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.

CG Discussion (Genesis 19)

“A Lesson in Lot’s Rescue” (Series: Five on Five: Genesis)

Scripture: Genesis 19:1-29

Sermon Summary (prepared by Eddie Pyun)

God’s wrath is not a very popular or comfortable subject to talk about. If you’ve ever tried to evangelize you may have been somewhat hesitant to talk about God’s wrath. Instead you focused on his love. Some people even have the notion that the God of wrath in the Old Testament and the God of love in the New Testament are so different that either God must have radically changed his mind about things, or even that they’re not the same God.

But both of those concepts are quite foreign to the Bible’s own presentation of God. The God of the Bible is both a God of love and a God of wrath without contradiction. If you love something, you will hate whatever is antithetical to that thing that you love. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah shows us that because God loves righteousness, he hates sin, and he must deal with it. And so he pours out his wrath. But it also shows us that because God loves mercy, he has also provided a way of escape. Sinners under the wrath of God must respond by either fleeing to safety or remaining under his judgment.

In Genesis 19 God sends his angels down to Sodom to investigate the city’s sin, and he finds the city to be guilty. The men try to break into Lot’s house so they may “know” his guests. Although Lot is not guilty of their sin, he still displays great cowardice when he offers the mob his daughters instead. Against such sin, the angels declare to Lot that God’s wrath is coming to destroy the city, and they urge Lot to take up his family and escape to safety. They offer him a way of escape. 

The story then shows three different responses to God’s wrath and his offer of rescue. First is the response of Lot’s sons-in-law. The angels warn Lot that wrath is coming. Taking this seriously, Lot goes to his sons-in-law-to-be and tells them that they need to leave before God destroys the city. But they think he is only joking. This is the first way people can respond to God’s wrath and his offer of rescue. They consider it foolishness, laugh, and stay right where they are. For them, the offer of salvation still stands, but it must be accepted, as it will not remain open forever. As God’s wrath fell on Sodom and Gomorrah, there is a final judgment that is coming upon those who have refused God and his offer of salvation. 

The second response we see is in Lot’s wife. While God is raining down sulfur and fire in judgment, Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. Jesus interprets this for us in Luke 17:33 when he says, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” He then uses Lot’s wife as an example of someone who sought to preserve their old life and lost it. Lot’s wife looked back at the city with longing in her heart for what she had left behind. From this we are reminded that we cannot follow Jesus half-heartedly. It’s not enough to just say with your lips that Jesus is Lord while you fail to recognize him as Lord in your heart, in your relationships, in every area of life. You must be all-in.

The third and last response we see is Lot’s. Although his response is sputtering and confused, eventually he believes in the coming wrath and leaves the city (and his whole life) behind, and he is saved from the total destruction which follows. At first, we may be confused as to why Lot was saved because he himself was certainly not without sin. Yet 2 Peter 2 refers to him as “righteous Lot”. This was because, like his uncle Abraham, Lot was counted righteous by God, not on account of his own righteousness or good works, but because of his faith (Gen. 15:6). Even though his faith was weak, he had put his faith in the one who was able to save, and in faith he fled the coming destruction.

Today, we too are counted righteous by faith because God has dealt with our sin. He has poured out his wrath just like he dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin. Except it was on another. On the cross, Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath, and he drank it down to the last drop so there would be no more wrath left over for you. Not only that, but he did so willingly – out of his love for you! He did all this so you would be safe when the final judgment comes and God rids the world of every evil, once and for all. The God who hates sin and evil is zealous to remove the sin and evil that cause us sorrow and injustice too, and those who have taken refuge in his Son can take comfort in knowing that this holy God will one day make every wrong right.

Suggested Group Discussion Questions

  1. What does the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah teach us about God’s attitude toward sin? Is that scary to you, or could that be a comfort?
  2. Which of the three responses to God’s wrath and the offer of salvation do you resonate with most – that of the sons-in-law, Lot’s wife, or Lot? Share and discuss.
  3. What might make it difficult for someone to simply “believe and go”, as Lot did? What encouragement does the gospel offer to those who struggle to have faith like Lot’s?
  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 12:1-13:4)

“A Lesson in Abram’s Faith” (Series: Five on Five: Genesis)

Scripture: Genesis 12:1-13:4

Sermon Summary 

The story of Abram’s call to leave his country and go to the land God calls him to is familiar and well-known. It is a story of incredible, radical faith. Leaving country, kindred, and his father’s home not only involved a difficult departure from beloved and cherished relationships, it also meant leaving behind his source of physical safety and security. And yet Abram exhibits incredible faith when he responds with obedience and he goes. 

We should be rightly challenged by Abram’s faith, a faith that heard what God called him to do and responded immediately with obedience despite all the sacrifices it meant he had to make. It is appropriate to feel challenged by Abram’s faith as we look at our own lives and compare our faith to his. We all have areas of our lives where we refuse to do what we know God would have us do. We refuse, are hesitant, or delay because we know it’s hard and requires sacrifice. 

