Pastor Matt started out by sharing how the big question a group of students all wanted God to answer for them was “What is my purpose in life?”. Have you ever asked God that same question? If so, share with one another your experience in wrestling with that question in your life.
How do your non-christian family members, coworkers, or friends view Jesus? Do you know what they think of him? Share with your group some of the different views of Jesus you’ve encountered from your friends and family.
We all are experiencing or will experience in greater measures the effects of sin in our lives, in our bodies, and in the lives and bodies of the ones we love. We experience the physical deterioration of our bodies and the emotional and relational pain that sin causes in our relationships. Our prayers and our desire is for healing in all of these things, yet God allows some to be healed, and others not to and it never has to do with our obedience. We don’t earn the right to be healed. The paralyzed man in John 5 didn’t do anything to be chosen by Jesus for healing, instead in God’s sovereign wisdom and plan he was chosen for that very purpose. But God also doesn’t waste our suffering, nor does he ever leave us alone in our suffering, but in a very real way we have been chosen for suffering. Our suffering also brings God glory and he is always with us, giving us all we need to endure for his glory! Read Romans 8:18-25 together as a group. What does this passage say about suffering? What is our hope in this suffering?
Read Romans 8:26-30. What is the work of the Holy Spirit in our time of suffering? And what are God’s promises to us?
The cross of Christ ushered in God’s Kingdom on earth where we see a foretaste of the healing and deliverance he is going to bring for all of creation! Read Revelation 21:1-8. Does the hope in a renewed and restored heaven and earth give you hope? How can we encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering with the hope of Christ? Is there anyone in your group who needs to be reminded of the healing and restoration that is coming to them in Christ? Spend some time encouraging them through prayer.
Pastor Matt said, “Jesus didn’t just come to die on the cross, he also came to live for the cross!”. What are some of the things that Christ accomplished for you on the cross through his life?
Our true purpose is also found in the cross of Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. What purpose has God given to each one of us who are in Christ? How can we continue to fulfill our God given purpose especially now in these trying times where social distancing is required? Share some ideas with your group.
There’s a bit of reading to get you primed here. Take turns, going around the circle in your group each reading the paragraphs in succession (yup, even those of you who feel more comfortable keeping quite).
From the Gospel Fluency Handbook:
Another way to grow in seeing Jesus as the Better is to get to know the larger story of the Bible. We walked through a condensed version of it in Week 2. So many people read the Bible as a bunch of individual stories. Sure, there are plenty of stories in the Bible, but the point of the whole Bible is to tell the one true story—the true and better story of the world. It is the story of God and his redeeming love. It is the story of his pursuit of us to rescue and restore us to relationships with him, each other, and a renewed creation.
In one sense, the whole Bible is the gospel—the good news that God has come to rescue and restore humanity and all creation in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. And every part of the Bible either points forward or backward to Jesus, because he is the heart—the center—of the story. The entirety of the Bible also shows how desperately needy every single person is for God’s salvation.
Jesus is the point of every story, the fulfillment of every longing, the completion of everything that is lacking. Every character, story, and theme points to him, because it’s really all about him. So how can you learn to read the Bible this way? I recommend you go through the story of God together as a group regularly. There are many ways to do this. I am increasingly convinced and concerned that most Christians can’t tell the whole story of the Bible. Therefore, they likely can’t show how it all leads to Jesus as the Better.
I would also strongly encourage you to commit to regularly reading through your Bible—the whole thing. So many Christians have never read their Bibles. Sure, they have favorite sections they read over and over again, but they haven’t read the entire book. As a result, most don’t know the whole story, so they often wrongly interpret Scripture out of context. When you don’t know the whole story of God, you tend toward making the Bible about you and not about Jesus. I would highly recommend that you commit with others to do this. I have found that people are more successful in reading through the entire Bible when they do it with others in their small group or missional community. This allows them to learn together, as well as to hold each other accountable for their reading.
As you get to know your Bible more and more, look to see Jesus in every text by looking for the typology of Jesus in every story or situation. The Bible is not just recounting the story as it occurred, but in such a way as to create an anticipation, a longing, for a better person, a better solution, a better fulfillment—a better Savior. In his providence and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God insured the Scriptures would include numerous “types” (prefigurings) of Christ and would create a vacuum of longing for him to arrive and fulfill our greatest need. Learn to read the Bible, both alone and in community, while asking these questions: 1) How is this person or situation a type of Christ? 2) What is lacking in this story that only Jesus can fulfill? and 3) What is the longing or the hunger that is created here for Jesus to satisfy?
