Sermon Reflection/Discussion Guide (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

“Rest and Gospel Freedom”

Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Sermon Summary

According to the Bible, God established a pattern involving six days of labor and a seventh day of rest. This pattern of a “week” forms the rhythm for the rest of our lives. This means the Sabbath never just ends a week but the Sabbath also always starts a new week. So then the Sabbath gives you rest after a completed week of work but it also recharges you for an upcoming week of work. When God established a Sabbath year for the land, his purpose was to give the land rest to ensure future years of fruitfulness. In the same way, the weekly Sabbath for us also recharges us for the start of another fruitful week of labor. The Sabbath gets us ready for every new work week. 

In Romans 1 Apostle Paul tells us that one aspect of fallen humanity is that we turn things into idols. One of the biggest idols of our age is work and career. Work becomes so much more tiring than it should be because we look to our work to give us something it cannot. We often look to work for security, worth, identity and affirmation. As a result, we are constantly tired, anxious and stressed during the work week. Work is never just work. We try to find significance from it. As a result, rest escapes us. But keeping the Sabbath can help combat this temptation. 

The Ten Commandments are recorded twice in the Bible. First in Exodus 20 and again in Deuteronomy 5. Whereas Exodus 20 says we should keep the Sabbath because God rested on the seventh day, Deuteronomy 5 says we should keep the Sabbath because God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. The grounds for keeping the Sabbath in Exodus is creation but in Deuteronomy it’s redemption. As Israel got ready to enter the Promised Land,Moses didn’t want the Israelites to forget God’s great redemption and so he attached it to the Sabbath. Remembering the exodus event on every Sabbath, the Israelites would have a weekly reminder that they were no longer slaves but redeemed by God. The Sabbath was a weekly declaration of freedom from their once enslaved identities. 

As Christians we’ve experienced a greater redemption than the Israelites. We were once enslaved to sin but Christ set us free from it. He broke the power and grip of our idolatries over us so that we no longer need to work for our identity, worth and significance but we receive it freely in Christ. This is what gospel freedom looks like. It means resting in Christ’s work for us. When we remember the gospel every Sabbath, it helps us begin our weeks freed from the pressure to prove or earn anything. Instead we begin the work week already confident in God’s acceptance of us in Christ. This means that work becomes just work. We don’t need to work for our identity but instead we can work out our identity. The freedom of the gospel helps the work week become so much more restful as a result. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.  
  2. Do you tend to treat Sunday as the first day of the week or the last day of the week? What affect do you think that’s made in your life? On your perspective of the week?    
  3. What does your current practice of Sabbath look like? How do you usually spend the day? What is beneficial about it and what is not? 
  4. In what ways do you look to your work to give you something it can’t or wasn’t meant to give you? What are you hoping to get from your work? What does freedom in the gospel look like for you? 

Sermon Reflection/Discussion Guide (Genesis 1:26-2:3)

“Rest and God’s Purpose”

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-2:3

Sermon Summary

Everybody deep down inside experiences restlessness on some level. This is true because God made us for rest but we live in a fallen world where rest constantly eludes us. One of the reasons we can’t find rest is that we often misuse it. We think rest is simply doing nothing. But God rested and established the pattern for us so that we could rest by delighting in his creation. 

When God created mankind, he created us in his image. This means we are created to mimic God and reflect his likeness. In creation God formed the world and then he filled the world. He exercised dominion over creation and then he populated it. Now made in his image, we are called to do the same. In the cultural mandate God calls us to exercise dominion over the earth and then to be fruitful and multiply in order to fill the earth. This means we also image God when we follow his pattern of resting. To work and to rest are equally godly and neither is a curse. This means when we don’t rest properly, we are violating the image of God!

Some people refuse to rest when they overwork whether in jobs or in studies. Others refuse to rest socially or relationally when they overextend themselves by filling their schedules. But just because we have a lot of time to ourselves doesn’t mean we are resting either. We may be doing restful things but missing the purpose of God’s rest which is to rejoice and delight in God’s “very good” creation. God institutes the seventh day to enjoy his creation and he calls us to do the same when we rest. 

