unchristian: reframing our faith through choosing tribulation (part 2)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Life is made up of a myriad of choices…what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, which way to drive to work, who to marry. But as Aaron shared last week your most important decision is what road to choose – the narrow or broad one. The narrow road, which leads to life, is a difficult road with many dangers. How can you “check the road that you are on”? What is the best way to guard against false prophets? How can you know what your fruit is?

SCRIPTURE

13Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:13-23

GROUP QUESTIONS

Have you ever been “taken in” by someone who wasn’t who you thought they were? If you’re comfortable sharing, briefly tell your story to your group.

Read Matthew 7:13-23. Why does Jesus give a warning about false prophets immediately after talking about narrow and broad roads?

There is great difficulty in recognizing false prophets because they disguise themselves like sheep. Read the following passages and list the ways you may be able to identify a false prophet:

  • Matthew 7:16
  • Romans 16:17-18
  • 2 Timothy 4:3-4
  • I John 4:3
  • Jude 1:4,8,10,16,19

What is the fruit of false prophet (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 10, Deuteronomy 13:1-5)?

What is the fruit of obedience (Galatians 5:22-23)?

One of the most sobering statements Jesus makes is in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” According to the verse, what is the difference between those who will and those who will not enter heaven?

When Jesus says, “the will of my Father”, what do you think He is referring to?

APPLICATION

Do you know the fundamentals of the faith…those beliefs that are non-negotiable for Christ-followers? These are essential if you are to watch out for false prophets. If you don’t know what you believe, read through the Apostles’ Creed below. Study any of the doctrines contained in it that you don’t understand.

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

If you are firm in your beliefs, check the road that you are on. Ask the Spirit for wisdom in discerning true doctrine from false doctrine. Use a spiritual compass -who is at your North, South, East, and West? Your North is someone who is speaking God’s truth into your life. Your East and West are those you do with, who hold you accountable to live a life obedient to Christ. Your South is someone who is either a new believer or not yet a believer to whom you can speak truth.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the Book of Jude (one chapter), an urgent letter written to expose false teachers (prophets) and encourage believers to fight for truth. In verses 4 and 8, what were the false teachers doing?

Jude describes the false teachers in a number of ways. Beside the phrases below, use your own words to describe these people.

  • blemishes at your love feasts
  • shepherds who feed only themselves
  • clouds without rain, blown along by the wind
  • autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted
  • wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame
  • wandering stars
  • grumblers and faultfinders

What is the end result for these false teachers (verses 14-15; see also 2 Peter 2:1-9)?

In light of the fact that there are false teachers in the Church, what does Jude tell believers to do in verses 20-23? What does it mean to “keep yourselves in God’s love”? List some specific ways you can do this.

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unchristian: reframing our faith through choosing tribulation (part 1)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Jesus began to summarize the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12 – we must choose between giving in to our selfish desires or choose to follow Him and think of others first. In Matthew 7:13-14, He reveals another choice: choose the narrow gate/road or the wide gate/road. Choosing the narrow road means choosing to be poor in spirit, to mourn over sin, to put yourself second, to hunger and thirst to have right standing with God, to overflow with mercy, to have an unmixed heart, to be a peacemaker, to suffer persecution for the sake of the Savior, and to be salt and light. It also means choosing to make heavenly things a priority over earthly things, being willing to trust God with everything, choosing humility instead of judgment, and praying with perseverance. Which road will you choose?

SCRIPTURE

13Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:13-23

GROUP QUESTIONS

When you travel, how do you navigate? By GPS, phone, or physical maps? How do you decide on the route you will take?

Read Matthew 7:13-23. This week Aaron focused on the narrow and broad roads in verses 13-14. The word for enter carries a sense of immediacy – enter NOW! Why is it important to choose your road now?

The Greek word for narrow in the original language can be translated afflict, narrow, throng, suffer tribulation, trouble. Though the narrow road is difficult, it does lead to life. Why is it so challenging for some to choose the narrow road?

Our culture asserts that there are many ways to Heaven. It is considered intolerant to believe that there is only one way. Read John 10:9, John 14:6, and Acts 4:12. What do these verses claim? Why do people resist the idea of only one way to Heaven?

Despite the fact that the narrow road is difficult and can bring tribulation, Christ-followers do experience many good things in this life. Read the following verses, and list how God blesses us:

  • Isaiah 40:29-31
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Matthew 6:31-32
  • John 10:10
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • Philippians 4:19
  • James 1:5

APPLICATION

If you haven’t already, make a decision to follow Jesus on the narrow road this week. Read through the Romans passages below to help.

If you’re already on the narrow road, share the Good News of Jesus this week with someone on the broad road.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

According to these verses, what are the steps on the narrow road to salvation? (These passages are often called The Romans Road To Salvation.)

  • Romans 3:23
  • Romans 3:10-18
  • Romans 6:23
  • Romans 5:8
  • Romans 10:9
  • Romans 10:13
  • Romans 5:1
  • Romans 8:1
  • Romans 8:38-39

Christ-followers receive good gifts in this life, and even more in eternity. Read Ephesians 1:3-14, and list some of the many blessings received:

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unchristian: reframing our faith through God’s goodness

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

As you read the passage below, you may be tempted to think that Jesus is giving you carte blanche – everything you ask for you will receive! Most who have been Christ-followers for a long time know that this is not the case. God is not a genie who grants our wishes (prayer requests). Sometimes you continue to have financial troubles…the person you are praying for isn’t healed…your child continues to ignore all things related to God…you lose your job with nothing looming on the horizon. Regardless of our circumstances, God is still our good, good Father. Do you trust your Him to give you “good and perfect” gifts (James 1:17)?

