CG Guide (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)

“Gospel Culture: Forgiveness” (Series: Grace for the Weak)

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

In our secular society, forgiveness is increasingly being questioned as a noble virtue. Some even believe it’s dangerous and that it stands as an enemy to justice. But forgiveness is one of the central tenets of Christianity, both as an ethic – “you must forgive” – and as a doctrine – “God has forgiven your sins through Jesus Christ.” When believers really embrace the doctrine, the ethic should naturally follow. You forgive others because you’ve been forgiven by God. When this happens in a church, a gospel culture is formed where forgiveness is extended and embraced. 

This does not mean that sins and offenses should be overlooked or dismissed. Accountability is necessary. True love for a person means they should be disciplined. But this is because discipline should lead to repentance and repentance to forgiveness and comfort. Restoration, not excessive sorrow, is the goal of discipline. The church of Corinth at first needed to be told to pursue discipline over matters of sin. Later they needed to be corrected that upon repentance, forgiveness should be offered. This is what a gospel culture of forgiveness should look like. 

When Apostle Paul talks about forgiveness, the word he uses has the nuance of something given graciously and freely (it’s the same word used in Romans 8:32 and 1 Corinthians 2:12). This is a very different approach than those outlined by Tim Keller in his book “Forgive.” He lists out the following competing models: Cheap Grace: nonconditional-forgiveness model (forgive as long as it’s good for you). Little grace: transactional-forgiveness model (forgive when they’ve earned it from you). No grace: no-forgiveness model (don’t forgive). 

The biblical model of forgiveness, however, is based on costly grace. The gospel introduces the vertical dimension that says sinners have received forgiveness from God graciously and freely. This empowers the horizontal dimension of forgiving others. The gospel is the good news of two realities. First, God is so holy and just that he took your sin seriously and punished it. Second, God is so gracious and merciful that he sent Jesus to take that punishment for you on the cross. Through Jesus, we are forgiven. A gospel culture takes root in a church as we understand first what it means to be forgiven before we understand what it means to forgive. Forgiven people are empowered to forgive people. 

  1. A gospel-culture of forgiveness doesn’t just happen, it needs to be cultivated in the church (we need to work for it)
  2. A gospel-culture of forgiveness is cultivated not by how much we talk about forgiveness but by how well we practice it (we need to live it out)
  3. A gospel-culture of forgiveness is practiced not by our power but by the power of Christ’s forgiveness at work in us (we need to receive it first)

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. What’s been your sense of the state of forgiveness in the culture at large? Have you seen evidence of the three models/approaches Tim Keller mentions? Do you think this has an effect on you or the Church? Is it good or bad? Discuss. 
  2. Have you ever been to a church or part of a community where there was a culture of forgiveness? Can you share about that experience? Or perhaps you’ve been a part of a church/community where the culture was harsh judgment and no forgiveness. Can you share about that experience? 
  3. What are some healthy and redemptive things that we can begin to do to cultivate a gospel culture of forgiveness? Are there things we’re already doing that is helping? Are there things that are getting in the way? 
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away with and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share.
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CG Guide (Psalm 63)

“Song of the Satisfied Soul”

Scripture: Psalm 63

The existential truth for all people is that every single one of us has desires in our souls. And we all thirst for something to satisfy this deep longing. This was the experience of David as he wrote this psalm. King David, being forced to flee from Jerusalem, forced to flee from his throne, was in the wilderness facing the danger of death at the hand of his own son. But in the wilderness of his life, David turns his heart to God and rejoices to know that the Lord is all he needs for life and eternity. This psalm points us to ask ourselves these two questions:

Do you earnestly desire God? David opens his psalm by declaring that God is his God. He has a personal and intimate relationship with the God of the universe. And it is this God that David so desires, so longs after. So much so that David likens his desire and his search to a thirsting and a fainting in a dry and weary land with no water. If you’ve experienced real thirst before, you probably understand what David is comparing his desire to here. David even goes on to say that God’s steadfast love is really all that matters. God is better than life itself. His steadfast love is more precious than life itself.  Does David’s desire for God reflect your desire for him?

Are you satisfied in God? David knows that his search, his desire, for God would ultimately be ended because he knows the only way to satisfy the deep thirst and longing of his soul and flesh is found in God alone. He knows that he can find true satisfaction and delight in God alone. After reflecting on God, after beholding his steadfast love, his power and his glory, David is assured that his soul again will be satisfied. And David’s confidence in God’s satisfaction is grounded in the reality that God would before him and defeat all of his enemies. 

