Category: Living in the Image of God

Righteous or Wicked in Parable of the Weeds

Living in the Image of God M03S21

Christ teaching in several parables describes the binary categorization of people as righteous or wicked based on God judgment of their living. The righteous show themselves fit for God’s purpose and typically fulfill their individual responsibility as he assigns to them. In contrast, the wicked show themselves unfit for God’s purpose and typically decline their individual responsibility. Through the Parable of the Weeds, we learn that God creates every person righteous and gives each a lifetime to show themselves righteous or wicked. He allows them to coexist until final judgment, when he will separate the wicked into hell and call the righteous to his kingdom.

Righteous or Wicked in Parable of the Weeds 16:31

This study begins a miniseries to understand Christ teaching regarding the binary categorization of people as righteous or wicked based on God judgment of their living. The righteous are people that show themselves fit for God’s purpose based on how he sees them. Such people typically perform their individual responsibility as God assigns to them. For example, the righteous typically complete responsibility in a call to compassion.

The other category is the wicked and consists of people that show themselves unfit for God’s purpose based on how he sees them. Such people typically decline their individual responsibility as God assigns to them. For example, the wicked typically decline responsibility in a call to compassion.

The miniseries begins with the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24–30 and 36–43), where we learn that God creates every person righteous. Also, he gives every person a lifetime to show themselves righteous or wicked. There is no neutral choice. There is no neutral behavior. Whoever is not righteous is wicked. Also, the parable explains that the righteous and wicked coexist until final judgment, when God will separate the wicked from the righteous, throw the wicked to eternal burning in hell, and call the righteous into his kingdom in heaven.

We discuss the Parable of the Weeds in this study to end our 2022 program year. The bible study program will resume in February 2023 with focus on Christ message regarding God categorization of people as righteous or wicked and how the categorization affects our understanding of God’s purpose for human interactions and relationships.

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Individual Responsibility Regarding Human Capabilities

Living in the Image of God M03S20

Christ teaching in the Parable of the Talents provides understanding that God distributes portions of his resources as grants of human capabilities to every person; which he expects all to deploy toward their individual responsibility to themselves, others, and the environment. He expects every person to do this the same way he would, if he were to manage human responsibilities and capabilities directly in human form. Further, he expects every person to expand and diversify their human capabilities by using them, rewards those that do, and punishes those that stagnate theirs by declining opportunities to use them.

Individual Responsibility Regarding Human Capabilities 20:53

We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Talents to understand that God distributes portions of his resources among people as grants of human capabilities: to empower every person to perform their individual responsibility to themselves, others, and the environment. He expects every person to deploy the resources he grants to them toward their individual responsibility, the same way he would if he managed human responsibilities and capabilities directly in human form. Also, he expects every person to expand and diversify their capabilities by using them.

Further, Christ explains through the parable that God recognizes two human categories based on what a person does with the capabilities he granted to them. One category is the righteous. These are people that use their capabilities and expand and diversify them as a result. The other category is the wicked, which are people that stagnate their capabilities by refusing to use them. God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.

This understanding of the Parable of the Talents is based on Matthew 25:14–30 and enriched by our previous discussion of Living in the Image of God.

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Against Hypocrisy

Living in the Image of God M03S19

We discuss Christ teaching against hypocrisy through two events in the bible. First, in the Sermon on the Mount, he describes hypocrisy in terms of the motivation for doing something. He provides examples to distinguish between motivation that pleases God and motivation that displeases him. An act of worship or righteousness pleases God if motivated by seeking to fulfill his purpose. Other motivations displease him, such as seeking recognition, admiration, or honor. The second event is an address to his disciples and followers regarding relationship with Teachers of the Law, where he highlights two aspects of the individual responsibility in interactions with authority—respect for authority and rejection of hypocrisy.

Discuss Christ Teaching Against Hypocrisy 21:50

In this bible study, we discuss Christ teaching against hypocrisy using information from two events in the bible. The first event is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). He devotes a good part of the sermon (Matthew 6:1–18) to hypocrisy. He describes hypocrisy in terms of the motivation for doing something, using examples to distinguish between motivation that pleases God and motivation that displeases him. He explains that an act of worship or righteousness pleases God if motivated by seeking to fulfill his purpose. Any other motivation amounts to hypocrisy. Acts of worship or righteousness do not please God if motivated by seeking human recognition, admiration, or honor.

The second event is another major teaching when Christ addressed his disciples and followers regarding their relationship with Teachers of the Law. The address is at times referred to as the Seven Woes (Matthew 23). We focus on the first part of the address, where he highlights two aspects of the individual responsibility regarding interactions with authority. The first is the responsibility to respect and heed the authority and the second is the responsibility to recognize and reject hypocrisy that could manifest with people in authority.