For Christians, the gospel gives us a better reason to rest and rejoice. We have the assurance of 2 Corinthians 5:17 that tells us “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Because of the sin that we’re born with, everybody single person is kept from experiencing God and his rest. But God introduced the solution. He sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be made a new creation through faith in Jesus. Christians should approach the Christian Sabbath with more resolve to rest by rejoicing in God and his new creation in our lives. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.  
  2. What kind of rest do you think you most need in this season? Physical? Spiritual? Emotional? What kinds of things do feel you need rest from? What are the causes of your restlessness? 
  3. In your experience has Sunday typically been a restful day for you? What contributes to that or takes away from it? 
  4. What are some things you are doing or can do in the future to make sure you are properly resting by rejoicing in God’s new creation work in your life? What new rhythms or traditions can you consider implementing? 

Proverbs: Wisdom Reflection/Discussion Questions

Please use the following questions to aid in your own personal meditation on wisdom in Proverbs as well as for your group discussion. 

You can find the sermon on our YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgu7MvXfKjo&ab_channel=CornerstonePresbyterianChurch

Remember that as a group you do not have to cover all of these questions. Set a time limit and stick with it! And please don’t sacrifice time for sharing prayer requests and praying for one another.

Personal Reflection/Group Discussion Questions:

  • Introduce yourselves if you do not all know each other.
  • Have you read the book of Proverbs before? Do you have a favorite verse or passage in it? Share if you’d like. What is your impression of the book? What draws you to the book or keeps you away from it? 
  • How would you define wisdom in your own words? Describe the difference between worldly wisdom and biblical wisdom as you understand. Do those two approaches to wisdom practically affect things? 
  • Can you describe a time you received godly, wise counsel from a person? Were there consequences? How about foolish counsel from a person? Were there consequences?
  • Do you feel like you’ve grown in wisdom the past year? The past five years? If so, what do you think the contributing factors have been? Can you share examples of growth in wisdom? If you have not grown in wisdom, what do you think the cause is?
  • Which do you struggle with most: prizing wisdom, praying for wisdom or pursuing wisdom?
  • What are some areas you believe you need wisdom in right now? Share openly and honestly.  Are there particular areas you have been unwise/foolish in?
  • Is there anything you’d like to share with this group and ask for their counsel on?
  • What are some specific things you can begin to pray in response to the importance of wisdom? 
  • Make sure to share prayer requests and pray for one another.

Lord’s Supper Instructions

Here are a few guidelines we will be taking as we observe the Lord’s Supper this upcoming Sunday. The first is spiritual and the second is physical. 
 
Spiritual Guidelines:
As we always do for the Lord’s Supper, we remind our congregation that this meal is only for those professing Christians who have been infant baptized and confirmed or been baptized as adults. If you are not a believer, have not been adult baptized or adult confirmed, or are living in unrepentant sin by which you refuse to come to Christ for forgiveness, we ask that you do not participate in the Lord’s Supper. 
 
Secondly, only those who are physically present at our in-person worship service (9:00am and 10:30am) should partake in the meal. This means if you are worshipping with us from your homes through our livestream service, please do not take communion by yourself or with your family. Why are we implementing this restriction? In 1 Corinthians 11 Apostle Paul gives instructions to the church about the Lord’s Supper and five times he mentions a key phrase: “when you come together.” I encourage you to read that passage from verses 17 to 34. Paul is insistent on this point because the Supper is for the gathered church, not the scattered church. The gathering of the saints together is in part what makes Lord’s Supper so special. But also consider 1 Corinthians 10:17 which says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The one bread observed in the Supper expresses the unity of the many who are gathered together. It is a meal to be taken together in a covenantal context. When we are scattered, the Supper cannot express our unity. The Supper’s expression of unity also points us to the future where in heaven God’s people will gather around the marriage feast of the Lamb to dine together, no longer by faith but finally by sight. For those reasons, only those physically present should partake of the Lord’s Supper this Sunday. 
 
Now after all that I said about the importance of the Lord’s Supper, it should sad that those who are not gathered in person cannot come to the Table. But the Lord’s Supper is not only about present nourishment but about future longing. May this temporary time away from the Supper stir your heart with greater desire for the final, heavenly banquet. I encourage you to take the time during Communion to pray, reflect and meditate on the Lord’s work for you. 
 
