unchristian: reframing our faith through wisdom

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

To summarize our series on the Sermon on the Mount, if you follow Christ you will exhibit spiritual bankruptcy, mourn over sin, put yourself second, hunger and thirst to have right standing with God, overflow with mercy, have an unmixed heart, be a peacemaker, suffer persecution for the sake of the Savior, be salt and light, choose to make heavenly things a priority over earthly things, trust in God, humility instead of judgment, persistent prayer; and, you will choose the narrow (difficult) road. It’s a no-brainer that Jesus wants us to hear and do what He says. So why is it so difficult to live a life that is marked by the characteristics found in the Sermon on the Mount?

SCRIPTURE

24Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. 28When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matthew 7:24-29

GROUP QUESTIONS

Share with your group a time when you made an unwise choice and discuss the consequences.

Read Matthew 7:24-29. Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a contrast between two people – those who hear His words and those who don’t. What does He mean by “hear”? Is it listening, or does it involve more?

Read the following passages. How do these passages add to your understanding of Matthew 7:24-29?

  • Luke 11:28
  • John 13:17
  • Romans 2:13
  • James 1:22-25
  • James 4:17
  • 1 John 2:5

Why is it so difficult to follow Christ’s commands? Why is it so hard to love your enemies, to not judge, to show mercy, to not seek accolades, to not worry…?

Read Proverbs 3:5-6. Do you rely more on your own wisdom than on God’s wisdom? If so, how can you change that?

APPLICATION

On Sunday, Aaron asked what it would look like to be a church that DOES the Word instead of just HEARING the Word. Read through the list below. Pray and think through these four challenges. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make these a reality in your life.

  • I need to know His Words and instructions.
  • I need to build habits where I lack discipline.
  • I need to live an interruptable life.
  • I need to think more of others and less of myself.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Look up the following passages and fill in the blanks. Was the person in the passage a hearer, or a hearer and a doer? Would your response have differed? If so, in what way?

SCRIPTURE

PERSON WHAT DID GOD SAY? WHAT DID THIS PERSON DO?

WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME?

Genesis 6-7 NOAH
Genesis 12:1-5; Hebrews 11:8-12 ABRAHAM
Jonah 1-2 JONAH
Genesis 19:12-29 LOT/LOT’S WIFE
Acts 10 PETER

Why is it so difficult to follow Christ’s commands? Why is it so hard to love your enemies, to not judge, to show mercy, to not seek accolades, to not worry…?

What do you think is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Look up Scripture references to support your answer.

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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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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?

  • __________________________________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________________________________

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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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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unchristian: reframing our faith through meekness

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Jesus continued to shock His audience as He shared the third Beatitude – “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” As the nation of Israel anticipated the coming Messiah, they did NOT anticipate Him to come with humility and meekness. They had been waiting for their savior to come and overthrow the bonds of the Roman Empire, setting up the Kingdom promised by the prophets. Into this setting Jesus arrives, stating that “the Kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). But it is so different from what they expected. What does it mean to be meek, and why is this trait so highly valued by God?

SCRIPTURE

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

GROUP QUESTIONS

If someone were to describe you as “meek”, how would that make you feel?

Webster’s Dictionary has three definitions for “meek”: 1) enduring injury with patience and without resentment; 2) deficient in spirit and courage; and 3) not violent or strong. Read Matthew 5:5. Do you think that any of Webster’s definitions fit what Jesus is saying?

Read Psalm 37:7-11. List five traits of a meek person found in this passage:

  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________

1 Peter 2:21-24 gives us Christ’s beautiful model of meekness. How does your view of meekness change in light of Christ’s example?

Read Galatians 5:22-23. Is “meekness” (translated here as “gentleness”) something that you can muster on your own?

In your opinion, what does it mean that those who are meek “will inherit the earth”?

APPLICATION

Take some time this week to go through the following questions. If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, ask the Spirit to cultivate meekness in your life.

