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Monday, December 14, 2015

Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17-20)

Outline: Matthew 5:17-20
  1. The Old Testament fulfilled in Jesus
  2. The Old Testament fulfilled in us
Summary: Jesus tells us plainly how He thinks about the Old Testament (OT) and, by implication, how we should think about the OT: Jesus did not come to void out but fill out the OT.  What began budding in the OT started to bloom when Jesus came and will be in full bloom when He comes a second time.  Since Jesus did not come to abolish the OT, we should not relax in our obedience to the OT.  Or, to put it positively, since Jesus came to fulfill the OT, we can and should excel in our obedience to the OT.  But our obedience to the OT must be shaped by a growing knowledge of how Jesus has fulfilled, is fulfilling, and will finally fulfill the truths of the OT.  Jesus' fulfillment of the OT is a process and we are part of that process.    

Discussion Questions:
  • Jesus' reference to "the Law or the Prophets" is shorthand for ______?
  • Who was the OT all about (cf. Luke 24:13-49)? [Living room analogy].
  • What does Jesus mean when He says that he did not come to abolish the OT?
  • What does Jesus mean when He says that he came to fulfill the OT? [flower analogy] 
  • Why is the fact that Jesus came to fulfill the OT good news for sinners?
  • What are some examples from the OT that have been, are being, or will be fulfilled?
  • How should the fact that Jesus came to fulfill the OT shape our obedience? (v.19)
  • How can a Christian's righteousness exceed that of scribes and pharisees (v.20)?
  • When will the process of OT fulfillment be complete? (v.18)
  • How does this passage relate to the Beatitudes and to being salt and light?
Application Questions:
  • In the past, how have you thought about the OT? How does Jesus want you to think about it?
  • How should the fact that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law shape your relationship to Jesus and to the Law? 
  • Does your righteousness exceed that of the most meticulous law-keepers of Jesus' day? Explain?
Prayer Points:
  • Praise Jesus for being the perfect Law-keeper who bore the curse of the Law on your behalf.
  • Praise God that the Spirit of the Law-keeper is inside of you empowering your obedience.
  • Confess to God your wrong or perhaps shallow view of the OT.
  • Ask God to open your eyes to see more of Jesus in the OT and to awaken fresh appreciation and admiration for Jesus as a result of what you see.
  • Pray that God would help you to depend on the Holy Spirit and thus excel in obeying the heart of God's word. Pray that you would hear the heart beat of Christ in the OT and march obediently to the beat of His drum.   

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Salt & Light (Matt. 5:13-16)

Outline: Matthew 5:13-16
  1. Two metaphors 
  2. One main point
  3. One all-consuming goal
Summary: Good works grow out of good character.  Having described in the Beatitudes the type of people his followers ought to be in terms of their character, Jesus now illustrates with two metaphors what his followers ought to do in terms of their good works.  Just as salt enhances food and light illumines darkness, so too the Christ-follower's life is to be filled with good works.  By living a life of good works, Christians become noticeably distinct in this bland and dark world and their distinctiveness is precisely what causes unbelievers in their spheres of influence to encounter the living God.  Jesus commands us to be distinct, to be salty and bright, that others might taste and see that God is good.  

Discussion Questions:
  • What is the relationship between the Beatitudes and the call to be salt and light?
  • What can we learn about salt and light from our text? 
  • What is the shared main point Jesus emphasizes in these metaphors? 
  • What is the all-consuming goal of living salty and bright lives?
  • What is the relationship between salt & light, good works, and God's glory?
  • What can we learn about our Savior's heart by what he commands in v.16?
  • Note: the "you" is plural (y'all).  Thus, this teaching applies to the church as a whole not just to individual Christians.  How does a church become salty and bright, distinct from the world?
Application Questions:
  • In what ways am I distinct from unbelievers in my life and thus a means for them to see God?
  • In what ways am I not distinct enough and thus hindering them from seeing God?
Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God ways you are not distinct and look too much like the world.
  • Praise Jesus, the Distinct One, the Light who shined in our darkness allowing us to see God.
  • Thank God for all the ways He is helping you live a distinct life.
  • Acknowledge how much you need God to help you shine brighter and brighter!
  • Pray for a love for unbelievers in your life, that through your distinctness they might taste and see that God is good.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness' Sake (Matt. 5:10-12)

