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gospel for life

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.  





  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........ 





  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. 


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?