Gospel for life: Work

Gospel for life: Work

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Listening guide

When is the last time you took a whole day off? Here is how I’m defining a day off:  

  1. Stop all paid and unpaid work  

  1. Rest by engaging in activities that restore and replenish us.   

  1. Delight in God’s creation and all the gifts he offers us in it.   

  1. Contemplate and ponder the love of God  (Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)  

 

Dorothy Sayers “Why Work”  

 

If we want rest, we need to work well 

 

Work is an expression of __________. 

 

Good work comes from _______ ________. 

 

God has ____________ so _________ for you in Jesus Christ   

 

God has worked so hard for you in Jesus Christ, so get some rest.   

 

Discussion questions

  1. Everyone has certain events and stories that reflect their perspective on work. Share some of the events of your life that describe your perspective on work.  

  2. In Genes 1:26 and following, God’s creation account shifts into the majestic first-person plural, “Let us make...”. Adam and Eve are immediately put to work. List the jobs that God mentions.  

  3. According to the following passages, what are some descriptions God uses for our activity in eternity:  

    1. Isaiah 60:4-10 

    2. Matthew 25:23 

    3. John 5:17 

    4. 2 Timothy 2:12 

    5. Revelation 2:26-27 

    6. Revelation 21:24-25  

    7. Revelation 22:3  

  4. In 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Paul says, “about your love for one another” and then goes on to talk about our daily lives. One commentator describes the concern in this way, “It was rather common for Greek men to leave the manual labor to their wives and slaves. This left the men to spend their days in the marketplace. There they would gather to discuss political and economic issues, and (all too often) to indulge in idle gossip. Thus they often became busybodies in other people’s affairs.” What is Paul teaching us by connecting our love to our daily lives and work?  

  5. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 Agree/Disagree Love for one another is the most important fruit of our faith.  

  6. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus famously tells us not to store up treasures on earth, but to work for and store up treasures in heaven. What are some good ways you have seen people work to store up treasures in heaven?  

  7. The most important phrase in that section is Matthew 6:21, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. We might expect it to say, where our heart is, that is our treasure. But Jesus teaches us that our hearts follow what we treasure. How does Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection change what you treasure?  

  8. A little cliché has become popular: “Don’t “rest from work”, “work from rest”.” What might people who say this be trying to communicate?  

  9. One way to ensure that we work well is to celebrate, reflect on, and give thanks for all the good things God has given us through our work and the work of others. This is part of what we don on the Sabbath. In an article called “Bring Back the Sabbath” in the New York Times Magazine we read,  

“There is ample evidence that our relationship to work is out of whack. Let me argue on behalf of an institution that has kept workaholism in reasonable check for thousands of years. Most people believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. Interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of the will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.”  

This quote explains that scheduled rest will not work without a great deal of intentionality and discipline. Brainstorm the kind of practical habits and useful practices that can help us observe Sabbath.  

 

Gospel for life: Eternity

Gospel for life: Eternity

Isaiah 60:15-22

15 “Although you have been forsaken and hated,
    with no one traveling through,
I will make you the everlasting pride
    and the joy of all generations.
16 You will drink the milk of nations
    and be nursed at royal breasts.
Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior,
    your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
    and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
    and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
    and well-being your ruler.
18 No longer will violence be heard in your land,
    nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
    and your gates Praise.
19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.
21 Then all your people will be righteous
    and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
    the work of my hands,
    for the display of my splendor.
22 The least of you will become a thousand,
    the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will do this swiftly.”

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Listening guide

Time to move!  

For sale: The city of God, the new Jerusalem 

Price: Buy without money 

60:11 Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations— their kings led in triumphal procession.” 

God has brought the good of all creation into eternity.  

____________________________________________________ home and city for sale.  

60:18 “No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.” 

People themselves have been healed and the relationships they have with one another have been restored.  

___________________________________________ neighbors and community.  

60:19-20 ““The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.”  

The entire city is filled with the glory of God. 

______________________________________________  

Your heart and a home here won’t fit together. 

When you let God make his home with you, then you will be home. 

Let God’s heart give you a home.  

Discussion questions

  1. Sociologists point out that there are basically 5 attitudes religious and believing people have toward the cities and people groups around us. These attitudes are not 5 neat or separate groups, but still generally reflect categories. Which one of the following do you most hold to?  

    1. #1 Assimilating the city – Christians give in and adopt the culture’s values and worldview. The goal is to blend in and lose any distinct identity. The time of the Judges offer many examples.  

    2. #2 Reflecting the city - Christians keep some aspects of Christian faith and practice, but they adopt the more fundamental values and worldviews of the dominant culture. Faith is for Sunday services and does not shape the way they live, their lifestyle is fundamentally no different. Micah and his mother in Judges 17 & 18 is an example.  

    3. #3 Despising the city – Christians respond to the culture with hostility. They feel polluted by the unbelieving arts, culture, and education. They may either disengage from civic life and denounce the decay, or they may attack and try to gain power to change the culture. The Pharisees and Zealots tried this approach.  

    4. #4 Ignoring the city – Christians focus almost entirely on building up the church and their own numbers. They believe God performs miracles, but forget God works through people. Hananiah in Jeremiah 28 is an example.  

    5. #5 Loving the city – Christians simultaneously accept and challenge the city. They operate out of a very different view of money, relationships, human life, sex, and power even when they engage in the same actions as the people around them. Jeremiah 29 and Acts 4 are examples of this.   

  2. What will heaven be like according to Isaiah’s description in verses 17-21? How does this compare with the description in Revelation 21:1-4, 22-27?  

  3. According to Isaiah 60:9-16, how will God’s people know that the Lord is their Savior and Redeemer?  

  4. How can the knowledge that there will be no violence or destruction in the future kingdom help us, and those we come into contact with, to cope with the violence and destruction we experience around us?  