Don’t settle for substitutes. Don’t try to be a substitute. Jesus did better than anyone or anything. Jesus does better than anyone or anything. And Jesus will do better than anyone or anything. Jesus is the Better everything! Don’t look elsewhere and don’t give one another anything or anyone else. Remind one another of these truths about him in a gospel-fluent community. And be reminded yourself as you submit to others speaking into your life and experience that Jesus is the Better. Give each other Jesus. He’s better.
This reading technically advises two methods of rehearsing the gospel with others: by considering the Story of God (explained in week 2), and diving in and reading the whole Bible. The point of both methods, though, is the same: whether you’re looking at themes of the Bible or specific texts within it, this week’s first way of rehearsing the gospel together is finding Jesus in the story. To apply the concepts of this reading in your everyday life, pray that God will open your eyes and guide you, then answer the following questions together.
Considering the content you read, in your own words describe how you can read the Bible in a way that looks for Jesus as the key to every text. (If you’re confused about this—especially regarding the Old Testament, before Jesus was born—ask others to help, or ask your community to talk about it when you meet this week.)
While some followers of Jesus don’t seem to know the Bible well, it’s also not uncommon in some veins of Christianity today for someone to be “Bible fluent” without being gospel fluent.
Being “Bible fluent” means we know the words, stories, and even commands of Scriptures, and at times we can teach, preach, and even try to obey those words, stories, and commands. “Bible fluency” is a great and needed goal for the Christian life. However, we often become “Bible fluent” without seeing Jesus in the Bible, and without relying on God’s gospel work for all that the Bible teaches. By itself, “Bible fluency” leads to moralism (doing good things and living well by our own power), or to guilt and shame (when we fail at doing good and living well by our own power).
For example, Philippians 2:1-11 encourages Christians to be humble toward others; it even looks at the example of Jesus’ own humility as a model for our own. Without understanding God’s work and the gospel’s power in our lives, “Bible fluency” leaves us on our own to follow Jesus’ model and become humble. Anyone who’s tried this realizes it’s a double-edged sword: if we try to become humble on our own, by making our own rules, changing our own mindset, or anything else, we might succeed—but often only for a season, and by the means of self-created legalism. In many cases we ironically end up prideful because of “how humble I’ve become”! Or we might realize how prideful we are and feel hopeless by our failed efforts which can lead to guilt and shame. Only God, working in us through the truths of the gospel, has the power to make us truly humble: knowing the Bible isn’t enough to accomplish that; we need the gospel! Only by trusting in God’s power and submitting to the Spirit’s work, can we truly follow Jesus’ example and become more humble.
Knowing the Bible without knowing God and his gospel is not true Christianity. What does it look like to read the Bible through a gospel-fluent lens? In his providence and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God insured the Scriptures would include numerous “types” of Christ and would create a vacuum of longing for him to arrive and fulfill our greatest need. Learn to read the Bible, both alone and in community, while asking these questions:
1) How is this person or situation a type of Christ?
2) What is lacking in this story that only Jesus can fulfill? and
3) What is the longing or the hunger that is created here for Jesus to satisfy?
For more practice in this skill, compare Jesus to inanimate objects, too: the rock of Moses, manna, the temple, light, water, fruit in the garden, animal sacrifice and more.
As you rest in the fact that Jesus is the key to every theme and text of the Bible, read—and pray that God will help you believe and rest in—this truth: “Jesus is the point of every story, the fulfillment of every longing, the completion of everything that is lacking. Every character, story, and theme points to him, because it’s really all about him.” Consider writing out your thoughts and prayers as you reflect.
In his sermon on the one, true, great, story, Pastor Matt walked through the gospel. This is God’s main narrative, it is the record of him pursuing his people, and the plan he’s had to redeem us all along.
Yet so often we get side tracked. The story which provides us with our primary identity as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus, this story gets lost in the immediacy of crisis and daily grit. So often we quickly slip back into our default narrative of coping, believing lesser stories which have lesser heroes that temporarily deliver so we can enjoy lesser things. It’s sad but so regularly true.
Take turns around the group to each read a paragraph from the Gospel Fluency Handbook before moving on to dig in deeper.
“When people say they are saved , what do they mean? Think of this chapter as a vocabulary lesson. To become fluent in any language, you must develop your vocabulary. So let’s delve into the aspects of the gospel that are expressed in the person and work of Jesus more fully.
Belief in the gospel is not a one-time decision or a conviction that we need salvation only for our past lives and future afterlives. Belief in the gospel is an ongoing expression of our ongoing need for Jesus. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16). What do we believe? What are we putting our faith in?
Jesus’ life represents both the righteousness of God in human form and the perfect fulfillment of the standard of righteousness on behalf of humanity. If you want to know what the righteousness of God looks like, you look at Jesus’ life, and if you want to be declared righteous by God, you need to have faith in how Jesus lived on your behalf, not just in how he died. We all needed a new human to give birth to a new humanity—a perfect man who is also the true image of God, fully displaying what God is like by living a fully submitted and obedient life before God. Jesus is that man. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15). We need more than the humble life of Christ. We also need the victorious rule and ministry of Christ to overcome Satan’s schemes, bring healing and restoration to the brokenness that sin produces, and provide reconciliation between God and man.