Our discussion of hypocrisy includes an examination of a current event with a focus on understanding the motivation for doing something. Are you motivated by Living in the Image of God: recognizing that God has a purpose for you in every situation and seeking to advance his purpose through your response? Or, are you motivated by a desire for human recognition, admiration, or honor? The answer may not be binary; because human recognition, admiration, or honor could be associated with an objective motivated by Living in the Image of God. However, we expect our discussion to advance understanding and bring us closer to God’s purpose.

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Persistent and Specific in Prayer

Living in the Image of God M03S18

Based on Jesus interactions regarding a blind man Bartimaeus, we learn the benefits of persistence and specificity in prayer and understand the individual responsibility to assist others in their prayer and effort. Bartimaeus was begging by the roadside when he realized Jesus was passing and recognized an opportunity to seek for better. His behavior illustrates persistence in prayer and human effort, even when others or circumstances appear to discourage you. Further, Christ’s question to Bartimaeus—What do you want me to do for you—is a call to every person to seek specificity in prayer, to understand your prayer purpose better and seek alignment of your purpose with God’s purpose. Also, his instruction to the other people underscores the individual responsibility to assist others in their prayer and effort.

Persistent and Specific in Prayer 9:38

In this bible study, we discuss Christ interactions regarding a blind man named Bartimaeus. We discuss what he told Bartimaeus regarding prayer and what he told others regarding their interactions with Bartimaeus. Based on the blind man’s behavior, we learn about recognizing an opportunity to seek for better through prayer and human effort. Also, we learn about persistence in prayer and effort even when other people or circumstances appear to discourage you.

Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging when he realized that Jesus was passing, accompanied by his disciples and a large crowd. He raised his voice above the crowd and called for mercy from Jesus. Other people tried to discourage him but he persisted and raised his voice even louder. Jesus asked the others to call the blind man to him. The people recognized the invitation as an opportunity for Bartimaeus and called him to come to Jesus. When the blind man came, Jesus asked him: “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he invited the blind man to be specific regarding what he needs from God. Bartimaeus responded with clarity and specificity: “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus healed him from blindness immediately.

Based on Christ interaction with the blind man, we learn about the need and discuss the benefits of specificity in prayer. Seeking specificity in prayer leads to better understanding of your prayer purpose and what you can humanly do regarding your need. Further, understanding your prayer purpose better will help in seeking to align your purpose with God’s purpose, thereby strengthening your faith. Also, based on Christ instruction to the other people, we learn about assisting others in their prayer and human effort.

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Compassion in Humility

Living in the Image of God M03S17

Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to illustrate a motivation for service fundamental to leading or following: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” To serve in humility, elevate others in your mind to the status of master and humble yourself to the status of servant; recognize the master’s need; and provide for the need diligently, wholeheartedly, and in humility, as a servant would to a master. By washing his disciples’ feet, Christ conveys a message that a call to lead or follow is a call to service: to humble self to serve others as a servant would serve a master. God promises blessing to those that serve in humility.

Compassion in Humility 14:40

We discuss an interaction between Jesus and his disciples when he washed their feet individually to teach service in humility. Jesus humbled himself to the status of servant and elevated his disciples in his mind to the status of master. Then he washed their feet individually as a servant would wash the feet of a master. He did this to teach the principle of humble yourself to serve others.

In several previous studies (such as Call to Compassion Example—Good Samaritan), we describe compassion as an act of providing service to alleviate the need of others. We focused on the category of compassion whereby a person more capable provides goods or service to alleviate the need of a person less capable: such as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that describes a person providing for the need of a robber victim that was incapable of helping himself. However, the current bible study focuses on a category of compassion whereby the service provider is motivated by humility but not necessarily by a superior capability to provide the service.

Compassion in humility describes a motivation for service that is fundamental to leading or following. Christ demonstrated the principle by washing his disciples’ feet: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” [Matthew 20:26–27]. To explain the interaction, he declared: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” [John 13:14]. Therefore, by washing his disciples’ feet, Christ conveys a message that a call to lead or follow is a call to service—to humble self to serve others, even as a servant would serve a master. God promises blessing to those that serve in humility: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” [John 13:17].

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Individual Responsibility in Human Interactions

Living in the Image of God M03S16

Based on Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, we learn that God assigns individual responsibility to every person in every situation. Find your responsibility to understand God’s purpose for you in a given situation. Focus on performing your individual responsibility, irrespective of what others do or fail to do. He judges every person individually, independent of his judgment of other people.

Individual Responsibility in Human Interactions 10:05

We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, to understand that God assigns individual responsibility to every person in every situation. Also, he judges a person based on their performance of the individual responsibility. Furthermore, his judgment of a person is independent of his judgment of others, irrespective of what others do or fail to do. He rewards each person for performing their individual responsibility and his reward for a person is independent of his reward for others.

Christ teaching in the parable (Matthew 20:1–16) uses a hypothetical event of a landowner hiring several workers for one day’s work in his vineyard. At the core of the teaching is the fact that the landowner expectation of each worker was different depending on the time of day he hired the worker. This fact conveys an aspect of human relationship with God: that God’s expectation of each person in a given event is independent and could differ from his expectation of others. Furthermore, he judges each person individually and independent of what others do or fail to do.

