Outdoor Bible Study (Ephesians 2:1-10): “Spiritually alive” or “spiritually dead?”

The book, Christian Outdoor Leadership, shows how Jesus used “teachable moments” in the outdoors to communicate life-tranforming truth to his followers. He used his creation to inspire people toward belief, and to illustrate what he was talking about rather than just relying on words to explain deep theological truths. If you would like to learn more about the experiential nature of Jesus Christ’s teaching methods, then I invite you to read my book. Below is a V.I.S.I.O.N. Bible Study method that uses inductive Bible study methods combined with a tutorial on how to use the outdoor adventure setting for hands on experiential learning of the deep truth hidden within one of Paul’s epistles: Ephesians 2:1-10.

Another related post that may interest you is: Outdoor Illustrations for “Death to Self”: Dry Streams + Dead Branches.

Ephesians 2:1-10

How do you know if you are “spiritually alive” or “spiritually dead?” How can we enjoy the abundant life the way God intended us to experience?

Biblical Literature Genre: Epistles of Paul

Age Group: Any

Setting : 1) Find a place to have a quiet time where you can point out the difference between “dead” and “alive” plants… maybe a forest where some trees have died and fallen over and others are growing and healthy, 2) An awe-inspiring view or vista where people will connect with the idea that God’s creation is a “gift” that he has given us to enjoy, rather than something that we “deserve” or are “entitled” to…

Timing: 1) The Letter to the Ephesians was not written to confront any specific heresy or problem, it was primarily written as a way for Paul to pour out encouragement to the church at Ephesus that he loved after having spent 3 years with them.  Look for timing when you can really encourage your group either because they are “discouraged” by circumstances, or because they just need to be “reminded” that Jesus love them intensely regardless of their good or bad behavior–he just loves us because that’s who he is!  2) This may be a good quiet time for an afternoon after some challenging hiking or paddling, etc., where people are aware of their own limitations,

Set up: 1) Stop the group along the journey somewhere and point out the setting and timing a little bit so that people are aware of how they are feeling and what they are thinking, 2) Ask some questions of the group about how they are doing so they become aware of their setting and state of being, 3) Hand out the following questions or read a few of them to have the group write them in their journal for study during quiet time, 4) Send out the group for 20-30 minutes of time alone with God… encourage the group to find some space away from other people to consider the following questions… 5) An alternative would be to lead a 45 minute inductive study with the whole group using the same questions but you facilitating the discussion.

V.I.S.I.O.N. STUDY QUESTIONS:

V: VERSE: Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we wouldwalk in them.

I: INSPECT

•           List some of the contrasts you find these verses, and note some of the differences between the two things being contrasted?

S: SEEK TO UNDERSTAND

•          According to the passage, what does it mean to be spiritually “dead” and “alive”?

•          According to the passage, what are the sources of influence on each?

•          How might you define in your own words “grace” and “faith”?

I: IMPLEMENT

•          Share an example of a movie, story, fictional character, t.v. show, etc. where a character seemed to be spiritually “dead” but then something happened and they became what appeared to be “spiritually alive”.

•          Has there ever been a “before (dead)” and “after (alive)” in your spiritual life?

•          If you have made a decision to put your faith in Jesus, what changes have you seen in your life that give evidence of being “alive”?

•          What are some of the “good works” which you believe Christians should be engaged in as a result of receiving God’s love and grace?

O: OBVIOUS QUESTIONS

•           Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God….” If salvation is a gift then does this mean that there is absolutely nothing I can do earn salvation from God?  Does that mean that even my good deeds, or efforts to be a good person are unable to earn favor with God?  What do I have to do to receive this gift of salvation that Jesus offers?

N: NUISANCE (anticipated obstacles)

•           Even though Jesus makes us a new creation by putting our faith in him, we still are going to struggle with the “lusts of the flesh” that Paul talks about. Yet for those who are new creations in Christ,  “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we wouldwalk in them.” Make a list of your common temptations and then think of a “good work” that you can put into practice that replaces that former temptation…

For example:

1. Lust of the Flesh: Watching TV/Movies, etc. that glorifies sex, violence, unfaithfulness, or listening often to music that glorifies man or sinful lusts rather than God’s design for relationships.

How to replace that sinful tendency with “good works” that glorify God: Look at people with the eyes of Christ, spend time observing God’s Creation and noticing even the small details… what does this teach you about God’s character? Listen to the sounds of creation… what do you learn about God by listening to birds, a bubbling brook, thunder and lightning, etc.?

2.  Lust of the Flesh: Cutting others down, being critical toward others, etc.?

How to replace that sinful tendency with “good works” that glorify God: Peter writes, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God (1 Peter 4:11).  What we speak is powerful.  It has the power to build up or tear down.

James 3:9-12 says,

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

What are some ways that I tear down others with my words?  How can I replace that habit with using words that build up?

Followup: At lunch or dinner have the group bring their journals to the meal and have everyone sit in a circle and have a discussion.  Ask the questions and invite people to share what they wrote down.  Make sure to wrap up the discussion with ideas how we can apply what we’ve learned to our individual lives as well as to our whole group and/or church, etc….

VISION Bible Studies are by Ashley Denton and are published online. (www.outdoorleaders.com)

Another related post that may interest you is: Outdoor Illustrations for “Death to Self”: Dry Streams + Dead Branches.


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