What causes spiritual blindness?

In "Biblical Perspective" I.C. Holland writes concerning 1 Peter 2:8…

It is no wonder that sightless people stumble. Spiritual blindness is worse than physical. Witness the cases of Fanny Crosby and Helen Keller. The cause of stumbling in verse 8 is identified as being disobedient. Disobedience and unbelief are inseparable Siamese twins. Although there are professed members of the Church who are insincere and substandard, the cause of stumbling is not the fault of the church. It is identified in 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” The word appointed does not mean that they were foreordained to be lost, but that infinite justice forestated that “the soul that sinneth” shall die. Sinning is volitional. It is a choice.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 18.

The Living Stone

In "Biblical Perspective" I.C. Holland writes:

Jesus is that living stone! Though He was rejected by men, He was chosen and approved by the Father who said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). The word for stone here is different from the title Jesus gave to Peter. There it was petros, a pebble or field stone. Here it is lithos, meaning a “worked” or shaped stone. The words living and lively indicate activity, growth, and progress, and stone represents permanency. The infantile state discussed in verse 2 has developed from “born” and “grow” to “tasting,” or experiencing, the grace of God in verse 3. Now in verse 4 coming shows further action that leads to built up in verse 5. At this point the figure changes to a spiritual house and holy priesthood, and in Ephesians 2:22 to “a habitation of God through the Spirit.” What a quantum leap! We become not only ministers of Christ, but ministers to Christ! Spiritual work is done by spiritual people.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 18.

Is Unity in the Church Possible?

In "God's Word for Today" David Woods writes:

There may be many reasons why local churches do not seek greater unity today. Some are paranoid that working together in the local church and with other like-minded churches in the area will result in everyone being deceived by a one-world false church. Others are so embittered against fellow Christians — in other nearby churches, or even within their local congregation — that they will not allow themselves or others to seek reconciliation and unity. Maybe an even greater difficulty is the inability of many to envision how unity might look in our post-modern context. How is it possible to achieve unity with churches around the world? How can we reconcile our doctrinal and traditional differences with other churches? The key to solving this dilemma may be to ask the question of how to experience greater unity locally instead of in a universal sense.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 19.

Our Duty as Watchmen

In "Biblical Perspective" I.C. Holland writes:

Watchmen were on duty in the Temple. Psalm 134 speaks to the “servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.” For the safety of the people who dwelt in walled cities, watchmen kept their courses day and night. To Ezekiel, God said, “Son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me” (33:7). The prophets of old were “God's remembrancers,” as are preachers and pastors of the Church age. It is their solemn business “to call to God's remembrance the needs and claims of His people, and the obligations of His covenant promises” (Pulpit Comm.). This we can understand to be importunate and intercessory prayer, the duty of all Christians. Paul taught us to pray without ceasing. In our prayers, we Christians are allowed to remind God of our faith in His covenant promises.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 12.

What is the Church’s Relationship to Israel?

In "Doctrinal Discussion" Don Callaway writes:

At the center of this lesson lie two questions: The first is the broader question of the Church's relationship with Israel, and more specifically, whether Old Testament promises to Israel apply to the Church today. Second, if these verses do apply to the Church, at what point should we expect these promises to be fulfilled? Two general approaches have been taken in addressing the relationship between Israel and the Church. Replacement Theology teaches that the Church has replaced Israel, and therefore is heir to all her promises and blessings. A second approach understands the Church to exist as a separate organism from Israel and therefore has no claim to her promises. This approach would prevent the New Testament Church from appropriating many Old Testament promises, including the ones provided here in Isaiah 62. If pushed to an extreme it might also lead to the faulty conclusion that Israel is under a sep-arate salvation plan than the Gentile Church. What do the Scriptures say?

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 13.