Jesus was betrayed, arrested, wrongly accused, and crucified. The perfect Son of God, the righteousness of God, the one who knew no sin, became sin at the cross so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. We needed a perfect substitute—one without sin, fully pleasing to God—who would die in our place. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Our sin, our rebellion, every way in which we fall short of the glory of God, were put on Jesus at the cross. His perfect life was exchanged for our life of sin. Jesus died for our sins. He took our sins on himself—on his real physical, human body—and then died for them. Our sins were buried with Jesus. They were not just removed and put in another place. They were destroyed by his death. If your faith is in Jesus, your sins, past, present, and future, were terminated through Jesus’ death.
[Jesus] was raised on the third day and appeared to more than five hundred people. He was raised with a glorified body, one without sin. This was a body for the new creation. The gospel doesn’t just bring about forgiveness of sins and save us from hell. The gospel of Jesus Christ empowers us to live a whole new life today by the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. After Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended to the right hand of God the Father, where he is now making intercession on our behalf. He is continually praying for us, willing to empower us by his Spirit in us, and speaking a better word over us than Satan, sin, or our past experiences speak.
After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, God sent his Spirit to wake us up from spiritual death, convict us of our sin, make the truths of the gospel clear to our hearts, grant us repentance and faith, and bring about new life as a result. By his Spirit, we are born again from the dead, spiritually speaking. We become new creations in Christ. Each of us has a new nature, a new identity, and a new purpose. And the Spirit in those who believe is a sign of all of this. The Spirit is also the means by which we have the power to live entirely new and different lives. He is the sign that we are forgiven and cleansed, changed and made new, chosen and adopted by God—he wants us, he chose us, he changed us, he empowers us, and he loves us.
All of this is a gift. It is all by grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8–9).”
Read the following passages together. Take time to discuss the idea of faith and salvation in each.
Romans 1:16-17, 3:21-26, 8:9-17
1 Corinthians 15:1-6, 15:20-23
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
When it comes to salvation, think of these 3 elements:
You were saved from the penalty of sin. Jesus did this on the cross, fully, ultimately.
You are being saved from the power of sin. The Holy Spirit is in your corner, daily. While we’re no longer living in fear of the ultimate penalty of sin, it’s power must be overcome daily in our lives through the greater power of the Holy Spirit.
You will be saved from the presence of sin. This is in heaven, where there will be no more sin. The promise is beautiful, and we get a little taste of this each day as we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Matt gave the example of someone who has built their life around a defective alternate story. He asked that we examine the ultimate career oriented man as a case study.
Creation: your friends identity is based upon his performance, He wants to be known in his field of business, and he is only a success if his career reaches a certain height. Which makes him incredibly insecure.
Fall: His career or the hunger for success is his god and he is laying his life down before it in worship because he thinks it will answer the question of your identity and purpose.
Redemption: His saviour is himself, he overworks himself trying to make it to the top. Trying to overcome any obstacle or even doing things he shouldn’t do to try to get the edge.
New Creation: His hope is in his success, or maybe that big break, or finally achieving that desired success…He believes that life will be better once he hits that next level. So he works harder and sacrifices more of himself and his family thinking it will be for just a short time until he hits that next level…but that level comes and nothing changes, and he is left just as unsatisfied as before... the cycle starts over again.
In this example it is easy to see how the life story of this man is defective. But what about you? Where do you slip into believing a story other than the gospel?
For example, something as simple as not taking time to be with God in prayer and reading His word regularly? Do you struggle with this? Why? What is the narrative of your life which gives room for this to be normal? Are you too busy? Is your concept of leisure overly elevated? Are you too exhausted at the end of the day and it’s way too hard to wake up earlier in the morning? If this is someone in your group, how to do you speak the gospel fluently into their life without being legalistic? (Repetition doesn’t equal salvation, but the enjoyment of something leads to particular behaviours).
How does the gospel speak to anxiety?
How does the gospel inform addiction?
Does the story of God in the gospel have anything to say to the person who always has anger bubbling just under the surface?
What about bad collegial relationships or stress at work
What about body image or personal insecurity?
Our culture says that we should look to experts, medications, wardrobe, etc. for our salvation. Each of these have a place, but they are the lesser, and Christ is the greater. But how do you speak gospel into this? Spend some time working through the examples above, or share your areas of struggle with each other if you feel ok with that. Keep this in mind as you speak into someone else's story, "Give them Jesus!"
This week Pastor Matt opened God’s word to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 in order to turn our attention to the importance of intergenerational relationships in our church family. Read this together as you begin.
