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?

CG Discussion Guide (Acts 2:22-41)

“Jesus is the Good News”  Acts: To the End of the Earth

Scripture: Acts 2:22-41

Sermon Summary

What was most characteristic about Peter’s sermon at Pentecost were two things. First his sermon was radically Christ-centered. This means the sermon found its focal point on Christ, rather than simply mentioning Jesus a few times. Second his sermon was radically Bible-grounded. The sermon was not just inspired thoughts by the preacher but preaching that came from the inspired Word. The unique content of Peter’s sermon was the gospel: God’s saving message of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and exaltation. The gospel message is the good news of Jesus. Or put another way, Jesus is the good news. Jesus himself, not the benefits we derive from him, is the primary blessing of the gospel. This is important to affirm because it keeps Jesus front and center in the Christian faith. Jesus never falls into the background hidden behind the benefits that we receive from him. This keeps our focus on loving, honoring and worshiping Jesus.

#1: Jesus’ Life (2:22)

Peter’s sermon begins with Jesus who came to us in full humanity and full humility. As a man from Nazareth, Jesus identified himself as one of us. But his life was full of mighty works and signs that pointed to the work he came to do. He would restore the brokenness of the world and fix every wrong. His miracles were all glimpses of his power and his promise to one day do exactly that. Jesus’ life is good news.

#2: Jesus’ Death (2:23)

Jesus died in order to fully pay for man’s sins and take the punishment that we deserved. There’s a mystery involved in his death. How do we balance the mystery of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? Although this is a question for us, it neither bothered nor mattered to the original audience. They were so cut to the heart about Jesus that their concerns were how they should respond. Peter tells them that repentance and faith in Christ will lead to the forgiveness of sins. Trusting in Christ is the only way their sins will be dealt with. The same is true of us today. Christ’s death as our substitute was sufficient for us that we don’t need to any anything else to his death. Jesus’ death is good news.

#3: Jesus’ Resurrection (2:24-32)

Death did not have the final say over the Author of Life. He was raised from the dead three days later, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies. As the holy, innocent and righteous One, God could not leave him for dead. He was raised in a glorious resurrection as a vindication and verification of all that he claimed. His resurrection was the seal that all who trust in him will also share in his eternal life and bodily resurrection. Without the resurrection, the Christian faith would all be in vain. Jesus’ resurrection is good news.

#4: Jesus’ Exaltation (2:33-35)

Now Jesus is exalted in heaven as the reigning King. His enemies are made his footstool as he rules and protects his people. Jesus does not leave his people unprotected and defenseless. He continually subjects evil to himself until he will vanquish evil forever when he returns in his final judgment. Jesus saved his people as a compassionate and loving lamb but he protects his people as a strong and mighty lion. Jesus’ exaltation is good news.

Jesus is the good news that we celebrate. The Giver is always better than the gifts, the Benefactor better than the benefits, the Person better than the prizes. When we thank God for the gospel, we don’t thank him for the things he gives us. We thank him for Jesus – his life, death, resurrection and exaltation.

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. How do you define the gospel? Everybody should share their working definition.
  3. If you ask ten different people to define the gospel, you will most likely get ten different answers. Do you think Christians should have a uniform answer so that our answers aren’t contradictory? What are the pros/cons of having a uniform answer? What are the pros/cons of having a diversity of answers? How do you think an unbeliever would interpret the fact that he/she would hear as many different answers as people that he/she asked?
  4. No one part of the gospel is more important than the other (life, death, resurrection, ascension/exaltation). Why do you think Christians focus and emphasize on one more than the others? Which do you tend to neglect the most? In what ways does this imbalance affect your Christian life? How would your faith be improved if you paid more attention to the other emphases? 

Ruth 4 Reflection and Questions

Please use the following questions to aid in your own personal meditation on Ruth 4 as well as for your group discussion. 

You can find the sermon on our YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC_MUI4195De1LS4CGgsiNA

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.

Discussion Questions for Ruth.