In the same way, we can find our satisfaction in Christ, for he is the living water who fully satisfies. No longer do we need to look to other sources of water to temporarily quench our thirst, for we have the living water, Christ Jesus himself, who deeply and fully satisfies all of the desires of our souls. Just as David’s confidence was in knowing that God would defeat his enemies, our confidence is grounded in that same reality. David knew his enemies would be defeated but for us, this reality is already true – Jesus has gone and has delivered us from the greatest enemy and has fully satisfied our deepest need. God has satisfied our deepest need through Jesus Christ, for Jesus went to the cross and thirsted on the cross so that our thirst and our longing would be satisfied completely. Because of this, we can rest assured that the desires of our souls are fully satisfied by him alone.

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. What, if anything, was particularly clarifying, convicting, or confusing about the passage and/or the sermon? Share insights, reflections, and questions.
  2. Where do the desires of your heart lie? Do you desire after God with the eagerness of the psalmist? If so, what does it look like in your life? If not, what do you find yourself seeking instead?
  3. Where do you turn to satisfy the thirst of your soul? What are you chasing after to truly satisfy? 
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

“Growing through Suffering” (Series: Grace for the Weak)

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Suffering is an expected part of life but it’s especially true for Christians who are united to a suffering Savior. We should not only expect it but we should learn to accept it. This is only possible because believers can grow through their suffering when they see what suffering points to. 

First, suffering makes you look inward. Suffering has a way of exposing our self-reliance and what we’re really trusting in. Sometimes we confuse faith in God with trusting in ourselves. Paul understands God allowed him to endure afflictions so that he could be confronted with his own insufficiency and give up relying on himself. Suffering helps us grow as we stop trusting in ourselves and begin trusting in God. 

Second, suffering makes you look upward and forward. Suffering has a way of getting us to focus on God and the hope of the resurrection. When we’re left in our comfort, our minds never think of the world to come because we are content with life as it is. C.S. Lewis said that pain is God’s megaphone used to rouse a deaf world. In times of affliction the hope of heaven and eternal life come into sharper focus as our longings for the new heavens and new earth increase. 

Third, suffering makes you look outward. Suffering has a way of teaching us that God ministers to his people through his people. Paul called upon the believers at Corinth to pray for him. He was willing to be honest and vulnerable in making his request known because he understood it was only in his weakness that God’s power could be made perfect. We should more willingly confess and share our need for prayer with others when we suffer. 

Our ultimate assurance that suffering can grow us and won’t crush us comes from the gospel. The gospel assures us that believers have already been delivered through Christ’s death in our place for our sins. The gospel also promises that believers will be finally delivered when Christ returns and makes all things new. Our lives and all we endure take place between these two fixed points in history. As a result, we can be confident that everything we go through will one day be woven into God’s final, glorious consummation. Nothing we endured will be wasted. God is preparing us for this hope through our suffering. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Has suffering ever taught you a lesson because it exposed something in you or about you? Please share. What did learning that lesson do for you? Have you ever felt God use pain as a megaphone to speak to you? What do you believe he was saying?
  2. You may believe in heaven and eternal life but how often do you dwell upon it? Are there certain times/occasions that draw it out more often than others? How might meditating on it more regularly change the way you suffer?
  3. Do you find it difficult to ask others for prayer? What are the reasons? What would change if the barometer for assessing healthy church relationships was less social (do we have fun together) and more spiritual (do we pray for each other)? 
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away with and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share.

CG Guide (2 Corinthians 1:1-2)

“A Grace-Based Identity” (Series: Grace for the Weak)

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:1-2

All of Paul’s letters to New Testament churches begin with a similar greeting. But knowing the complicated and intense relationship between Paul and the church in Corinth helps us see the uniqueness of 2 Corinthians 1:1-2. In this greeting, Paul focuses on two identities: himself and his recipients. First, some in the church rejected Paul and his apostolic ministry because it wasn’t impressive enough. Paul reminds them that he is an apostle not by his greatness but by God’s grace. His apostleship came from “the will of God.” Despite his weaknesses, they should treat him according to his grace-based, God-given identity. Second, believers in Corinth attacked, assaulted, accused and afflicted Paul in many ways. Their sins and shortcomings are glaring and great. But Paul addresses them as saints (literally “holy ones”) because that’s what God has made them in Christ. It wasn’t a result of their morality or merit but God’s mercy. Despite their wickedness, he will treat them according their grace-based, God-given identity.

