This Sunday, Jo Antonio pointed us toward an examination of our own heart and what we love. Jo said that our actions flow from what it is we love, so let’s spend some time digging into this with the help of some questions from the Gospel Fluency Handbook by Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connolly.
How do you define the word love? Pull out your phones and get some technical definitions. Do you have a more nuanced definition to offer? In what ways do you love according to your definition? In what ways do you receive love like this?
“What do you get most excited about? What has most captured your affections? Be honest for a moment. What is it? Who is it? And why has it or he or she captured your heart? And if your affections have been captured, how have you been affected? What do you do in light of your heart being captured? Most importantly, has Jesus captured your affections? Why or why not? Are you impressed with him? It will show, you know. If he has captured your affections, you will not be able to stop talking about him.”
These questions are similar to those that respected counselor Dr. David Powlison asks in his article, “X-Ray Questions.” Originally published in 1999, “each question circles around the same basic issue: Who or what is your functional God/god? Many of the questions simply derive from the verbs that relate you to God: love, trust, fear, hope, seek, obey, take refuge, and the like. Each verb holds out a lamp to guide us to Him who is way, truth, and life. But each verb also may be turned into a question, holding up a mirror to show us where we stray. Each question comes at the same general question. In individual situations – different times, places, people—one or another may be more appropriate and helpful. Different ways of formulating the motivation question will ring the bells of different people.” 3 Powlison’s article includes 35 questions; we’ve included 10 below. Choose at least five questions to answer honestly, and please don’t pretend that your answer to each one is truthfully “Jesus.” (Meaning, don’t answer how you think you should, answer with honesty.)
Think about the things you answered in Question #2: write a few of them in the left column below. In the middle column, write a few of the reasons that thing is so precious to you. Finally, in the right column, compare each one to Jesus: are you more impressed with, excited about, and affectionate toward that thing/person, or toward Jesus? Why do you think that is? Remember, these are not inherently negative or sinful things. We’re just looking at their place in our life, and in relation to Christ's place in our life.
What are some of the things that most amaze you, stir your affections for, and excite you about Jesus? What is about who he is, what he’s done in his life, death, and resurrection, that is especially “good news” to you right now? Write down at least five*, and pursue ways in the next few days to work through each with someone else—maybe with someone who follows Jesus and someone who doesn’t.
For each thing you wrote down, work as a group to point each other to truths in scripture which reinforce the beauty, sufficiency, and worthiness of Jesus over (and sometimes against) what we easily settle for loving more than him. Maybe write these down and meditate on them throughout the week.
As you ponder the person and work of Jesus, and your love for him, read—and pray that God will help you believe and rest in—this truth: “You will talk about [Jesus] if you love him. If you don’t, start talking about him, what’s he’s done, and what he’s done for you, and you will love him. And you’ll begin to see more and more clearly how wonderful his gospel is and how powerfully it works. As a result, you will talk about Jesus more and more. He is the best news there is.” 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!"
Looking back over the sermon this week, discuss at least one or two of the following questions with your Life Group. As you discuss, remember your commitment to be honest, and to help each other “grow up in Christ” by “speaking truth in love” with each other (Eph. 4:1-16).
A key concept is this: “Language fluency requires immersion into a community of people who speak the language constantly. Gospel fluency requires immersion into a community of people so saturated with the gospel of Jesus Christ that they just can’t stop speaking the truths of Jesus wherever they go and in whatever situations they find themselves.”
This week we look at the posture of Hope, or as the say in hebrew, waiting קָוָה
How would you define the word hope to someone?
How do you distinguish between hopefulness and wishfulness? Is this an important distinction? What do you think of these common phrases and how the words ‘hope’ and ‘wish’ are used;
When buying a gift for someone, “I really hope they like this!”
When blowing out a birthday candle, “Make a wish!”
Did you agree with Pastor Brennan’s observation, that we can never create a scenario on our own in which we need to have hope? Why do you agree or disagree?
Look at Psalm 42 together. Read the whole thing. How is the word ‘hope’ used in verses 5 and 11? Is the author using it any differently than how we’re used to using it? Does it help your understanding of hope as it’s used in this context to know that the hebrew word is also translated as ‘wait’?
Hebrews 11:1 says this, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” What do you think, is ‘hope’ here used in the same way as in Psalm 42? How so? Or, how is it used differently?
Read Romans 5:1-11 together. The word ‘hope’ is used 3 times very close together in this passage. According to Paul, how is hope produced? What in fact, is the object of our hope… or the consummation of our hope?
Look at your own life. What is it that you hope for? What do you place your hope in? Many of us have ‘hopes and dreams’ for our children, our future, etc. Is this hope or wishfulness? How do these hopes and dreams measure up to what Paul describes as hope?
Today, do you need to tell your soul to not be downcast, but that it should again hope in the Lord? The biggest trial though is waiting, but waiting on the Lord and hoping are the same thing. And we can only do this when we are sure of the one who controls the future. Jesus will not be shaken or deterred, he is our sure and living hope.
Read Roman 5:1-11 again. This is divine perspective and such a blessing to be reminded of.
1. It seems as though there is an increased interest in true crime stories. Around half of new content coming out on Netflix is focused on this subject. Why do you think this is? Do you personally have an interest in these stories? Do you think that any of us, put into the right situation over time could be guilty of these types of crimes?
2. Have you ever asked why God allows this kind of evil to persist? What do you say to non Christians who use this as an argument - “If there was a good and loving God, he wouldn’t allow this kind of evil in the world to go on.”
