unchristian: reframing our faith through trust

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” “Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.” “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” “Look around and be distressed. Look inside and be depressed. Look at Jesus and be at rest”. These statements were made by Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch believer who, along with her family, helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. The Hiding Place is her biography which tells the story of the family’s efforts to save Jews and Corrie’s time imprisoned in Ravensbrück concentration camp. Corrie could have been full of anxiety because of her circumstances, and yet her faith caused her to live with a remarkable reliance on God. How can you live a life of trust in God, rather than a life filled with anxiety?

SCRIPTURE

25Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34

GROUP QUESTIONS

How would you rate your anxiety level on a scale of 1-10 (1 = “I’m carefree” and 10 = “I’m anxious about everything”)?

Read Matthew 6:25-34. What does the word “Therefore” imply? Do you see the connection between Matthew 6:24 and these verses?

The Greek word for “worry” is “merimnaō”, which is rooted in “merizō” (to divide). We learned last week that Jesus wants you to be single-mindedly devoted to God. How does worry take your focus off of God?

Is there a difference between worry and concern? If so, what distinguishes the two?

Jesus didn’t just tell you not to worry, He gave you the antidote for worry (Matthew 6:33). What is it? What does it mean to seek His kingdom first?

When Jesus said “Do not worry about tomorrow”, does this mean that you should not plan for your future? (See Proverbs 6:6-8 and 1 Timothy 5:8.)

APPLICATION

Aaron asked on Sunday, “Are you willing to trust Him?” If you are, a practical way to put your concerns in God’s hands is to remind yourself of His promises. Read Philippians 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:7. Write out those promises on note cards and post them where you can see them in your house, car, and at work. Mediate on them daily.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 What are the four things in this passage that Jesus commands us not to worry about? Which one do you tend to worry about the most?

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In Matthew 6:30, Jesus uses the phrase, “you of little faith”. He says this three other times in Matthew. Look up the passages below, and write a brief synopsis of the circumstances surrounding the statement. What do you learn from these passages about trust?

  • Matthew 8:23-27
  • Matthew 14:22-36
  • Matthew 16:5-12

How can you tell if a concern is turning into worry? Read through the questions below. If you answer these positively, you are probably headed down the road to worry. Confess your sin to God, and choose trust instead of worry.

  • Is your concern the first thing on your mind in the morning and the last thing on your mind before you go to bed?
  • Do you think about your concern multiple times in the day?
  • Do you bring up your concern in almost every conversation you have?

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unchristian: reframing your faith through making Heaven a priority

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Job was one of the first people to say, “You can’t take it with you!” However, in our culture, we are bombarded with the message that we always need more. Jesus spoke about money a lot, including this passage in the Sermon on the Mount. How can we take to heart Jesus’ message to not collect treasure on earth?

SCRIPTURE

19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:19-24

GROUP QUESTIONS

If you were given $1,000,000 that you could not use for yourself but had to give away, what would you do with it?

Read Matthew 6:19-24 and summarize what Jesus is teaching about our attitude toward and relationship with money.

The word for “store up” (thēsaurizō) is related to the word used for “treasures” (thēsauros), so this verse could read “Do not treasure for yourselves treasure on earth….but treasure for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Does this give you a new understanding into what Jesus is saying?

The King James Version translates the word “good” in verse 22 as “single”, meaning single-minded. Read 1 Corinthians 10:31. How does this verse relate to being single-mindedly devoted to God?

Very few people believe that they have made a god out of money. You rarely hear someone ask for prayer because they value money more than God. Why is money such an insidious “master”?

APPLICATION

Where is your treasure?

  • Look through your banking records. What are most of your expenses for? Does your spending reflect an investment in eternity or in yourself? If it’s the latter, ask God to give you more single-minded devotion toward Him. Figure out ways to invest in eternal matters on a regular basis.
  • Does your life revolve around “things”? If so, every day this week, pick something in your house to donate to a good cause or give to someone who truly needs it. Ask God to give you a heart that resists materialism.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 Does talking about money in church make you uncomfortable? Why?