Physical Guidelines:
In order to practice safety for our members, rather than using the traditional element of a loaf of bread we are using prepackaged communion sets. These individual sets come with juice and wafer. You will need to peel the top of the cup to access the wafer. Also rather than an elder distributing these elements, they will simply be placed on a table in the front of the sanctuary and as you come up you will take one (please touch only the communion set you are taking). We think it is still important to preserve the symbolism of coming up the table and receiving what God invites you to. Next, we will not have you form a line as you come up but you will be asked to come up by the row you’re sitting in so that we can maintain social distance. Lastly, please keep your masks on during this time until we are ready together to partake of the elements. 
 
We hope in this manner, that for those gathered the Lord’s Supper is truly a nourishing and refreshing time.

Sermon Discussion Guide (7/19/20)

“The Shepherd” (Summer Series: Psalm 23)

Scripture: Psalm 23:1-3

Sermon Summary

The author of Psalm 23 was David who was both a king and a shepherd. Although he was familiar with the roles and responsibilities of both, he chose to call God his Shepherd and not his King. This meant he, the greatest king in Israel’s history, identified himself as a weak and helpless sheep and not a strong and mighty lion. As Christians, we also need to identify ourselves with sheep in order to identify Jesus as our good Shepherd. This sheep and Shepherd image is one of the dominant metaphors by which we understand how we are supposed to live as Christians. Psalm 23:1-3 teaches us that Jesus is the good Shepherd who provides and protects his sheep.

Until you confess that you are sheep, God cannot be your shepherd. But the admission of being sheep is not easy because these creatures were incredibly vulnerable, blind and dumb. To admit this about yourself is ego-brushing and pride-killing. The Bible however likens us to sheep over and over again (Ps. 119:176; Is. 53:6; Mt. 9:36; 18:12; 1 Pt. 2:25) and the chief characteristic is that we stray away from God. We are by nature weak and wandering but we do not want to admit this. We want to be strong and self-sufficient like the world tells us to. However Psalm 23 is a song of the weak. It’s a song that boasts not in the sheep’s strength but in the Shepherd’s. That’s why this psalm was known as a psalm of confidence. Our confidence doesn’t derive from ourselves but the Shepherd who condescends to covenant with us.

David declares that the Lord is his Shepherd. This is God’s personal name. And yet what David declares is highly relational, personal and intimate. He says, “The Lord is my shepherd” and not just “a shepherd” or “the shepherd.” Although it is humbling and humiliating to admit you are a sheep, if you are the Lord’s sheep then it is an honor to confess it. This is covenant language – “I am his sheep and he is my Shepherd.” To belong to Shepherd means we will never lack anything. Not because God provides everything we want and desire nor because he gives us everything we think you need. Rather we will never lack with God as our Shepherd because having God himself is all that we need. To have him is to lack nothing because he is more than enough for us.

As our Shepherd God makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. Sheep by nature are nervous and anxious and they will only lie down if they feel safe from predators and satisfied in their thirst and hunger. This means God does two things as our Shepherd. He provides the satisfaction that we need and he protects us in ensuring our safety. Ultimately God does these two things for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus came in the line of David and declared, “I am the good shepherd” in John 10. When he declared, “I lay down my life for the sheep” he did it to provide himself as our perfect sacrifice and protect us from sin’s curse and God’s wrath by taking it upon himself. As the good Shepherd he did this for us and now Jesus becomes our green pastures and still waters. We can lay down and rest in him because he has laid down his life for us. Jesus is the good Shepherd that we need and he does everything to provide and protect us. He is our safety and he is our satisfaction.

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.  
  2. In what ways have you been shaped by the message of the world that says you must be strong and not weak? How do you tend to view and respond to weakness? Give a few examples.
  3. What’s the hardest reason to believe that God is enough for you as your shepherd? Are you learning anything about what it means to say “The Lord is my shepherd and that’s all I need to know”? Share those lessons and the circumstances of those lessons.
  4. How can you get to know the good Shepherd better? How can you experience in deeper, fuller ways the protection and provision of Jesus? How can he become your safety and your satisfaction?

Sermon Discussion Guide (Acts 3:1-10)

“Moving Beyond Beautiful”

Scripture: Acts 3:1-10

Sermon Summary

The apostolic miracles in the New Testament were signs that pointed to realities beyond themselves. When we read about these miracles, we should discern what they reveal and teach us. Peter and John’s miracle at the Beautiful Gate show us this truth: Jesus restores our deepest need for fellowship with God.