Assurance for the Church

In "God's Word for Today" Gordon Snider writes:

“The check is in the mail.” There is likely no other promise received with so much skepticism as this one. We have heard the promise before, and it didn't prove true. We will believe it when we see the check. Many people hear the promises in the Bible with the same skepticism. The promises seem too good to be true. In fact, Isaiah was facing the same response to his ministry. God was making great promises to His people through the prophet, but the future seemed to contradict the assurances of good. So in 61:11 Isaiah raised the problem dealt with in our lesson today: “How can I be sure that the good God has promised will really happen?” In our lesson today, God's Old Testament people were facing captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem – the holy city. The modern church is facing renewed persecution from without and increased apathy from within, either of which potentially could destroy our “holy city.” Still, some people say that “the future is as bright as the promises of God.” How can they be so sure? The answers Isaiah gave to the Old Testament church are relevant to the New Testament church as well.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 10.

To Whom Does Your Church Belong?

In "Doctrinal Discussion" Don Callaway writes:

Naming a church can be an important step toward expressing the mission, personality, and goals of the congregation. Contemporary names of churches usually include terms like “hope,” “grace,” “faith,” or “community” in an attempt to make a public statement of an important quality of the gospel that church wants to promote. In a neighboring town, a local non-denominational church was established several years ago. The name they chose was “The People's Church.” Likely this name was chosen to convey the openness of the gospel that the church is committed to promote — whoever comes is welcome. However, the name also suggests that they are the sole owners and decision-makers of the congregation. If this human-centered philosophy of the church is the real message of the church, they have missed the whole meaning of the church.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 8.

Who is the Rock upon which the Church is built?

In "Word Focus" Glenn McClure writes:

Verse 18 has been a source of controversy, and calls for a closer look. Here we need to ask the question, Does “this rock” refer to Peter, to Peter's confession, or to Christ? The contrast between Peter (petros) and rock (petra) sheds some light on the matter. Petros is a stone, loose and movable. It was used as a proper name and is used here in the masculine form. On the other hand, petra is feminine and therefore may not refer to Peter. Petra means a rock, immovable, like the one the wise man built his house upon (Matt. 7:24). Most Protestants, as well as some early Church fathers (Augustine, Jerome), feel that this refers to Peter's confession and not to Peter himself. This may be because this meaning had been abused by the Church of Rome, and therefore another meaning was sought. Yet from verse 23 we realize that Peter was neither the foundation nor the builder, but Christ alone, whom he had confessed (see also 1 Cor. 3:11).

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 4.

Is the Church just another club?

In "God's Word for Today" David Woods writes:

When I was young, my brothers and I tried to organize a club with some friends. The problem was that we only saw our friends occasionally. During our first meeting, we talked through the rules and purpose of our club. A month later when we saw our friends again, we realized we would have to start our club from scratch. Another month later when we saw them again. . . . Sometimes the local church appears to be a sophisticated version of our boys' club. The loyalty of some members may be greater – or lesser – but the purpose is similar: to satisfy my spiritual needs and desires. Scripture paints a much different picture of the Church – a group of individuals redeemed by the blood of Christ, vitally connected to one another, committed to an eternal purpose.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 3.

The Nationality of the Christian

In "Biblical Perspective" Larry Grile writes:

Peter considered Christians to be of a different “nationality.” In this world we are not at home; we are foreigners merely passing through to our native country. Abstain from fleshly lusts. God has created us with desires; but sin has tainted human desires with a compulsion to selfish, sensual, and illicit expression. While that compulsion may be purified from the heart, it remains that the capability of desires is still there and must be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit, who alone can help us to keep ourselves within proper bounds. To what extent any individual Christian may, for example, momentarily admire beauty, etc., within sanctified bounds will depend on each person's vulnerabilities; only the Holy Spirit can guide each person in drawing these lines. Nevertheless, it remains that such desires are themselves potential mortal enemies to all that is right and good in our hearts and lives, until and unless they are kept continually surrendered to God. This issue does not represent a single battle, but rather is a potential warfare that continues as long as we live; the man who lets down his guard of faith, prayer, and self-discipline will find himself a victim of the devil.

Source: Building Christian Relationships: Adult Teacher's Insights, page 76.