Outline: Matthew 5:10-12
  1. What is the meaning of persecution?
  2. What is the cause of persecution?
  3. What is the proper response to persecution?
  4. Application
Summary: Persecution is last on the list of Beatitudes not because it is least important but because it is the culmination of Christian character.  When Christian's embody the Beatitudes, they become more like Christ and Christ-like character makes one a prime candidate for persecution.  The more we become like Jesus in our character, the more we get treated like Jesus by those around us.  How then should one respond when persecution does come?  Jesus' answer is jarring: "Rejoice and be glad!" Joy is the proper response to persecution.

Discussion Questions:
  • In what sense is this beatitude the culmination of the all the previous beatitudes?
  • What is the meaning of persecution? What examples come to mind?
  • What is the cause of persecution? 
  • What is the proper response to persecution? What reasons does Jesus give for such a response?
  • Why is one blessed for being persecuted?
  • When discipling someone, what would be important to teach them about persecution?
Application Questions:
  • Reflect: What is the most severe persecution you've experienced?
  • On a scale of 1-10 (one being no persecution, 10 being extreme persecution), what level of persecution are you currently experiencing? 
  • READ 2 Tim. 3:12.  By implication, what might the absence of persecution in your life say about your character?
  • How should we process our character failures in light of the gospel?  How does the gospel motivate us to live more fully for Christ?
Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God any deficiencies in your character and any avoidance of persecution.
  • Praise Jesus for His perfect character and His willingness to die for imperfect people like us
  • Ask God to help you grow in the character qualities commended in the Beatitudes. 
  • Ask God for boldness and strength to not avoid persecution and to live more fully for Christ.
  • Ask God to help you respond with joy to the persecution in your life. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Blessed Are The Peacemakers (Matt. 5:9)

                                                                                              Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Matthew 5:9
  1. Heart of a Peacemaker
  2. Life of a Peacemaker
  3. Blessing of the Peacemaker
Summary: The very essence of peace is defined in the relationship between the persons of the Godhead.  We examined the heart and the life of a peacemaker. To have the heart of a peacemaker is to be at peace with God by being found in the True Peacemaker, Jesus Christ. When our heart is at peace with God, we will inevitably be at war with sin. By battling the sin in our hearts, we will experience more of the peace of God.  Next, we observed the life of a peacemaker. We meditated on how we are to handle conflict biblically within the church (Matt. 5:21-26; 7:1-6; 18:15-20). Our ultimate goal in pursuing peacemaking among unbelievers is to point them to the true Peacemaker, Jesus Christ. Finally, the blessing for a peacemaker is inclusion into the family of God. As adopted sons and daughters, we now are given the Spirit of the Peacemaker and transformed more into the likeness of our elder Brother and Father.

Discussion Questions
  •     Describe the theme of peace throughout the Bible (Genesis through Revelation)?
  •     Meditate on the “Divine Conflict.” How does one gain peace with God?
  •      When we are at peace with God, how does our attitude toward sin change? How does this attitude towards sin impact our experience of God’s peace? (cf. Phil 4:6-9)
  •      Why is Jesus passionate about the peace and unity among believers? (cf. John 17:20-21)
  •       How does we know whether we should overlook an offense or address it?
  •      Step-by-step, walk through Matthew 18:15-20? (Bonus: include context passages)
  •     What is the primary purpose in pursuing peace among unbelievers?
  •       Meditate on Adoption. Contrast the life of an orphan before and after adoption. Relate that picture to how God has folded us into His family.

Application Questions
  •      Do you have peace with God? If not, what needs to be done in order to restore peace with your Maker?
  •      How are you experiencing the peace of God in your life? In what ways are you currently battling against the sin in your heart?
  •      Think of a current relationship in your life that you could apply a biblical peacemaking strategy to?

