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.
This was our first ever, fully online service thanks to the covid-19 situation in the world. Along with this unprecedented outbreak, many people have been experiencing crushing anxiety and panic. At the very least, there has been some low level frustration at having so many good things cancelled!
But our message this week is one of hope in the midst of difficult questions and how God's law is evidence that he really cares about what we are truly focused on.
Pastor Brennan began with this question, "Why did God use Moses and not send Jesus to deliver his people out of Egypt?" Have you ever thought about this? Wouldn't Jesus have done a better job? Come to think of it, wouldn't he have done a better job than anyone who did anything throughout scripture? Why did he wait so long to come?
Has there been a time when you've felt God could have done a better job to step in to deal with your situation and suffering? How did this affect your faith? How have you worked through this with him?
If the point of God's activity is human focused then he seems to have done a pretty bad job most of the time. Yet he is all knowing, all powerful, all present, and all loving. So perhaps our perspective is just in need of an adjustment?
The law was intended to point the people to something beyond their present reality. It gave them something to look forward to, something to hope for. Read Deuteronomy 5:32-33 together. What is it drawing their attention to? Did they actually ever experience this? Why or why not?
Paul wrote in Romans 3:9-20 about the true nature of humanity and the effect of the law. How would you put these 2 things into your own words?
Read Romans 3:21-26 together. What did the law and the prophet bear witness to? What does this passage say about the timing of the coming of Christ? What does Paul note as the effect of the coming of Christ?
How do your answers to these questions spawn hope?
Finish your time together by reading through Hebrews 11:1-12:2. This is a long passage, but there is no better source of hope for us in difficult circumstances. God never promises us an easy life or one free of suffering. What he does promise is that our hope is secure in Christ!
How do you plan to let others see the hope you have in Jesus? How do you plan to serve, love, and fight against fear with truth? How can you support each other, as well as those in your immediate neighbourhood over the coming week?
In this sermon, Lorne Meisner, the Manitoba district coach for the Baptist General Conference, opened our eyes to a view into the depths of eternity.
Lorne asks, when you relate the story of your relationship with God, how far back do you go? What did he mean by this? Is this a helpful question for you in growing your view of God’s activity regarding us?
Let’s read from Ephesians 1:1-14 together to begin.
Before hearing this sermon, and reading this passage, what did you consider to be the first time God planned for the death and resurrection of Jesus? Why does it matter? What does Eph. 1:3-4 have to say about timelines?
This passage allows us a sense of wonderment as we look over the brink of time, into the depths of eternity. It also allows us to see that God’s plan sits above circumstances. Lorne said that “God does not make reactionary choices.” Reflect on this statement in light of Philippians 1:6.
Read through Ephesians 1:1-14 again. This time, take not of all the places where God is listed as the initiator, or the active one, and we are the recipient. Lorne listed 9.
What is the benefit to us in this activity of God? Walk through Romans 8:28-30. Verses 29-30 are often referred to as the Golden Chain of Redemption.
Walk through this statement together… “God is always, ALWAYS, the initiator. We are always, ALWAYS, the responder… at best.”
If this is difficult to process, honestly ask why. Lorne said that God’s goal in absolutely everything… creation, redemption, Jesus, humanity… is to manifest his glory. He is at the centre. If it wasn’t all about him, what would it be about?
Our service on Sunday closed with the doxology from Jude 1:24-25.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Remember, amen simply means ‘truth’).
This passage beautifully wraps up the themes of God’s capacity in our salvation, sanctification, and the origins of this plan from outside of time. How has this conversation grown your view of God?
How does a bigger view of God move you to worship? Should Jude 1:24-25 affect evangelism?
This message was served up by Howard Moore, a long time friend of Ness Baptist and one of our supported missionaries. His title and the main point of his message was that you have been blessed in order to be a blessing. He said that we are undoubtedly blessed, but with that blessing comes a responsibility to share it and not keep it to ourselves.
So here are a few questions for you to discuss together on the topic of blessing.
So it is safe to say that Jesus is actually the blessing we’ve received! He is beyond material blessing (the presence or the absence of it), beyond emotional, physical, or any other type of blessing, because all those blessings are simply things which he uses to point our attention toward him.
What good news this is! Just one thing is left to figure out though….
How can you be a blessing this week? How can we support those who have dedicated their lives to this work in other parts of the world? Pick one of the stories from Greater Europe Mission and spend some time praying for the work that Howard and GEM are engaged in.
After listening to Pastor Brennan's sermon on loving other with the gospel in our words, check out video #8 in our series and dig into the following questions with your group…
Setting up the discussion. First of all, please take the time to go over the weekly email. Click here if you missed it.
Second, take turns reading through the following excerpt from chapter 13 of Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt.
Whenever, I am engaging in a conversation with someone, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me. He is called “the Helper,” after all (John 14:26). “Help me slow down,” I pray. “Help me to trust you are working here in the silence. Help me to listen well—to them and to you.” In some Bible versions, “Helper” is translated as “Counselor.” So I ask the Spirit to give me the ability to hear the longings of the heart as I listen. I invite him to be the primary counselor in the midst of our time. I ask him to give me ears to hear what the real issues are, and then provide me with wisdom as to how to share the truths of Jesus in such a way that they will be good news to the other person.
I am more and more convinced that the Holy Spirit goes ahead of us, preparing people for conversations like this. This growing confidence in God as the one who saves has freed me from the pressure to be the savior for people. Our job is to be present, filled with the Spirit, and ready to listen, then open to speak as the Spirit leads.