  5. Richard Mouw writes, “My own hunch is that God has provided us with a rich storehouse of diverse images of the afterlife, all of them hints in the direction of something that is beyond our present comprehension, so that we can be free to draw on one or another of theme as a particular situation in our life may require.” Try this exercise. Each person in the room should share some situation they are currently experiencing in life. Then everyone else can try to apply a theme or image of eternity to encourage or direct that person.  

  6. What attitude have you adopted toward eternity? Share it with someone.  

Gospel for life: Witness

Gospel for life: Witness

Acts 7:54-60

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.  

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 

Listening guide

Fearful <-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------> Confidence 

Let’s become wonderful witnesses. 

“Verses 54-56. 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, (Sanhedrin = ruling religious leaders of the day) they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 

Everyone cares about what someone thinks about them. 

When you look around, your witness will fall down. 

V55 “Stephen looked... and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God”. 

See Jesus standing for you and I can promise you you will become a more courageous witness. 

“59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” 

When Jesus shares himself with you, you will be filled with wonder. 

You’ll be a wonderful witness.  

Follow up questions

  1. “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people... Religion, Politics, and The Great Pumpkin.” (Charles Schultz) Despite the fact that some people think the Internet is changing that maxim, the chart below shows large percentages of American Christians believe it is wrong to share the gospel with someone else.  In your experience, what do you think are the reasons for that?  

  2. Isaiah 55:1 gives us one way to express the witnessing message. List some characteristics of that message and describe them.  

  3. Acts 7:56-58 Why do you think the religious leaders were furious when Stephen said, “I see heaven open”? What does this tell us about our witnessing? While we can’t control how other people respond/react to us, what could we do to help everyone have healthy conversations about these important matters?  

  4. Isaiah 55:17 tells us what is often the most detrimental to our witness: our “sinful greed” and “willful ways”. Are there any instances of sinful greed or willful ways that have hurt our witness that you would like to point out so we can confess our sin?  

  5. Isaiah 55:5 tells us that witness work is summoning nations we do not know. Most people would think of witness work in a foreign land. How can witness work in our own neighborhoods and cities often feel like summoning nations we do not know?  

  6. I found this quote from Frank Retief, a pastor, and have heard similar sentiment from WELS pastors and missionaries: “People without Christ go to hell – if you believe that you’ve got to take risks, take a chance, and be prepared to fail.” What do you think of that statement? Do you agree?  

  7. Peter Wagner, a leading missiologist, writes, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.” What are some reasons that starting new churches is the most effective way to reach people?  

  8. What are some of the greatest obstacles for you to witness to others? How can I/we help?  

  9. A little acronym I have found helpful for witnessing is BLESS.  

B = Begin with prayer.  

L = Listen with care 

E = Eat together 

S = Serve with love 

S = Share your story  

  1. One or two people that God might be calling me to pray for would be __________________ and __________________. 

Gospel for life: Community

Gospel for life: Community

Acts 2:41-47

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke breadin their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Listening guide 

Gospel for life:  

  • Jesus fights the _______ and we live with __________ __________. 

  • We exchange our _________ for the stuff with _____________ in God, then the stuff has less power over us. 

God invites you to be his __________.  

That new _________ is incredibly _________.    

Verse 44 = They were __________. They’ve become together. 

Devoted people make for a lively community.   

 

 

Follow up questions 

  1. In your experience, how do people naturally relate to one another? Well, not so well?  

  2. Have you experienced a strong, healthy, vibrant community? What do you think made it so good and strong?  

  3. What practices does Dr Luke list in Acts 2 that make for a good, strong, healthy Christian community? Explain each.  

    1.   

    2.   

    3.   

    4.   

  4. What other practices, not listed in this section of Scripture, are also important or even necessary to make a strong, healthy Christian community? What practices might not be good or helpful or useful, perhaps even hurting the body?  

    1. Affirming one another’s strengths, abilities, and gifts 

    2. Affirming one another’s equal importance in Christ 

    3. Affirming one another through visible affection  

    4. Sharing one another’s space, goods, and time 

    5. Sharing one another’s needs and problems 

    6. Sharing one another’s beliefs, thinking, and spirituality 

    7. Serving one another through accountability  

    8. Serving one another through forgiveness and reconciliation  

    9. Serving one another’s interests rather than our own  

    10. Some unhelpful or unhealthy practices would be........ 

      1.   

      2.   

      3.   

      4.   

  5. What are some practical ways we can put these practices into this group or another group to strengthen our community?  

    1. Romans 12 offers a good list of ways to love even people we do not naturally like. Which of them tends to be a weakness for you? Which tends to be a strength? Is there a time or place where you strength could help others?  

    2. Love honestly, speaking out against what is wrong v.9 

    3. Love even unattractive people, because they are your brothers and sisters v.10 

    4. Love by making others feel honored and valuable v.10 

    5. Love by being generous in practical ways with your home, money, and time v.13  

    6. Love without bitterness. Don’t “pay others back,” or hold resentment against others. V.14  

    7. Love with empathy. Be willing to be emotionally involved with others. V.15 

    8. Love with humility. Be willing to associate with people who differ from you. V.16  

  6. How do you react to this quote from Don Carson? If it is true, what does it say about the power of the gospel? “Ideally, however, the church itself is not made up of natural “friends.” It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says – and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” (Love in Hard Places) 

Gospel for life: Idolatry

Gospel for life: Idolatry

Ezekiel 14:1-6

14 Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’

“Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!

Listening guide

Gospel for life: Heart

Gospel for life: Heart

Romans 7:21-25

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

Listening guide

When this happened _______________________, I was heartbroken. I ____________________

When this happened, ________________________, my heart was healthy, well, and full. I _____________.

“Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee.” (Augustine, Confessions, 1.1.1)

God invites you today to have a whole, healthy, well heart.

What’s in your ___________ matters most.

There is a ____________ in our _______.

Jesus does _____________ on the cross.

Let Jesus fight the war and live with your whole heart. 