Prayer Points
  •      Praise Jesus, the True Peacemaker, who has come down and has made peace between God and man.
  •      Confess any sin in your heart that is hindering you from experiencing the peace of God.
  •    Confess any ways in your life that you have not intentionally pursued peace with those around you.
  •      Ask God to fill you with the Spirit of the Peacemaker so that you may live a life of peacemaking.
  •     Praise God for the blessing of adoption and for the gift of the Spirit that transforms us more and more into the image of the True Peacemaker Jesus Christ.
Written by Caleb Janson

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart (Matt. 5:8)

Outline: Matthew 5:8
  1. The Pure in Heart
  2. The Promise of Seeing God
Summary: Jesus guides us on the narrow and hard path of righteousness that leads right into the Father's heart.  When the children of God embody the character qualities commended in the Beatitudes, they experience showers of blessing along the way and oceans of blessing when they reach their destination.  From the beatitude currently under study, we learn that such blessing comes to the pure in heart, those who have been washed clean through faith in Christ and now work hard in Christ's strength to stay clean.   

Discussion Questions:
  • In what ways do you feel the God-ordained tension of living in the already and not yet?
  • What is the heart and how does it relate to behavior (cf. Mark 7:21-23; Lk. 6:45; Prov. 4:23)?
  • According to a Christ-centered reading of Psalm 24, how do we get pure hearts? 
  • Ponder this: There is a river of gospel grace that mirrors the narrow path at every turn.
  • How should Christians seek to maintain their purity (1 Jn. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:20-22)?  
  • Exercise: Apply these principles of purification to heart issues such as gossip, lust, greed, etc.  
  • What is the relationship between pursuing purity of heart and seeing God (1 Jn. 3:2-3)?
Application Questions:
  • What areas of impurity do you see in your life?
  • Take time to deal with these impurities by...
    • Understanding what impure thoughts, emotions, and desires they come out of and what wholesome thoughts, emotions, and desires should replace them.
    • Confessing and washing them in the river of gospel grace (1 Jn. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:20-21)
    • Making a plan as to how you can flee from them in the future (2 Tim. 2:22)
    • Making a plan as to how you can pursue purity of heart (2 Tim. 2:22)
Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God any impurity you see in your life.
  • Thank God for sending His Son to shed His blood so that those impurities can be washed away.
  • Praise Jesus, the Pure One who has made it possible to see God by washing us by His blood and by leading us in triumphant procession into the presence of His Father.
  • Ask God to help you work hard at fleeing impurity and pursuing purity of heart.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Blessed Are the Merciful (Matt. 5:7)

Outline: Matthew 5:7
  1. The Merciful Person
  2. The Promise of Mercy
Summary: Jesus again invites us to experience deep joy in the Father.  He does this by telling us about another character quality that attracts the Father's blessing and favor: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Mercy is one of the most foundational acts of righteousness that the Father expects His Children to hunger and thirst after (5:6).  God's mercy toward us is meant to shape and energize our mercy toward others.  God is pleased when His children feel genuine concern and sympathy for others who are in need and find compassionate ways to help them.  And when God's children sow seeds of mercy in this life, their Father will make sure they reap a harvest of mercy in the life to come.  

Discussion Questions:
  • Why do merciful people attract the blessing and favor of God? (cf. Luke 6:35-36)
  • Does being a merciful person get you to heaven? Explain your answer  (cf. John 1:11-14).
  • Gospel: Think about the greatness of our need and the bigness of God's heart.  How has God shown His mercy to us as sinners? How should one respond to such mercy (cf. Matt. 18:9-14)?
  • Exercise: Pick a need of someone you know (physical, emotional, or spiritual).  Ask the old question: "what would Jesus do to meet that need?"
  • How will we be shown mercy in heaven? [Hint: Jesus, our High Priest, and His vial of blood].
Application Questions:
  • Exercise: take time to consider what physical, emotional, and spiritual needs two people in your life have.  Make a list of those needs.  Pray about how to show mercy.  Then act.
  • What physical, emotional, and spiritual needs to you currently have?  How might you share these burdens with others so that they can be channels of God's mercy to you?  
Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God your lack of mercy towards others.
  • Thank God for sending Jesus to incarnate His mercy in order to save you.
  • Praise God that His heart is so big with mercy and so willing to care for you and that your every need (physical, emotional, spiritual) will be met, either now or later.   
  • Pray that God would grant you the eyes and heart of Christ to see and meet the needs of others.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (Matt. 5:6)