Doing this was not only a matter of obedience but an outflow of Paul’s own experience with God’s transforming grace. He was a persecutor of the church but God met him and made him an apostle of Christ. If God could do that with Paul, he can with anybody. How? The gospel is the good news that Jesus has come not just to cover iniquity but to change identity. He who knew no sin took on our sin so that we who had no righteousness can be declared righteousness before God (2 Cor. 5:21). In Christ we are made holy. Receiving this gospel changes two things. First, our view of ourselves. We are not the worst parts about us (we’re not so sinful we’re unloved) and we are not the best parts about us (we’re not so good we deserve to be loved). We are loved despite anything we are or bring to God because of Christ. Second, our view of others. We can see and embrace others not according to their worst parts or best parts but as God has seen and embraced them. Christians become a people who choose to respond and receive others regardless of their weaknesses or wickedness but because of who they are in Christ. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. What, if anything, was particularly clarifying, convicting, or confusing about the passage and/or the sermon? Share insights, reflections, and questions. 
  2. What are the challenges to receiving and resting in a grace-based, God-given identity (living as God says who you are)? If it’s not a challenge, what is liberating about living this way? If it is a challenge, where/what is is easier to find your identity in?
  3. What are the challenges to seeing and embracing others according to their grace-based, God-given identities? If you did this starting today, what would be some immediate tangible differences in how you treat others?
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (Leviticus 9:1-7, 22-24)

“A Lesson in Drawing Near” (Series: Five on Five)

Scripture: Leviticus 9:1-7; 22-24

Sermon Summary 

The book of Leviticus seeks to answer a question fundamental not only to Israel but to all humanity: How can a holy God dwell among unholy people and how can unholy people draw near to a holy God? Plagued with this question, humanity has sought to provide its own solution. The first is humanism – to deny that humans are evil by nature but instead to affirm our innate goodness. If people aren’t that bad, then the problem isn’t so severe. The second is atheism – to deny that God exists at all. If there is no God in the equation, then there is no “problem” to solve. The third is religion – to create a belief system or worldview by which we, on our own, can reach God or attain forgiveness or assuage our conscience. Religion is a way for you to bridge the gap between God and sinner. But the ultimate solution isn’t found in anything man provides but in what God provides.

God gave Israel the book of Leviticus to answer their dilemma. By providing the institutions of a priesthood and a sacrificial system, by the sacrifice of animals to atone for man’s sins, God could finally dwell among sinners and sinners could draw near to God. If Moses, Israel’s leader and mediator, couldn’t approach God on his own merit, there is no way any Israelite could. Every last person needed the solution God provided through the instructions in Leviticus. This is why the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) is organized to highlight Leviticus as the focal point. Leviticus provides the good news the Israelites so desperately longed for and needed. 

But Leviticus was always meant to be temporary. God intended Leviticus to point forward and foreshadow a greater reality to come. Eventually God provided the final solution to humanity’s problem with the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to be the final high priest and the once-for-all sacrifice. Just as God’s fire consumed the animal sacrifices offered to him, Jesus was consumed by God’s fire of judgment on the cross. As a result, those who now approach God through Jesus Christ will never be consumed. This means those in Christ can now draw near to God with assurance and confidence. 

Christians who trust in Jesus can and should draw near not only when they feel worthy and acceptable but precisely in the moments they feel unworthy and unacceptable. This is because the right to draw near is given by Christ, not found in themselves. God invites his people to draw near to him, giving them access into his holy presence. This is a privilege Christians should seize so that they boldly approach him in prayer and in worship. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. What are your thoughts on and impressions of the book of Leviticus? Have you read it before? Did you enjoy it? Why or why not? 
  2. Can you share any generalizations you have or have heard about Leviticus? How do you think people understand the book and its purpose? Try to summarize its purpose in your own words. 
  3. What are some common obstacles and reasons it’s difficult to draw near to God? When do you feel it’s most difficult to come near to him? When is it easier to draw near to him? How do we practically draw near to God with greater assurance and confidence?
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (Exodus 14:5-31)

“A Lesson in God’s Name” (Series: Five on Five)

Scripture: Exodus 14:5-31

Sermon Summary 

The story of Israel’s crossing the Red Sea depicts God’s awesome power over his creation but it also displays the gospel’s power to make us a new creation. The Red Sea crossing is the Old Testament paradigm and pattern of redemption that is fulfilled in the gospel of Jesus Christ. From Exodus 14 we learn that salvation involves freedom from old slave masters and formation into a new creation. 

