United by Grace | April 28, 2018


United by Grace – April 28, 2018

Introduction: Following Jesus -> Paul’s Journey -> Peter in Antioch

Big Idea: Jesus set us free so we can live for Him.

Scripture: Galatians 2:11-21 (NLT)


Galatians 2:11-14 (NLT)

But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

 

When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?


Point One: Grace & Accountability
  1. When Peter first visited Antioch, he regularly ate with the Gentiles (but he separated himself when some Jewish Christians came up from Jerusalem)
  2. Paul confronts Peter because his hypocrisy was leading others astray (our actions can sow seeds of unity or of division)
  3. Grace means tearing down walls in order to build unity while accountability means helping each other remember we are to live like Jesus
  4. Be careful not to hold others to standards that you are not willing to maintain yourself

Galatians 2:15-16 (NLT)

 “You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”


Point Two: Justified by Faith
  1. Paul reminds Peter (and his readers) that we are justified by faith not works
  2. This means that we do not / cannot earn our own salvation (faith in Jesus makes us right before God)
  3. Jesus takes the burden of our salvation so that we can be set free from the things that bind us (such as the Law)
  4. Grace gives us freedom while accountability keeps us from returning to slavery

Galatians 2:17-21 (NLT)

But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.


Point Three: Christ Lives in Me
  1. Paul points out that if we are justified by works, then Jesus’ death would have been for nothing
  2. God loves us enough to send His Son to die on the cross so that we can be set free from the Law (slaves to sin -> children of God)
  3. We are enslaved when we depend on our own strength and understanding to save ourselves from the struggles of life
  4. By allowing Jesus to live within us, our faith will carry us through whatever hardships we will face in life

 

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Living Faith | April 21, 2018


Living Faith – April 21, 2018

Introduction: Following Jesus -> Paul’s Journey -> Antioch (3rdlargest city in Roman Empire, first place where disciples called Christians, base for Paul and Barnabas’ missionary journeys)

Big Idea: What do I do when I become a Christian? (next steps / original meaning -> living faith)

Scripture: Acts 11:19-30 (CSB)


Acts 11:19-24 (CSB)

Now those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. News about them reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord.


Point One: Overcome Prejudice
  1. Jewish Christians began by only reaching out to other Jews (but the Good News is for everyone – ancient Israel)
  2. One of the biggest obstacles in the early church was racial/ethnic bias (ancient religions were bound to each civilization)
  3. The disciples in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to check out reports of Gentiles who were becoming Christians (grace of God transcends boundaries)
  4. The prejudice of the early church could have slowed growth (but the disciples were in tune with the Holy Spirit – we need to overcome this obstacle today)

Acts 11:25-26 (CSB)

Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.


Point Two: Learn Patience
  1. Barnabas goes to Tarsus to find Paul so he can help him teach and lead the church in Antioch
  2. Paul waited for about six years in his home town after receiving his call before he is called upon to help
  3. The connections and relationships we build can have lasting impact (but it takes time)
  4. Antioch would become the home church for Paul and Barnabas’ various missionary journeys

Acts 11:27-30 (CSB)

In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the reign of Claudius. Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea. They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.


Point Three: Look Out for Each Other
  1. Once things were up and running in Antioch, prophets from Judea came predicting famine
  2. The growth in the church allowed them to organize relief efforts throughout the Roman Empire
  3. Churches today are far too isolated (prayer, community service and disaster relief are our sacred duty)
  4. Throughout Acts, money is raised for relief efforts, missionary support and to meet people’s needs (family)

Discussion Questions
  1. How can we make sure we don’t limit our outreach to ‘people like us’?
  2. Discuss a time during your faith journey when you had to learn patience
  3. What can we do better to support those who are in need?

 

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Faith Over Fear | April 14, 2018


Faith Over Fear – April 14, 2018

Introduction: Following Jesus -> Paul’s Journey -> From Pharisee to Preacher

Big Idea: The resurrection of Christ changes everything (do not be afraid / fear not)

Scripture: Acts 9:19-31 (CSB)


Acts 9:19-25 (CSB)

Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time. Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.”

 

All who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man in Jerusalem who was causing havoc for those who called on this name and came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?”

 

But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plot. So they were watching the gates day and night intending to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall.


Point One: From Persecutor to Persecuted (v19-25)
  1. Paul (Saul) was known as one who tracked down and arrested Christians on behalf of the chief priests (zealous)
  2. When he arrived in Damascus, he instead preached Jesus as the Son of God (promised Messiah)
  3. After confusing the Christians and upsetting the Jews, the Syrian king tries to have him killed (2 Corinthians 11)
  4. Throughout his ministry, Paul would experience the same kind of persecution he used to bring to others (he counted it as joy)

Acts 9:26-30 (CSB)

When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.