                                                                Visit to listen to this sermon.
Outline: Matthew 5:6
  1. The meaning of hungering and thirsting for righteousness
  2. The promise of being satisfied 
Summary: Jesus again invites us to experience deep joy in the Father by telling us about another character quality that attracts the Father's blessing and favor: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Jesus draws our attention to the common experience of physical hunger and thirst in order to point us to the less common experience of spiritual hunger and thirst.  Spiritual hunger cannot be appeased by food nor can spiritual thirst be quenched by drink.  Rather, Jesus speaks of experiencing intense longings, strong spiritual cravings for righteousness, that is, for God's will to be obeyed and honored.  The blessed person is one who deeply desires the King's way to hold sway in their lives and in the lives of others.  Jesus promises that such a King-sized appetite will be eternally satisfied.  

Discussion Questions:
  • Review: Define "blessed." Beatitudes are invitations, invitations to what? 
  • What is implied in this beatitude that can be a source of freedom for the child of God?
  • What does Jesus mean by hunger and thirst?
    • What can we learn about spiritual hunger and thirst from our experience of physical hunger and thirst? Reflect on a time you've been exceptionally hungry or thirsty.
    • How strong are these cravings of spiritual hunger and thirst that Jesus is speaking of?
    • What does Jesus mean by "righteousness" (cf. 5:10, 20; 6:1; 6:33)?
    • How do acts of righteousness and imputed righteousness relate to one another?
  • What does it mean to be satisfied?
    • What is the relationship between desiring the King's righteousness and being satisfied?
    • What hinders us from being satisfied in Christ? [Hint: fruit snack analogy]
Application Questions:
  • On a scale of 1-10 (1 being never 10 being always) how often to you have these holy cravings?
    • What might this say about your current spiritual state?
    • In what ways do you tend to spoil your appetite for spiritual things?
  • What changes need to be made in your life in order to 1) help you avoid spoiling your appetite for spiritual things and 2) help you increase your desire for the things of God?

Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God ways you have filled yourself with worldly things, thus spoiling your appetite for spiritual things.
  • Thank God for sending us Jesus, Heavenly Bread and Living Water that can truly and eternally satisfy us.
  • Praise God for the promise of full and complete satisfaction that awaits us.
  • Pray that God would help you to avoid things that will spoil your appetite.
  • Pray that God would help you pursue things that will increase your appetite for righteousness.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blessed Are the Meek (Matt. 5:5)

                                                                Visit to listen to this sermon.
Outline: Matthew 5:5
1.    The meaning of meekness
2.    The promise attached to meekness

Summary: In every Beatitude, Jesus is inviting us to experience deep joy in the Father by describing the character qualities that attract the Father's blessing and favor.  Thus far Jesus has taught us that God lavishes blessing on those who recognize their need for Him ("Blessed are the poor in spirit") and on those who grieve over what grieves Him ("Blessed are those who mourn").  Now, with the third Beatitude ("Blessed are the meek"), we progress in level of difficulty, for now we are to not only grieve over what grieves God but also respond in a God-honoring way to those who grieve us.  To be meek is to respond in a godly way to those who mistreat us.  The meek person will respond to mistreatment in a self-controlled and gentle manner, returning good for evil, because he is trusting in God to make things right in His time and in His way and because he knows that he has a glorious inheritance awaiting him.  