  • Am I harsh in my treatment of others?
  • Do I make sure I get mine first?
  • Am I known as someone who should never be crossed?
  • Am I willing to do menial tasks?
  • Do I make people pay for their mistakes, sins, or failures?
  • Does rage fill my soul such that life is a series of explosions?
  • Am I unwilling to sacrifice (or put myself in second place) for others?
  • Do people tip-toe around me because of my mood swings?
  • Do I always have to be right?

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the following verses. How is meekness exemplified in these passages?

  • Genesis 13:7-12
  • Numbers 12:1-14
  • 2 Samuel 16:5-13
  • Romans 9:1-3

Can you be meek and angry at the same time (see James 1:19-21)? Can you be meek and have strong convictions (Galatians 2:11-14)?

In James 1:21, how does meekness (translated “humbly” here) transform the way we hear and receive Scripture?

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unchristian: reframing our faith through mourning

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

According to Alexander Maclaren (an English minister in the 1800’s), the Beatitudes are not “simply a collection of unrelated sayings….There is a vital connection and progress in them.” Each statement Jesus makes builds upon the next. His first statement, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, extols spiritual bankruptcy, the idea that you can bring absolutely nothing to God (Isaiah 64:6). “Poor in spirit” acts as a foundation for the rest of the Beatitudes. So what does “mourning” have to do with being “poor in spirit”?

GROUP QUESTIONS

What is one thing that brings you happiness?

Read Matthew 5:4. Why would those who are “poor in spirit” feel the need to “mourn”?

Discuss the meaning of the word “mourn”. Read the following verses. Do they add to your understanding of “mourning”?

  • Joel 2:12-13
  • 2 Corinthians 7:9-11
  • James 4:7-10

According to 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, how does true mourning differ from the feeling of sadness?

In Romans 7, Paul wrestles with his own sinfulness. What does he conclude is the only solution to his self-declared wretchedness (Romans 7:24-25)?

APPLICATION

On a scale of 1-10, how conscious are you of your sin? How intensely do you mourn when you break relationship with God?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

Ask the Spirit to show you areas in your life where you have ignored or downplayed sin. Ask Him to give you a biblical view of sin, and ask for His forgiveness.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

How can you balance mourning over sin versus being overburdened by the guilt of sin?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” What is the comfort that comes after mourning? (See Isaiah 25:8, Romans 8:1-2, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 1 John 1:9.)

When do you think this comfort comes – right after the mourning (Luke 15:17-24), or sometime in the future (Revelation 21:1-5)?

How have you been comforted by God when you have mourned over your sin?

2 Samuel 11 tells the story of David, the King of Israel, and Bathsheba. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and she became pregnant. He tried to cover up his sin by bringing Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, home from war. However, Uriah was so loyal that he would not visit his wife, but stayed near the palace. David then had Uriah return to the battle, and instructed Joab to put Uriah on the frontline, where he was killed. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan the prophet confronts David about his sin and David repents. Psalm 51 is David’s earnest plea to God for forgiveness. Read through this passage slowly, listening for God’s “still, small voice”. Reflect on the passage as it applies to your life – are there areas of sin in your life that you have ignored? Downplayed? Been completely blind to? Open your heart to God, confess any sin, and ask for His forgiveness.

SCRIPTURE

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

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unchristian: reframing our faith through spiritual bankruptcy

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Jesus’ first sentence of His first sermon in the first book of the New Testament is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The idea of poverty in spirit is counter-intuitive, especially in today’s culture. Why is this character quality so important to God that Jesus would talk about it first?

GROUP QUESTIONS

What does it takes for people to walk away from a sermon saying, “That was a great sermon.”? Has one particular sermon touched your life in a dramatic way?

Read Matthew 5:3. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit” (see Luke 18:9-14)?

Is there someone who comes to mind when you think of “poor in spirit” (a person you know personally, a Bible character, or someone in history/current culture)?