By the time Pharaoh regrets letting Israel go, they’ve already left the land. But when the Israelites see the Egyptians, they are struck with fear. They feel powerless and helpless around their old slave masters. It is far easier for them to give in and give up than to resist and run. This is because their slavery was familiar to them and the only thing they knew for so long. It was their new freedom which was new and scary to them. Christians can relate to this. Jesus has set us free from our slavery to sin and yet when old idolatries appear and temptations come our way, we find it much easier to give in than to resist because we’re so familiar with our old ways. Old sin patterns promise us a comfort or escape that we are familiar with. But salvation means the shackles of sin are removed and the chains are broken! We have been set fully free from the power and influence of old slave masters. 

We must also keep in mind that our salvation is not just deliverance from old masters but formation into a new identity. Israel was made a new creation as they passed through the waters. Moses uses imagery and themes in Exodus 14 that he also used in Genesis 1 when God first created the world. The parallels here reinforce the point that Israel is being formed into a new creation. This truth is expounded in the gospel promise that in Christ we are a new creation because the old has passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). Christians are not merely fixed and refurbished but we are made new through the power of Jesus. The power of God at work in suspending the waters of the Red Sea is the same power at work in a Christian’s life so that we can resist sin and temptation as a new creation. 

How was this pattern and power of salvation experienced? Israel is saved from the judgment waters of the Red Sea because an angel of God intervened. He stood between Israel and Egypt, himself in the sea, so that Israel could escape but Egypt would not. Then like the flood waters at the time of Noah, these sea waters of judgment fell upon Egypt. This angel of God, also referred to as the angel of the Lord, was mysterious to Israel but is revealed to us. He is the Son of God who spared Israel by standing in their place. This foreshadowed the work Jesus would do for us by sparing us from our sins and dying on the cross, standing in the place of judgment for us. Through his sacrifice, old enslaving masters are defeated and we are made a new creation now with the power to put of the old self and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. The Bible describes people’s relationship to sin, apart from Christ, as slavery to sin. What does this image/description illuminate in your understanding of the way sin operates in a person’s life? In what ways does it capture your own experience living in and with sin? (You may want to define sin first).
  2. Does your actual day to day self-conception and Christian identity include being a new creation in Christ or do you tend to think you’re really the same person but now just loved and forgiven? What informs/influences you to think one way or another? 
  3. What do you lose when being made “new in Christ” isn’t upfront and central to your everyday Christian life? What do you gain when it is? Try to give concrete examples. Envision how living in this gospel reality makes all the difference. 
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (Exodus 3:1-15)

“A Lesson in God’s Name” (Series: Five on Five)

Scripture: Exodus 3:1-15

Sermon Summary 

Exodus 3 describes the encounter between the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Moses. In this burning bush encounter, God reveals his name to Moses. What we learn is that God’s name reveals something of his nature and his nearness. God’s name discloses realities about himself that Christians today can draw much encouragement from. 

Having run away from Egypt where he had once killed a man, Moses is out in the wilderness tending his father-in-law’s flock when God appears. God commissions him to return to Egypt to deliver Israel from slavery. It’s understandable why Moses asks, “Whom am I that I should go…?” Moses is uncertain and hesitant. The task is too great for him. But apparently God does not agree. This isn’t because God sees something special in Moses but because he pledges that he will be with Moses. When we feel inadequate and insufficient to do the things God calls us to, it’s far better for Christians to discover something about God than about ourselves. It’s far better to have a God who covers our weakness with his strength instead of cheerleading for us despite our weakness. 

God reveals himself with two further descriptions before he actually reveals his name. He calls himself “I Am Who I Am” and “I Am.” Both of these derive from the Hebrew verb “to be.” They further help us understand the nature of God revealed in his name which is The LORD or Yahweh. This name is also derived from the verb “to be.” By revealing himself with this name, God shows us three things about his nature. 

First, God is eternal. He is without beginning and end. He created time and is therefore himself timeless. This means nothing good in God ever fades. His love doesn’t grow dim, his mercy doesn’t dry up, and his strength never fails. When everything else in the world has an expiration date, the great I Am is eternal.