159-1593667_heart-broken-comments-broken-heart-outline-symbol.png

Discussion questions

Which way do you think we move as Christians? On the chart below, draw what you think is the direction of the Christian life.  

 

 

 

  1. In these verses Paul says there are two different laws or principles that could govern his life: God’s law (V22), the law of sin (V23). V21 offers a different law or principle. According to that verse, what law/principle did Paul feel at work in his life?  

  2. V22 Paul says he finds “delight in God’s law”. What does that tell you about God’s law? Is that how you feel and think about God’s law?  

  3. V23 The “law of sin” is the other principle at work in Paul’s life. Describe what that principle does. What does it feel like? Consider the phrase Paul uses in V25 “slave to the law of sin.  

  4. V24-25 What is our only delivery from this battle? Is it more delight in or obedience to God’s law? Is it succumbing to the “law of sin”? For another way to answer this question, look at Galatians 3:6.  

  5. Martin Luther summarized who we are then saying, “The saints in being righteous are at the same time sinners; they are righteous because they believe in Christ whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them, but they are sinners because they do not fulfill the law and are not without sinful desires. They are like sick people in the care of a physician: they are really sick, but healthy only in the hope and insofar as they begin to be better, healed, i.e., they will become healthy. Nothing can harm them so much as the presumption that they are in fact healthy, for it will cause a bad relapse.” (Luther, Romans Commentary) Most people term what Martin Luther is describing as “simultaneously sinner and saint” (simul iustus et peccator) or just “sinner-saint”. In your own words, describe what he means?  

  6. Lutherans have always said that human beings operate according to the “opinion of the law”. This means that we assume that we can do what is right to satisfy God and others by being a good person. Other teachers might explain this as religion – the assumption that God will accept me if I do good. Do you agree that this is the default mode or assumption of the human heart? Have there been times or circumstances where this is how you lived?  

  7. One of our WELS professors, Richard Gurgel, said this: “Instead of doubting your own faith or the faith of others, recognize the reality of the spiritual struggles we all face to defy our heavenly Father by the arrogance either of careless sinning or self-satisfied morality.” What is he saying about the tension we live in as sinner-saints in this life? While he certainly issues a good warning about doubt, at what point do we cross the line from the struggling sinner-saint into unbelief?    

  8. Do you feel this tension in your life right now? If so, describe it. Or describe a time when you felt it. 

  9. If you don’t feel this tension, which way are you leaning? What will you do to move toward the tension?  

  10. Who in your life needs the message of the gospel – that Jesus did battle on the cross for us – so that they can have a whole heart?  

Easter wonder!

Easter wonder!

Do you long for a new day, a new dawn, a fresh start? Easter promises us forgiveness, hope, and a new life as the death of Jesus drives death out of us! 

Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Sermon guide

The Lord Jesus invites you today to a _______________ ___________________. 

The resurrection of Jesus is a _______ ___________________ truth. 

The Gospel according to Luke dates to 65-70 A.D.  

The resurrection is ____________ so everything _______________ change.   

“sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people” ~ Paul, Rm 5:12, see 5:12-15  

His death drives __________ from your _________.   

Wonder! Easter wonder.  

 

Discussion guide

  1. How many different religious leaders or great thinkers do you know? How many of them have you even followed for a time? What inspired you or got you to follow them?  

  2. Verses 1-3 Who were the first people to go and see the tomb of Jesus? Why is that important? 

     

  3. Verse 3 What did the women go to the tomb to find? What then are the expectations of even religious people?  

  4. Verses 3-4 What did the women do when they found the tomb open? How did they feel?  

  5. Verses 5-7 What is the message of the angels?  

  6. Verse 11 What is the natural response to the message of the resurrection of Jesus? What are some of the reasons, either ancient or modern, that people have for thinking Jesus does not live? 

  7. If men and women who had spent the better part of three years following Jesus don’t receive the message of the resurrection, what does that say about our hearts?  

  8. What does the angel’s proclamation mean for you?  

Sermon

Easter wonder!  

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.  

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.   

 

 

 

Imagine if you could please a person accused of a crime. Maybe they’re falsely accused, maybe they’re rightly accused. The police investigate. The DA decides to file charges. They issue an arrest warrant for the individual. The person is arrested and released on bail. The damage starts. People began to whisper about them. They criticize the individual. Their reputation takes a dive, they lose their good name. It doesn’t matter that later, a lawyer steps in and discovers the entire mess was false. The charges are dropped. The person is pronounced innocent. But it’s too late.  

How can that person ever go on? What do you do? That person might need a fresh start. A new day. A new start to get their good name back.  

That’s a common occurrence. Maybe it isn’t false charges. Maybe it’s conflict at work. Conflict with coworkers can easily lead to poor job performance. Bad job performance leads to conflict with your boss. You get a bad job review. The cycle continues. How are you going to get out of that cycle? You might need a fresh start, a new dawn, a new day.  

If it’s work struggles, maybe it’s an addiction. Addiction has an incredible power over us and there is no way to get out of it with a fresh start. Maybe its family challenges. Maybe its marital problems. Whatever is going on, there can be countless situations that seem to call for a fresh start and a new day!  

And I know from experience how great that new day can be. I’ve had times in life where work get mired in conflict and trial. I got to the point where I just said, yuck, I want this to end. So I did. I quit or found a new job or something and moved on and got that fresh start, that new dawn. It was so freeing, so exhilarating. I needed that fresh start and I got it. And if you have ever experienced it, you know how wonderful it is.  

Now here is the thing about that new start. Most of us can’t change the circumstances of our life most of the time. In fact, most of us don’t want to. Even if your job is going badly, we don’t quit because the pay is good, the benefits are solid, the family so stable, and the grass is definitely not greener on the other side.  