We all know that earthly things don’t last…and yet we get so caught up in them. Read and reflect on the following quotes from well-known millionaires:

  • I have made many millions but they have brought me no happiness.” John D. Rockefeller
  • The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money.” John D. Rockefeller
  • The care of 200 million dollars is too great a load for any brain or back to bear. It is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.” William Vanderbilt
  • I was happier when I was doing a mechanic’s job.” Henry Ford
  • Millionaires seldom smile. Millionaires who laugh are rare. My experience is that wealth is apt to take the smiles away.” Andrew Carnegie

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-11. How does this passage relate to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-24?

What causes you to lose sight of the eternal? What steps can you take to ensure that you are single-mindedly devoted to God?

List below some specific things you can you do to store up treasures in heaven:

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unchristian: reframing our faith through purifying motives

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

The Sermon on the Mount began with the Beatitudes, focusing on the inner attitudes of those who follow Jesus. In chapter 6, Jesus shares how our inner attitudes should manifest themselves outwardly, particularly in the areas of giving, praying, and fasting. WHY do we give, pray, and fast? Is our motivation for doing so to make Christ known, or is it to somehow bring attention to ourselves?

SCRIPTURE

1Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, 10Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us today our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 16When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-18

GROUP QUESTIONS

Do you think you ever have a completely pure motive for doing anything?

Read Matthew 6:1-18. What does it mean to “practice your righteousness”?

Read Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1. Is Jesus giving us contradictory commands? If not, what do you think is at the heart of what He is saying?

What word is repeated at the beginning of verses 2-3 (giving), 5-7 (praying), and 16-17 (fasting)? What is implied by the use of this word?

There is a lot of talk about “rewards” in this passage. What do you think the rewards are? Are they given now or in heaven? Is the promise of a reward what should motivate you to do righteous acts?

APPLICATION

Choose to do one, two, or all three of the following:

Either as a group or on your own, purchase a gift card for a local coffee shop. Give it to the barista to pay for the next few customers. Ask the barista not to let anyone know who the giver is. Sit and watch how people respond to receiving this gift. What were some of the reactions you witnessed? How did this make you feel?

It’s ironic that Jesus tells us not to “keep on babbling like pagans” in our prayers just before teaching the Lord’s Prayer; for many, this prayer is said repeatedly and without thought to the words. Pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) every day this week. Concentrate on what it means as you’re praying it. If you find you are just reciting and not thinking about the prayer, write it out, meditating on it as you write.

Set up a time to fast this month. For more information on fasting, especially for those who have never done it before, visit http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/fasting-for-beginners.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the following verses, and list what you learn about giving, praying, and fasting:

  • Proverbs 14:31
  • James 2:15-17
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7
  • Psalm 145:18
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • 1 John 5:14
  • Isaiah 58:3-7
  • Joel 2:12
  • Luke 18:9-14

In Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16, Jesus cited examples of hypocritical actions. Where do you struggle with hypocrisy in your own life?

Many times the Bible refers to God’s heart for the poor and the needy (Psalm 140:12, Proverbs 19:17; 21:13, Amos 5:24, 1 John 3:17-18). Do you think that the modern-day church has overlooked the poor? Why or why not?

What are the key focal points of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)? How might you use these focal points to guide you as you pray?

As Jesus began His ministry, He fasted for forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2). Why do you think He did this? What you can learn from His example?

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unchristian: reframing our faith through God’s standard

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In Matthew 5:17-48, Jesus continues to build on the foundation He laid in the previous verses. Because you know you are nothing without God, you mourn over sin, you put yourself second, you hunger and thirst to have right standing with God, you overflow with mercy, you have an unmixed heart, you are a peacemaker, you suffer persecution for the sake of the Savior, and you ARE salt and light – now He gives us a different perspective on “the law”. He confronts the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, and teaches that true righteousness is a matter of the heart, not just conformity to “the law”. Therefore, hate and lust are as sinful as murder and adultery. Our intentions matter when we make a promise. Our attitude toward our enemies should be steeped in meekness and mercy, not arrogance and revenge. So how do you reframe your faith through God’s standard?

SCRIPTURE

17Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 21You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. 25Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. 27You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. 31It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. 38You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:17-48

GROUP QUESTIONS

If living a “perfect” life is 100, what is your number?