But it’s also important to be inspired by Abram’s faith. The Scriptures remind us that the stories in the Old Testament serve as examples for us to follow (1 Cor. 10:6). Abram’s story is exactly that, a portrait of inspiring faith that we should long and pray to have. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the author encouraged his readers in the great Hall of Fame of Faith chapter by pointing to the example of Abram (Heb. 11:8-9). Imagine the kind of power that would be unleashed in the church and its witness if we all exhibited the faith of Abram! 

Although Abram’s story should challenge and inspire believers, the story also means so much more than this. We need to see what it reveals about the God of Abram’s faith – a God who makes enduring, unbreakable, invincible promises to his people for no other reason than that he is gracious. God’s promise in verses 2-3 are sevenfold, and from the first to the seventh, they all hinge on God’s giving Abram and Sarai a child despite Sarai’s barrenness. However, when they arrive in Canaan they realize the land is barren as well. There is a famine in the land, and if there’s a famine, that means no food, no family, and no future. So Abram takes matters into his own hands and leaves for Egypt. 

It becomes clear that Abram had faith to obey God but he did not have faith to trust God. His faith in God was reverential (I’ll do what you say) but not personal (I’ll depend on you always). Abram lost sight of what God had actually said to him. There was only one command (“Go”) but there were seven promises (“I will…”). As important as it is to obey God, God wants us to trust in him. Faith is measured not by what we’re willing to do for God but by what we believe God is willing to do for us! Our faith then is exercised when we depend on God, not when we do for God. 

And God proves himself worthy to trust when despite the faithlessness of Abram he still leads him back to Canaan. God shows that his promise is enduring, unbreakable, and invincible. Ultimately God’s promise to Abram is fulfilled not in the birth of Isaac but another Son – his own Son. Jesus came from the line of Abram and came as the promised offspring to bring the blessing of salvation to the world. He came to secure for us the blessing he deserved and receive the curse that we deserved. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis 12 despite Abram’s, Israel’s and our faithlessness. So when we look at Jesus we see the visible reason God is worthy to be trusted. Nothing and nobody can ever derail, thwart, or overturn God’s promises to us. We should look at Jesus daily in order to be reminded daily that we can and should trust in God. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Are you more challenged by Abram’s faith or inspired by his faith according to Genesis 12:1-9? 
    • If challenged by it, what are some of the areas of your life in which you feel obedience to God is necessary, even if it would require you to make sacrifices? What are the reasons/obstacles you find it hard to obey him? 
    • If inspired by it, what do you envision Abram-like faith would look like in your life? What would change or be different in your life if you were to actually live this out?
  2. Do you think it’s easier to exercise faith by obeying God, or to exercise faith through trusting God? What has this looked like in your life? What makes these things easier or harder? 
  3. Have you ever personally experienced the reality of God’s enduring, unbreakable, invincible promise for you despite your faithlessness toward him? How have you experienced God to be faithful to you when you lacked faith in him? Please share to encourage 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 Discussion Guide (Psalm 43:1-5)

“The Night’s Third Hour” (Series: The Dark Night of the Soul)

Scripture: Psalm 43:1-5

Sermon Summary 

Psalms 42 and 43 offer tremendous honesty about the hardships in life while also offering tremendous hope for believers to endure them. Although there are various thorns and thistles that poke and pierce Christians through the dark night of the soul, there is always a reason to rejoice. In these two psalms, the psalmist is constantly fighting to believe. He has to exhort himself again and again to “hope in God”. It’s important to understand that Christian maturity isn’t evidenced in the increasing infrequency by which you need to exhort yourself in this way. It’s quite the opposite. Spiritual growth is evidenced by how quickly a believer runs to God in their time of need. This is why after each of his three laments, the psalmist returns to his exhortation three times. 

By the end of Psalm 43, although the night gets darker and troubles keep visiting the psalmist, there is clear evidence of amazing inward renewal and revival in his soul. Despite all that he’s endured, the author is finally able to confess that God is his exceeding joy. How did he get to this point? And how can believers get there as well? The psalmist engages in three actions: remembrance, resolution, and anticipation. 

Remember (42:4). There is incredible power in remembering. Christians are called to remember the gospel. To recall what Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, did for sinners upon the cross 2,000 years ago. In the midst of the dark night, it’s easy to forget what was accomplished by Jesus for those who would believe in him. In trials, forgetting simple truths like God’s love, his care, and his presence is all too common. But to remember the gospel is to see the clear evidence that God loves his people so much that he sent his Son to die for them; God’s care is so incredible that he came to the world to experience and sympathize with his people in their suffering; and he’s present with believers always and until the end of the age because he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell them. You must remember the gospel.

Resolve (42:8). But remembrance cannot remain in the past. Christians must act upon and respond to the gospel with new resolve. Not because the gospel is lacking but because the benefits of the gospel need to be seized and believed. Acquiring information alone is not enough to bring about change and transformation. There must be a response of new resolves to trust, commit, obey, or repent. The Bible is not afraid of these kinds of imperatives that flow out of the gospel. In the dark night, remembering the gospel triggers a response to the gospel such as going to God with your tears, surrounding yourself with godly company, singing songs until you believe, and running to God as your rock. 