Point Two: From Fear to Fellowship (v26-30)
  1. Paul wanted to get to know and work with the other disciples, but they were understandably afraid
  2. Barnabas (who would later travel with Paul) made the introduction and spoke on his behalf
  3. The Gospel often transforms adversaries into advocates (put Jesus first with no ulterior motives)
  4. The people Paul once tried to kill ended up saving his life (contrast to the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7/8)

Acts 26:31 (CSB)

So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.


Point Three: Fear of the Lord (v31)
  1. Fear of the Lord -> awe, reverence, respect, authority (parents, celebrity, coach, teacher, boss, police, etc.)
  2. The church grew because they feared only God rather than man (church always grows during times of persecution)
  3. Their peace also came from their common mission of preaching Jesus as the Son of God (not yet divided by denomination or tradition)
  4. Trust the Holy Spirit and don’t let fear smother your faith in Christ

Discussion Questions
  1. Have you witnessed a radical change in someone you know because of their faith in Jesus?
  2. Describe a tie From when faith and common mission brought different people or churches together.
  3. How have you over come fear when it comes to sharing your faith?

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Saul Became Paul | April 7, 2018


Saul Became Paul – April 7, 2018

Introduction: Following Jesus -> Paul’s Journey -> Before Agrippa II & Fetus

Big Idea: The Gospel of Christ should change our hearts (the resurrection sets us free).

Scripture: Acts 26:12-29 (NLT)


Acts 26:12-18 (NLT)

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

 

“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

 

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’


Point One: Darkness to Light
  1. As Paul was on his way to Damascus in order to arrest Christians, Jesus appears to him and tells him he is to become a witness to the Gentiles
  2. Paul was highly educated, both as a Pharisee and as a Roman citizen (he also passionately acted upon what he believed)
  3. Open their eyes -> the Gentiles (non-Jews) didn’t know the prophecies about Jesus or even their need for a Savior
  4. Faith in Jesus brings the light of hope into our dark lives (it gives us purpose and direction)

Acts 26:19-23 (NLT)

“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”


Point Two: Death to Life (v19-23)
  1. Instead of persecuting Christians in Damascus and Jerusalem, Paul preached the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile
  2. Paul’s message was the same as the prophets and preachers before him -> repentance
  3. The Jews accused Paul of desecrating the temple because of his association with Gentiles (Jesus, friend of sinners)
  4. For Paul, the resurrection changed everything (not just for the Jews but for all who believe)

Acts 26:24-29 (NLT)

Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”

But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”

 

Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

 

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”


Point Three: Lost to Found (v24-29)
  1. Festus (Roman governor) thinks Paul has gone crazy, but Agrippa (Jewish king) knows the scriptures and the prophecies made about the promised Messiah
  2. King Agrippa asks if Paul is trying to convert him, and Paul boldly answers yes
  3. We should be just as bold and just as ready to explain our faith while inviting others to follow Jesus with us
  4. Jesus is the promised Messiah who rose from the dead to set us free from sin, death and dead religion

Discussion Questions
  1. Discuss why you do or do not believe in Jesus.
  2. How has your faith influenced your life? Have you noticed and dramatic changes?
  3. Are you prepared to explain your faith if/when given the opportunity?

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Spirit of Truth | March 10, 2018


Spirit of Truth – March 10, 2018

Introduction: Following Jesus -> John’s account of the Last Supper / Good Friday

Big Idea: Jesus’ death was just the beginning…

Scripture: John 15:18-16:11 (CSB)


John 15:18-25 (CSB)

If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name,because they don’t know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. The one who hates me also hates my Father. If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled: They hated me for no reason.


Point One: Not of the World (Disruptive Grace)
  1. Jesus warns His disciples that since the world rejected Him, they would also be rejected
  2. As followers of Christ and citizens of heaven, was are not of this world (we will stand out, and our grace will be seen as disruptive)
  3. We shouldn’t become angry when people who don’t know Jesus reject us (show them the Gospel through grace)
  4. This world does not understand the grace of Christ (all we can do is pray for hearts to be softened by our love)

John 15:26-16:4a (CSB)

When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father— the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father— he will testify about me. You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or me. But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you will remember I told them to you.


Point Two: Spirit of Truth (Bear Witness)
  1. We are called to be witnesses and to allow the Spirit to work through us (stick to the simple truth of who Jesus is and what He came to do)
  2. Jesus warns us because religious leaders will try to stop the mission of Jesus out of ignorance or fear
  3. Belief systems that promote hatred and violence are not of the truth (Jesus is the truth)
  4. Our lives should allow the Spirit to testify of the truth (Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)

John 16:4b-11 (CSB)

I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going away to him who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.