The lame beggar sat at the Beautiful Gate in order to ask alms of those entering the temple. He did this in the hopes of receiving either a coin for his wallet or bread for his stomach. But he didn’t know his deepest need. He was more severely crippled than any physical disability could render him. He was spiritually blind and in need of saving. This is why he only asked for and expected silver and gold. We can see ourselves in the crippled man when we look at the content of our prayers and what we’re asking God for. What we pray for most often and most fervently reveals what we believe we need most in our lives. The reformer Martin Luther stated in the first of his ninety-five theses that all of life is repentance. He recognized that the grace and mercy of God were the things he needed most in his life and therefore he centered his prayers around repentance. We should learn this lesson too. All the other things we ask God for are important to him because he is a father who cares for us. But they are always secondary to our utter and deepest need for Jesus.

When Peter tells the beggar that he does not have silver or gold to give him, he is not lowering the man’s expectations because what Peter gives him is far better. He gives him Jesus. In the gospel we have the gift of Christ. Giving and receiving the comforts of Christ and the peace of the cross is not the second best thing to give and receive, they are the sole best thing. In this particular miracle, the physical healing is a good gift but the better gift is spiritual restoration in Jesus’ name. As a result of the healing, the lame man can now enter the temple. Before he only sat at its gate, excluded from worship, prayer and the presence of God. But with healed legs, the first thing he does is enter the temple and praise God. This gift proved far better than any material thing Peter could have given him. Those who receive Christ can enter the temple and go into the Most Holy Place because Christ has torn the veil through the cross. As a result, we have restored fellowship with God which we get to enjoy. Spiritually restored lives should be characterized by thanksgiving and praise to God.

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. What would you say are the things you pray most about? What are the things you most expect from God? And what do these things reveal you believe are most important in your life?
  3. On a scale of one to ten (one = only sharing Jesus when you have nothing else to say and ten = responding with Jesus to anything and everything) how do counsel and dialogue with others who are seeking out your help? Can you describe a time when somebody shared Christ with you as the solution, the comfort, and the encouragement you needed? How did they do it?
  4. Right now in your life are you sitting at the Beautiful Gate or have you moved beyond Beautiful? Are you truly enjoying fellowship with God? Share some of the best ways/practices that you enjoy fellowship with God.

The Well 2020 Pastor’s Letter

Dear Cornerstone Family,

Welcome to The Well 2020! This is certainly not how any of us envisioned our congregational retreat would be when we began planning it at the beginning of the year. And yet I am still so thankful to the Lord for what we can share this weekend for even this is a blessing and gift from him. I am also grateful for your participation in this retreat and the desire to come alongside other thirsty, weary saints and drink of the Living Water.

The truth is, who of us is not tired, beaten and broken like the Samaritan woman from John 4? Who of us doesn’t need to encounter Jesus and receive what he freely offers to us? Now more than ever, we need Jesus. We need his healing in our lives and in our world from all of the division that is befalling the country and even the Church. We need his comfort when disease and viruses run rampant and claim the lives of many and paralyze the rest of us in fear. We need his compassion to see the hurt and suffering of those around us. We need his wisdom to move forward in any helpful way that upholds peace, love, unity, and humility. We need Jesus and we need a whole lot of him. My hope is that you will meet Jesus and rest in him at The Well.

Please receive this care package (thanks to Christina, Helen and Sumi for their work!) and welcome letter in love. I miss you all dearly as I know you all miss one another. It’s because we have biblical community among one another that it hurts and saddens us not to be able to meet together. I look forward to our in-person worship soon and pray when we meet again, we will rejoice together in Christ.

I want to end with four encouragements to our church family:

  1. If you feel safe and comfortable participating in The Well with a friend or another family, please make plans to do so and do it responsibly!
  2. Don’t miss out on the discussion groups through Zoom. I know we are all Zoomed out but our retreat is meant to be about community fostering and in the small way we can pursue this, let’s make an intentional effort.
  3. Let’s all participate in Saturday’s photo scavenger hunt and in this way, pursue fellowship together. Not only will we pick a winner, but we’ll show the results to the church!
  4. Pray for the retreat, Pastor Walton, Edmund, for one another and for yourself!