How can you and I get a fresh start, a new day without changing any of the circumstances of our lives? One time a mentor asked me a significant question: are you happy? The challenge for you, like all of us, is to be happy apart from, without our circumstances. Can you be happy no matter what situation you are in in life. Today God promises you and me a fresh start, a new day, a new day that has nothing to do with changing the circumstances of your life.  

The Lord Jesus invites you today to a fresh start, a new dawn, a new reality.  

We’re with the women today on their way to the tomb of Jesus. It’s early Sunday morning. They head out of the city of Jerusalem and find the empty tomb. Luke who is something of a medical professional and an amateur historian, tells us that the women wondered when they got there.  

This wondering that they did, it’s not a positive thing. You and I might wonder at the beauty of the stars against a dark black backdrop on a cool summer night. We might wonder at the beauty of a newborn baby. We might wonder at a sunrise. This is not that kind of wonder.  

This wondering. This is more like the wondering that you do as a parent when you step out of the dining room for three minutes to take a phone call. You come back and there is food all over the table, food on the floor, some food on the walls, and food in people’s hair. You say, “how could this have happened in just two minutes!” That wondering, that perplexity, is what the women experience.  

These women grew up in a time and culture where no one thought people could come back from the dead. It didn’t happen. In our world, it could happen in at least a little way. I think, what was it, maybe three months ago, someone I knew was at home, they had a stroke or a brain aneurism. They stopped breathing. Paramedics found this person 15 or 20 minutes later and started CPR. Over the next hour or two even though the person’s brain had stopped functioning, their heart and lungs started working again. They were dead and they come back to life. If someone says, so and so died and they came back. Then I ask, “how long did they stop breathing or their heart stop beating or how long did their brain stopped functioning?” Nobody expected that in the ancient world.  

The Jews thought that at the end of the world, people would come back to life, but before that it didn’t happen. That meant these were very perplexed, very confused, food on the walls and in the hair confused, by an empty tomb. This part of the gospel for them was perplexing. 

What this is saying to us then...The resurrection of Jesus is a deeply challenging truth.  

I was reading and listening to someone’s story making exactly this point a while back. She is a twenty something now, but went through this experience much younger. As a child, she read a shortened, children’s edition of the Bible lots of times. Then she read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books. She read Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials books. That’s a fiction series that basically makes the opposite case as the Chronicles of Narnia.  

She started to think about many of the ideas of the Bible. She looked at the fall into sin and asked, Is the fall into sin really a fall, or is it just a story in ever important book that teaches us how we need to choose good or evil. Or what about God. Are goodness and faith mutually exclusive? Do we need God to be good? Or could God just die? She was perplexed. (https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/religious-childrens-fiction-and-the-books-that-helped-shape-my-atheismaccessed 4/20/2019)  

Let me give you just two examples how the resurrection of Jesus has significantly changed the world. You can tell from these that the resurrection is going to perplex if you are going to figure it out. It is a deeply challenging truth.  

If you lived in the time before Jesus or even to this day in areas of the world that have not been deeply impacted by the resurrection of Jesus, most people think of history in a cyclical fashion. In the West, we tend to think of history in a linear fashion. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. It tells a story. It moves from start to finish. That is not how most people would have thought of the history of the world or how many people do to this day. For many, history is a ceaseless cycle of events. They basically all mean the same thing. They simply happen in different ways. There is no real progress or progression.  

Or what about the fact that we think the physical world is real? You can touch it, trust it, and depend on it. Do you know that in the ancient world everything you can touch and see and feel was bad and meaningless and it didn’t matter? The only thing that mattered was the immaterial life. Science as we know it has significantly come about because of the resurrected of Jesus.  

Think about that. That is how much the resurrection of Jesus challenges the reality we live in. So when this pushes on you, when it presses you and challenges, you probably should say, “is this true” or “well, what do you want from me” or “what does this have to do with me?” And I’m going to tell you, everyone has that reaction at some point, when they wrestle what the good news of Jesus really is. I don’t think I know a single person who knows what the resurrection of the dead means without some wrestling, some perplexity, some confusion. When that happens what do you say to yourself? 

Either the gospel is wrong – it's not true, it’s not good, it’s not accurate, it doesn’t apply - or I’m wrong. I think you have to ask that question.  

It’s easy to think that in the ancient world before news stations and Wikipedia and everything that everyone thought people would rise from the dead. But that isn’t the case.  

For example, there is one time where the Apostle Paul is talking to people Rome. He is telling them the events of Jesus’ life. He gets to the part where Jesus died and rose. And do you know what the people say? “What is this new teaching? You are bringing strange ideas to our ears.” (Acts 17:19, 20) Even many Jewish people did not believe in a resurrection. During the week Jesus died, a group of people called the Sadducees came and asked a hypothetical question about people getting married after they rise from the die. They use people get remarried as proof that there can’t be a resurrection. Imagine they confusion they say, if a widow gets to heaven and has to pick between two husbands? Who is she going to be married to? This is before Sister’s Wives. Even in the ancient world, the idea of a resurrection was strange.  

Now you’ve got this guy Luke who wrote the book of Luke. At the very latest he is doing this 40 years after Jesus. He is asking Mary the mother of James or maybe James’s sister, okay, “so what happened that morning? You went to the tomb and the tomb was empty? And angels and people told you that he had risen.” Then Luke says, “what did you think about that?” “I was perplexed” she says. I mean, people don’t rise from the dead and a guard was there, so what happened to his body? I didn’t really know what to think until I saw Jesus.” “You saw Jesus then?” he says. “Yes, that night” she says. “The next week, and many times after that.” “Wow, Luke says.”  

Luke writes that all down. Copies it a few times. Distributes a few copies. People read it. Now, other than maybe 1 other document, the only documents that talk about the resurrection of Jesus within 100 years of him are in what we call the Bible. That’s all there is. At the same time, the only document that denies the resurrection of Jesus is also right here in the Bible. According to Matthew, some people tried to deny Jesus’ resurrection.  

