CG Guide (Ephesians 1:9-10)

“The Fullness of Time” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:9-10

Sermon Summary 

There are many things that we wish God would reveal to us but in his sovereign wisdom he has decided not to. What he has chosen to make known to us is the mystery of his will. Simply put, this mystery is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the way that both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) can enter the family of God by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 3:6). But the gospel is bigger news and greater hope than just individual, personal redemption. It also provides the hope of cosmic redemption which includes the redemption of our personal stories as well as the history of the world. 

Paul states that all things will be united in Christ. All things refers not just to our spirits but to our bodies as well. It includes spiritual and physical things. As in-flesh people, we are formed by experiences that are both good and bad, shaped by memories that are helpful and harmful. But in the final redemption, all of who we are will be redeemed in Christ. All things also includes creation and history. The world in which we live and move. And all things will be redeemed because all things were affected by sin’s curse in the fall. Sin’s destructive power wasn’t limited to our relationship with God but was woven into the fabric of creation and thus is seen and experienced in all of life. The curse in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve disobeyed God wasn’t merely exile from God’s presence. It was a deterioration of the entire world. As a result, there is brokenness not only in us but around us. We are fallen but we also live in a fallen world. This is why nothing every goes right. This is why life is hard and unfair. 

Into this situation God sent Jesus in the fullness of time to unite all things in his Son. The word “unite” can also mean “to sum up.” It’s only in Christ that all of this sin-cursed world will be made right, reordered and renewed. Christ will sum it up and restore it. Our stories and history itself are not aimlessly circular but everything is heading toward this hopeful destination. Jesus promises a cosmic redemption of all things in him. When our lives are full of frustration and the world is full of fragmentation, we can feel so helpless and powerless to put anything together. But where our attempts at redemption fail, Christ succeeds. He is the one who will put your shattered life and this hurting world back together again. He is the Cosmic Redeemer. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. What elements of the gospel do you think is often missing in how unbelievers and even Christians often think about it? Articulate how this view of cosmic redemption can be more hopeful and appealing than a more narrow view of the gospel. 
  2. When sin is limited to only what separates you and God, we underestimate the pervasive destructive power of sin. Not only do we personally sin and are personally sinned against, but we live in a broken world marked with sin. Can you share how you have seen sin exposed in the world? In what specific ways have you seen evidence of sin’s pervasiveness?
  3. If you are willing to share, what kinds of things in your life are you most looking forward to seeing redeemed/summed up/united in Christ? What aspects of the brokenness of the world do you looking forward to most seeing redeemed/summed up/united in Christ? 
  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 1:7-8)

“God’s Rich Grace” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:7-8

Sermon Summary 

Christianity is distinct from other religions in that grace is the central operating principle. Whereas the message of other religions is that we relate and reach God by our works, Christianity says that God comes to us extending his grace. This grace not only saves believers but also sustains believers. In Ephesians 1:7-8 we learn that God is both rich in grace and generous with grace to all who go to him. 

In Jesus we receive redemption and forgiveness. Although these points are related they refer to different things. Redemption in the Bible means releasing a person from captivity or paying a ransom to set somebody free from slavery. God redeemed humanity from slavery to sin by the ransom price of Christ’s blood. But this was a costly sacrifice. What did God gain by sacrificing Jesus for us? He gained us but is that worth giving us his one and only Son? God in his love declared that it was. God did this not because of something desirable in us but because of the gracious desire in his heart. 

But we most realize that God did not redeem us as innocent, righteous saints but as guilty, unrighteous sinners. We were law-breakers and transgressors and so after redeeming us, God forgave us. This makes it clear that God intended to redeem those who did not deserve it. Paul makes sure we do not lose sight of our gracious Redeemer when he describes our gracious redemption. God redeems and forgives “according to the riches of his grace” which is very different than saying God redeems and forgiveness “out of the riches of his grace.” The sacrifice of his Son was in proportion to his rich grace because of the infinite worth and value of Jesus. The riches of God’s grace is matched then by his generosity when he lavished his grace upon us. This Greek word translates to “abundantly gave us” or “gave us more than we needed.” It becomes very clear that the God of the gospel is rich in grace and generous with grace to all who go to him. 