Discussion Questions:
  • Review: Define "blessed." Beatitudes are invitations, invitations to what?
  • What is the meaning of meekness
    • How does meekness relate to the first two Beatitudes?
    • How is meekness described in other places in the NT (Matt. 11:29; 21:5; 1 Pet. 3:4 )?
    • Why is Psalm 37 significant in understanding what Jesus meant by "meek"?
    • What do we learn about meekness from Psalm 37?
  • What does this promise mean: "they shall inherit the earth"? 
  • How does the promise of inheriting the earth help us respond rightly to being mistreated?
  • How should the meekness shown by Jesus in his life and death shape our responses to others? 

Application Questions:
  • How do you tend to respond to those who mistreat you?
  • How would God have you respond to those who mistreat you?
  • If you are being mistreated, what would it look like if your response was controlled not by your emotions but by trust in God and a willingness to wait upon God?
  • What would it look like to respond to God with meekness in troubling circumstances in your life?
Prayer points:
  • Confess your ungodly responses to people who have mistreated you.  
  • Praise Jesus for His meekness—that He did not return evil for your evil.
  • Thank God for putting the very Spirit of the Meek One inside you to help you become meek.
  • Ask God to help you depend on the Spirit and respond to mistreatment in a God-honoring way.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (Matthew 5:4)

                                                                                                                     Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Matthew 5:4
  1. The meaning of mourning
  2. The promise of comfort
Summary: The Beatitudes are invitations from Jesus to experience more of God's blessing, joy, and favor in our lives (Matt. 5:3-12).  Each Beatitude is a pointed description of Christian character, that is, what every Christian's character should be like.  And these character qualities attract the blessing of God and, as we shall see, also enhance our witness in the world (Matt. 5:13-16).  The second Beatitude ("Blessed are those who mourn") flows naturally from the first ("Blessed are the poor in spirit"), for it is only after we recognize our need for God that we will begin to feel as we ought to feel.  Those who mourn are those who are grieved by what grieves God.  This godly grief attracts the blessing of God, especially in the form of comfort (some comfort in this life and complete comfort in the life to come). 

Discussion Questions:
  • Review: Define "blessed." Beatitudes are invitations, invitations to what?
  • What is the meaning of mourning? [Hint: look at it through a narrow lens and a broad lens].  
  • How do we learn to mourn?  [Hint: Analogy: a child watching daddy's tears]
  • Thought experiment: what are some things that grieve the heart of God?
  • Reflect on this phrase: sometimes "weeping is our worship"
  • Can you think of a godly person in your life who is often grieved by what grieves God?
  • In what sense is the promise of comfort a present and a future reality?
  • Look up these cross-references and consider the comfort that we get to experience in part now and in full later: Isa. 61:1-2; Jn. 16:20-21; Ps. 30:5; 126:5-6; 45:15; Rev. 21:4.
  • Comfort is only promised to "those who mourn." How does the gospel make it possible to be one who mourns?
Application Questions:
  • How often do you grieve over things that grieve the heart of God? 
  • What sins in your live should you be mourning over?
  • When it comes to your response to the sins of others and the brokenness of society, are you more marked by frustration, irritability, impatience, a critical spirit, etc or by godly grief?
  • What would it look like for you to mourn over the sins of others and the brokenness of society?
  • What hinders you from grieving over things that grieve the heart of God?
  • Why do you think "those who mourn" attract the blessing and favor of God?
Prayer points:
  • Confess any of your ungodly responses to the sins of others and the brokenness of society.  
  • Mourn any sin in your own life.
  • Praise God that He mourned our sin and sent His Son to die to pay the penalty for our sin
  • Praise God that you have the very Spirit of the Man of Sorrows within you, that you now have the capacity to be grieved by what grieves God.  This is a miracle of God's grace!
  • Ask  God to break your heart for what breaks His
  • Ask God to grow your capacity for mourning

Monday, October 12, 2015

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit (Matthew 5:3)