  • Introduce yourselves if you do not all know each other.
  • Which part of Ruth 4 sticks out to you or speaks out to you the most?
  • Are you a person of your word?  Would others agree or disagree with your own self-assessment?  Do you see how following through with what you speak is an issue of godliness and character? 
  • Has there ever been a time when you had to balance between being innocent like a dove and wise like a serpent (Mt. 10:16)?  Are there any examples where you erred by compromising your innocent/integrity in trying to be “wise”?  In what ways do you feel the pressure of the world to be one more than the other?
  • Showing hesed love (putting the interests of others above yourself) often requires some kind of cost.  Share a time when you had to pay a cost or when somebody else paid a cost to show you this kind of love.  Make the connection between the gospel and benefiting/blessings others above yourself. 
  • Marriage is two becoming one flesh, a covenantal union.  In a “me-centered” marriage, what things remain separate and distinct between spouses?  What kind of things are joined together in a biblical marriage?
  • If you are married, share how you came to know you wanted to/were ready to marry your spouse.  Have you and your spouse done a good job protecting and guarding your marriage union by finding time to talk and enter each others’ lives regularly?  What has helped?  What are the obstacles? 
  • If you are single, share what you expect are the signs and indicators that you are ready to marry somebody.  In what other ways do you think marriage is a union of two becoming one flesh?  Are there things about a person or their history that would be a red flag for you?
  • Can you share a time in your life that God’s hand was at work and was perceptible in the midst of the situation?  Can you share a time when you only saw and sensed God’s hand at work after something happened and you looked back on it?  Which experiences have you had more of?  What does this tell you about God’s providence in your life?
  • God cares about the small things in life but he also plans and directs our lives with the big things in mind.  Is there any situation in your life right now where you need to know and trust in this truth about God? 
  • What lessons have been most pressed on your heart through the study of Ruth?  What have you been most challenged by? 

CG Discussion Guide (for May 10, 2020)

“A Greater Response of Love”  (Paul Yu)

Scripture: Luke 7:36-50

Sermon Summary

Jesus is invited over to Simon the Pharisee’s house. Everything seems normal, until a scandalous woman interrupts the scene uninvited by affectionately anointing Jesus’s feet. After this dramatic act, the scene sharply shifts over to the Pharisee’s self-righteous, judgmental attitude against the sinful woman and Christ. Jesus then rebukes the Pharisee by applying a parable of a lesser and greater debtor. In Jesus’s rebuke, we are challenged to see our self-righteous attitude exposed. The moral of the story condemns the Pharisee and commends the sinful woman. The woman is then declared forgiven, while Christ’s divine authority to forgive sin is displayed. All in all, this passage teaches us how a self-awareness of sin draws us to a greater love for our Savior. 

#1: The Setting (7:36-38)

As Jesus performs many mighty deeds, everyone starts to notice him as a great prophet and his popularity grows like wildfire. Simon is curious about all this hype and throws a banquet for Jesus at his house. What seems like a relaxed party suddenly becomes a conflict as soon as a sinful woman approaches Jesus. This provocative woman stands before Jesus pouring special ointment she brought, while weeping and wiping her tears with her hair as she continually kisses Jesus on his feet. This peculiar act is deemed inappropriate as it breaks all social norms. The story then shifts to the Pharisee’s judgmental reaction. 

#2  The Self-Righteous Judgment (7:39-43) 

Simon’s hateful judgment targets both Christ and the woman. For Simon, the woman’s acts were not viewed as a genuine act of love, but a scandalous act of lust. Simon’s hardened heart was unmoved by the woman’s tears, which reveals his contemptuous attitude that stems from self-righteousness. It becomes clear that Simon invited Jesus to judge whether Jesus was the great prophet everyone claimed he was. In Simon’s eyes, what was more scandalous than the woman’s act was that Jesus received this inappropriate act without stopping it. Simon strongly believed that if you associate yourself with sinners, you condone their sinful lifestyle. Thus, Simon denies in his heart that Jesus is a true prophet for being morally lax by accepting sinners. 

Like a metal detector that detects metal objects from afar, we have sin detectors preinstalled in our hearts that detect defects in others. We are all prone to have a natural inclination to detect other people’s wrong doings, but for some odd reason our sensors malfunction whenever it tries to pick up signals of our own blind spots and shortcomings. We resemble Simon as we fail to recognize our own sin, while finding fault in others. By failing to see our sinfulness, we deem the gospel unnecessary and reject Christ like Simon. 