SCRIPTURE

7Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:7-12

GROUP QUESTIONS

If your prayers were recorded for others to read (like a Psalm), what would people learn about your view of God?

Read Matthew 7:7-12. Keeping in mind that the Sermon on the Mount continued to build on each statement Jesus made, discuss what you believe Jesus meant in verses 7-8.

Ask…seek…and knock” implies a process that intensifies. According to the Disciple’s Study Bible, “Asking suggests dependence; seeking suggests yearning; knocking suggests persistence.” Does this characterize your prayer life?

Aaron spoke on Sunday about how our prayers should be done humbly, expectantly, and persistently. Look up the following verses and write down other attitudes God is looking for in your prayers:

  • John 14:13-14
  • John 15:7-8
  • 1 John 5:14-15
  • James 4:2-3

A. Carson writes that, “What is fundamentally at stake is man’s picture of God. God must not be thought of as a reluctant stranger who can be cajoled or bullied into bestowing his gifts (Matthew 6:7-8), as a malicious tyrant who takes vicious glee in the tricks he plays (Matthew 7:9-10), or even as an indulgent grandfather who provides everything requested of him. He is the heavenly Father, the God of the kingdom, Who graciously and willingly bestows the good gifts of the kingdom in answer to prayer.” (Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7: 1982, Baker Pub Group) Of these four views of God, which one most matches your view of Him? Does your view need to change?

APPLICATION

In his devotional on prayer (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/plan-for-prayer), John Piper said the following:

If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it. Therefore, my simple exhortation is this: Let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Try some new venture with God. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you.

This week, put Piper’s encouragements into action. Plan time for prayer, and see what your good, good Father has in store for you.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 Because God’s character is good, He desires to give us good things. What are the some of the things He promises when we call on Him?

  • Psalm 50:14-15
  • Matthew 7:11
  • John 16:23-24
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • 1 Peter 5:7
  • Hebrews 4:16

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said that the Law and the Prophets were summed up by what we call the “Golden Rule”. How does the “Golden Rule” relate to the Law and the Prophets? (See Matthew 22:36-40.)

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unchristian: reframing our faith through humility

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Ray Pritchard, president of Keep Believing Ministries, stated that “Fault finding is the ‘venom of the soul’. It destroys our joy, drains our happiness, and prevents us from having close friendships.” Richard Strauss, author of “Getting Along With Each Other”, believes that “negative criticism is a poison that kills the enthusiasm of Christian leaders and hinders the progress of God’s work. It is a contagious disease that spreads among God’s people, and can turn a loving community of believers into a battleground.” It is no wonder that Jesus tackled hearts that judge in the Sermon on the Mount! How can you live with an attitude of humility rather than a judgmental spirit?

SCRIPTURE

1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:1-6

GROUP QUESTIONS

Discuss a time when your first impression of someone was completely wrong.

Read Matthew 7:1-6. What does Jesus say will happen to you if you judge others? What does this mean?

Many interpret “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” to mean that we should never judge others. Read the following passages, and discuss whether this is an accurate interpretation.

  • Matthew 7:5
  • Matthew 7:15-20
  • Matthew 18:15-20
  • John 7:24
  • 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

Read 1 Corinthians 4:5. Who, ultimately, judges all mankind? What makes Him the best judge (see 1 Samuel 16:7, 2 Timothy 4:8)?

Joe titled his sermon, “unchristian: reframing our faith through humility”. What does humility have to do with judging others?

APPLICATION

How do you judge others? Read through the list below, marking the ways that you tend to judge (write in any that you do that aren’t listed):

  • Unnecessary criticism
  • Jumping to negative conclusions
  • Not seeing the whole picture
  • Setting up your own standards for others
  • Condemning others
  • _____________________________________________________________
  • _____________________________________________________________
  • _____________________________________________________________

Ask Jesus to forgive you for judging others, and to replace your judging spirit with a humble spirit.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 Read Matthew 7:2. This is the third time in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus uses this structure. Read Matthew 5:7 and 6:14-15. What principle is being taught here (hint – see Matthew 7:12)?

The Sermon on the Mount, just like the Beatitudes, are not just a collection of ideas. They are interconnected, with each section building on the last. Jesus spoke about pure motives for giving, praying, and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18), then about making Heaven our priority in where we store our treasure (Matthew 6:19-24), then about trusting God by not being anxious (Matthew 6:25-34), and now about humility – not placing ourselves in God’s place by judging others. What connects each of these passages?

Matthew 7:6 is a difficult verse to understand. Many commentators believe that it speaks to the idea of not wasting words (particularly the gospel) on those who will not hear them. Read the following verses and discuss how this action was carried out by the disciples and the Apostle Paul:

  • Matthew 10:5-15
  • Acts 13:44-51
  • Acts 18:5-6

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