As you grow in listening to people’s longings, also learn to listen for their overarching stories.We can share our stories in a way which is always making Jesus the hero. If we are going to speak the gospel fluently to the hearts of others, we need to listen for the dominant storylines under which others live their lives. What are their gospel stories? Who’s their hero? Let’s look at the fundamental questions or longings in each movement of the story in light of people God has put in our lives. Get familiar with them, and then, as you listen to people, listen for their answers to the questions:
Over the course of a long conversation, I shared with the woman that she was feeling shame and guilt because of her sin and her subsequent attempts to deal with it. I shared with her the story of Adam and Eve, and how they tried to deal with their sin. I continued to show her how it led them to blame each other and brought destruction in their relationships. “What you need,” I continued, “is one who can truly atone for your sin. You need someone who can handle the weight of sin, forgive you of your sin, and set you free from it, so that it no longer defines you. You need Jesus.”
I then went on to describe how Jesus willingly went to the cross to take her sin on himself. I shared how he was willing to be publicly shamed for her so that she not only could be forgiven, but also clothed in his righteousness and freed from guilt and shame. We went on and on about how the gospel brings forgiveness, healing, hope, and even love for those we’ve hurt or been hurt by.
She wanted to make things right. She wanted forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. Jesus had good news for her. I let her know that I know and love Jesus, and that Jesus cared and was listening to her as well. She then shared how she had never been into religion, but recently she had been seeking and checking out some churches in our area. She knew she needed help and was reaching out.
In the second example, a friend was lamenting his recent job loss. Over the course of a long conversation, he admitted that his identity had been tied to his job: “without it, I’m not sure who I am anymore.” After sharing a similar situation from his own life, Jeff prodded his friend to share more about his upbringing, and learned that the young man had lost his father during his teenage years. In hearing more of the man’s story, the Spirit helped Jeff listen and realize the following:
What was his Creation narrative? “My identity is in my job because I’m looking for approval and love from my dad.” What was his Fall narrative? “My dad died and I lost my job. And even though I could get another job, I could lose it as well. Nothing is dependable. Nothing lasts. We lose dads and jobs.” What was his Redemption narrative? “I need a dad who will love me and a job well done.” What was his New Creation narrative? “I want a dad who won’t die and will be proud of my work.”
Do you see how the gospel has great news for my friend? With the Spirit’s help, I did. So I gave it to him. Both conversations are merely summarized here for the sake of brevity, and thus lack nuance and most of the words in each conversation. We’ll say again, that both are given more context and fleshed out more in Gospel Fluency . But at the end of the day, [everyone needs] the good news of Jesus shared as good news for [each of our specific areas of] pain and longing. Remember, we don’t save people. God does. We listen and learn, and then we love and share Jesus.
Just for context...
Look again at how the Apostle Paul spoke to direct areas of need and question in Acts 17:16-34
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.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Thoughtfully read the following excerpts from the Gospel Fluency Handbook together…
On the night Jesus was betrayed, he shared the Passover meal with his disciples. That meal commemorated the night when God struck down every firstborn son of Egypt while protecting his people from the same fate. Their protection came through the Passover lambs that were sacrificed and eaten inside homes where the doorposts had been covered with the lambs’ blood. This was the final straw for Pharaoh, and he finally let God’s people go. Ever after, the Passover was a remembrance meal of God’s redemption of Israel out of slavery.
At his last meal with his disciples before his death, Jesus showed how every Passover meal was pointing to him. And at this meal, Jesus changed the Passover to the Lord’s Supper as his meal. It became a meal at which we remember how he redeemed us out of slavery to sin and Satan by becoming the true and better sacrificial Lamb of God for us.
Jesus picked up the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). We should remember him regularly with the meal and practice proclaiming his death to each other through it.
Another helpful practice for both remembrance and growth in gospel proclamation is to speak the gospel through the elements to each other’s needs, hurts, and longings in small-group gatherings or missional-community meetings. I first tried this during a missional-community gathering at our home in January several years back. I explained to our group that I wanted each of them to share something they were struggling with; a desire they had that was yet to be met; or doubts or fears they might be experiencing. Then one of us would take the bread and the cup, and speak the truths of Jesus’ body given and blood shed for us to the need… We [went] around the circle: one after another, we confessed our need for a Savior, and one after another, we proclaimed the good news of Jesus to our very real needs. It was an incredibly joyous and tear-filled experience of grace!
I’ve led this same experience many times now with brand-new Christians as well as church leaders. It isn’t always the same experience. Some are not very fluent in the gospel and therefore struggle with how to speak it to specific needs. However, I let people know that’s okay when I start and that those in the group will help one another. I usually ask for someone to volunteer to share, and let the person to the right know he or she will be asked to speak the gospel to the need. I then say: “If you don’t know what to say, let us know and the rest of us will help. Over time, we will all get better at this.”
God has given us many ways to remember him and grow in proclaiming the gospel. They are around us all the time in what is called general revelation—creation and the rhythms of life within it. Our job is to learn to see the truths of God around us and speak the truths of the gospel into it. The meal—“the Jesus Supper”—is the one he told us to use to regularly remember him. It is also one of the most effective ways I have found to train us to do this in all the other places of life as well.
Start with the meal every week, then practice remembering Jesus at the others meals, and you will have twenty-two stops through your week in gospel remembrance and proclamation. If you do this, you will be well on your way to growing in gospel fluency with others!
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