fill out the questions. After completing this handout, group members will have a better understanding of not only what holiness means, but the severity of living unholy lives. Take extra time to discuss question #4. If any members were surprised by any of their answers, discuss the misconceptions they once had by the truth they have now found.
Many in the world today think holiness is for those that live in seclusion or walk around with stiff collars. The Pharisees were prime examples of this. Jesus saw straight through their false attempts at holiness. (Luke 20:46) They were beautifully adorned on the outside, but their heart was full of pride, greed and jealousy. The people of the day looked up to these leaders as spiritual guides, so their actions were never questioned. They gave a false image of holiness to those under them.
When Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy, rather than repent, they burned with anger and jealousy. It was obvious through their response that their heart was not right. There seemed to be nothing more blasphemous against God than to allege to represent Him, and yet fail to follow through with proper actions. They were entrusted to represent God to the people, and yet they failed to give a correct representation because of their own hypocrisy. The religious leaders had a false understanding of what holiness is and it overflowed into their conduct. Ask the group members why they believe these leaders lived such insincere lives? Possible answers: tradition, insincere devotion to God, they were never called out, they loved the respect from the people.
Their false version of holiness came in complete conflict with Jesus' true holiness. Jesus represented holiness by showing love, kindness, forgiveness and total and complete devotion to God. These were characteristics that were not present in the Pharisees. Jesus represented a rightful and sincere presentation of who God is. It was not a fake production out of duty or to seek recognition from the people, but a pure, willing one because His love for His Father. Ask the group members why they believe the Pharisees clashed with Jesus? Possible answers: jealousy, Jesus exposing their hypocrisy, fear the people would give their devotion to Him.
Discuss with the group the different characteristics the Pharisees had verse Jesus characteristics. Start by having group members read the following Bible references to the rest of the group. Suggestion (Assign the Pharisee's reading to one person to keep with an even flow and to avoid various translations, which can become confusing. Feel free to split up the reading concerning Jesus).
Concerning the Pharisees: Matthew 23
Concerning Jesus: Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 23:34, Mark 9:35 and John 13:5
What we have discovered that holiness is not: Through these scriptures, we find holiness is not an outward display of beautiful clothing, pious looks, and more importantly, it is not saying one thing and doing another. This is a false appearance of holiness.
What we have discovered about true holiness is: Jesus, on the other hand emanated the very nature of His God. His heart was pure and therefore His actions were holy. Servant hood, forgiveness, loving God and others were the fruit of holiness.
Reinforce these truths we have learned by reading them aloud to your small group.
Holiness stems from a heart devoted to God.
The fruit of holiness is seen through our lifestyle and not through our attempts to "look" holy.
False holiness seeks to be adored by others.
True holiness seeks to be pleasing to God.
Now that group members have a better understanding of the difference between holiness and unholiness, they will now be able to identify it in their own lives. This study is not to point the finger at others, but to encourage members to look into their own lives for bits of hypocrisy. It's easier to see other's faults than it is our own sometimes. Pass out the second hand out allow them to complete it privately at home.
Encourage members to examine their own lives and be true to their faith. Remind them that holiness does not mean perfection, but rather a willingness to live pleasing to God. Reinforce that forgiveness, servant hood, love and most importantly their devotion to God, is the key to fulfilling holiness. We all fall short in representing God at one time or another, but this is no reason to feel condemnation. Instead, repent and continue to seek God.
End this study with a prayer. It may go something like this:
I know we mess up and do not represent who You are to the world sometimes, but make us willing to live pleasing to You in everything we do. Open our understanding to our own hypocrisy and repent, recommitting our complete devotion to You.
In Jesus' name, Amen!
(If you would like free copies of the student handouts to add to you lesson, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put: "student handout" in the subject line.)
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