                                                                                                                       Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Matthew 5:3
  1. What does Jesus mean by "poor in spirit"?
  2. Why does being "poor in spirit" bring true happiness?
Summary: The Beatitudes are invitations to experience more of God's blessing, joy, and favor in our lives (Matt. 5:3-12).  Each Beatitude is a pointed description of Christian character, that is, what every Christian's character should be like.  And these character qualities attract the blessing of God and, as we shall see, also enhance our witness in the world (Matt. 5:13-16).  The first Beatitude ("Blessed are the poor in spirit") is intentionally placed first, for it is the key that opens all of the other doors of God's blessing.  What does it mean to be "poor in spirit"?  Jesus points at material poverty as a picture of spiritual poverty.  Generally speaking, the materially poor recognize their neediness, their weakness, their helplessness, the insufficiency of their resources and their need to rely on others to support them.  Similarly, the child of God who attracts their heavenly Father's blessing is one who recognizes their neediness and continually and habitually relies on God.  Such a person gets to taste kingdom joy in this life and will most certainly enjoy the fullness of that joy in the age to come.   

Discussion Questions:
  • What is the meaning of the term "blessed"?
  • In what sense should we look at the Beatitudes as invitations? Invitations to what?
  • Discuss this idea: "Each Beatitude describes what every Christian's character should be like."
  • What is the meaning of "poor in spirit"? [Hint: it may be helpful to recall two analogies from the sermon (the poor beggar and the newborn infant)].    
  • Why do you think Jesus places this beatitude first? [Hint: try to recall the water sack analogy]
  • What is the significance of Jesus emphasizing the present reality of the kingdom when he says blessed are...theirs is the kingdom of heaven? 
Application Questions:
  • Do you lack real joy in life? What ways do you see self-confidence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency present in your life? Ponder how self-reliance is a joy-killer in your life.
  • What doors of blessing, joy, and favor would be opened to you if you were to regularly recognize your neediness and consciously rely on God?
  • Why do you think being "poor in spirit" attracts the heart of God?
Prayer points:
  • Confess your self-reliance to God and the pride that acts like you don't need Him. 
  • Thank Jesus for becoming a man, for perfectly relying on His Father, and for dying on the cross to erase the sins of arrogant and self-reliant people like us.  
  • Acknowledge how much you truly need Him.
  • Pray that God would help you regularly see your utter need for him.
  • Pray that God would help you regularly turn away from self and to look to him for help.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Sermon on the Mount: An Introduction (Matthew 5:1-2; 7:28-29)

                                                                                                                       Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Matthew 5:1-2; 7:28-29
1.              Authority Anticipated (5:1-2)
2.              Authority Experienced (7:28-29)

Summary: After his baptism and victory over temptations in the wilderness, Jesus chose his first disciples and began his public ministry (Matt. 3-4).  Jesus started teaching, preaching, and healing with the result that his “fame spread” and “great crowds followed him” from virtually every surrounding region (4:25). As the crowds drew near to the mountain, Jesus saw them and took his seat on the mountain (5:1).  And with an air of solemnity and anticipation, the God-Man began to teach (5:2).  By the end of the sermon, the crowds were astonished, awestruck by the message, but more than that, by the Messenger himself (7:28-29).  Why?  Because Jesus taught with a unique, yes even a heavenly authority.  Jesus taught with an unmatched confidence and clarity, a level of dignity and depth that left a deep impression on the hearts of his hearers.

Discussion Questions:
  • Describe the context in general and where the crowds come from in particular (cf. 4:25).
  • Who is Jesus teaching and where do you see this in the text (hint: there are two groups)?
  • How did the crowds respond to Jesus’ sermon (7:28)? Why that response? (7:29)?
  • What does this teach us about the uniqueness of Jesus?

Application Questions:
  • How should what you learned about Jesus’ authority effect the way you think about and respond to the teaching on the Sermon on the Mount in the weeks and months ahead?
  • How have you been responding to the authority of God’s Word as of late?
  • Applying the gospel: How should the truth that Jesus alone has authority to forgive sin affect the way we deal with our failures, shame, and guilt?
  • Has Jesus’ authority made you bolder in talking to others about the things of God? How can a renewed understanding of Jesus’ authority help you grow in boldness?