What this means is, here is Matthew, Mark, Luke, John all saying Jesus rose from the dead. Nobody argued with them. 40 years after Jesus Luke writes “Jesus rose from the dead.” Nobody says, “no he didn’t. I saw him. I went to his tomb. I saw him lying there. Dead.” 

Don’t you think if someone is walking around saying, “Hey look at that guy he rose from the dead” someone is going to say, “Um excuse me. No he didn’t. He is right there.” They didn’t have IQs of 50, which is very low by the way. Maybe they didn’t have antibiotics or do MRIs, they didn’t mean they lacked all intelligence. 

So what are the odds that nobody disagreed with Luke? Remember, most people thought people don’t rise from the dead. They didn’t have IQs of 50. They maybe didn’t have MRIs and antibiotics, but they were no fools.  

I think then we have to say Jesus rose from the dead. It doesn’t matter how much it changes reality. It doesn’t matter how perplexed, how strange, or how confused that makes our life. It doesn’t matter how many challenging questions we have to face. It doesn’t matter how much our world gets remade. Jesus is risen. Christ is risen! (hopefully they say he is risen indeed.) 

The resurrection is real so everything must change.  

The angels make it happen in a surprising way.  

The angels say to the women, “He is not here; he has risen!” And then they say the key line that will change everything for you. “Remember what he said, “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Did you hear that? They said the Son of Man must be delivered to the hands of sinners and be crucified. There is that little word must there.  

 Do you have a favorite “not happily ever after” story. Shakespeare is pretty famous for all of his tragic endings. If you’re a Stars Wars buff maybe you say, “The Empire Strikes Back”. If you’re into Disney fairy tales, you’ll need to turn to the original edition “Little Mermaid” to find a story that doesn’t end with a happy ending, you can go to the original Hans Christian Anderson story.  

That had to happen. That’s what had to happen. Do you realize what they are saying here?  

Since the beginning, death has hung over all people. “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people”. It has bent the trajectory of our lives. 

It doesn’t matter how hard you and I work to fix the circumstances of our lives. We can’t make ourselves a new reality. You’re too sinful. You’re too lost. You’re too guilty. He had to die. If you dislike that idea, you’re making the same mistake as the women. What you are saying is, I don’t believe Jesus actually had to die. I think that it was enough for him to be a good person, maybe a great teacher, so that he could show me the way to a life without sin or death. No! That doesn’t work. The only way to undo the reality of the old world was to put it on the sinless Son of God and let him die with it on the cross.  

The angels are saying there is no way for you to have a happily ever after if there is no unhappy ever after for somebody else.   

There is a deeper truth at work. When a willing victim makes a sacrifice in our place then death itself will begin to work backwards. Death itself is undone. Death will begin to lose its hold on us. That is how we get to a new reality, a new world.  

Do you believe that death has already begun to be undone? Then it is undone in your life. Then you can see more and more how death itself loses it’s hold on you.  

When we believe a willing victim is sacrificed for us, then death itself begins to work backwards in our lives. What will change your reality, what will change everything about how you see the world is when you let his death drive death from your life.  

One of the games I play with the kids when mom goes out for the night is dad scare the kids to death. They say, “Dad, put on your black sweatshirt and turn off the lights and scare us.” Sometimes it goes terribly. The kids have fear and terror in their hearts even before we start the game and it doesn’t matter If the kids believe that I love them and I’m going to protect them and I’m not going .  And in the darkness I’m not such a terror. I bring joy to their lives. The darkness that I bring to them drives the darkness and fear from them. Then terror turns to giggles. Then the fear becomes fun. We’re rolling on the ground wrestling with each other.  

This is what Jesus’ death has to do for you and me. We’re walking in a world of darkness and death and we don’t even realize it. But when his darkness -  this cross - drives the death from your life, boom, you’ve got a new reality.  

His death drives death from your life.  

So what do we need to do here?  

Action: Wonder  

When Peter and the other men heard these words, they sounded like nonsense to them. The resurrection is a deeply challenging truth. It will change everything about the way you think and the way you act.  

Then they say it was real and how did Peter respond? V12 “Peter went away wondering to himself what had happened.”  

If death itself has been driven away, then you have to wonder, in the most wonderful way, what’s next. 

I want you to remember back to your child when you were interested in secret doors and secret rooms and hiding places. Do you remember when you looked for secret rooms in a house? Sometimes children will come and ask, “Where are all the secret rooms in church?” They want to see what is behind the new door. It doesn’t matter that they don't know the reality behind that door. Death has driven death out of them and they want to see what is behind the next door.  

You too, you have to wonder about the reality that is behind the next door.  

Because here is the thing: If the resurrection is real, then as we let his death drive death from our lives, there is a wonderful new reality to discover.  

Let these words make you wonder: “‘The Son of Many must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’" That’s how you’ll discover a new dawn, a new day, a new reality.  Easter wonder. 

 

Mark it finished

Mark it finished

John 19:28-30

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Listening guide

Good Friday tells us is how hard we would have to work if we really want to fix the brokenness, the sin, the failure, the pain, and everything else that is wrong in this world. 

There is an incredible pressure to right the wrongs of life.  

 

Ps. 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water,  

         so my soul pants for you, my God.   

      2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  

         When can I go and meet with God?   

Ps 22:14-15 “I am poured out like water. My strength is dried up like a piece of earthenware in the furnace. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You lay me in the dust of death.” 

“To march into hell for a heavenly cause.”  

“It is finished”  

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”   

Mark it finished.  

 

#1 _____________________________________________ 

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#2 _____________________________________________ 

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#3 _____________________________________________ 

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#4 _____________________________________________ 

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Practices of the Christian life: Worship

Practices of the Christian life: Worship

Luke 19:28-40

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Listening guide

Name an item you have that is worth very little: __________________ 

What do you feel about that item? 

When is the last time you talked about that item?  

What did you last say about that item?  