If all of this is true, there are at least three gospel realities we must live in. First, if God is rich in grace, we can take our biggest failures and darkest secrets to him because he won’t runaway. Second, if God is generous with grace, we should regularly ask to receive what he loves to give because he won’t withhold anything from us. And third, if God is rich in and generous with grace to us, then we can show grace to those we may consider undeserving.

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. God reveals himself as gracious over and over again in the Bible. Anybody who has read it will know this much. How well do you think Christians in general and you in particular highlight and display this truth? If somebody looked closely at your lifestyle, would they be able to conclude that the God you believe and obey is primarily a gracious God? 
  2. Can you think of specific things Christians do that blur the message of grace and things Christians do that promote this message of grace? Or how have you personally seen it blurred or promoted? Share examples. 
  3. Pick one of the three exhortations and give an example of what it would look like to truly live in this gospel reality. What will your life look like if you actually live out this truth? 
  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 (Psalm 51)

“A Blueprint to Gospel Repentance” (Series: Guest Preacher)

Scripture: Psalm 51

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Free discussion on the passage/sermon: Did you come to understand anything new or better? Was there anything that was clarified for you, convicted you, confused you, challenged you or comforted you? Share, comment, reflect on any part of Psalm 51 that stood out.
  2. How does your view of sin compare or contrast to the way David views his own sin against God? What do you think it looks like to grow in greater self-awareness of your sinfulness and take ownership over your sin against a holy God? 
  3. Are you conscious of your own sin before God or do you tend to view your sin as mere mistakes that you can learn from without taking moral responsibility? How does this affect your view of the gospel? 
  4. What does it mean to be restored in Christ and what does this result in? Why is it necessary for God to create in us a new heart? What does it look like to have the joy of your salvation restored? 
  5. 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? 
  6. 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 (1 Samuel 30:1-6)

“David’s Strengthening” (Series: Guest Preacher)

Scripture: 1 Samuel 30:1-6

Sermon Summary 

This passage reminds us of this central gospel truth: You can be assured God draws near in your suffering. 

David and his men are sent back home from the war between the Philistines and Israel. Home for them is Ziklag but when they arrive, their city is in smoke and ashes. They lost everything and their families are taken captive. This is when the people turn against David and he is utterly alone. They want him dead. But this suffering isn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened. It’s only the worst thing if God wasn’t sovereign over it. It’s only the worst thing if this suffering was random. But suffering is never random. For those who are in Christ, there is much grace in suffering. David could no longer say my possessions, my home, my family, my friends, but he could still say, “My God.” In times of suffering we need far more than an explanation to get us through it. We need a solid relationship and that’s precisely what we have and what David has. 

We read in verse 6 that “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” What David needed most wasn’t to understand suffering but it was to stand under God in his suffering. His strengthening came from seeking God’s nearness because God is covenantal and draws close to us. In the end, we can’t let our suffering define us but to let our relationship with God define our suffering. A life without God is far worse than a life without suffering. We can trust God in the midst of our suffering knowing that another greater David stood in our place and took on our sins so that we could belong to God. And because we belong to God we know that our suffering is never retributive but always restorative.