#3 The Self-Awareness of Sin (7:44-50) 

Where the Pharisee misjudges Jesus by denying him as a prophet, the sinful woman correctly identifies Jesus to be her Savior in her self-awareness of sin. The woman’s acts of greater love are contrasted against the absence of love in Simon. We see here how self-righteousness blinds us from seeing who we truly are and who Christ truly is. It is only when we recognize our great need that we can truly see the great deed of the Savior and respond in love. The climax of the story is reached when Christ authoritatively declares the sinful woman forgiven. People immediately question Jesus’s authority to forgive sins. Knowing this in their hearts, Jesus says to the woman again, “your faith has saved you; go in peace (v. 50).” Not only was Simon’s denial of Jesus being a prophet completely mistaken, but Jesus vindicates himself to be far greater than a prophet as he possesses divine authority to forgive sin. 

Jesus not only reveals his divine authority, but he also reveals himself to be a friend of sinners and an enemy of the proud. At the end of the day, who do you see yourself to be? Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the sinful woman? You can only be a friend or an enemy of Jesus, for there is no such thing as neutrality. Whether or not you admit it, there is a Simon in us all. In light of this reality, God calls you to humble yourselves and see Christ’s tender heart towards sinners, so you too can walk in the sweet assurance of the sinful woman that “your sins are forgiven.”

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. In what ways do self-righteous attitudes and tendencies manifest in your life? Do you tend to detect other people’s faults, while ignoring your own blind spots? Where do you think your self-righteousness stems from?
  3. How can you grow in a greater awareness of Christ’s love as you simultaneously grow in a greater self-awareness of your sin?  What’s the result of not having this balanced? 
  4. How does the gospel confront your self-righteousness and grow you in repentance? What are some instances when God’s amazing grace came to you when you were Pharisaic?  How did you respond?

CG Discussion Guide (For May 3, 2020)

“Call Upon the Name”  Acts: To the End of the Earth

Scripture: Acts 2:14-21

Sermon Summary

When Peter preached his first sermon at Pentecost the Holy Spirit anointed his preaching so that three thousand souls were saved.  This was not the result of Peter’s eloquence or abilities but the Spirit working powerfully through him.  Today the same Holy Spirit indwells and empowers believers to share the hope of the gospel with others.  Christians live in the reality that Christ will return one day so we should call upon the name of Jesus and be saved.

#1: The Promise

Peter explains what’s happening at Pentecost by declaring it is a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 found in the Old Testament.  Joel prophesied that the Spirit would fall on all flesh, meaning all kinds of people without discrimination and distinction.  Gender, age and social class would no longer be dividing markers.  The Spirit wouldn’t distinguish people the way we do.  In fact, the Spirit falls on those whom he chooses by his will, not by our qualifications or preparations.  When the Spirit fills a person, he regenerates their heart giving them faith and repentance so that they are saved in Christ.  If the Spirit can fall on anybody and bring them to Christ, then we must not lose hope on those we think would reject the gospel or have rejected it in the past. 

The book of Acts records case after case of the most unlikely people coming to faith in Christ because the Spirit was at work in them.  This encourages those of us who are frustrated when loved ones seem to want nothing to do with the gospel.  We should not give up, lose heart or become cynical, deciding in our hearts that there’s no way they would ever believe.  It’s not our job to save, only to share.  We trust the Spirit will convict and call people to Christ.  Then everybody who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. 

#2: The Urgency

Peter reinterprets Joel 2:28 by telling us that the last days have come upon us because the Spirit has come.  We now live in the last days.  But we live sandwiched between two times.  The last days have begun and we are anticipating the day of the Lord, the day of Christ’s return and final judgment.  That day is described in Acts 2:19-20 as a day of blood, fire, smoke and darkness.  On that day all humanity will have to give an account before God.  Those who call upon Christ will be honored as they are forgiven and justified.  They will receive a crown of glory because of their Savior.  Those who have not called upon Christ will be humiliated as they stand guilty before God.  They will receive a righteous judgment because of their sins.  This is why for believers it’ll be a great and magnificent day but for unbelievers it will be one of dread and terror. 

The difference is accounted for by Christ.  In Luke 23 we see the darkness of that final judgment falling upon Jesus as he’s crucified.  This is a sign that God’s future judgment has broken into the present and Jesus takes on God’s judgment for those who look to him in faith.  This is why on the day of the Lord believers who call upon Jesus’ name will be saved.  But for those who don’t call upon his name, God’s divine wrath and anger are still awaiting them in heaven.  Because we don’t know when the day of the Lord will be, our lives are filled with urgency.  We may be prepared to face that day but how many in our lives are not prepared for it? 