 

Name an item that is worth a great deal to you (put down something tangible, not kids or family) __________________  

What do you feel about that item?  

When is the last time you talked about that item?  

What did you last say about that item? 

 

Worship takes all of you:  

  • Throw coats down for Jesus (v36) =  

  • “joyfully to praise God in loud voices” (v37) =  

  • “for all the miracles they had seen” (v37) =  

 

Worship gives __________ ____________ to someone or something.  

Worship comes from old English words ________ _________. 

Jesus lost all his __________ , his ________. (v37)  

You’re his treasure, that will make him your treasure. 
 

Take a palm branch home.  

Study guide

  1. Tell about a time when you naturally worshipped or praised someone/something. Also, tell about a time when worship felt forced or awkward.  

  2. Do you think Jesus knew what was going to happen as this event took place?  

  3. What is the meaning of: 

    1. The donkey (Zechariah 9:9) 

    2. The palm branches  

      1. “There was little difficulty obtaining palm branches: date palms were plentiful around Jerusalem, and still grow there. But there is nothing in the Old Testament that prescribes palm branches at Passover, whereas the people were commanded to take ‘palm fronds … and rejoice before the LORD your God’ at the Feast of Tabernacles. This is one of the factors that prompted T. W. Manson to argue that the triumphal entry actually took place six months earlier and was transferred to this setting.4 In fact, this expedient is unnecessary. From about two centuries earlier, palm branches had already become a national (not to say nationalist) symbol. When Simon the Maccabee drove the Syrian forces out of the Jerusalem citadel he was fêted with music and the waving of palm branches (cf. 1 Macc. 13:51, 141 BC), which had also been prominent at the rededication of the temple (2 Macc. 10:7, 164 BC). Apocalyptic visions of the end utilize palm branches (Testament of Naphtali 5). Palms appear on the coins struck by the insurgents during the Jewish wars against Rome (AD 66–70, 132–135); indeed, the use of the palm as a symbol for Judea was sufficiently well established that the coins struck by the Romans to celebrate their victory also sported it.5 In short, waving of palm branches was no longer restrictively associated with Tabernacles. In this instance, it may well have signaled nationalist hope that a messianic liberator was arriving on the scene (cf. 6:14–15). (D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 431–432.)  

    3. Laying down cloaks (2 Kings 9:13) 

  4. What aspects of this story show Jesus’ ... 

    1. Power 

    2. Humility 

  5. (Verse 38) What does the shouting of Psalm 118 signify?  

  6. These people worship Jesus with their mind (“for the miracles they had seen”), their emotions (“joyfully praise God”), and their wills/actions (laying down their cloaks). Do you worship Jesus with your whole person?  

  7. Why did the Pharisee’s object to the disciples’ praise and worship?  

  8. What does the statement, “I tell you, he replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” tell you? (Genesis 4:10; Joshua 24:27: Psalm 96:11; 98:7-9; 114:1-8; Isaiah 55:12; Habakkuk 2:11)  

  9. Jesus gave up so much that he didn’t even have a mode of transportation to get into town (v31 “the Lord needs” the donkey). What does that say about your worth and value?  

Practices of the Christian life: Hear the Word

Practices of the Christian life: Hear the Word

2 Peter 1:12-21

Prophecy of Scripture

12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[a18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

 

“Bloom’s Taxonomy”, Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, pg 44.  

1:19 “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable.”  

The Scriptures is not _______ word it is _________ Word which means it should carry more weight in your life. 

The Bible is God’s Word:  

  1. The Bible is ___________________.  

  1. The Bible is  ____________. 

Bible believers are always both ____________ and ____________ the curve of a fallen world.   

 

God is eager to remind you:   

  • Verse 12 - 

  • Verse 13 -   

  • Verse 19 - 

Ibrahim 

 

 

 

 

  1. Many people have different experiences of God. Share a time when you felt like you experienced God.  

  2. What three things does Peter do to give his listeners solid, reliable, and trustworthy knowledge and experience of God?  

    1.  Consistent witness 

    2.  Eyewitness testimony 

    3.  Unwilling prophets 

     

  3. (Not a great question maybe) V12 Peter says “I will remind you of these things”. I hate getting reminded of stuff. How can we handle well getting reminded of stuff?  

     

  4. V12 How do you know if you are firmly established in the Word?  

  5. V16 Peter says we don’t follow one thing, because we are another thing. What are those two things?  

  6. Does it bother you to call the events of the Bible stories?  

  7. V19 Tell one thing that you have learned about the Bible over the years that tells you the Bible is reliable.  

  8. V21 If prophecy came from God, what does that mean we are getting when we hear the Bible?  

  9. Tell about a time when you came to know God through his Word in a unique or special way. 

Practices of the Christian life: Forgive and reconcile

Practices of the Christian life: Forgive and reconcile

Based on Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I need ______________ to be reconciled with me.  

To reconcile means =  

They have tried the following to fix the relationship:  

  • ________________________________________________________

  • ________________________________________________________

  • ________________________________________________________

Forgiveness and reconciliation is a key practice of the Christian life  

  • Mt 5:24 ““Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  

  • 1 John 4:19-20 “We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

Everyone is _______ and has this call to come _________.   

Son #1  

  • ___________________

  • ___________________

  • ___________________

  • V17 “When he came to his senses”  

  • Some people want to get home by ___________________.  

Son #2  

  • ___________________

  • ___________________

  • ___________________

  • V29 “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.”

  • Some people want to get home by ___________________.  

The lost still want ________.   

The father gives them his own __________.  

The Son must pay a high price.

True _______________________ costs too much.

Only the father can _______ ____________ the lost, because only the father _______ everything he has.  

So let’s __________.

With whom could you celebrate the Father’s compassion and the Son’s sacrifice? ________________________________________

Let’s party, because only the father gives everything he has.


Studying this section is most beneficial if think of someone who you need to forgive and someone else with whom you need to be reconciled. As we start, think of one or two specific people.  



