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.
This week, we’re going to look at the implications of Jesus' resurrection.
Please take time to read these passages together. For each passage, discuss how it highlights something Jesus accomplished by his death and / or resurrection. What is the significance of his work for you personally, for the church, and for the building of the kingdom of heaven here and now? Be sensitive to the need to pause for prayer and praise throughout your reading.
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, and you may not even get all the way through it. Think of this more as a kick-starter for deeper worship.
Matthew 27:33-37, Mark 15:29-32
Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:1-12
1 Corinthians 15:3-8
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.
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