If we live with that urgency we should begin sharing gospel hope regularly.  Peter spoke and shared and the Spirit used that to bring people to faith in Christ.  He saved people by using Peter’s witness.  God wants to do the same with us.  This is why Jesus sent us his Spirit, so that we would have power to be his witnesses in this world (Acts 1:8).  Would we believe that the gospel promise really is wonderful: call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.  Would we also believe that this promise has an expiration date as the day of the Lord is coming.  Until then we should share gospel hope with those in our lives that they might call upon the name of Jesus and be saved.

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. Is there somebody you have shared gospel hope with before and they rejected it?  How does that make you feel sharing the gospel with them again?  What are common excuses you make to not share the gospel with certain people? 
  3. How do you balance feeling the urgency of the day of the Lord while trusting in God’s sovereignty and timing?  What errors/dangers should we be aware of by emphasizing one over the other?
  4. Is there a particular sermon or book or talk or verse or quote about the gospel that you could share or have shared with others?  What is it?  Would you be willing to share it this week?

*In your prayer time, pray for one person specifically that they might call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. 

CG Discussion Guide (For April 26, 2020)

“Lessons from Pentecost”  Acts: To the End of the Earth

Scripture: Acts 2:5-13

Sermon Summary

Acts 2 and the day of Pentecost cannot be downplayed in its significance for the Church.  It marked a new era of redemptive history as the Spirit was poured out on all believers to indwell us.  Although there will never be nor does there need to be another Pentecost, we still need the ministry of the Spirit today.  From Acts 2:5-13 we learn that the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son of God and unifies the people of God. 

In Jerusalem a diverse, international crowd of diaspora Jews were gathered.  The Spirit came upon the disciples and supernaturally spoke through them in the language of those gathered.  The miracle was that the disciples spoke a language they did not know, not that the people heard a language that wasn’t being spoken.  The Spirit was using the disciples to witness the gospel.  In this way God was reversing the curse of Babel (Genesis 11).  In that story, mankind tried to reach God on their own by building a tower up to heaven.  In response, God judgment was not only to scatter them but to confuse their language.  But at Pentecost God sent his Spirit to overcome that language barrier.  The curse at Babel was that people were divided but the blessing at Pentecost was that people were unified by the Spirit, being called to Jesus. 

From this event we learn at least two lessons about the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we can still expect today in the 21st century. 

#1: The Spirit’s ministry is to glorify God’s Son

The Spirit’s ministry is primarily Christ-centered, not Christian-centered.  It’s about shining the spotlight on Jesus, not on us.  He fell on the disciples and gave them the gift of tongues not for their own edification or experience but to exalt Christ.  Through their utterance, many were able to hear about the mighty works of God which climaxes in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19-20).  Jesus attests to the Spirit’s role and ministry in John 16:13-14 when he tells his disciples that the Spirit glorifies the Son.  The Spirit is honored not when he gets the glory but when Christ gets the glory.

The Spirit continues his ministry to us and in the church by constantly directing our thoughts and our affections back to Christ.  He turns our eyes to see and savor the Savior.  We should then pray and plead with the Spirit to work in our lives so that we make much of Jesus and fall more in love with him.  We should ask the Spirit to magnify and exalt Christ in our lives through our speech, actions and thoughts.  Then the Spirit will give us incredible experiences and deep emotions that are centered on Jesus and not himself or ourselves. 

#2: The Spirit’s ministry is to unify God’s people

The Spirit united God’s people not by removing diversity nor by conforming everybody to a certain culture and language.  He united people by preserving their diversity and uniting them to Jesus.  This shows that our unity is not based on uniformity.  Christ unites us by including our diversity, differences and distinctions.  The curse of Babel was division, not diversity.  So when the international crowd hears the gospel in their own language, it’s a glimpse of heaven.  Revelation 5:9-10 and 7:9 both attest the vision of the redeemed from every tribe, language, people and nation worshiping Jesus.  God is pleased with the diversity of his people.  It’s naive to dismiss this because God doesn’t.  In fact God celebrates it as he unifies his people by the Spirit to his Son. 