  1. What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? Which one do you think is harder?  

  2. What makes it hard to forgive people?  

  3. What makes it hard to reconcile with people?  

  4. In this event (not just in the story) who are characters?  

  5. Verses 11-12 Explain what happens in these verses and the significance of them. Here is a comment from Joel Green, a New Testament scholar, explaining the social dynamics. “According to tradition and reinforced by political rhetoric, the family in Jesus’ world was hierarchical in *authority. The eldest male of the household was the patriarch, possessing all the power that patriarchy entails. Husbands held power over their wives (see Sir 25:26; 4Q418 10, 3–10), and mothers and fathers were in authority over their children, including their adult children (Ex 20:12; Tob 4:3–4; Sir 3:1–16; 4Q418 9, 17–18). Jesus supports the power of parents (Mk 7:9–13; 10:19; cf. Lk 2:51), and his *parables reflect patriarchal hierarchy (Mt 18:23–34; 21:28–31; Lk 15:11–32). The challenge of these expectations makes stories like the parable of the prodigal son and Jesus’ call of *disciples away from their homes quite surprising (Mt 8:21–22; 10:34–38; Lk 9:59–62; 15:11–32)."  


  6. Compare verses 17-19 with verse 21. What is the difference?  


  7. Why do you think the father is able to forgive his son but the brother is not able to forgive his brother?


  8. One of the things that bothers people is that the father seems to offer forgiveness to the son free of charge. The gospel tells us that Jesus Christ paid for our sins with his life and death. How is the father able to forgive his son?


  9. In this parable, who are you right now? Who have you been at various times?

  10. With whom could you celebrate the Father’s compassion and the Son’s sacrifice?  

Practices of the Christian life: Repent

Practices of the Christian life: Repent

Based on Luke 13:1-9

Nathaniel Timmermann

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

  1. When was the last time you said, “I’m sorry.” Was that repentance or an apology?

  2. What keeps you from repenting or makes repenting hard?

  3. Why do you think these people told Jesus about all these tragedies?

  4. What was wrong in the thinking of these people, based on Jesus’ question “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way?”

  5. When do you most often find yourself comparing yourself to others?

  6. What are the two convictions that are part of repentance?

  7. Do you regularly repent?

  8. Verses 6-9 do not only teach that God is patient toward us. What else do they teach us about God?

  9. Are you certain that you will not perish?


Practices of the Christian life: Be still

Practices of the Christian life: Be still

A sermon on Psalm 46 by Kelly Huet

Ps 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

  1. What are common fears people face?

  2. What are common effects of fear in our lives?

  3. Evaluate: you must not have a strong enough faith if you are often afraid and have anxiety.

  4. What psalms would you offer to people when they are afraid?

  5. 46:8-9 What is so surprising about the way that God brings peace?

  6. 46:10 What does it mean to “be still” for you?

  7. Tell about a time when God's Word and presence stilled you.

  8. Who do you know that needs God's Word to still them?

Practices of the Christian life: Fight sin

Practices of the Christian life: Fight sin

A sermon based on Luke 4:1-13

Nathaniel Timmermann

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]”

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]”

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you

to guard you carefully;

11 they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]”

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

  1. When you think of the practices of the Christian life – activities that Christians practice to know the Lord and receive his gifts – what do you think of? Which do you practice most often?  

  2. Luke 4:2 Do you think the devil exists? What has convinced you?  

  3. Luke 4:3 What is the first temptation? What is wrong with bread? How is this a temptation then?  

  4. Luke 4:5-7 What is the second temptation? What is wrong with kingdoms and splendor? How is this a temptation?  

  5. Luke 4:9-11 What is the third temptation? How is this a temptation?  

  6. The heart of temptation is to make a good thing an ultimate thing.  

  7. In the sermon, pastor made the point: You will fight your whole life if you follow Jesus. Where have you fought the devil and temptation lately? Or are you running away from some fight?  

  8. Craig Evans provides an interesting insight into the temptations. He says, ““All of the suggestions put to Jesus by the devil reflect popular ideas and beliefs about what the Messiah would do when he appeared. Just as God had during the wilderness wanderings, the Messiah was expected to bring bread down from heaven, to subject the other kingdoms to Israel, and to perform some dazzling sign that would convince religious leadership.” (Craig Evans, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, 242) If it is true that these temptations reflect popular ideas and beliefs about what the Messiah would do, what would temptations that reflect popular ideas about today’s messiahs look like? That is to say, what do we expect a messiah or savior to do today and how would he/she be tempted?  

  9. Do you find yourself resisting temptation or just hoping to be saved from the consequences of sin?  

  10. God has given us three tools to handle and overcome temptation: God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s Servant. What is each and how does it help when we face temptation?  

Light from him gives you light within

Light from him gives you light within

A sermon based on 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate  the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  

Present Weakness and Resurrection Life  

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”  made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.   

What sorts of powers or influences are at work in your life? What are the greatest powers at work?  

 

  1. In 2 Cor 3:13 Paul says we are not like Moses. Based on the next verses, how are we not supposed to be like Moses? Are you like Moses or not?  

  2. In 2 Cor 4:2 Paul lists the result of being “transformed into [the Lord’s] image with ever increasing glory”. In your own words, what is it? Is that what you see in your own life or the lives of the people around you?   

  3. Pastors aren’t the only people who seek approval, acceptance, and recognition. How have you tried to gain approval, acceptance, and recognition?  

  4. 2 Cor 4:4 Paul speaks of the god of this age. What were some of the gods of Paul’s age? What are some of the gods of this age? How do they blind us?  

  5. 2 Cor 4:3-4 Since Satan has blinded people’s eyes to the truth, is there any hope for them? What strategies must we use to overcome spiritual blindness?  

  6. 2 Cor 4:4 What is the gospel or what does it give?  

Let's eat!

Luke 15:1-2

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.””