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Does a text like 1 Samuel 30 scare you? In other words, are you scared of God’s sovereignty? Do you ever fear that God will allow terrible suffering to come your way? How should we counsel ourselves (and others) when we fear God’s sovereignty? 
  2. What was one of your most difficult trials? How did you respond to your suffering? Were you able to experience grace in your suffering? (How did God break you to heal you?)
  3. If suffering is guaranteed to be experience in this fallen, sinful world what practical steps can Christians take to suffer well? Have you seen an example of a fellow Christian who suffered well? What did that look like in their life? 
  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 1:5-6)

“Predestined for Adoption” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:5-6

Sermon Summary 

The doctrine of election and predestination can be tricky to understand but one thing is clear, they do not present God as cold and heartless. In fact Paul claims in Ephesians 1 that God’s purpose in election was to adopt us as sons to himself. Election then was the beginning stages of our adoption process! This means our salvation is not simply redemptive (slaves set free from spiritual bondage) but it’s ultimately relational (orphans made his sons and fought into his family). Paul teaches us that in love God desired and determined to make us sons in his Son. 

Adoption is a definitive and legal status change by which we are brought into God’s family and given a new status as sons. We are no longer slaves and orphans. This is an objective reality that is true regardless of whether we feel it to be true or not. God has done this work and nothing we can do, not even our worst sins, can undo his adopting work. We are given an irreversible new name, new identity and new status. And in our adoption, God becomes our Father. This is why adoption is a glorious blessing and the crown joy of believers in their salvation. God’s fatherly identity is available to us through Jesus. God gave us his Son in order to gain us as sons. And being united now to Jesus, the Son of God, we now receive adoption as sons of God. 

Being sons of God in the Son of God means also that the affections of the Father for Jesus are the same affections he has for us. In fact, in Christ we receive the very love that was reserved for and deserved by Jesus himself. Sharing in his sonship, we become God’s beloved. That’s why in Ephesians 5:1 Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” United to the Beloved of God, we now are beloved by God which means no depth of our sin or magnitude of our failure can reverse and rewrite God’s adoption. In Christ, we are not more loved by God at our best and we are not less loved by God at our worst.

The glories of adoption are countless but here are at least two things that will happen when we grasp our adoption. First, our prayers become more intimate. When we address God, we have the great privilege of calling him “Father.” We don’t have to dress up our words to God hoping they’ll get his attention but we can pray earnestly and intimately because we already have his ear and his favor through Christ. Second, our prayer requests become more vulnerable. Calling God “Father” reminds us that we are all his needy, dependent children. Instead of trying to put our best foot forward, we can honestly and vulnerably share how we need our loving Father to meet us in our lives. As a result of this, we share and we pray to our Father in heaven as his children. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Free discussion on the passage/sermon: Did you come to understand anything new or better? Was there anything that was clarified for you, convicted you, confused you, challenged you or comforted you? Share, comment, reflect on any part of Ephesians 1:5-6 that stood out.
  2. How do you feel about addressing or viewing God as “Father”? Is this normal for you or foreign to you? Easy for you or difficult for you? Why is is our adoption the “crown jewel” of the gospel and the highest privilege to enjoy? 
  3. What are the obstacles to sharing prayer requests more vulnerably and honestly? Spell out in your own words how being a child of God affects our prayers and our prayer requests. 
  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 1:3-4)

“Every Spiritual Blessing” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-4

Sermon Summary 

Ephesians 1 can be divided into two sections. The first section (1:3-14) deals with Paul’s praise of God for the gift of every spiritual blessing that believers are blessed with in Jesus Christ. The second section (1:15-23) deals with Paul’s prayer to God asking for opened spiritual eyes to grasp the full reality of these blessings. Verses 3-4 begin the extended praise portion of chapter 1. From these verses we are challenged with this gospel truth: A grasp of our spiritual blessings will lead us to sing God’s blessings and sacrifice material blessings.

Although Paul could have communicated chapter 1 in propositional statements about our salvation, he chooses instead to sing them in doxology. Paul begins by blessing God and this sets the trajectory of everything that follows. It is an extension of praise. God is blessed because he has blessed us. He has done this first with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This is not a reference to heaven itself but a reference to the unseen world of spiritual reality. Our blessings are not earthly and material but spiritual and heavenly. Paul lists some of these blessing for us which include adoption, redemption, forgiveness and an inheritance. These are blessings we truly need but could never achieve on our own. However in Christ they are now ours. We are in full possession of them. 