When we understand God’s heart, we need to grasp two truths.  First, there are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God.  Often minority groups feel less valid to the majority, dominant groups.  As a result we may resent our status and envy another’s.  But the gospel has never been about shedding off our unique identity and adopting another one.  Rather the gospel says Christ loves the diversity of his Bride so he purchased each unique person with his blood.  This truth elevates those who think they’re second class and it humbles those who think others are second class.  Second, we are all necessary citizens in the kingdom of God.  The Spirit reversed Babel’s division, yet maintained Babel’s diversity because this was God’s plan.  He wants to display his glory through the diversity of his redeemed people.  Because God is not colorblind we should not be.  Rather we acknowledge how we’re necessary for the beautiful mural of God’s people that he is painting. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. How does it make you feel to say that the Spirit doesn’t seek attention for himself but drives it to Christ?  Can you think of any other part of the Bible that affirms this truth? 
    • Have you ever had a Spirit-given extraordinary experience or intense emotions of deep love and longing for Jesus?  Could you describe it?  Were you able to tell it was Spirit led?  How? 
  3. In your experience do you feel like churches tend to emphasize “unity in diversity” or “unity through conformity”?  What do you think about this statement: In the church we shouldn’t see color (i.e. we should be “colorblind”) but only see each other as Christians?  What could be harmful about such a statement? 
  4. Is there something from another person’s diverse background that helped you learn something new about God, the gospel, the Christian life, etc?  What do you think your particular diverse background can teach or help others learn about God, the gospel, the Christian life, etc?

Ruth 3 Reflection and Questions

Please use the following questions to aid in your own personal meditation on Ruth 3 as well as for your group discussion. 

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.

Discussion Questions for Ruth.

  • Introduce yourselves if you do not all know each other.
  • Which part of Ruth 3 sticks out to you or speaks out to you the most?
  • Hesed love considers the interest of others above your own.  What is the biggest obstacle to showing others this kind of love?  Who can you begin to show hesed love to right now in your life?  And how can you practically in one or two ways begin to show it?
  • What difference will “Christ-centeredness” make in a relationship?  What’s the danger of making something else a priority? 
  • How have you idealized or idolized romance in relationships?  Has that ever left you disappointed, frustrated and bitter?  If so, how and why?  What’s the solution? 
  • For women: How can you strive to be a worthy woman?  Is there an aspect of Ruth’s life and character that resonates with you, challenges you, inspires you, etc?  Elaborate.
  • For men: How can you strive to be a worthy man? Is there an aspect of Boaz’s life and character that resonates with you, challenges you, inspires you, etc?  Elaborate.
  • What are some prayers you have been asking of the Lord where you sense he might be giving you the opportunity to be the answer to your own request?    
  • It’s countercultural to say love is a commitment and covenant rather than an emotion and an experience.  What have you been learning in your own life about this kind of hesed love, both in terms of receiving it from God and giving it to others? 
  • How much attention do you give to being attractive outwardly versus inwardly?  What do you gain when you’re considered beautiful physically (attractive, fit, fashionable, etc)?  What do you gain when you’re considered beautiful spiritually (godly, generous, God-fearing, etc)?
  • Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt the Lord was emptying you?  Please share.  In what ways could you sense he was also promising you restoration? 
  • What’s the difference between trying to put your hands on life’s steering wheel versus “waiting” on God (Ruth 3:1 vs. 3:18)?  Can you share a specific example?   How do you begin to rest knowing that God is not at rest? 

CG Discussion Guide (For April 19, 2020)

“What’s a Spirit-filled Christian?”  Acts: To the End of the Earth

Scripture: Acts 2:1-4

Sermon Summary

Acts tells the story of Christ’s ministry through his Church by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  This means we should desire to be God-glorying, Christ-centered and Spirit-filled.  As the Church is its members, Christians are to be Spirit-filled as well.  Although Pentecost will never occur again, Luke draws our attention to three things that Spirit does when he falls on the disciples for the first time.  His description is rich and full of Old Testament themes and images that he uses to highlights these truths.  We see the Spirit helps believers live out ordinary gospel realities every day.  Spirit-filled Christians live in the realities that they are a new creation, never alone and needed by others. 

#1: Being Spirit-filled, you’re a new creation (2:1-2)

The mighty rushing wind that came upon the believers came to breathe new life into the disciples.  God was giving birth to the New Testament Church.  The imagery is similar to that found in the creation of Adam in Genesis 2 and the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37.  In Acts 2:2 there is a new creation happening by the Spirit’s presence.  Believers today who are filled with the Spirit are reminded that in Christ they are a new creation.  They no longer have to live enslaved and chained to their old sin masters because Christ has freed them.  It’s easier to continue to live under sin’s influence and the accusation of guilt than it is to live in the reality that we have been set free and are declared righteous.  So we need the Spirit to remind us that we have forgiveness, freedom, adoption, and victory in Christ as his new creation. 