Prayer Points:
  • Praise Jesus that he alone has authority to forgive your sins and that he has done so!
  • Confess to God any failures to honor Jesus’ authority in your life.
  • Ask God to help you be regularly astonished by and submissive to his Word. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Saved for the Salvation of Others! (Acts 26:14-18)

                                                                                                                        Visit to listen to this sermon. 
 Outline: Acts 26:14-18
  1. Jesus saved Paul (vv.14-15, cf. 26:4-11 & 9:1-22)
  2. Jesus sent Paul (vv.16-18)
Summary: Paul is standing before King Agrippa and is expected to give a defense, a defense against the Jews who want to see him put to death.  Paul responds by sharing his testimony, that is, by bearing witness to who he was (26:4-12) and then what Christ did (vv.13-18).  In essence, Paul is saying: “Jesus saved me and Jesus has sent me.”  For Paul, to be saved was to be sent.  To have his eyes opened was to be part of opening the eyes of others.  Paul was on trial because he proclaimed the name of the One who opened his eyes—Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions:
  • What was Paul like before he came to know Christ? (26:4-12; cf. 9:1-2)
  • For the back-story, READ 9: 1-18 (cf. 26:13-15).  How was Paul converted?
  • What role did Ananias play?  Does this teach us anything about how Jesus saves people?
  • What did Paul do almost immediately after he was saved?
  • Why do you think Paul grew strong in the wake of his conversionActs 9:22?
  • What was Paul being sent to do?
  • What is the relationship between being saved and being sent?
  • How would you respond to someone who says, “Oh, but that is the great and godly apostle Paul…surely this kind of witness is not expected of me”? (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1; Isa. 42:1-7; Matt. 11:4-6)
Application Questions:
  • What is your testimony?  Who were you and what did Jesus do to bring you to himself?
  • Are you actively sharing your faith with others?  If not, what may be holding you back?
  • “To be saved is to be sent.”  Do you believe this?  On a scale of 1-10—1 being barely applied and 10 being greatly applied—at what level do you live like this is true? 
  • When we fall short of sharing our faith at the level that we should, how would Jesus have us apply the gospel to our hearts?  
 Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God any failures to live like one who has been sent to open they eyes of unbelievers.  Receive forgiveness from Jesus, the only perfect Witness (1 John 1:9).
  • Ask God to provide clear opportunities for you to share about Jesus and to give the courage needed to stand strong and bold and loving in those moments.
  • Pray that God would fuse the idea of being saved together with the idea of being sent so that witnesses would become a more natural part of your life.
  •  Pray that God will help you to teach others that being saved and being sent always belong together, for to be a disciple is to be a disciple maker.
  • Thank God for the gospel and how he opened our eyes in salvation, bringing us from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nearness to God

                                                                                                                        Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Psalm 34

1.  Praise (Ps. 34:1-3)

2.  Deliverance through Prayer (Ps. 34:4-7)

3.  Fear of the Lord (Ps. 34:8-14)

4.  Nearness to God (Ps. 34:15-18)

5.  Redemption through Christ (Ps. 34:19-22)

David, who penned Psalm 34, wrote this Psalm not on the throne as King David,

but as a hunted man, running for his life.  David feigned insanity as a madman, as

he escaped from Abimelech (1 Samuel 21:11-15). Psalm 34 points to Christ, as

verse 22 says, “the Lord redeems the life of His servants, none of those who take

refuge in Him will be condemned,” and displaying God’s redemptive favor to the

righteous.  Verse 22 is the thrust behind why the psalmist is filled with praise.

Deliverance through prayer produces the fruits of fear of the Lord and ultimately

nearness to God.  Psalm 34 is both a song of praise and an exhortation on how

the righteous should live.