Be blessed this weekend in the refreshing grace of our good, good Savior!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Andrew

Resuming In-Person Worship

Plans for Resuming Cornerstone’s In-Person Worship 

Dear Cornerstone family,

For the past three months we have not met in person for worship in order to do three things: 1) love our neighbor by flattening the curve 2) obey the civil authorities God has placed over us and 3) protect and care for our own church members. It’s important to understand that from the beginning it was never about just one of these issues but about all three. This was done to honor God while being a good witness to the watching world. We also need to recognize that the worship of God was always essential, whether it was acknowledged or not by any governing leader. This is why worship was never “canceled” when we stopped meeting physically. It was just moved to an online format.

Now when we began this, we had no idea what the end of this would look like. But now we do. I’m excited to announce that beginning June 14 we will begin resuming our in-person worship. In order to be as safe as possible, we will begin by implementing a specific action plan. This plan will be modified as time goes on and our state restrictions continue to change. I do want to say from the beginning that our action plan was self-consciously formulated with the belief that it is wiser to err on the side of “too cautious” than “not cautious enough.”

Here is how things will work beginning June 14:

  • In-person worship will be done on a rotational basis according to community groups. All of our members and most of our attendees are assigned to a CG. If you are new and not in a CG or you are unsure if you’re in a CG, please send me an email to make sure you are included.
  • If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html) please refrain from attending service. Please exercise discretion. If you are unsure whether you should or shouldn’t attend, please contact Pastor Andrew.
  • We will limit each Sunday in-person gathering to less than 25 people while we also continue to live-stream our worship.
  • Each week a specific group will be identified and designated as meeting in-person. On that week an email will go out only to the members of that particular group asking to let me know if you are attending that Sunday’s in person service.
  • If a particular group’s attendance is significantly low, we will open it up to the next group but never exceed 25 people.
  • There will be designated pews in order to practice a proper and safe six feet distance.
  • We ask that you wear a mask in the church building and during service. If you do not have a mask or forget one, we will have masks available for you.
  • Our singing will be reduced to minimize possible exposure. We will have one song of approach, one song of grace and either only a chorus or one stanza for our song of response.
  • Bulletins will not be passed out but rather sent through email.
  • Offering will not be collected during service. You can continue to give online or collection baskets will be placed in the back of the sanctuary.
  • We will refrain from handshakes and hugs during the passing the peace.
  • Fellowship after service will be canceled.
  • The pew Bibles will be temporarily removed from the sanctuary and you are encouraged to bring your own.
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed in stations for use.
  • It is recommended you use the restroom before arriving at church. The restrooms will have posted signs with instructions on wiping down all surfaces touched.

Friends, I understand that many of us are on different sides of the spectrum when it comes to how comfortable we are resuming in-person worship. As your pastor I do not expect full agreement on this issue in the church. The reality is that there are some who are ready to come back to in-person worship as soon as possible and there are some who are still very hesitant, even with the restrictions lifted and guidelines in place. This also means that some will think our policies and procedures moving forward are too much and totally unnecessary while others will think these policies are still not enough and not meeting is still the best option. Of course many will be somewhere in the middle of this.

With this being the case, here is what I ask from our church. I ask that we move forward in unity and humility. There will be a temptation to be self-righteous as we move forward and possibly even villainizing others whose opinion differ from your own.  You may be tempted to think, “Why are people so afraid of coming to church? Don’t they know the media has just scared them with false data?” Or you may be tempted to think, “Why are people so eager to come to church? Don’t they know the statistics and the latest studies?” Whichever side you may lean toward, let us put on the humility of Christ and refrain from judging one another and each others’ motives

I also ask that you move forward considering the interests of others above your own. I appreciate the words of Brett McCracken who helpfully wrote, “You might think these precautions are a needless overreaction. But here’s the thing: even if it turns out you’re right, can you not sacrifice your ideal for a season, out of love for others who believe the precautions are necessary? Even if you personally think it is silly, or even cowardly, for someone to stay home even after the church is open again on Sundays, can you not heed Paul’s wisdom in Romans 14: ‘Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother’? Or 1 Corinthians 8:9: ‘Be careful, however, that your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.’” Let us exhibit great Christlikeness in this moment.