Point Three: Sorrow to Hope (Not Alone)
  1. Jesus says He has to go away in order for the Spirit to come
  2. Despite the sorrow and upcoming hardships, they should find comfort in the Spirit’s purpose to convict the world
  3. Jesus may no longer physically walk the earth, but His Spirit continues to change the world (via changed hearts)
  4. The Gospel changes the world – this movement did not end with Jesus’ death (the Spirit allows us to this message of hope and grace worldwide)

Discussion:
  1. Have you had an experience where someone misunderstood your intentions because they didn’t know Christ?

  2. In what ways can we overcome ignorance and fear in order to point people to Jesus?

  3. Describe a time in your life where you moved from sorrow to joy.

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Commanded to Love | March 3, 2018


Commanded to Love – March 3, 2018

Introduction: Following Jesus -> John’s account of the Last Supper (ch13-17)

Big Idea: If we love Jesus, we must love each other.

Scripture: John 13:1-14:24 (CSB)


John 13:1-11 (CSB)

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Now when it was time for supper, the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t realize now, but afterward you will understand.”

“You will never wash my feet,” Peter said.

Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”

“One who has bathed,” Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” For he knew who would betray him. This is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”


Point One: Live to Serve
  1. As the disciples gathered for the Passover meal, Jesus is moved by love to wash their feet
  2. Washing feet was something only done by the lowliest of slaves (open sandals, dirt roads, etc.)
  3. He did this to set an example (especially since He also washed the feet of Judas, His betrayer – we are to love and serve all)
  4. As Christians, we have been washed clean by the blood of Christ (we don’t need to perform ritual cleansing or jump through a bunch of religious hoops in order to please God)

John 13:31-35 (CSB)

When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Children, I am with you a little while longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so now I tell you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


Point Two: A New Commandment
  1. After Judas excuses Himself, Jesus begins to explain the bigger picture
  2. Instead of focusing on the agonizing pain to come, Jesus describes how the glory of God will be manifested in love via the cross
  3. The new commandment is to love one another as Jesus loved them (wash feet, take up your cross, lay down your life, etc.)
  4. This is the absolute foundation of the Christian faith (to love as Jesus loves)

John 14:15-24 (CSB)

“If you love me, you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”


Point Three: Father, Son, Holy Spirit
  1. Jesus continues by telling His disciples that, though He was going away, He would send them the Holy Spirit to help and guide them
  2. The Trinity is on full display here (The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Spirit and the Spirit connects us with the Father)
  3. If you love Jesus, keep His commands (to love one another as He loves us– love is the key to knowing God)
  4. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is alive in us today (the resurrection of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion – we don’t go to church to honor a dead teacher but to celebrate the living Christ)

DISCUSSION
  1. In what ways can we better serve the people in our lives?

  2. Compare the love of Christ versus multi-cultural tolerance.

  3. In what ways have you experienced the living Christ?

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Change the World | February 24, 2018


Change the World – February 24, 2018

Introduction: Following Jesus -> Sending the 72 -> Blueprint for changing the world

Big Idea: Jesus is sending us to prepare the way (with three things)

Scripture: Luke 10:1-22 (CSB)


Luke 10:1-6 (CSB)

After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and he sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves. Don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals; don’t greet anyone along the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.


Point One: A Message of Peace
  1.  Jesus sent out 72 disciples ahead of Him so they could practice sharing the Gospel
  2. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (pray for others to join us)
  3. They were to be like lambs among wolves (message and method both of peace)
  4. Showing hospitality and working together (family/network/movement vs. institution)

Luke 10:17-20 (CSB)

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing at all will harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”


Point Two: Authority Over Evil
  1. They disciples were amazed that their faith in Jesus allowed them to cast out demons
  2. How we live out our faith has spiritual consequences (spiritual warfare)
  3. Jesus promises His disciples protection but also warns them against pride
  4. We must overcome our fear in order to help others find freedom in Christ

Luke 10:21-22 (CSB)

At that time he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father,Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was your good pleasure. All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.”


Point Three: Childlike Faith
  1. The Gospel was given to regular people rather than to prophets and kings
  2. Religious and political leaders often corrupt the message in order to retain power
  3. We must learn to let go of our own bias and strive for a more innocent childlike faith
  4. The only way to truly know God is through Jesus (die to the world and be made alive in Christ)

Discussion Questions
  1. In what ways can we be ‘people of peace’ in these divisive times?

  2. How can we overcome fear in order to help others find freedom in Christ?

  3. What does the phrase ‘childlike faith’ mean to you?

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