Second, God is unchanging. He is perfect in every way and therefore doesn’t change and can’t change. “Variation in God would spell the death of his own perfection” (Matthew Barrett). This means he, his Word and promises are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Therefore he will never his mind about those he has committed to love and save. The great I Am is eternal. 

Third, God is self-existent. He does not depend on anything outside of himself to be. God is like the flames from the bush that did not consume the bush. The fire existed independent of the fuel. So God exists in this way. This means he did not create us or the world because he needed to but because he desired to. He is motivated by love and not dependence. The great I Am is self-existent. 

But the incredible news of the gospel is that this transcendent God is also immanent. He is infinite but also intimate. He draws near to see the afflictions of his people, hear their cries and know their sufferings. Although in Exodus 3 the great I Am showed up a fire, in the gospel the great I Am shows up in flesh. In the person of his Son Jesus who came to draw near to us. Jesus claims in John 8:58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus is the covenant Lord who came to be the crucified Lord so that he can deliver us from slavery to sin and death. Jesus Christ is the LORD come to be near his people. The name “Yahweh” reveals God is far greater than we can ever imagine but the name “Jesus” reveals God is far closer than we could ever hope for. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Have you ever felt like Moses and had an experience where you became acutely aware of your own insufficiency and inadequacy? What helped you through this? Was it discovering something about yourself or about God? Share.  
  2. Which of the three attributes of God (eternal, unchanging, self-existent) most sticks out to you? Why? How can knowing this about God encourage you? Begin to apply this into something concrete in your life. 
  3. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  4. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (James 3:9-10)

“Blessing Image Bearers” (Series: Missions and Mercy March)

Scripture: James 3:9-10

Sermon Summary 

The book of James is a practical book that shows how Christian faith and discipleship is to be lived out. James exhorts believers to be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22). To hear the word but not respond accordingly is foolish, like a man looking in a mirror and immediately forgetting what he looks like. James then explains that true religion is not merely about religious observance and duty but is about caring for the orphans and widows. Orphans and widows were among the least and last in society during the biblical tines. True religion then begets a heart of mercy and justice toward the most vulnerable. 

In James 2, the theme moves from true religion to true faith. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). The works James refers to is not simply church attendance and spiritual disciplines. He has in mind the basic concerns of mercy and justice like clothing the poor and feeding the hungry. Again, those counted along the least and the last in society. True faith then is evidenced in words as well as works. We are justified by faith alone but justifying faith does not remain alone. 

But why must Christians care about mercy and justice toward the poor and needy? James suggests that all people “are made in the likeness of God” (3:9). This is a reference to the truth that humanity was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) which means all creation is created with inherent value, worth and significance. These things are intrinsic to all human beings and cannot be accumulated, accomplished or added, nor can they be erased and eradicated from a person. Not even the destructive power of sin can remove the image of God from a person. Even as sinners, humans remain image bearers. 

James reminds the readers that if this is true, it is inconsistent and hypocritical for believers to treat God one way and treat people another way. The vertical and the horizontal and tethered together. We cannot view God as worthy of worship and then view the destitute and poor as worthless. To honor God means to honor those made in his image, no matter what their status or station in life. This is what ought to be. Christians are called to bless all image bearers. We do this through a biblical pursuit of mercy and justice. 

Ultimately Christians pursue such a vision because the gospel transforms our lenses. We see others are they truly are: significant in the eyes of God. But more than that, we also see the way that God mercifully came after us in the gift of Jesus. If our spiritual need of forgiveness is the greatest need we have, then God’s mercy toward us in Jesus should allow us to act mercifully toward the physical needs of others. We begin to live out Proverbs 31:8-9, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Why would a person be tempted to untether the vertical (spiritual life before God) and the horizontal (mercy and justice toward the least and the last)? Have you experienced this temptation before? Do you more naturally lean toward one more than the other (spiritual devotion or social concern)? Please elaborate. 
  2. All human beings are made in God’s image. Do you live in the awareness of this theological reality and treat others as such (blessing and not cursing them)? Give an example of what this looks like. How can you begin seeing and treating all people, especially the least and the last, with dignity, value and worth simply on these grounds? 
  3. Are there certain issues/concerns related to mercy and justice that particularly burden your heart? Share with one another (How did that come to be?)
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (Revelation 7:9-12)

“A Great Multitude” (Series: Missions and Mercy March)

Scripture: Revelation 7:9-12

Sermon Summary 

Missions in the Bible is much older than just the New Testament. God didn’t just concern himself with it in the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Missions is written all over the pages of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Revelation 7 is a vision, giving a glimpse of where God intends to take history. It is a glorious scene of global worship. Apostle John sees “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” 

This vision is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis. The one nation was always meant to lead to every nation, the twelve tribes of Israel to all tribes, and the numbered 144,000 to an unnumbered multitude. God’s intention was always to move from Israel to the nations, from one to the many. From start to finish, Genesis to Revelation, God’s purpose was to bring his salvation blessing in Jesus Christ to every nation. Knowing this is where God is culminating history should affect the way we live our lives now. 

