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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Avoid Judging, Pursue Healing (Matt. 7:1-6)

Outline: Matthew 7:1-6
  1. What does the command "Judge not" actually mean? (vv.1-4)
  2. How does this command apply in the church? (v.5)
  3. How does this command apply outside the church? (v.6)
Matthew 7 is sort of an extended conclusion where Jesus explains how Christians are to relate to a variety of people: to those inside and outside the church (vv.1-6), to God (vv.7-11), to all people (vv.12-14), to false teachers (vv.15-20) and to Jesus himself (vv.21-27). Beginning in vv.1-4, Jesus forbids applying a judgment to others that is without mercy.  That is, He strictly forbids a harshly critical, nitpicking, fault-finding, judgmental spirit that is devoid of mercy and hope.  In v.5, Jesus shows us that there is a type of "judgment" that starts with "log removal" and proceeds to offer merciful and hopeful help to other brothers and sisters within the church.  Then, in v.6, the principle is applied to those outside the church, particularly unbelievers who are exceptionally hard-hearted and who continually reject the gospel.  Spirit-sharpened discernment is needed in order to know when enough is enough, when one should pack up the gospel pearl, knock the dust of our feet, and focus our labors elsewhere.

Discussion Questions:
  • What is the typical misunderstanding of the command "Judge not"?
  • What does the command "Judge not" actually mean? (cf. James 2:12-13; 4:11-12)
  • What point is Jesus seeking to illustrate by using the log and speck analogy?
  • Is it wrong to take the speck out of another person's eye? Explain.
  • If we understand and apply the command "Judge not" in light of v.5, what beautiful effects might this have in the church? 
  • To whom does "dogs" and "pigs" refer?  
  • What is it that is holy and of great value (13:45-46)?
  • What does v.6 mean and how will we know when it is to be applied?  (cf. 10:5-15)
Application Questions:
  • What sin in my life may be obstructing my ability to sensitively address the sins of others? 
  • Is there anyone in my life whose sins or character flaws or weaknesses I am keenly aware of?
  • If people were to notice the same things in me, how would I want to be treated by them? 
  • How would I want them to feel toward me?
  • How would I want to be thought about and talked about?  
  • How would I be most loved and helped in the face of my sin and weakness?

Prayer Points:
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to expose any sin and hypocrisy in your own life
  • Confess your sins to God and perhaps to another believer (1 Jn. 1:9; James 5:16)
  • Thank Jesus for the mercy shown you at the cross & the hope opened to you in the resurrection 
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grow your ability to help others see and deal with their sin in a way that is fueled by mercy and seasoned with hope.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Anxiety-Free Christianity (Matt. 6:25-34)

Outline: Matthew 6:25-34
  1. The causes of anxiety
  2. The cures for anxiety
In the last passage, Matt. 6:19-24, Jesus called us to a life of single-minded, whole-hearted devotion to God.  We have seen that this will look like a lifestyle aimed at piling up good works fueled by pure motives. In this sermon on Matt. 6:25-34, Jesus anticipates that God's children will be tempted to anxiety when they give their Father their complete loyalty.  Jesus calls His followers to a life of single-minded devotion buttressed by a robust child-like trust in their Father's care for them.  One way to mine this text is to consider Jesus' words as explaining both the causes and cures for anxiety.  

Discussion Questions:
  • What is the relationship between the call for single -minded devotion (vv.19-24) and the command "do not be anxious" (vv.25-34)?
  • What are other words that are synonymous with the term "anxiety"?
  • Discuss the following causes for anxiety: 
    • Anxiety is caused by a warped perspective on what your life is all about
    • Anxiety is caused by an even deeper sickness—unbelief 
    • Anxiety is caused by unholy ambition (misplaced priorities)
    • Anxiety is caused by dragging tomorrow's troubles into today
  • Why is anxiety incompatible with common sense?
  • Discuss the cures for anxiety: 
    • Anxiety is cured by a God-centered perspective on what life is all about
    • Anxiety is cured by a deep faith, a robust trust in God's Fatherly care for you
    • Anxiety is cured by seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness 
    • Anxiety is cured by pushing anxiety off another day
  • How might obedience to the teachings from last week and this week bring about a sweet sense of simplicity in one's life?
Application Questions:
  • What circumstances in my life as of late have become a context for my anxiety?
  • What causes of anxiety seem particularly relevant to my case?
  • What is God prescribing in order to cure your anxiety?
  • What might life look like if I followed the Dr.'s orders?
Prayer Points:
  • Humble yourself before God by casting all your anxieties on Him because he cares for you 
  • Thank God for adopting you in Christ that you may live happily content in His Fatherly care 
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to remember that you are not an orphan but a well-loved child of God who can always cry out "Abba, Father" and your Father will hear your cries