Anticipate (43:3-4). Remembering the past and responding in the present helps anticipate the glorious hope God has called believers to. The psalmist lamented in Psalm 42:4, “When shall I come and appear before God?” By the end of the third refrain, he speaks with confidence, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.” His hopeful future anticipation is enough for him to endure his present circumstances (he is far from Jerusalem) and his present experience (he is at the hands of ungodly people). And yet for the Christian, the promises of God are far greater than appearing before the altar of God. Through the work of Christ, Christians have gained access to a place past the altar, into the Holy Place, through the curtain now torn in two, and into the Holy of Holies. In the Jerusalem temple, this was the place that only the high priest could go. But Jesus, through offering himself up as our sacrifice, has made this way possible. He has given us access to God’s throne of grace, where we will one day be with him forever. This is the glorious future where believers are being led by God’s light and truth through the present dark night. This gives us reason to rejoice even in the darkest hour. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Faith is not a walk in the park. The psalmist has to exhort himself again and again to “believe” what he knows. This question is in two parts. 1) What goes wrong when we think having faith is “easy”? 2) What is helpful knowing that sometimes Christians need to exhort themselves again and again to hope in God? 
  2. Of the three actions – remembrance, resolution and anticipation – which of these is easiest for you to do? Or what is most “natural” or “familiar” to do? Why do you think that is? Of the three actions, which do you need to commit to do more regularly? 
  3. Are there any dangers when you focus on any one of the three actions more than the others? What would the consequences be? What is powerful about seeing the psalmist doing all three?  
  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 (Ephesians 1:15-19)

“Prayer for Enlightened Hearts” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-19

Sermon Summary 

Paul prays for the Ephesian believers in both Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-19 that they would know the gospel with more than just their heads but that they would grasp the gospel with their hearts. This happens through prayer as the Holy Spirit leads gospel information in your head to gospel transformation in your heart. Experiencing the power of the gospel doesn’t simply occur when you learn more. The Spirit takes the benefits and blessings of the gospel and seals it on believers’ hearts so that we might experience now a foretaste of the glorious realities to come. 

This prayer is aimed toward believers, not unbelievers, because it’s clear that even Christians can hear the gospel and be unchanged by it. Many times we read God’s Word, hear it preached and shared with us and yet it remains irrelevant to us. Gospel truths remain propositions to consider and never become power to change. So in response, Paul asks the Holy Spirit to illuminate the gospel realities of Ephesians 1:3-14 into the hearts of Christians. This is why he asks the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to enlighten the eyes of our hearts. When we pray and make the same request of the Spirit, the gospel begins to connect with us because it begins to connect in us, our head and our heart. 

So how does abstract knowledge begin to be of actual good for us? Paul prays for three doctrines to become present realities in believers hearts to transform us. These three things are summaries of the benefits of the gospel: our hope, inheritance and God’s power. 

1. Our hope in salvation means not that we will be forgiven at some future time but that we are forgiven this very moment. God has called us to himself through Christ and has already begun saving us (he has justified us – made us right with God; he is sanctifying us – making us more like God; he will glorify us – make us finally and wholly renewed). But already that means God is pleased with us today in Christ, not just that he will be pleased with us when we enter heaven. We’re transformed now to live under the delight and smile of God as his children.

2. The riches of our glorious inheritance is not material riches but spiritual ones. However spiritual riches are not a future possession but a present one. We have obtained an inheritance (Eph. 1:11) and God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). So we don’t live as people who will one day be rich but who are rich in Christ right now with the wealth that truly matters. We’re transformed now to become generous people with every form of currency we can offer others, material, financial, time, energy and comfort. 

3. The power of God that he works in us is resurrection power that he worked in raising Jesus from the dead. This is a power that overcame the grave and overturned evil and sin forever. When this power is at work in believers, we can both triumphantly resist sin and victoriously strive after holiness. Sin is not too great and holiness not too hard that believers are discouraged from slaying their sin and pursuing their holiness. We’re transformed now to fight sin not with the strength of our own wills but with the power of God that he makes available to us.

Jesus makes the blessings of the gospel available to us by his grace which is received through faith. In the same way, all that he makes real in our lives by his Spirit is to be received through prayer. Just as faith is not earning and achieving the blessings of the gospel, so prayer is not earning and achieving the experience of the gospel. But by prayer the Spirit is pleased to enlighten the eyes of our hearts to live out in our hearts what we possess and know in our heads. 

In response, when we receive gospel information we should learn the habit of asking the Spirit through prayer to make it become gospel transformation in our lives. Whether that’s through personal Bible reading, through hearing a sermon or through receiving gospel encouragement through others (relationships, articles, books, etc). 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Agree or disagree: It is easier to accumulate gospel information in your heads than it is to experience gospel transformation in your hearts. Why do you think this is? Related: Why do you think people are more satisfied with a discipleship that focuses on learning gospel information rather than undergoing gospel transformation? 
  2. What are some realities and truths of the gospel that you want to be able to live out of and want more deeply impressed on your heart? (*you can look at Ephesians 1:3-14 if you need some help) What would look differently about your Christian life if these gospel truths were experienced and evidenced? 
  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.