unchristian: reframing our faith through peacemaking and persecution

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Many know the story of Eric Liddell immortalized in Chariots of Fire. That movie, which tells of Liddell’s Olympic journey, ends with the words, “Eric Liddell, missionary, died in occupied China at the end of World War II. All of Scotland mourned.” While the movie is a wonderful homage to a person of great conviction, what happens after the movie truly tells the tale of a man who exhibited the traits Jesus blessed in the Beatitudes. After the Olympics, Liddell became a missionary in China. When Japan invaded China, Liddell sent his pregnant wife and two daughters out of the country. He continued to minister in the country until he was sent to a Japanese internment camp. Survivors of that camp tell of a man who taught the children in the camp, shared what meager food he had, who was “overflowing with good humor and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm” (Langdon Gilkey). When Winston Churchill arranged for a prisoner exchange to get Liddell released, Liddell offered his spot to a pregnant woman who went home in his stead. What is it that makes it possible for someone like Liddell to be a peacemaker in the midst of persecution?

SCRIPTURE

9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:9-12.

GROUP QUESTIONS

Discuss those you know personally, from history, or from current culture who are well-known peacemakers and/or who are well-known for being persecuted.

Read Matthew 5:1-12. What part do the previous beatitudes play in becoming a peacemaker?

Read Matthew 5:43-45. Do you view this passage as a description of a peacemaker? Why or why not?

Is being in a right relationship with God essential to being a peacemaker?

Why would peacemakers be seen as children of God?

What types of persecution does Jesus mention in Matthew 5:11? Have you experienced any of these? How did you respond? (Did you consider yourself blessed? Did you “rejoice and be glad”?)

The Apostle Paul, before he encountered Christ, persecuted believers. In 1 Timothy 1:12-14, he describes God’s attitude toward him. Does this alter how you view those who persecute you?

What does it look like to rejoice in persecution?

APPLICATION

Is there someone you know you need to reconcile with? Pray for God’s guidance and strength from the Holy Spirit as you seek take steps to be a peacemaker.

Visit www.icommittopray.com; read prayer requests from around the world and pray this week for those who are being persecuted.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Romans 12:14-21. List the commands Paul gives.

Does this passage change the way you think about your enemies and those who seek to persecute you because of your faith?

Which of Paul’s encouragements in this passage do you find the most challenging? Why? What will you do about it?

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unchristian: reframing our faith through purity

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees believed that they could please God by ‘doing’ – what they ate, what they wore, what they did not do on the Sabbath, what they tithed, etc. According to John MacArthur, “they were meticulously careful about what they did outwardly but paid no attention to what they were inwardly” (emphasis mine). We have a word for this: hypocrite. How can we live our lives so that our heart and our actions both reflect our Savior?

SCRIPTURE

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

GROUP QUESTIONS

Have you ever been called a hypocrite? How did it make you feel?

Read Matthew 5:8. Describe someone you know who is “pure in heart”. What characterizes their life?

The Bible has a lot to say about the heart. Read the following verses and discuss with your group the nature and role of your heart.

  • 1 Samuel 16:7
  • 2 Chronicles 16:9a
  • Psalm 24:3-6
  • Psalm 86:11
  • Ezekiel 11:19

If a pure heart is a heart that is undivided, what does a divided heart look like (see Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:19-20, Luke 16:13)?

What do you think it means when Jesus says those with a pure heart will “see God”?

APPLICATION

“To be pure in heart is to live one life and live it in the open.” (author unknown)

Think about a typical day for you. What are some of the things you encounter (concerns, people, situations)? What are some of the things that you do (what you watch, talk about, read). How often are you focused on God during the day? On someone else? On yourself? Spend some time each day reading, meditating, and praying through Psalm 27. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a pure heart focused only on Jesus.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

David was considered a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). According to these Psalms which David wrote, what kind of characteristics did he have?

  • Psalm 9:1
  • Psalm 19:14
  • Psalm 27:8
  • Psalm 28:7
  • Psalm 57:7

Read Psalm 51:10, Psalm 119:9-11, and Acts 15:9. How do you purify your heart?

The reward for having a pure heart is seeing God. When does this happen – now or in the future? Or both? (See Psalm 19:1, Psalm 29:3-7, 1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 John 3:2, Hebrews 1:2-3, Revelation 1:7.)

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unchristian: reframing our faith through mercy

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Mercy is integral to God’s redemptive work for man. From the time of the Fall, man has had no way back to God except through His merciful grace” (John MacArthur). Everything that we have – especially our standing as children of God – is because of His mercy. And nothing shows that we are beneficiaries of God’s mercy better than our own willingness to show God’s mercy to others.

SCRIPTURE

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group a time when someone showed you kindness (mercy) when you didn’t expect it or ask for it.

What are the five definitions of the word, “blessed”, given by the Preaching Team over the last five weeks? Do these definitions give you a better understanding of the Beatitudes?

Mercy” can be defined as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power” (Merriam-Webster). Mercy is NOT a feeling…it is an action that is a result of a feeling. According to William Barclay, mercy is “the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.” Is it difficult for you to experience mercy in this way? Why or why not?

Read Micah 6:8 and Luke 6:36. Though the beatitudes are not commands (but indications of a life devoted to Christ), are believers commanded to be merciful?