Let me conclude on this last matter. We have intentionally tried to keep everything about our Sunday worship as “normal” as possible. From the same formatting of our slides to the same stage background! In a season where nothing has been normal, we wanted the Lord’s Day worship to be the one thing that remained familiar. This is why we didn’t switch to pre-recorded services even though this would have allowed our service to “look better.” Although we couldn’t be united physically, we wanted to at least be united chronologically at the same hour. And so worshipping together through live-stream has been a blessing. I am grateful to the Lord for the technology to do this and the servants who have made this so seamless for us. However, this is no way to live the Christian life. Online worship is a crutch for a broken ankle. We are hobbling on by. We are not running and jumping as we should. This does not mean our Sunday worship is less than true worship. But it does mean that we are missing out on the fullness of worship because we are not gathered as God’s people. Live-stream service is a temporary compromise and not a permanent replacement. I hope we are all eagerly longing to worship together soon and may the Lord make it possible!

Thanks for your patience and your perseverance in this season. If you have other questions, comments or concerns please feel free to let me know.

Looking forward to worshipping in person soon,

Pastor Andrew

Sermon Discussion Guide (Matthew 21:12-13)

“The Godliness of Righteous Anger”

Scripture: Matthew 21:12-13

Sermon Summary

Justice is not a liberal, social or political word. It is a biblical word because justice is an attribute of God that his image bearers are responsible to practice. The murder of George Floyd comes on the heels of many other incidents of injustice such as Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Now more than ever, the Church of Jesus Christ as well as followers of Christ must respond. The easiest way is to simply ignore the issues, mind our own business and continue to work hard. But the way of the cross requires dying to ourselves. It requires being righteously angry at the injustices taking place in God’s world. This kind of anger is cruciform because anger that faces injustice is draining, frustrating and wearies the soul. But it is the kind of anger God himself adorns. This means righteous anger at injustice is good and godly for the Christian.

Jesus displayed this kind of anger when he entered the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and drove out those selling animals for sacrifice. But it was righteous anger because he was responding to the injustices committed in the temple. This business commerce was taking place in the court of the Gentiles giving them no room to properly worship and pray. God’s vision was that the temple would be a house of prayer for all peoples but the Gentiles were being denied the right to do that. Also the money changers and the sellers were exploiting those who traveled to worship at the temple by raising prices. Thus Jesus calls them robbers. They particularly targeted the poor who purchased pigeons to sacrifice, an Old Testament provision made specifically for those who could not afford sheep or oxen. Jesus’ anger was directed at these injustices.

As Christians we are called to imitate Christ and follow his ways. This means our desire for justice and our disgust over injustice is not a social issue but a sanctification issue. To look more like Christ means we get righteously angry at the injustices around us, particularly the racial injustice in our country. What will transform us to be these kinds of people? The gospel. Jesus’ confrontation in the temple foreshadowed his work on the cross. Whereas in the temple Jesus upheld the justice of God while condemning the injustice of sinful men, on the cross Jesus upheld the justice of God while being condemned for the injustice of sinful men. More specifically Jesus was condemned in our place by the justice of God so that we could receive forgiveness and mercy.

This gospel changes us in two ways. First, it’ll give us a desire to condemn injustice. The death of Christ shows us how much God hates injustice and the lengths he went to eradicate it. So we begin to condemn injustice in all of its shapes and forms. Second, it’ll give us a desire to contend for justice. The death of Christ shows us how much God loves justice and the lengths he’ll went to uphold it. So we begin to contend for justice wherever and however it is called for. Gospel-centered Christians then become the strongest and most courageous advocates for justice in society. We realize that being righteously angry at injustice is not something to suppress or smother as it leads us to right actions that conform to God’s desire for justice. We must believe that when it comes to injustice, an apathetic response is a pathetic response.

Here are eight things justice loving Christians can do. 1) Repent of what you see in yourself. 2) Lament over what you see around you. 3) Listen and learn from the voices and experiences of others. 4) Speak up for justice and speak out against injustice because everybody is made in God’s image. 5) Model for the world what it means to follow Jesus because we are made in the image of a justice loving God. 6) Teach our children it is heroic and strong to stand up for justice and cowardly and weak to dismiss injustice 7) pray for God’s reconciling work through Christ to bring peace to the world. 8) Long for the day when God will right every wrong and justice rolls down like waters (Amos 5:24).