If you feel comfortable, share two brief stories with your group. First, what is something those older than you would say about you, or a story they would love to tell about you?
What is a story those younger than you would love to share about your life? These are better if they’re embarrassing!
In raising children who love the Lord, Pastor Matt called our attention to 4 things. He noted that these four things were listed as the major factors contributing to children continuing to walk with the Lord through their teen and young adult years.
These four elements were:
Take some time to talk through these four points from a different perspective though… not as parents of specific children, but as parents to those in God’s family who are children.
Pastor Matt suggested 7 ways to continue building intergenerational relationships. He called these “practical ideas for a sticky church”:
For each point, how could you pursue this better individually, and as a group?
Also, take some time to just list some of the intergenerational points of connection, service, and programing you are aware of at Ness. (Hint, Sundays count!)
What is the point of all this? A good passage to read to close your discussion is Psalm 145 in its entirety.
How does a healthy church community proclaim the good news of Jesus?
To pray for strength and power is to pray for particular things. Often, when we pray for these two particular things, we have in mind what we need them for. Spend a bit of time reflecting together on this…
What do you understand strength to mean, and has there ever been a time when you prayed for it? What was that prayer like? Or possibly, what was that season of your life like and how did God deliver?
How do you understand the word power (particularly in the context of prayer)? Has there ever been a time when you’ve prayed for it? Did God come through how you expected?
Sometimes, we take a little too much ownership over the factors which have put us in right standing with God (known as justification). Paul is clear that we are God’s handiwork. These passages from Ephesians 2:8-10 and Ephesians 2:18-22 offer a corrective view of how we got to where we are today in our relationship with God.
What does it mean to you to be called God’s workmanship? Which other verses in these passages affirm the resolute sovereignty of God in relationship with your justification? In other words, how do you see Paul glorifying God by giving Him the credit for our salvation?
This powerful view of God’s sovereignty in our salvation is what Paul has in view as we dive into the passage for today. Read Ephesians 3:14-19 together.
Pastor Matt asked about the power Paul speaks of in Verse 16. Take some time to discuss the questions he asked; what is this power? Who mediates this power? Where does this power operate? And what or who is the source of this power?
Here are 3 points regarding this power which should serve to give us hope.
What does it mean to be strengthened with power by the holy spirit in our inner being. Paul is talking about sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit. The inner man, character, thoughts
Paul is praying for the supernatural in the domain of our character, a process which prepares us for heaven. He said that it is only when we yield to the Spirit the control of the inner man that we begin to live to the glory of God.
This passage isn’t the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. The way Paul was going to call them to live in the second half of Ephesians was only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Look at these 2 passages together. Try to identify the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believers.
Now on to comprehension. Read Verse 18-19
That statement… "The Strength to comprehend." Comprehend what exactly? Have you ever considered that you actually need the strength of God in order to comprehend this?
Pastor Matt quoted D.A.Carson, “Apart from the power of God helping us to comprehend the limitless dimension of the love of Christ we will have too little appreciation for it.”
What do you think of this statement? Is it accurate and fair?
We experience the truth of love when we see it in action, in motion. This often happens through suffering and persecution. Would you agree? Why is this?
Filled with all the fullness of God. This basically spiritual maturity. Paul assumes that we are not as mature as christians as we could be if we just grasped the magnitude of the power of God. But grasping the sublime massiveness of God’s love takes power, because his love is of a scale beyond our comprehension. The blessing though, is the answer to this question… where does Paul say that the power to comprehend actually comes from?
Pastor Matt said that this power, rarely, if ever, comes to the person not spending time in scripture. God has declared His love for us through his word. Would you agree?
How is your comprehension level? We each struggle with different things all the time, and our capacity to comprehend what God has done for us through Christ shifts with our situations, mentality, and emotions… This is why it’s important that this power comes from God, not us.
God makes good on his promises. Ephesians 3 closes with a doxology.
“20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Praying for power, and for strength. This is a beautiful invitation to each of us and to the church corporately. Take some time, and reflect on the things which have monopolized your time this week. What thoughts, worries, or concerns have kept coming to the forefront of your mind over the last span of time for you? Consider these in light of what Paul prays for the Ephesian church.
Read Paul’s prayer from Ephesians 3 to yourself as if he’s praying for you by name… (read your name into the blank spaces)
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you _________ to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart ________ through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now _________, pray with me to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
You can take this and pray if also for your life group, and on an even bigger scale, pray it for Ness!
Now as you walk through the rest of your week, maybe make this your prayer every morning. Before the day begins, ask this for yourself, your spouse, your family, your church, your neighbourhood, your co-workers, your students. Whoever you come into contact with, lift them up to be strengthen with power to know Jesus!
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