God chose to bestow upon us every spiritual blessing even though we can only offer him our every spiritual blemish. By his grace he gives us these things not based on our effort but based on his election. God, out of the good pleasure of his will, chose us before the foundation of the world to be in Christ and thus he chose to shower us with the blessings that Christ earned and merited. Because our blessings come to us by our faith union with Jesus, these blessings are secured for us. They cannot be forfeited or taken but are forever ours because of Christ’s perfection and performance. A grasp of these spiritual blessings will lead a Christian to do at least two things. 

First, we will sing blessings to God. One evidence of how well we understand what Christ has done for us is seen in the presence or absence of worship in our lives. Those who have received every spiritual blessing desire to sing blessings to God because they understand the magnitude of the gift and also the magnitude of the grace. Growth in the gospel is evidenced not by the precision of our words in explaining the gospel but by the presence of worship in exalting over the gospel. Worship reveals we have experienced the gospel, not just understood it. When we grasp our spiritual blessings, we prioritize blessing God in our lives. 

Second, we will sacrifice material blessings for others. Just as Jesus was pleased to share his spiritual blessings with us, we can be pleased to share with others our material blessings. This is because we understand we are rich in the ways that truly matter. A conviction of what we have in Christ makes us hold more to his blessings and loosens our grip over other blessings. Then in the practice of sacrificial generosity, we learn to love less our material blessings and cherish more our spiritual blessings. The act of giving forces us to look more at what we have abundantly in Christ because we are less distracted by what material blessings we have or don’t have. Becoming sacrificially generous with material blessings then is not just good for others but is spiritually beneficial for us. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Free discussion on the passage/sermon: Did you come to understand anything new or better? Was there anything that was clarified for you, convicted you, confused you, challenged you or comforted you? Share, comment, reflect on any part of Ephesians 1:3-4 that stood out.
  2. If blessing God is evidence of knowing and rejoicing in your spiritual blessings, do you have any kind of rhythm of “praising,” “worshiping,” or “blessing” God in your life? What does that look like? What results when a person grows in knowledge of the gospel but not in worship because of the gospel? 
  3. How has the practice of generosity revealed more of the spiritual blessings you have in Christ? How has a habit of stinginess blurred your awareness the spiritual blessings you have in Christ? Share. What are some ways to cultivate sacrificial generosity that reflects the gospel to others and reminds yourself of the gospel?
  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 1:3-14, Part 2)

“The End of All Ends” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-14

Sermon Summary 

These twelve verses in Ephesians 1 are an explosion of praise that come out of the mouth of Paul faster than he can talk and write. Comprising just one single verse in the original Greek, Paul suspends the rules of grammar for a moment in order to revel in the glory of God in our salvation. From the mountain peak he declares the end of all ends, the final destination to which all roads in history lead: the glory of God. This includes our salvation. Paul teaches us in these verses that we are saved for God’s glory in order to live for God’s glory. 

The Diversity of Persons: The Christian doctrine of God makes it clear that there is one God who exists in three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit). Each person is fully God but there are not three gods. Our God is triune, meaning he is three in one. When it comes to our salvation, each person of the Trinity is work. God the Father authors it (vv.3-5), God the Son accomplishes it (v.7) and God the Spirit applies it (v.13). All three persons of the Godhead work in order to secure the believer’s salvation which was authored before the foundation of the world, accomplished on the cross of Calvary, and is being applied to the lives of people presently. 

The intricacy and the complexity of our salvation reveal the incredible love of God for sinful humanity. Without hesitation, disagreement or quarreling, all three persons of the Trinity worked together not just to make salvation possible but to actually save sinners. From beginning to end and from start to finish, salvation is fully and entirely in the hands of our God and never in ours. And despite the repelling nature of our disobedience and sin, it was God’s love and not our loveliness that compelled him toward us. If salvation is completely God’s work alone on our behalf, how should we respond?

