As a younger person, what non-biblical story most influenced how you look at the world? This could be a book, movie, music, etc.
What was its influence on you? Positive, negative, benign? Has it stuck with you until today?
On Sunday, Pastor Brennan described the conversation that the Apostle Paul had with the greek philosophers while he was in Athens. If you need a refresher, here are some wikipedia links, just for fun…
The focus of this study however is the substance of Paul’s speech in the Areopagus, or the high city, of Athens. This was the place where ideas and philosophies were discussed, and where Paul was brought to present his ‘new’ teaching. So keep your Bible opened to Acts 17:22-34
V22-23: What do these verses tell you about the way Paul approached new communities with an eye for ministry? Think about how he actually ended up with an invitation to speak in this prestigious group. What were his practices?
What application do your observations have for how you personally, and we as a church, approach our surrounding communities? Think practical, not just theoretical.
For example: Purely theoretical would be saying something like, “We should know what is important in our community.”
Practical would be something like this;
2 weeks ago Rhonda and I were out for a walk to pick up some groceries. While we sat in Starbucks we noticed a bunch of protestors with marijuana leaves on...everything. Why were they there? We went and spent some time talking with them, built connections, and came away with a deeper understanding of what is of the most importance to this unique (albeit misguided) subculture.
V24-27: Discuss the sovereignty of God. Why is this the theological point Paul begins with in his appeal to the greeks? What do these verses say about the place of God, his authority, his purposes, and our place in his plans? Given what we know of the Stoics and the Epicureans, why does Paul not discuss free will here?
V28: “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
Here Paul quotes from the poets of the greeks themselves to prove his point. They were obviously interested in the answers to these questions, but without a solid view of what lies beyond the grave, their understanding was wide speculation at best. What does it mean to you, that YOU live, move, and have your being in Him?
V29-30: Paul moves from establishing who God is to what God requires, and the consequences for not meeting those requirements. Have you ever considered this aspect of the resurrection in your conversations with those who are not Christians? That the resurrection of Jesus, while it is hope for those who believe, it is judgement for those who reject him. How is it possible to discuss sin and judgement, lovingly, with those whom you are witnessing to? As Christians, we are quick to show love to others through service, but it is often difficult for us to understand how to show love to others through honestly about sin and its ultimate effect.
V32-34: The crowd was split 3 ways. Some rejected, some were interested, and some followed. Consider this result in light of what Jesus says in Luke 8:4-8
When you open your mouth and your life as a witness for Christ, what are you expecting as a result? It may feel discouraging, if it depends on you. But Paul says that it actually depends on God. As an encouragement, read what Paul writes in Romans 8:28-31
So it falls on us to be faithful witnesses, because the Holy Spirit has already gone ahead of us to prepare hearts and minds to receive the good news of Jesus. We don’t have to be perfect in ourselves, Jesus is the one who completes the requirements of God on our behalf.
1. Icebreaker - describe a time in your life when you where in community with a radically diverse group of people. What were the dynamics like? What was it that drew all of you together? What were some of the difficulties? What were some of the blessings?
2. This past week, we looked at 3 very different people who in one form or another, responded to the gospel message. There was a high class business woman, a middle class working military guy and a young girls with no social standing. Was there anything that stood out to you as we went through the biographies of these three people?
3. Lydia is referred to as a “God-fearer” in this chapter. This meant that she was a Gentile who felt the draw towards the God of bible and the law contained within the Old Testament. What do you think it would have been like to have been a gentile reading the Old Testament and not being Jewish and knowing nothing about Jesus?
4. What do you think the message of Paul and the apostles would have sounded like to her after knowing the law and the prophets so well?
5. Before Paul shared the gospel with the Jailer in verses 31 and 32, he prepared the way for his gospel presentation to be heard. Two things in particular:
a) They exhibited joy and peace by praying and singing hymns in the midst of their pain and uncertainty. What does this tell us about the way we should suffer? Is it appropriate to pretend like everything is fine when it’s not? Is that the message here? If not, what is?
b) In the midst of exceptional cruelty against him, he exhibited kindness and forgiveness. We see this in verse 28. Maybe this was the first time this man had ever been shown mercy. Regardless, these two actions were ordained by God to prepare his heart for the gospel message. What kind of acts are currently around you that God could be using to prepare hearts?
6. We noticed 3 marks in the soldiers life that indicated he had accepted the gospel message: 1. He became compassionate where he wasn't before 2. He became committed to community by sharing the news with his entire family and by being publicly baptized. 3. Joy came into his life as he rejoices that he and his family have now believed in God. v.34
What are some practical ways that you can live these three marks out in the week ahead?
7. In this chapter we saw that Jesus was beautiful enough for Lydia, powerful enough for the young girl and practical enough for the soldier. Spend a few minutes giving God glory for how he is enough for you.
Think about the last time you were a part of a group who had to make a major decision together. What was that like for you? How did the discussion go? What type of information was brought into the process (factual, emotional, psychological, logistical, etc.). How did the outcome leave you feeling?
This was the situation in at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Read Acts 15:1-5.
What were these men teaching?
Pastor Jeremy said that the fate of the Christian faith hung in the balance at this point in history. Do you agree or do you feel that this is an exaggeration?
He said that doctrine and theology are vitally important in the keeping of the faith. What do you think? Why?
You can chat about this one first if you want…. What is the gospel?
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Watch this video from Tim Keller. Talk through how what he’s saying relates to what the men in Act 15:1-5 were teaching.
There are 2 sides to how this conversation in relevant today. On the one hand, without a clear understanding of the gospel we can swing too far toward legalism as we see in this weeks passage. On the other hand, without being able to clearly articulate the gospel we are in danger of being too inclusive. What are some issues you’ve encountered this week that you need to speak into with the truth of the gospel and not a legalistic (moralistic) or overly inclusive reaction? How did you handle it? What were you unsure of?
What questions do you still have after thinking through this stuff?
If you have time, discuss how circumcision relates to the gospel and communion. This is a very big question that will take some theological heavy lifting. But the thing to focus on is, how can we look at this and end up with solid hope?
If you want some help on this one, check out Timothy Brindle’s “Circumcision Song” and the lyrics.
In light of the events of Acts 14, today let’s dig into the big idea of joy. We want to end up with a clear idea what bringing the gospel to a post-Christian world looks like and how it is our path to joy. In this discussion, Pastor Jeremy points us to some incredible tools in scripture that can help us out.
(All the questions here are worth going through, but #5-7 are the most important.)
This past Sunday Pastor Matt talked about two big ideas, suffering and God’s glory.
This conversation will probably work better if we’re all on the same page with these words.
Today we’re talking about shattering the myth of comfort. What does that mean?
Perhaps it’s best to first talk about what it is that makes us comfortable. In your life (personal, familial, vocational, spiritual, experiential) what things have you put in place to ensure comfort? Maybe a better way to explore this is to ask, what are the discomforts you actively, consciously avoid in your life?
Looking at the personal cost of the early Christian mercy ministries, Pastor Jeremy pointed to Rodney Stark’s excellent book The Rise of Christianity. We’ve ordered this for the church library if you’re interested in taking a look. (This book also comes with Pastor Brennan’s personal thumbs up!)
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