The Bible insists that global missions be a priority in the life of a discipleship, not a mere supplemental aspect to the rest of our Christian lives. Although it’s easy to get caught up in the things that are more local and present, we can’t forget about what’s global and future. Passages like Revelation 7:9 serve to reorient us when we lose sight of God’s plan and purpose. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. What difference does it make that missions is not just a New Testament idea but is a major theme found all throughout the Bible? What does it say about God’s heart for missions to see it both at the beginning and the end of the Bible? 
  2. Do you think about global missions often? Why or why not? On what occasions or under what circumstances do you think about it? Can you share any experience that really solidified missions as a priority on your heart and in your life? 
  3. Missions may not be a daily reality in your life but what steps can you take to think about it and expose yourself to it more regularly ? Has anything helped you? If so, share. 
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (Genesis 28:10-22)

“A Lesson in Jacob’s Dream” (Series: Five on Five: Genesis)

Scripture: Genesis 28:10-22

Sermon Summary 

The story of Jacob going to Haran is actually a story of Jacob on the run. Just a chapter earlier Jacob had deceived his father and stolen his brother Esau’s blessing. Esau was so upset at his brother that Jacob is sent away in order to save his life. When God meets Jacob and appears to him in the middle of his journey, Jacob is a fugitive. Yet God does not show up in order to curse Jacob but to bless him with a reaffirmation of the covenant promises made to his grandfather Abraham. God’s actions are surprising and show the depth of his grace. Sometimes God’s grace only makes sense to us when they’re given to virtuous, faith-filled men like Abraham – certainly not scoundrels, schemers and sinners like Jacob. But when we fail to grasp the truth that we are more like Jacob than we are like Abraham, this is when we lose a sense of God’s incredible grace to us. 

In Genesis 28 Jacob is in the middle of nowhere (“an uncertain place”) with nothing (not even a pillow!). And yet God shows up to him in a dream and promises that he will lead Jacob somewhere (the promised land) and give him everything (many offspring). It’s important to understand that God doesn’t make his promises to people because they’ve impressed him or earned it. Nor does he withhold promises in light of all the ways people sin against him. This is true in Jacob’s life and it’s certainly true in our lives. God’s promises are always offered on the basis of his grace – undeserved favor toward the undeserving. God is in the business of coming after those who deserve nothing from him. 

Jacob dreams of a ladder leading up into heaven but the ladder was not for Jacob to climb up to God. It was for God to come down to Jacob. Jesus references this dream in John 1:51 and declares that the Son of Man is the ladder! Jesus is literally Jacob’s dream come true. Because we could never reach God, God condescended to us in his Son. This makes the message of Christianity different than every other religion in the world. The gospel message is not about how we can reach God but what God has done to reach us. And that is through sending Jesus Christ into the world to live a perfect life in our place and die a sacrificial death in our place. The gospel message assures us that there is nobody too bad and defiled that Jesus will not go after them and there is nobody so good that they can reach God on their own. Rather God comes after anybody because nobody can reach up to God. 

When Jacob finishes the dream he declares that the ground is the gate of heaven. He discovered that God opened up the way to heaven for scoundrels, schemers and sinners like himself and also like us. In response to his encounter and experience of God’s grace, Jacob is transformed. He responds by worshipping and tithing. When we encounter and experience God and his grace, we cannot help but be marked and transformed as well. There must arise a tangible expression that evidences that we have come face to face with his grace in Jesus Christ and been changed. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. On the spectrum between two options A) feeling so sinful that God’s grace could never reach you and B) feeling so righteous that you don’t need God’s grace to reach you – where do you think you lean? How has that manifested itself in your life? Give an example if you can. 
  2. How does the grace of God experienced in your life become the grace of God expressed through your life? What tangible, concrete and specific expression can that lead to? (Think through how you can respond to God’s grace with specific actions, thoughts, words, etc) v
  3. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  4. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.