The Unity of Purpose: Apostle Paul makes it clear that the end for which God saved us is “to the praise of his glory” (vv.5-6, 12, 14). There is no reason after this reason. And because it is God who saves us entirely and completely, we cannot seek to attain any self glory nor try to take partial credit for our salvation. It is right and proper instead to admire the mighty arm of God in saving us. So we will either continue to insist that we are participants in our salvation or will be accept that we are nothing more than mere recipients of divine grace. The reality is that God gets the glory in our salvation because he alone authored, accomplished and applies it to us. 

Paul then says that those who are saved now live and exist with a new life purpose: to live for the praise of God’s glory (v.12). All the mundane and ordinary things about our lives becomes royal and regal when they’re done for the glory of the King of Kings. When our purpose becomes his purpose, our lives are repurposed. From the way we work to the way we study, we do all things with the aim of of praising his glory. But it’s not just a matter of what we do but how we do it. Through our attitudes and the postures of our heart, we are able to bring God glory. From the simplest of tasks to the most spiritual tasks, we make it our aim to declare his glory.

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. What difference does it make, if any, to articulate how all three persons of the Trinity work for your salvation rather than thinking about it simply as, “God saves us”? Was anything surprising, shocking or stirring about this articulation? 
  2. How does it sit with you that God does all things for his own glory? Be honest. What is your response and reaction to this? What would be the reasons this truth is rejected or difficult to accept? Can you articulate why it’s ultimately a good thing for God to do all things, including save sinners, for his glory? 
  3. Do you easily see how the ordinary, mundane things in life can be done for the praise of God’s glory? If there is a struggle, describe it. Why do you think many people only perceive spiritual tasks to be for God’s glory but have a more difficult time believing that ordinary, maybe even “secular” tasks can be done for his glory as well? 
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate and worship God 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 1:3-14, Part 1)

“From Eternity to Eternity” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-14

Sermon Summary 

Ephesians 1 gives us a sweeping view of our salvation which is breathtaking if we stop to enjoy it. One of the things we see in verses three to fourteen is the expanse of our salvation, beginning from eternity past and ending in eternity future. And this salvation that spans from eternity to entity is given to us by God to enjoy and embrace. 

The security of our salvation (eternity past). Paul makes an astonishing statement that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Before we did anything good to qualify us for salvation and before we did anything bad to disqualify ourselves from salvation, God already determined according to his purpose to save those who have faith in Christ. This means that our salvation is not grounded in our spiritual performance but in God’s purpose to save us. Our performance, good or bad, cannot thwart his purpose to save because it’s by his rich, abounding love and not our abounding loveliness, that God predestined us for adoption. This kind of security means we can stop running from God every time we’ve sinned and we can stop running to God every time we’ve done something good. Our worst days won’t put our salvation in jeopardy and our best days won’t add anything to our salvation. Rather we can start resting in God that in Christ our salvation is completely secured apart from our works. 

The freedom of our salvation (earthly present). Christians can enjoy present freedom in our lives because we have redemption. Redemption means deliverance by payment of a price and Christians experience spiritual redemption through Jesus and his shed blood. This is a present reality, not a future gift to wait for. We have spiritual freedom now. Through his sacrifice, we were delivered and set free from our slavery to sin. In our sin we rebel against God through our insistence that we stand at the center of the universe. This is evidenced in our self-centeredness and selfishness. But Jesus, through the payment of his blood, released us from slavery to sin so that we can enjoy true spiritual freedom. We aren’t condemned but forgiven, not guilty but justified, not enslaved but redeemed. We are freed to a new quality of living wherein we can resist the devil, flee temptation, please God and love others. 