In his sermon on Sunday, David shared what being merciful looks like: “sympathy, pity, concern, readiness to help, cheer, affection, tenderness, wisdom, counsel, good advice, support, prayer, forgiveness, comfort, care, compassion, action, your problem is my problem”. Ray Pritchard (President of Keep Believing Ministries) states that mercy includes three elements: 1) “I see the need – that’s recognition”; 2) “I am moved by the need – that’s motivation”; and 3) “I am moved to meet the need – that’s action.” Using these words and elements as a guide, brainstorm with your group practical ways to show mercy.

What do you think it means that “the merciful…will be shown mercy”?

APPLICATION

Do the homework David gave on Sunday: each day this week, do an act of mercy for someone at home, at Fellowship, in your community, a stranger, and/or for someone who definitely does not deserve mercy.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Is mercy something to strive for, or is it evidence of God’s work in your life?

I imagine that this Beatitude must have been a difficult one for the Pharisees to hear. They were known to be judgmental and to show little mercy. Jesus’ harshest criticism was not for those who were considered “sinners”, but for this group of self-righteous religious leaders. Note what Jesus accuses the Pharisees of in the following passages:

  • Matthew 15:1-6
  • Matthew 15:12-14
  • Matthew 23:1-5a
  • Matthew 23:13-15
  • Matthew 23:23-24
  • Matthew 23:33-35
  • Mark 7:5-7

Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because they “…neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Like the Pharisees, do you struggle with self-righteousness, neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness?

Read Luke 10:25-37. Why do you think the story of the Good Samaritan is so well-known?

The Good Samaritan is not just a story about helping people. It’s emphasizes the need for a new heart (see Ezekiel 36:26) – a merciful heart. The priest and the Levite knew the law. They knew what they were commanded to do. Yet their hearts were hardened and they ignored someone in need. Have you ever been too busy to help someone? Did you, like the “expert in the law”, try to justify your lack of mercy? What is keeping you from being a neighbor to those in need around you?

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unchristian: reframing our faith through righteousness

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

When we think of “hunger” and “thirst”, we usually think about missing a meal or feeling dehydrated. The picture of “hunger” and “thirst” in Matthew 5:6 is a picture of desperation, of starvation, and being parched and exhausted. J.N. Darby, an Anglo-Irish Bible teacher, said, “To be hungry is not enough; I must really be starving to know what is in His heart towards me. When the prodigal son was hungry, he went to feed upon husks, but when he was starving he turned to his father.” Are you hungering and thirsting for God, or are you living on husks?

SCRIPTURE

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

GROUP QUESTIONS

What is it that means more to you than anything else?

Read Matthew 5:6. How do you define “righteousness”? Do you have a biblical basis for that definition?

In Luke 18:18-23, you read about the young ruler who obeyed the Law on a daily basis. However, Jesus told him that he lacked “one thing”. What was the “one thing”? Why do you think it was so difficult for this man to do as Jesus asked?

David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), proclaims his “one thing” in Psalm 27:4, and further described his passion for knowing God in Psalm 42:1-2. Do you feel an intense desire to know God? How do you satisfy that desire?

What role does the Bible and prayer have in your desire to know God better?

If you are filled when you “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, why is “hunger” and “thirst” in the present tense, meaning it is a continual process?

APPLICATION

If you “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, choose to practice one of the following spiritual disciplines this week:

  • Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by Him. (Solitude is completed by silence.)
  • Silence: Not speaking in a quiet place in order to quiet our minds and whole self and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them.
  • Fasting: Going without food (or something else like media) for a period of intensive prayer — the fast may be complete or partial.
  • Sabbath: Doing no work to rest in God’s person and provision. (God designed this for one day a week. We can practice it for shorter periods too.)
  • Secrecy: Not making our good deeds known to let God or others receive attention and to find our sufficiency in God alone (e.g., see Matthew 6).
  • Submission: Not asserting ourselves in order to come under the authority, wisdom, and power of Jesus Christ as our Lord, King, and Master.
  • Bible Reading: Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life. (Related disciplines include Bible study, Scripture meditation, and praying God’s Word.)
  • Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence. (We can worship God privately or in community.)
  • Prayer: Conversing with God about what we’re experiencing and doing together. (As we see in the Lord’s Prayer the main thing we do in prayer is to make requests or intercessions to our Father for one another.)
  • Soul Friendship: Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation or other spiritual practices. (Related spiritual disciplines or practices include small groups, spiritual direction, and mentoring relationships.)
  • Personal Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self. (The Psalms model this.)
  • Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with His love and compassion to others, especially those in need.

From http://www.soulshepherding.org/2012/07/spiritual-disciplines-list/

FOR FURTHER STUDY

When we snack before a meal, many times we are no longer hungry for the meal. The same can be true spiritually. What are some of the things that take away your appetite for God? What are practical steps you can take to stop yourself from “snacking”?

In Philippians 3:7-14, the Apostle Paul communicates his continual hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness (his “one thing”). Beside each verse, write how Paul expresses this desire:

  • Verse 7: ________________________________________________________________________
  • Verse 8: ________________________________________________________________________
  • Verse 9: ________________________________________________________________________
  • Verse 10: _______________________________________________________________________
  • Verse 11: _______________________________________________________________________
  • Verse 12: _______________________________________________________________________
  • Verse 13: _______________________________________________________________________
  • Verse 14: _______________________________________________________________________

If you truly believed that only God can satisfy, what changes do you think you would see in your life?

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