In this age of outrage (see Jonathan Haidt) some find it hard to sit down with someone and have a good conversation. It doesn't need to be that way. Jesus stood in the middle of an age of outrage and welcomed sinners. He feeds us with a meal as the eternal host. 

  1. In Luke 15:1-2, Jesus addresses or faces different kinds of sinners. Who are they and how would you describe their sinfulness? 

  2. In the sermon, pastor described two common, major categories of sinfulness: self-indulgence and self-righteousness. How would you describe the sinfulness of the people you run into most often? Or yourself? This is not about prying. Knowing this tells us a lot about how we can best approach others and ourselves.  

  3. How does understanding the sinfulness of the people you run into most often help you adjust your practice in reaching them?  

  4. Jesus reaches many people by eating meals with them. Meals tell us a lot about who we are identified with or with which group we belong. When did you know you belonged to the people of God? Was it a meal?  

  5. Think about 2-4 people in your life that you might like to share the forgiveness, joy, peace, love, and new life you have found in Jesus Christ. What are their names? ____________________ ____________________ _________________________ ____________________________  

  6. For those 2-4 people above, where are you with them compared to the following (I.e. how many have you done, tried, worked, didn’t work, etc). Share comments and insights with others.  

    1. Let others know of your Christian faith and activities in natural ways (e.g. talking casually about church attendance and events). 

    2. Ask questions about other people’s beliefs and experiences with faith and church and simply listen appreciatively and sympathetically. 

    3. Describe briefly and naturally how you process some difficult personal problem—some misfortune or some mistreatment—by using your faith to help you get strength or grant forgiveness.  

    4. Offer to pray regularly for a friend, neighbor, or colleague who is facing a challenging situation. 

    5. Share your spiritual ‘narrative’—your explanation of Christian experience.  

    6. Offer books or recordings about Christian issues and discuss them. 

    7. Initiate a discussion about a friends’ biggest problem or objection to Christianity.  

    8. Invite friends to venues where they meet believers but don’t listen to gospel communication.  

    9. Offer and then read a part of the Bible together—preferably one of the gospels—to discuss the character of Jesus. 

    10. Invite friends to venues where they hear the gospel communicated. (#8 may be more intense/demanding for the Christian than #9, but for many non-believers, #8 is less intense/demanding than #9—going to some Christian event.)  

    11. Share the basics of the Christian faith with your friend, lay out how to become a Christian, and invite them to make a commitment. 

  7. If you’re stuck someplace, would you like to move on to the next step? How can we or someone else help?  

The spiritual life: speak to help us grow.

1 Corinthians 14:1-25

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,[b] but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,[c] unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[d] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues

and through the lips of foreigners

I will speak to this people,

but even then they will not listen to me,

says the Lord.”[e]

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

  1. In these verses, Paul contrasts speaking in tongues and prophecy. Working through these verses, how are the two similar or different?  

    Speaking in tongues  Prophecy 

 

  

  1. How would you explain speaking in tongues? How would you explain prophecy?  

  2. Consider 1 Corinthians 14:4 “anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves”. Maybe you don’t speak in tongues, but you have some other spiritual gift. Have your spiritual gifts helped you personally grow? If you can, think of specific time when you benefited from your gifts.  

  3. Has sin sometimes shut you up so that you don’t help others grow?  

  4. Paul repeatedly tells us to seek the gifts that build others up. See the verses below. Do you or might you spend more time seeking personal gifts? How could I/we help?  

    1. 12:31 “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” 

    2. 14:1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” 

    3. 14:12 “Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” 

    4. 14:39 “be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”  

  5. We cannot be accused of misusing the gift of tongues in our public worship. Yet the principle of wanting to speak clearly and understandably applies to us. Are there some elements of our worship service that a visitor may not understand? What can we do to help?

The spiritual life: you're part of something greater

  1. Last week I asked you to see if you knew your spiritual gifts. There are 4 different sections in the Bible that speak to spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12: 7-10, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Peter 4:10-11. How has the Spirit manifested himself in your life? On further reflection have you realized anything else?  

  2. Does membership in the body of Christ mean much to you right now? Why or why not? 

  3. 1 Corinthians 12:15 and 21 Have you either felt like you aren’t good enough to be part of the body or you don’t need the rest of the body?   

  4. 1 Corinthians 12:24 “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it”. What parts of the body do you think God is giving greater honor to? Do you equally honor them?  

  5. 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 What role do you have in the body of Christ – both in this congregation and the larger church? How can I and the people around you help you discover your role and live it?  

  6. What is the richness of the picture of the body of Christ? How is it better than the idea of a ‘team’ or a ‘group’? How does the picture of a body fit into God’s narrative of redemption?  

 

The spiritual life: appreciate the variety of gifts in a group of believers

  1. Lots of people try to do spirituality on their own – even people in the church. Why do you think so many people do spirituality on their own?  

  2. 12:3 What is the first thing we need to know about true spiritual gifts?  

  3. 12:3 This verse is so important. Just the other day someone asked me, “How do I know I’m saved?” What are the two parts to that answer?  

  4. 12:4-6 Where is the reference to the Trinity in this verse? How does it change our thinking about spiritual gifts to think about the Trinity behind them all?  

  5. 12:4-6 What truth does Paul point out in verses that makes any selfishness about our spiritual gifts an obvious sin against the Lord? 

  6. 1 Corinthians 12:7ff lists different spiritual gifts that show up in our lives because the Spirit is there. How has the Spirit manifested himself in your life? It might be one of these gifts, it might be something else.  

  7. Are you celebrating the diversity of spiritual gifts in others, missing the spiritual gifts in others, or bothered by the spiritual gifts of others? Any reasons why?  

  8. 12:7ff What great purpose are spiritual gifts to serve? How is that important?  

  9. Are you reflecting the diversity and the goodness of Jesus Christ to the world around you as you use your gifts? What’s one way you might do that?