#2: Being Spirit-filled, you’re never alone (2:3)

The tongues of fire that rested on the disciples was a sign of God’s presence come to be with them.  Fire was a common Old Testament image that represented God’s presence as can be seen in the many examples in Exodus.  By coming to rest on each disciple, the Spirit was symbolizing that he had come to be with them permanently.  No longer temporarily as in the Old Testament but with us always as the seal of our redemption.  Because Christ was cast away on the cross for us, we can be sure God will never cast us from his presence.  The Spirit never abandons us.  God never turns his back to us.  When we sin or seek after other loves we may not feel the presence of God but God will never leave us or forsake us.  We need the Spirit to remind us that even in the deepest valleys and the darkest alleys we are never alone.

#3: Being Spirit-filled, you’re needed by others (2:4)

The Spirit filled all the disciples and gave them the gift of other languages.  This was the firstfruits of what God would do to every believer.  In the Old Testament the Spirit only came upon certain people but it was always the hope he would fall on every member.  Because of Pentecost every Christian is filled with the Spirit and as a result is given a spiritual gift.  God has entrusted and equipped every Christian with gifts because that is his plan for growing and edifying his people.  Every Spirit-filled Christian is given a gift to use because it is needed by others.  To have a gift and not use it to serve is to rob people!  We all have a ministry to do, a role to play and a responsibility to fill because we are needed by others.  That role may vary people to person but we need to find out what it is and serve.  The Spirit reminds us that every believer has a gift that others need because by it we build each other up. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. What did/do you typically envision a Spirit-filled Church and a Spirit-filled Christian to be like?  What are the common things that are associated with being filled with the Spirit?  How did you come about those ideas? 
  3. Please explain which of the three gospel realities you most easily or regularly forget.  Or put another way, which of the gospel realities do you need to be reminded of the most? 
    • What do you think are the reasons you forget these daily truths? 
    • What difference would it make in your Christian life if the Spirit kept these gospel realities daily on the forefront on your mind and heart? 

CG Discussion Guide (For April 12, 2020)

“Christ’s Victory is the Christian’s Victory”  Easter Sunday

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Sermon Summary

Now more than ever we are confronted with death all around us.  We cannot escape the reality of its presence in our lives and in our world.  What is a Christian supposed to do?  Where is our hope?  When death seems to loom so large over us, Easter reminds us that Christ is still bigger and stronger.  1 Corinthians 15 assures believers that Christ’s victory over death is the Christian’s victory over death. 

#1: The Trumpet (15:50-53)

Death is referred to as sleep because death is not final for the Christian.  Because Christ resurrected from the dead, he defeated death.  One day he will sound forth the last trumpet signaling his final victory over death and when he returns he will raise the dead to resurrection life.  At the sound of that trumpet, all those united to Jesus by faith will undergo a change where their perishable bodies will become imperishable and their mortal bodies will become immortal.  When this happens, we will share in Christ’s resurrection life for eternity in God’s kingdom.  There, we will dance in the king’s banquet hall, dine at his table, and when it’s over we’ll retire to our own room in the castle because his kingdom will be ours. 

#2: The Taunt (15:54-55)

Paul teaches Christians this saying which is kind of a taunt against death.  He strings together two verses from the Old Testament (Is. 25:8 and Hos. 13:14): “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  When death tries to bully us and corners us into fear and anxiety, we remember we can taunt him because Christ’s victory over death gives us power to stand up to it.  Death has no victory or sting because Christ defeated it and rendered it powerless.  This is why death is likened to sleep for the Christian.  When we close our eyes for the last time here on earth in the midst of pain and suffering, we will open our eyes for the first time in heaven and it’ll be eternal glory and life. 

#3: The Thanks (15:56-57)

Our lives then should be marked with gratitude and thanksgiving in praise to God because Christ has given us this victory over death.  Jesus entered the ring to fight death on Good Friday and he left the ring victorious on Easter Sunday.  But Jesus wasn’t fighting for earthly riches or glory.  He fought for you as his prize.  But in order to win you and defeat death, he had to “lose” as he took death’s sting in your place on the cross.  But in his ultimate triumph, Christ was raised the third day in declaration that even death could not hold him down.  We give God thanks for Christ’s and now our victory. 