The hope of our salvation (eternity future). Lastly Paul talks about the promise of a guaranteed inheritance awaiting us in the future. This hope is not yet fully ours but is prepared and waiting for us to acquire possession of it when we enter eternity. The gospel assures us that the best things are yet to come and this hope serves as light at the end of a dark tunnel. It reminds us that the tunnel isn’t dark forever so we can press on and endure. At the end of the finish line of life’s race God will hold forth the promised inheritance not as a reward for how well we finished but as a reward because we finished. Jesus tells us that this inheritance is the kingdom that we will receive and be received into (Matthew 25:34). That’s waiting for us in eternity. And there at the finish line Jesus stands as one who has already run before us ready to receive us into his kingdom with the words, “Well done by good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Describe a kind of person who might need the truth of having a secured salvation in Christ (what kind of objections, questions, fears would they have?). How could the truths in this passage minister to them? Can you a share a time when you wish you knew this truth or share a time when you needed it and it ministered to you? 
  2. Describe a kind of person who might need the truth of having and knowing spiritual freedom in Christ (what kind of objections, questions, fears would they have?). How could the truths in this passage minister to them? Can you a share a time when you wish you knew this truth or share a time when you needed it and it ministered to you? 
  3. Describe a kind of person who might need the truth of having the hope that the gospel provides (what kind of objections, questions, fears would they have?). How could the truths in this passage minister to them? Can you a share a time when you wish you knew this truth or share a time when you needed it and it ministered to you? 
  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 1:1-2)

“Transforming Grace” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-2

Sermon Summary 

The gospel is not just good news that anybody can be saved but that anybody can be changed. Which means the grace of God is not just for salvation but transformation. When you receive God’s grace, far more than just your eternity is changed but your present identity is transformed. This is evident both in the life of Apostle Paul as well as the saints in Ephesus as we see in Ephesians 1:1-2. 

When Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter, he reminds you of his transformed identity. Just a few years before, Paul would never have penned this letter. In his life before he met Christ, Paul went by his Jewish name Saul and he lived a very zealous life as a Pharisee. In particular, his life’s mission and purpose was to persecute Christians and the church of Christ. But coming face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was not only saved but he was transformed. He began to go only by his Roman name, Paul, because his life’s mission and purpose were changed. Jesus commissioned him to be an apostle to the Gentiles and so everything in his life became about serving this new mission and living out his new identity. 

Reading “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus” rather than “Saul, a persecutor of the Church of Christ” is a testament to the power of God’s grace to transform anybody. We all have people in our lives who make us hesitant to believe the power of God’s grace to change a person. You may believe the power of his grace to save them but you won’t hold your breath to see them change. But what would happen if you believed they could actually be transformed? What if you no longer dismissed, ignored or avoided people because you labeled them “hopeless cases”? Imagine the resurgence of new love, new hope and new prayers for them. If you approached such people holding on to the hope of God’s transforming grace, your relationships with them would improve, your love for them would increase and your prayers for them would deepen. 

Paul then addresses his recipients who he calls “saints.” This is Paul’s preferred designation for Christians and believers. He uses this term nearly forty times in his letters. What did Paul hope to accomplish by addressing them in this way? The answer is to highlight the transforming grace of God in their own lives. The Ephesian Christians weren’t mere “saved sinners” but radically changed “saints.” This status had nothing to do with what they did but with who they were because of what Christ did for them. An identity that is achieved can be lost or improved upon but an identity received by God’s grace is perfect already. Therefore your saint status has nothing to do with how you feel about yourself but with how God views you because of his Son. 

There is incredible freedom in knowing your identity as a saint is not earned by your effort but given by God’s grace. If it becomes your primary, fundamental identity then you rest in knowing God’s view of you doesn’t change nor does your own view of yourself change depending on your performance. Christ has secured it for you by taking on the fullness of your sins and giving you his perfect righteousness. When you receive this new identity then there’s no going back to who you were. You are not a sinner. You are a saint. You’re not a fraud when you do something for God even though you still feel like a sinner. You’re actually a fraud when you sin against God because you are actually a saint! This is who you really are. And in order to sustain you, God supplies continuous grace and peace for you through Jesus. 