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Christian Simplicity: Part 2 (Matt. 6:19-24)

Outline: Matthew 6:19-24
  1. Two treasures (v.19-21)
  2. Treasures visions (vv.22-23)
  3. Treasure masters (v.24)
In Matt. 6:19-24, Jesus calls his followers to a life of single-minded devotion to God.  In order to make His point, Jesus utilizes three couplets: two treasures, two visions, two masters.  In this sermon we considered all three couplets but focused primarily on the two visions and the two masters.  Jesus wants us to see that where we put our heart dramatically effects our spiritual lives. To put it negatively, if we accumulate money and possessions in this short life, that is, if our spiritual eye is fixed on material treasures, then we will lose spiritual vision and find ourselves serving money, not God.  But, more positively, if we seek to be rich toward God in this life by piling up good works done out of pure motives, then we will enjoy clear spiritual vision and find ourselves serving God, not money.

Discussion Questions:
  • Review: what are material treasures and spiritual treasures?
  • How do Jesus' commands in vv.19-20 show his care and love toward us?
  • What is the relationship/connection between the two treasures and the two visions?
  • What does it mean that they eye is the lamp of the body in physical terms?
  • What does it mean that they eye is the lamp of the body in spiritual terms? (cf. 5:29;7:3)
  • Reflect on this statement: "obedience clarifies, sin clouds."
  • How does having dim vision effect our relationship with God?
  • How does having dim vision effect our witness in the world? (cf.Luke 11:33-36)
  • What is the meaning of the term "master"? Why is it impossible to serve two masters?
  • Reflect on this statement: "Duel devotion is a mirage"
  • Reflect on this statement: “we will either use money to serve God or use God to serve money."
  • If spiritual vision is cloudy, what does that say about our treasure and our loyalty? 
  • What has personally challenged you most in the past two sermons on Christian simplicity?
Application Questions:
  • Am I currently enjoying clear spiritual vision (i.e. Do i have purpose, drive, holy ambition, passion to love God and others, etc.)? If not, what might this say about what I'm treasuring and where my loyalty actually is?
  • What changes is God calling me to make in order to live a life of single-minded devotion?
Prayer Points:
  • Confess ways your heart has been in the wrong place leading to dim vision and disloyalty.
  • Praise Jesus for living a life of perfect loyalty to the Father and for dying on a cross so that you might become a His loyal and faithful servant!
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to put and keep your heart in the right place, to maintain clear spiritual vision, and to lean more fully what it means to serve Christ as Master.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Christian Simplicity: Part 1 (Matt. 6:19-21)

Outline: Matthew 6:19-21

Two treasures:
  1. Treasures on earth (v.19)
  2. Treasures in heaven (v.20)
  3. Treasure principle (v.21)

We have seen that Jesus came to bring about radical obedience in His followers (Matt. 5:1-48, esp. vv.19-20, 48), an obedience that is to be fueled by pure motives (Matt. 6:1-18, esp. vv.1,3-4, 6, 9-10, 17-18).  Now in Matt. 6:19-24, Jesus fuses radical obedience and pure motives together in order to call His followers to a life of simplicity, that is, a life of single-minded devotion to God.  In order to make His point, Jesus utilizes three couplets: two treasures, two visions, two masters.  In this sermon we considered the two treasures, where Jesus teaches us not to store up material treasures on earth but rather to store up spiritual treasures in heaven because He wants to ensure that our hearts are in a safe place.  