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share with one another how all of this makes you feel (the recent events, the history of events, the responses of people). How do you tend to respond? Be honest.
  2. What have you learned through conversations or other mediums that has helped you process the issue of racism and racial injustice, particularly in America? What has been eye-opening? What are some of the questions you are still wrestling with?
  3. How does a bible-believing, Jesus-following, gospel-centered Christian understand, interpret, react and respond differently than any other person who is also aware and concerned about racism and racial injustice? Or is there not/should there not be a difference?
  4. Which of the eight suggested things do you need to work on most? Can you unpack and elaborate on it?
  5. Make a list of things the community group should pray for and lament over. Then pray and lament over those things.

CG Discussion Guide (Acts 2:42-47)

“Grace Marked Generosity” Acts: To the End of the Earth

Scripture: Acts 2:42-47

Sermon Summary

The Christian faith is not just about knowledge and intellectual assent but about practice and intentional action. We live out what we believe. Some of the most difficult things about Christian discipleship are the things that address very concrete, tangible things in our lives. Acts 2:42-47 gives a picture of the early believers who were transformed by the gospel. This passage teaches us that the mark of God’s grace in our lives translates into generosity displayed in our lives.

The disciples who formed the first community of believers were genuinely transformed Christians. When they repented and believed the gospel of grace, Luke tells us that their souls were saved indicating that they were more than nominal Christians. They had truly repented of their sin and exercised saving faith in Christ. If we have been truly touched by God’s grace we will be transformed by that grace to do tangible acts of grace to one another. One of the clearest evidence of this is generosity. 

The practice of the believers was to sell what they had and give generously to those who had need. But it’s hard to be radically and sacrificially generous when we feel we have a right to what is ours. The gospel frees us to view our rights in a new perspective. When we are united to Jesus by faith, our lives become patterned after his. And we see in Christ’s life that he gave up his rights for us in order that he could generously share those things with us. And when this grips our hearts and it sinks in, Acts 2 comes to life for us in a whole new way. We can actually become generous in a truly Christlike way. Eugene Peterson says that the gospel transforms our pronouns from “I” to “we” and “mine” to “ours.”

When God’s grace marks our generosity, he invites us to participate in his work of generosity in the world. He turns us from a stagnant pool that collects and hoards blessings to be a mighty river from which his generosity flows to others. And one of the most tangible ways, although certainly not the only way, is to be generous with our money. The Bible reminds us that money itself is not bad. It makes for a wonderful servant but an awful master. Generosity is a constant practice of reminding ourselves of this truth. This is why wealth is not antithetical to the kingdom of God. It is only antithetical when it rivals God for the throne of our hearts.

God calls us to generosity out of sacrifice, not out of abundance. This is the pattern of God’s own giving in John 3:16. He gave his one and only Son for us. This is not just a verse about God’s love but his generosity. He gave to the point where it hurt him even when we didn’t deserve it. In the same way we can then give in a way that hurts a little. The grace that the early believers experienced is the same grace at work in our own lives. We can begin to be generous in four ways:

1. Giving tithes and offerings to the local church to support its work of kingdom advancement according to our core values.

2. Volunteering locally in acts and areas of mercy and justice that is generous in all forms of currency (money, time and energy).

3. Personally supporting and giving to various missionaries, church plants, organizations and institutions according to God-given convictions.

4. Meeting the personal needs of our community through intentional acts that seek to serve others.

As difficult as grace marked generosity is, God doesn’t call us to do anything that he doesn’t also empower us to do. We must remember that his grace will be our fuel to give when we don’t want to and it’ll be our comfort to give when we are scared to.

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. What are some of the enemies of radical, sacrificial generosity? Which do you struggle with most? Jonathan Edwards said the difficulty with generosity is not that you can’t do it but that you can’t do what God says while keeping what you want. Can you identify an instance of this?
  3. What is your general attitude toward money? Have you ever experienced how money makes for a good servant in your life? What about an experience of money as an awful master?
  4. God calls us to be rivers that channel his generosity to others, not a pool that collects it for ourselves. Can you recount an experience of receiving somebody else’s generosity? Are there ways you can begin to cultivate practices of generosity in your own life?