Discussion Questions:
  • Why do you think that David command us to bless the Lord at all times? Why does he command us to do this together?
  • What are the 3 sequences of prayer?
  • What is fear of the Lord?
  • What might a portrait of fear of the Lord look like in your life?
  • Why is there a correlation between fear of the Lord and nearness to God? 
  • Why is there no condemnation for those take refuge in Him?
  • Do you clearly understand the gospel? 
Application Questions:
  • Which team are you on? Righteous or unrighteous (enemy of God)? Articulate from the text several ways that God shows His favor on the righteous. 
  • Is your heart filled with praise at all times? If not, can you identify what is lacking in your prayer life, fear of the Lord, or nearness to God? How can you strengthen what is lacking in these areas?
  • Praise God that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
  • Praise God that Jesus is our intercessor that delivers us through prayer, becoming one of us so that we can enjoy nearness to God, modeling for us what fear of the Lord should look like, perfectly obeying the Fathers will.
  • Ask God to give us a heart that pursues holiness and hatred toward sin.
  • Ask God for courageous, trusting faith and confidence that He will hear and answer us in our time of need.
  • Ask God that we would grow in our fear of the Lord and nearness to God.
Written by Galen Janson

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Forgiveness: Christian Compassion in the Courtroom of God

                                                                                                                        Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Zechariah 3
Three Steps to Forgiving Other Believers
1. Live Daily in the Courtroom of God (Zech. 3:1)
2. See the Imputed Righteousness of Christ on Believers (Zech. 3:2-5)
3. Live Gospel Cycles (Zech. 3:6-10)

During the return from exile, around 520 BC, a vision of a heavenly courtroom and three prophecies are given to the prophet Zechariah. This vision is of Joshua the high priest standing with filthy garments before the angel of the LORD and with Satan at his right hand accusing him. The LORD disregards Satan's accusations, though they are accusations of true guilt, and instead takes off his filthy clothes, representing his sin, and puts clean garments on him, representing purity, innocence, and righteousness. The LORD then gives three promises connected to the vision of Joshua: 1) that he will send his servant the Branch, who is Jesus, 2) he will remove all iniquity from the land in a single day, which was the day Jesus died, and 3) because the sin is removed, every one of his people will be at peace with one another.

Discussion Questions:
  • What is Satan's role in the courtroom? What's his goal in tempting people? 
  • Define imputed righteousness (See 2 Cor. 5:21). If I were to look at a brother or sister in Christ as if they were fully righteous before God, what would they look like? WHO would they look like? 
  • What ultimate reality are clothes a mere shadow of? How do clothes remind us of God's mercy?
  • What is a Gospel Cycle? Why is it called that? What are the five stages in the cycle and how does each stage correspond to the story of the Bible?

Application Questions:
  • Am I harboring any bitterness toward a brother or sister in Christ? Am I siding with Satan in the heavenly courtroom in any way when I think about that person or talk to them? 
  • Do I avoid conflict or do I often start it/engage it? What do I need to do (or not do) to make sure I do a full gospel cycle with other believers?
  • Have I been praying for the other saint when I get in conflict with them? How can I integrate prayer into conflict? How can I grow in confidence that prayer is powerful? 

Prayer Points:
  • Praise God that He has freely taken away your sin and given you Christ's glorious righteousness!
  • Praise God that God will complete the work he started in the believers around you to perfectly sanctify them (Phil. 1:6)!
  • Ask God to prompt you to pray when you get in a conflict or start to think about someone you're in conflict with.
  • Ask God to bring the conflict through a whole gospel cycle in order to strengthen the relationship and glorify God.
  • Don’t belittle prayer, when conflict strikes, first picture your brother with Christ’s righteousness, shining as bright as the sun, and pray, “Lord, get them there soon! Sanctify them through this, I want to see them glorified! Help me be patient with them, God! I praise you that you began a good work in them and you will surely complete it! Forgive me for being unforgiving.”    
"Not What My Hands" by Aaron Keyes: 

"Oh How Good It Is" by Keith and Kristyn Getty:
(Providentially the first song on my Spotify playlist when I went for a jog Sunday morning before preaching! God is so encouraging!)