Discussion Questions:
  • What are earthly treasures and why does Jesus command us not to store them up?
    • What is Jesus not prohibiting in v.19?
    • How does Jesus' parable in Luke 12:16-21 illustrate this command?
  • What are spiritual treasures and why does Jesus command us to store them up?
  • Describe the treasure principle of v.21 in your own words.
  • How is this a call to a life of simplicity, a life of single-minded devotion to God?
  • Are these commands loving or unloving?  Explain.
  • Reflect on this statement: "Jesus is the best financial advisor in the universe."
  • How might a material treasure become a means of storing up spiritual treasure?
  • What are some practical ways we might learn to be rich toward God?
Application Questions:
  • Honestly, am I being rich toward myself or rich toward God?
  • What material things am I most prone to hoard? What changes is God calling me to make?
  • How might I cultivate both short and long-term generosity?
  • How might I cultivate simplicity (learn contentment, detach from stuff, cap expenses, and grow in the ability to discern how to best use God's money)?
  • How can I simultaneously attack debt and cultivate generosity?
  • Think trajectory: how can I grow in generosity each year as I get closer and closer to seeing my Lord Jesus face-to-face?
Prayer Points:
  • Confess ways you have been rich toward yourself and stingy toward God
  • Praise Jesus for becoming poor and dying on a cross so that you might become rich toward God and inherit eternity!
  • Ask God to help you to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, break any sinful habits of hoarding material possessions and to help you learn to store up spiritual treasures in heaven.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fasting Guide

What is fasting? Fasting is when we go without food for some spiritual purpose

What are good reasons for Christ-followers to fast? 
  1. Fast to refocus on God’s priorities
  2. Fast to see our need for God (with every groan) and to rely more fully on His power 
  3. Fast to seek God’s guidance  
  4. Fast to give extra time and attention to the word and prayer
    • Praying for spiritual breakthroughs in our lives and in the lives of others
    • Praying for the salvation of others
    • Praying for causes of justice and mercy in our day (e.g. abortion, sex trafficking, pornography epidemic, ISIS, persecuted Christians, etc.)
  5. Fast to become more sensitive to the needs of others
  6. Fast to expose sin and idols, the things we rely upon in place of God
  7. Fast to grow in self-control and to find victory in the face of temptation 
  8. Fast to express love and worship to God: nothing I desire beside you!

How might a Christ-follower go about practicing the discipline of fasting?
  1. Start small (e.g. one meal, two meals, then a full-day fast, perhaps a 2-day juice fast.  Build up to an extended fast of 3-7days)
  2. Fast with purpose (see above)
  3. Fast with a plan: clear purpose, mindful of others, what will you do with extra time?
  4. Experiment with different forms of fasting: personal and communal, congregational and national, regular and occasional, absolute and partial.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sincere Fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)

Outline: Matthew 6:16-18
  1. Explanation of Matt. 6:16-18
  2. Why should a Christ-follower fast?
  3. How should a Christ-follower go about practicing the discipline of fasting?
Summary: Having considered giving and praying, we now focus on fasting, Jesus' third and final illustration of this overarching point:"Beware of doing the right things from the wrong motives" (6:1)! Jesus warns us that God will not reward the obedient act of fasting if that act was fueled by wrong motives.  Motives are intensely important to God!  Our fasting should be fueled not by a craving to be seen and praised by others, but by a desire to be seen and rewarded by God.  Fasting is designed as a means of stimulating and expressing a sincere hunger for God, not as a hypocritical platform to attract the praise of men.

Discussion Questions:
  • Review: how do giving, praying, and fasting relate to the warning given in 6:1? 
  • Very basically, what is fasting?
  • What is meant by the phrase "means of grace"? How is fasting a means of grace? 
  • How should Jesus assumption ("when you fast") shape a Christ-follower's view of fasting?
  • What is it about the activity described in v.16 that is hypocritical?
  • What does it mean to have pure motives?  What motives should fuel our fasting?
  • What is the purpose of fasting? In other words, why should a Christ-follower fast?
  • What are some practical ways to go about practicing the discipline of fasting?
Application Questions:
  • How often do I fast? Why do I fast that often?
  • What is God teaching me about fasting?  
  • What steps might God be leading me to take in order to grow in this discipline?
  • What motives should fuel my fasting?
  • What happy effects might fasting have on my life if I'm willing to make it a habit? 
Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God your lack of hunger for Him and your neglect of the means of grace wisely designed by God in order to stimulate your appetite for spiritual things.
  • Praise Jesus that He had enough hunger for the both of us and for teaching you to hunger and thirst after righteousness. 
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you cultivate the discipline of fasting and to increase your hunger for the things of God.