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. In what ways do you impoverish the gospel when you only talk about what it does for your future and for eternity? What do you miss out when you only talk about what the gospel does in the present, here and now? Do you tend to think about the gospel more in a more future-oriented way or present-oriented way? 
  2. Have you ever been surprised by the evidence of God’s grace in a person’s transformation? Would you mind sharing a little bit about that? In what ways did that encourage you? On the other side, are you discouraged by anybody who seems to lack evidence of transforming grace in their lives? How have you been responding to that person? What hope does Pauls’ testimony give you? 
  3. If you are a Christian, do you tend to identify more with a sinner identity or a saint identity? Why do you think that is/what factors bring that about? What kind of practical fruit can you envision would be borne if you embraced more of your unchangeable saint status in Christ? 
  4. 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 message? 
  5. Everybody should formulate a one sentence prayer response and request to everything heard and discussed. Have a few people share what they came up with.

CG Guide (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

“He Will Surely Do It” (20th Anniversary Service)

https://cornerstone-pc.com/sermons

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Sermon Summary 

Churches are imperfect because they’re full of imperfect people. It’s really no surprise that churches have so many problems then! Many people have been burned, betrayed and hurt by the church and others have been apart of doing those exact things. It’s easy in these circumstances and with these experiences to give up on the church. But there’s a reason we shouldn’t. It’s because God doesn’t. The Bible likens the church to Christ’s bride and Jesus does not believe in divorce. He will never leave his bride nor forsake his people. God remains committed to his church not because of something in the church but because of something in him: his faithfulness. 

The church in Thessalonica was a church that Apostle Paul planted. He wrote some of his most generous and gracious word to these Christians. We read in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” And yet Paul is not writing naively. He knew the church had its fair share of problems and issues. The rest of the letter unpacks and addresses those things. But still as he closes his letter he writes, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He prays for God to sanctify them because they are far from being a perfect church. They were under repair and still in draft form.

Learning about the Thessalonian church is encouraging because if a church this praiseworthy still has so many problems, it’s likely that every other church will have them too. Every church is a work in progress, with God still needing to sanctify it. But this is a work that won’t be done until Christ returns. Knowing this promise helps us be confident that what turns us off, disgusts us and frustrates us about the church now, will one day be taken care of. Until then, we can be realistic and humble with all the warts and wrinkles we see in the church. So we hopefully wait until God does what he promises and lest we doubt it Paul writes, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 

A church like Cornerstone is able to celebrate twenty years only because of God’s faithfulness. And when we look back at what God has already done, it helps us look forward in expectation to see what God will continually do. But our ultimate hope requires us to look further back than twenty years. When we look back two thousand years we see God’s faithfulness displayed in the sending of Jesus into the world to die for unfaithful sinners like us. But rather than break faith with us, he doubled down on his promise and sealed it anew with his blood. What Christ suffered on his fateful day for his church is what guarantees what Christ will do on the final day to his church. He took on Golgotha so that he can take us into glory. This is how the gospel gives us the hope that God is not yet done with the church and will one day sanctify her completely. 

*Another passage to consider: Ephesians 5:25-27

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. If you had experience growing up in the church, what was it like? Did you tend to see more unity/peace or division/hostility? What impressions about the church did you develop? If you didn’t grow up in the church, what were the impressions that were formed from what you saw and heard about the church? 
  2. Was/is there ever a moment you didn’t want to associate with the Church in general or one particular church? Would you mind sharing the reasons? Were you able to get over it and if so, how? If not, what are some enduring questions or points of conflict? 
  3. How does it make you feel that Paul acknowledges both the need for the church’s continuing sanctification but also the hope that God will complete what he started in the church? Please elaborate. 
  4. 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 message? 
  5. Everybody should formulate a one sentence prayer response and request to everything heard and discussed. Have a few people share what they came up with.