This week we walk between the elation of Palm Sunday’s triumphal entry and the darkness of Good Friday. Then from that dark hopelessness to the joy of Easter morning’s miraculous resurrection. All in that, in the space of 1 week.
Spend a little bit of time talking about Palm Sunday and Easter. What is this week typically like for you? Is there any significant difference in your time with the Lord during the passion week compared to the rest of the year? If not, do you think there should there be?
In this message Pastor Jeremy looked at 3 different sections of scripture from the Gospel of Luke which lead into the passion week. The story of the rich ruler, the story of Zacchaeus, and the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Read Luke 18:18-30 together.
Profile this rich ruler. Together dig into what was going on here with him. Think the 5 w’s. Who, what, when, where, why? Who was he (according to the sermon), What was his true motivation? When in his life did this conversation take place? Where did he approach Jesus and what are the implications of that? Why was he interested in talking to Jesus? Why did he want eternal life? Why was he preserved in biblical memory like this? How would you identify this type of person in a church today? Or possibly a better question, how would you ever know if you are this type of person?
What did Jesus tell him, and what was his reaction?
What is your reaction to this encounter? Is Jesus being reasonable in his requirements for eternal life? Is Jesus actually demanding this level of commitment from people today? The answer is ‘yes’, but in what way?
Jesus demands us to be all in, in every way. Yet, this is seemingly impossible.
Look at the next passage together. The story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10
Let’s ask the same questions of him that we did of the rich ruler above. Think the 5 w’s. Who, what, when, where, why? Who was Zacchaeus (it’s ok to be honest here, there’s really no charitable way of characterizing him), What was his motivation? When in his life did this conversation with Jesus take place? Where did he approach Jesus and what were the implications of that for him? Why was he interested in talking to Jesus? In what ways did his encounter with Christ defy his expectations.
In terms of who he was before encountering Jesus, how would you identify this type of person in a church today? Still a better question, how would you ever know if you are this type of person? Maybe not in terms of money, but there are a lot of ways to use those around you.
Now we have here the stories of 2 very different men. Both were well established. One was ruler, one was wildly wealthy. One was deeply moral, the other was morally despicable. One walked away from true salvation to preserve himself, the other gave himself up and received salvation. In the upside down kingdom of heaven we’re left with this perpetual paradox.
In Matthew 20:16 Jesus says, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” And in Matthew 16:25 Jesus says, “For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.”
Time for the passage. Read Luke 19:28-40 together.
What are your impressions of this passage? Who are the players here? Ask some W questions of them. Think of the disciples, the crowds, the religious rulers, and finally of Jesus.
Pastor Jeremy, in reflecting on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, noted that our Lord was rejected because of the religious leaders attempt to cling to power. Power, and influence offered them by Rome as long as they kept the peace. How does Jesus statement in v40 push against this idea of maintaining a false peace?
Notice the theme established. At every encounter, Jesus is intentionally, actively, and sometimes forcefully (think the cleansing of the temple) pushing against people false and misplaced peace. For anyone who took the time to pay attention and take stock of their life, we see that they were challenged to give up comfort, control, and recognize that they never had these things in the first place. Jesus is not just our hope for the next life, but he is the hero of this life here and now.
Like we said above, Jesus demands that we're all in. But since that's impossible, Jesus did the impossible for us. He went all in when we couldn't and gave up his very life so we would be saved.
Rhonda summed this all up well when she posted, “The triumphal entry. The “experts” who “should have known” didn’t get it. The unlikely and unwanted were the ones who cried out....
“B L E S S E D is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”...
Nothing and no one that sees and understand can remain silent.“
This passion week, take stock. Who is the real hero of your story? Who is the hero of your family story, your career story, your neighbourhood story, your church story, your future? When you dream of great things yet to come, who is the hero of those dreams? Remember Matthew 16:25 when Jesus says, “For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.” He lost his life so yours could be saved…. But saved for something. This week, spend some time meditating on what the Bible says your life has been saved for. Spoiler alert: The answer involves you talking to non-Christians how he saved you! Like Rhonda wrote, once you see this, you can’t keep silent!
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!
Each of us live our life in the midst of a host of constantly changing circumstances. Think about just the smallness of your world as a child and how much more pain, suffering, and trials you're aware of now that you're an adult. For many, the natural inclination is to be somewhat reactionary in our prayer life, reacting to circumstances. Yet Paul casts a different vision for our potential prayers. Read Ephesians 1:15-23 together.
This prayer is broken down to three basic parts. The petition, the purpose, and the practicality.
Petition - Colossians 1:9
To be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
Practicality - Colossians 1:10b-14
“bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
TAKING IT DEEPER:
While you’re still together, make a list on your phone (or a paper) and keep it with you. There are 2 parts to this list…
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Do you remember the first time you said, “I love you”?
What did you mean by that word, love? What was your hope for the person you were saying it to? What did you hope they heard or felt when you said it?
Obviously this is different than when we say that we love cheeseburgers, or hockey, or a good cup of coffee. In our contemporary culture, is the word LOVE by nature a relative term, subjective to the situation and the person who is using it? Or have we taken a profound concept that is not subjective, and made its meaning weak and empty through overuse or misuse? For either of these possibilities, what are the possible effects on how we understand love within the body of Christ, the church?
Read how John describes the substance of love in 1 John 4:7-12
Are John’s words here useful in establishing what the substance of God’s love really is? Use verse 10 in particular to evaluate your definition of love. Is it more than emotional?
Loving each other through prayer.
Read 1 Thessalonians 3 together to get a sense of Paul’s heart for the people of this 1st century church.
Paul exhibits, or demonstrates at least 4 things in this passage. Read each verse again and look at how these actions are described.
Walk through these 4 points together and discuss each in the context of your life at Ness.
How have you, or how can you….
Now make a plan. Keep it private or discuss if you want, but how will your prayer life this week be different as a result of the discussion today?
This week we gather for an evening of corporate prayer and fasting. As a result, we have no questions to accompany the sermon.
However, if you listen through and would like to post some of your own questions to the comments section we'll be sure to engage!
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.)
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