William Barclay notes in his daily study Bible that someone who is poor in spirit will 1) “become completely detached from things”; and 2) “become completed attached to God”. How would you rate yourself on these two criteria?

The opposite of being “poor in spirit” is being spiritually arrogant. What can you do to mitigate self-righteousness in your life?

Matthew uses the word “kingdom” 50+ times in his Gospel. What is the kingdom? Why would the “poor in spirit” inherit the kingdom?

APPLICATION

Brainstorm ideas with your group on how to cultivate a “poor in spirit” type of heart and life. Work on incorporating those into your daily life this week.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Jesus started each of the Beatitudes with the word “blessed”. What does that word mean to you?

The Greek word for blessed is makários, which Biblehub.com says “describes a believer in enviable (‘fortunate’) position from receiving God’s provisions (favor) – which (literally) extend (‘make long, large’) His grace (benefits).” There is no verb in the Beatitudes – they actually read more like, “O the blessedness of the poor in spirit.” The expression is common in the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms. Read the following passages and write the action or character trait that is considered blessed:

  • Job 5:17
  • Psalm 1:1-2
  • Psalm 32:1-2
  • Psalm 40:4
  • Psalm 41:1
  • Psalm 89:15
  • Psalm 106:3
  • Psalm 119:2
  • Proverbs 3:13-14
  • Proverbs 14:21
  • Proverbs 28:14
  • Isaiah 30:18

Matthew states that Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit” but Luke records it as “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20). Is there a difference between these two statements?

Does someone become poor in spirit and then never have to think about it again? Or does being poor in spirit require a conscious effort on a daily basis?

SCRIPTURE

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

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unchristian: reframing our faith

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most well-known passages of the Bible. The content of the sermon is amazingly practical, and yet, as General Omar Bradley stated, “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.” Does Jesus really expect us to live out the Sermon on the Mount? If we do not do so, are we unchristian?

GROUP QUESTIONS

What comes to mind when the Sermon on the Mount is mentioned?

Read Matthew 4:23-5:2. What three things was Jesus doing? What is the difference between teaching and preaching?

During this time, Jesus was obtaining a large following…and no wonder! He was “healing every disease and sickness among the people”. In his commentary on Matthew, Thomas Constable writes, “Matthew was hyperbolizing when he wrote that Jesus healed ‘all who were ill’. He could not have healed every single individual, though His healing ministry was extensive.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

Who do you think was the audience for the message – the disciples, the crowd, both (see Matthew 5:2; who does “them” refer to?)? Do you think the intended audience affects how we view the Sermon?

APPLICATION

In Jewish tradition, when someone read Scripture, they stood. When they taught, they sat down. This was a signal to those listening to prepare to hear a message. As we begin this new series on the Sermon on the Mount, is your heart prepared to hear what Jesus is saying? Pray that you would have an open heart to listen and respond to the Spirit’s prodding.

Read through the Beatitudes every day this week (Matthew 5:3-12).

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Matthew notes that Jesus began His ministry in Galilee (see also Mark 1:14). This location is important in Jesus’ life. Read the following verses and note what you learn about Galilee:

  • 2 Kings 15:29
  • Isaiah 9:1
  • Luke 2:39
  • Mark 6:21
  • John 7:41, 52
  • Matthew 21:10-11
  • Matthew 28:7
  • Mark 15:41
  • Acts 1:11

Jesus grew up in Galilee. His disciples and a number of his followers, including Mary Magdalene, were from Galilee. He did some of his most noted miracles in Galilee and much of his ministry takes place there. God, in human form, chose to be associated with Galilee, with people who were not highly regarded in society. Why do you think He chose this route to reveal Himself, rather than coming with power, might, political clout, etc.?

Read through the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). What do you believe is the main emphasis of the Sermon?

SCRIPTURE

23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and He healed them. 25Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him. 1Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, 2and He began to teach them. Matthew 4:23-5:2

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