3. The following verses speak to the depravity of the human heart. It is because of the fall that all mankind in inflicted with a sin nature. Read the following verses and discuss what thoughts come to your mind and heart.
Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Mark 7:21-23, Romans 3:9-12, Romans 5:12.
4. Thankfully for us, the story doesn’t end there. When we place our faith in Jesus, death becomes life. Read Colossians 2:13-15. What a gift of grace. To God alone be the glory!
5. Read Exodus 17:1-7. In this story, the children of Israel quarrel with the Lord, they don’t like the way He is managing their lives. Can you sympathize with the people or do you find their lack of trust unimaginable? How has this played out in your own life? Have you ever felt like God was not managing your life well? If so, what did you do with those questions or accusations?
6. In a surprising twist to the story, God puts himself on trial. He appears before Moses and the elders and the staff comes down and smashes the rock; water pours forth and the people are nourished. This event foreshadows the time when God’s own Son will come and bear the wrath coming against sinful mankind. All who look to Him are saved and nourished. We are now nourished in receiving the righteousness of Christ and we are nourished by the life giving Spirit that has been poured out to us. This is another theme that runs through Scripture. Read Psalm 1:1-3 and discuss ways in which we are able to live by these verses.
7. Back to question 2. The biblical reality is that sin and evil are not going to persist forever. If God were to wipe it out today, all evil would be wiped out and that would pretty much be the end of this world as we know it. God doesn’t just wipe out some evil, when the time comes, he will wipe out ALL evil. Before that happens, His heart is that more will come to repentance. Read 2 Peter 3:8-13. Though we as Christians long for this time to come, this period of history remains so that many more will come to know Him. Are we taking full advantage of these times?
In his sermon, Pastor Jeremy began with the acknowledgement that each of us (including him) are in need of the following truth...
We enjoy communion with God not because of our perfection but because of Jesus.
Do you believe this? What does this truth mean to you? What would your life, emotional health, relationships look like if the statement were put in the world’s terms, that they fail to enjoy communion with God (or whatever a person worships, because of their imperfection?
Holiness is what we’re called to, but it is absolutely unattainable on our own, because we don’t start as holy. In fact, we wouldn’t even know what true holiness is if we didn’t have God’s revelation of himself to us. If it seems like this topic comes up a lot in our conversations together, it’s because it is a main theme in scripture. The Lord providing for the sanctification of His people so they can be in relationship with Him.
Now, on the virtue of integrity, or the lack thereof, read the account of Peter’s promise to Jesus in Matthew 26:30-35, and subsequent denial of him in Matthew 26:69-75
What does it mean to live a life of integrity? What is the opposite of this?
Often the promises we break are relatively small. To say we’ll do something and then ‘forget’ or to make a commitment knowing full well we can’t follow through. Pastor Jeremy noted though that we should be a people of commitment. When we knowingly break a commitment we’ve made, what does that actually say about what we’re placing our hope in? Like we discussed last week, our actions say so much about who we believe we are, what God has done, and who He is. (Follow the chart from last week.)
So how was Peter restored? Maybe a better way to explore this is to ask what Jesus did to restore Peter (and us)? Because anytime we fail to trust the work of Jesus for our salvation in big and small ways, we break faith with Him just as Peter did.
Look at these passages and promises. Discuss the effect of each promise on your faith and life...
So it is clear, we have been saved from separation from God because of our sin nature, but we have also be saved FOR something spectacular… Mission!
Jesus said in John 14:15 and then effectively commanded and commissioned us all in Matt. 28:18-20.
So the demonstration of our integrity as Christians then is directly related to keeping our commitment to being missionaries each and every day! How can we live this out this very week in practical (proclaiming and serving) ways? Friends, neighbours, co-workers, our children? How can we hold each other accountable in this?
As our series on sin, the struggle, and the solution continues, Pastor Brennan spoke of the sin of greed.
As you begin to dive into your discussion this week, launch off with reading through the account of Jesus conversation with the rich young ruler from Matt. 19:16-30
Together, discuss this rich young ruler. Who do you think he was and what motivated him?
Why did he ask Jesus about “what good deed” he must do? And why did Jesus respond the way he did, by saying only God is good and that there is no such thing as a good deed the way the man implies? (Hint: Isaiah 64:6) Most importantly, what was the object of this young ruler’s greed?
This next question is written to test your conviction and condemnation of the rich young ruler (love of stuff above Jesus, and love of moral perfection over relationship with Jesus). This should not be a question we answer quickly. And certainly, freedom is found in confession and not denial.
In his sermon Pastor Brennan discussed the 2 sides to greed. First, accumulating. Second, hording.
What are you greedy with, and why?
This was the diagram Pastor Brennan talked about in the service. Our sin-broken hearts tell us that we are only worth what we do. Walk through this together and explore what your actions tell you about who you believe God is. Remember, sin tells us that we’re the centre, the origin point, and that we do in order to become. Then that requires God to act because of who we are. This then dictates who God in fact is.
The Bible however tells us a different story.
Scripture forces us to first consider who God is, and because of who he is, he does. It is what God has done that establishes who we are (before we were ever even created according to Eph. 1:3-4.
Now walk through this together.
The last thing to do now is compare what it is you say you believe about God to what you said about your area of greed (although you can apply this to any and all areas of life). While we say that God is sovereign, what do our actions reveal about our true beliefs?
One of the most difficult parts of the for established Christians is confessing our greed of time and comfort which is challenged by Jesus’ call to evangelize and make disciples. If God is holy and sovereign, and he sent Jesus to atone for us, and our identity is established as his children and disciples, then we are sent by the Holy Spirit to go and be missionaries for him!
Encourage each other in this!
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