We discuss the parable to understand the message. Also, we discuss a passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he applies the principle to describe the individual responsibility for peace.

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Individual Responsibility for Forgiveness

Living in the Image of God M03S15

Christ teaching in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant uses human interactions regarding debt to teach human relationship with God regarding forgiveness of sin. Forgive those that repent from sin they committed against you, the same way that God forgives you when you repent. Repentance establishes a call for forgiveness, as the need of another person establishes a call to compassion. God rewards a person that accepts a call for forgiveness but promises punishment for the one that declines. The same way he rewards those that complete responsibility in a call to compassion and promises punishment for those that decline.

Individual Responsibility for Forgiveness 15:01

We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant to understand that God expects you to forgive those that repent from sin they committed against you, the same way he forgives you when you repent. To perform the responsibility, accept repentance from others and forgive them. Also, as we discuss in a previous study under Responding to Sin, guide the others to repentance if they don’t repent on their own initiative (Matthew 18:15–17) and forgive them if they repent.

In addition to laying down the requirement to forgive those that repent, the parable describes the consequences for denying forgiveness. God’s promise of punishment for those that fail to forgive others is described in the parable through a king rescinding his initial grant of mercy to a servant after he was informed that the servant denied mercy to a fellow servant: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” [Matthew 18:35].

We discuss the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant to understand (i) God’s mandate to every person to forgive those that repent from any misdeed or undesirable action they committed against you and (ii) his promise of punishment for those that refuse to forgive.

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Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Living in the Image of God M03S14

To get reconciliation, if a person sins against you and repents, forgive them; if you sin against another, repent and seek forgiveness. Reconciliation endures if founded on repentance and forgiveness but would be meaningless and short-lived if not. As an example, Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) forgave and reconciled with his brothers after he verified that they had repented from sin they committed against him. Their reconciliation paved the way for subsequent growth and prosperity of the nation of Israel.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation 13:15

In this bible study session, we focus on understanding the relationship of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. As we discuss in a previous study, repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness. If a person sins against you and repents, then forgive them. Similarly, if you commit sin, repent and ask for forgiveness from the injured party.

Thus, repentance leads to forgiveness. Also, forgiveness leads to reconciliation. Our discussion in this study focuses on understanding that repentance and forgiveness provide a solid foundation for meaningful and lasting reconciliation and for a bountiful harvest in human interactions and relationships.

We begin with Christ teaching in Matthew 5:23–24 to understand the priority and process of reconciliation in human interactions. Also in the study, we draw an example from the life of Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) regarding his reconciliation with his brothers. We see that Joseph first verified that his brothers had repented from a great sin they committed against him, then he forgave them, and reconciled with them. Their reconciliation cleared the way for the nation of Israel to relocate to Egypt, where they survived the great famine, multiplied, and prospered.

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Repentance

Living in the Image of God M03S13

Repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness and consists of three ordered steps: (1) recognition that you have sinned, feeling of remorse and personal responsibility for the sin, and recognition of the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party—confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.

Repentance 17:07

Christ teaching in the Parable of the Lost Son provides an understanding of the value of repentance in human relationship with God and his purpose regarding repentance in human interactions and relationships. He explains in the parable that God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.

Also, he uses the parable to explain sin as wrongdoing that a person commits against at least one other—the injured party. In that case, repentance requires three actions in order: (1) recognition and remorse, whereby you recognize that you have sinned, feel remorse and accept personal responsibility for the sin, and recognize the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party, whereby you confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. As we discuss in a previous study under Responding to Sin, Christ explains that the injured party must accept the repentance and forgive the repentant person.

We discuss our understanding of the parable first and conclude the study with a discussion of the parable itself based on the gospel according to Luke [15:11–21].

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Responding to Sin

Living in the Image of God M03S12

To respond to a sin by an associate, provide them an opportunity to repent, even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. If they repent, accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, separate from them to protect yourself from sin.

Responding to Sin 11:25

We discuss Christ teaching to explain the individual responsibility regarding another person (an associate) that has committed sin. He teaches that you should provide the associate with an opportunity to repent. You should do this even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Also, you need to provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. Christ describes several steps for escalating your effort by involving an increasing number of people. If the person repents, you should accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, then you should separate yourself from them.

The essence of the message is that a sin by an associate threatens your continued association with them, because you need to separate yourself from any person, thing, or event that may cause you to sin (see previous discussion under Individual Responsibility Regarding Sin). First, you should seek to help the associate to remove the sin. You should do so with diligence and persistence. If the associate repents, then accept. However, if the associate refuses to repent, then separate from him or her to protect yourself from sin.

We discuss specific steps based on Christ teaching for seeking to convince the associate to repent.

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