Read Matthew 5:17-48. What do you think is at the core of what Jesus is saying in this passage?

Jesus taught that it is your heart that matters most, not your head knowledge of right or wrong. Read the following verses and note what the passage has to say about your heart / motivation. What do you learn from these verses?

  • Deuteronomy 6:5
  • 1 Samuel 16:7
  • Proverbs 4:23
  • Proverbs 16:2
  • Mark 7:21-23
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • James 4:3

Joe mentioned three points in his sermon: 1) When it comes to God’s standard, it’s not about what I give up, it’s about what I get; 2) It’s not about doing the right thing, it’s about being the right person; and 3) It’s not about how close to the edge I can go, it’s about how close to God I can get. Which of these points resonated with you the most, and why?

Where have you been walking close to the line instead of walking close to God? What will you do about this?

APPLICATION

Meditate on Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Do a study this week on what this means. (Be sure to check out 2 Timothy 2:21 and Hebrews 9:14.) Ask God to give you the right motivation to obey this command.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus states that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. What do you think this means?

Read Matthew 4:1-11. How does Jesus use Scripture? What does that say about his opinion of it? Is this significant to you? Why or why not?

Jesus says in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” How can your righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees? (See Romans 4:22-25, 1 Corinthians 1:30, and 2 Corinthians 5:21.)

In Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus explained God’s standard on three issues: murder, adultery, and lying. How is God’s standard contrary to what is acceptable in today’s culture? How seriously does Jesus view a violation of His standard (5:22, 29, and 37)? Does knowing this affect how you view anger/hatred, lust, and breaking promises?

Matthew 5:38-47 can be one of the most difficult passages to put into practice. In it, you are commanded to love your enemies and to not retaliate when someone wrongs you. Why is it so hard to do this?

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unchristian: reframing our faith through salt and light

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Jesus follows his statement of the character of His followers (knowing you are nothing without God, mourning over sin, putting yourself second, hungering and thirsting to have right standing with God, overflowing with mercy, having an unmixed heart, being a peacemaker, and suffering persecution for the sake of the Savior) with the results of lives that reflect the Beatitudes: Christ-followers are salt and light. Notice that Jesus does not challenge us to be salt and light…He states that we are salt and light. How is this displayed in your life?

SCRIPTURE

13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

GROUP QUESTIONS

Discuss as a group some of the expressions you have for “salt” and “light” (for example, “take it with a grain of salt”, “light at the end of the tunnel”).

Read Matthew 5:13-16. What do you think is the main point of the passage?

Salt was a valuable commodity in biblical times. In Jesus’ time, it was mainly used to preserve food. What do you think Jesus was saying when He said that, “You are the salt of the earth”?

Read John 8:12 and 9:5. If Jesus is the light of the world, how are believers also the light of the world? Do these verses in John contradict Matthew 5:14? Why or why not? (See 2 Corinthians 4:6.)

What might cause a Christian to lose their “saltiness” or hide their “light”?

The implication of these verses is that you have the privilege to be “salt and light” to the world. Have you ever considered this as a privilege? Why or why not?

APPLICATION

Write down three ways you have been salt and/or light to an unbelieving world. Discuss ways you could have a stronger influence on those around you.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read Daniel 6. How was Daniel “salt and light” in his environment? What was the result? Are you willing to be “salt and light” if the result is persecution?

Read the following passages and note what you learn about light:

  • Luke 2:29-32
  • John 1:1-9
  • John 8:12
  • John 9:1-5
  • John 12:44-46
  • Ephesians 5:6-8
  • Philippians 2:12-18

David Guzik (pastor, Bible teacher, Bible commentary author) states that “the figures of salt and light also remind us that the life marked by the Beatitudes is not to be lived in isolation….Jesus wants us to live them out before the world….Does your workplace improve because you work without complaining, you show up on time, you treat everyone with kindness, you refuse to enter gossip?” Are you able to answer these questions affirmatively? Ask the same questions about other areas of your life – in your home, at your church, in the community…do you “shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Ephesians 2:15-16)?

According to Matthew 5:16, the focus of your life should be to bring glory to God. What does that look like in your life?

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