#4: The Therefore (15:58)

If we believe that every Christian shares in Christ’s victory, this hope isn’t reserved for heaven but affects us now.  We become steadfast and immovable.  The coronavirus pandemic is shaking the foundation of the world and so many idolatries and false hopes are being exposed.  But Christians have their sure footing in Christ.  This means when the world shakes, we don’t shift with it.  Our hope allows us to grieve and lament without being destroyed by the hopelessness that arrests the world.  We refuse to be discouraged because we believe that Christ’s victory over death is our victory over death. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. How have you been handling the statistics about all the coronavirus related deaths?  How do you tend to respond (overwhelmed, shut it out, numb, etc)?  What about death in general?  How do you tend to respond to it? 
  3. What changes when you begin to view death for the Christian as nothing but “sleep”?  Is that an insensitive view of death?  Why or why not?  What hope does that stir or what comfort does that bring?
  4. Make the connection: how does Christ’s resurrection in the past and the promise of our resurrection in the future affect us in the present?  How is this different than a worldly perspective on handling pain and suffering?
  5. The Christian life should be marked with thanksgiving.  This Easter season, share with one other a very specific reason you are thankful to God. t

CG Discussion Guide (For April 5, 2020)

“How God Reveals His Will”  Acts: To the End of the Earth

Scripture: Acts 1:20-26

Sermon Summary

The book of Acts is not a book of prescriptions, it’s a book of descriptions.  This means Acts doesn’t tell us what the church today should be like but what the church back then was like.  And yet if we keep an eye out for how God worked then, we can get a sense of how he may be working in our own lives now.  From this passage we learn that God leads his people today by his Word, wise counsel and prayer in the Spirit

#1: God’s Will for the Early Church

God made his will clear for the early church in his Word.  Psalm 109:8 says that another apostle was to replace Judas’ place, thus restoring twelve apostles in Acts 1.  The twelve apostles symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel and this meant the church was to be God’s New Israel.  God was preparing them to receive the gift of his Spirit.  Peter discerned God’s will because he knew God’s Word.  But God did not reveal who or how to replace Judas.  This was decided by the early believers as they used their collective wisdom to come up with criteria and candidates.  It seems God was more concerned that a replacement be found than necessarily who or how that replacement was identified.

After two candidates are chosen, the believers pray and cast lots.  Casting lots was the way the believers entrusted the process to God’s leading.  Matthias is identified and God’s will is done.  But Matthias is never mentioned again not only in Acts but the rest of the New Testament.  Although Matthias was important, God doesn’t tell us anything more about him.  The focus of the passage describes the process of following God’s will more than it does the significance of Matthias.  Although Acts was not written as a manual for how we can know the will of God, we still see three principles at work that may be instructive for us. 

#2: God’s Will for Every Christian

Christians want to know the will of God concerning many different things in their lives such as relationships, family, career, and church.  But is it even possible to know his will for every decision we need to make?  Do we need to know it?  Here are three principles we see at work in Acts that may translate to our own lives.

First: Follow what the Bible makes clear.  Everything we must absolutely know for our lives, God has made clear in the Bible.  Too often we’re trying to figure out what the Bible doesn’t specifically address all the while losing focus on what the Bible has made clear.  Know what God has made clear and follow that. 

Second: Receive wisdom from others.  Many of the decisions we need to make in our lives are not ethical or moral decisions.  So what’s at stake is not a matter of obedience or disobedience but wisdom and foolishness.  God gives his people spiritual community by which they can depend and lean on the counsel and wisdom of godly believers.

Third: Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Believers never again cast lots in the Bible because God sends his Holy Spirit to guide and lead believers.  When we pray, we commune with the Spirit who exposes hidden motives, gives wisdom to cover folly, brings to mind Scripture, gives peace when we’re too anxious and disrupts us when we’re too complacent.  When we pray, God leads us by his Spirit. 

Word, counsel and prayer should be the habits of the daily Christian life.  But living this way does not ensure we won’t make foolish or even sinful decisions.  Our confidence is not in avoiding such things but in God who leads every one of our decisions toward his perfect purposes.  The God who purchased his people with the blood of his Son has our lives and decisions in his protecting hands.

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. What are some reasons you or others are so concerned with discerning the will of God?  What are the areas that you most want to know God’s will concerning? 
  3. When it comes to Word, counsel and prayer, which do you tend to gravitate toward the most?  Which do you gravitate toward the least?  Why?
  4. What are your fears of making a “wrong” decision in life?  How does the gospel give you confidence to make decisions even without a clear and strong sense of “this is from the Lord”?