sum of the sermon: it comes down to a simple choice, really

 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another … If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10.23-27)

Andy and Red were up against it; they had their backs to the wall. They’d recently learned that one of their best friends, Brooks, had killed himself. Hopeless, he had hung himself.

And though neither Andy or Red ever mentioned the word, hope is what they were talking about. Specifically, what a person does – and does not do – as a result of having hope, or not having it, in their life.

The difference between them was that though both were imprisoned, only one of them was imprisoned in mind. As Andy saw it, the only thing keeping him from freedom was made out of stone. Red? He was so shackled the only thing left for him was to find the will to use a rope. Just like Brooks.

But Andy? Andy had hope. And so, he scratched his way out through stone walls and filth. How he perceived his future powerfully impacted what he chose to do with his present. He chose to hope, and so he chose to do. And so, stone walls wouldn’t – couldn’t – contain him.

“It comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living or get busy dying!”

You probably recall that scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. This month is that movie’s twentieth anniversary (hard to believe, isn’t it). And so, let me ask you …

What do you believe? About your future? About hope? And what you’re to be about in the here and now?

Do you have hope? Vibrant, living hope? A hope you simply cannot leave behind? A hope that spurs you on to do what you can with today? For your own blessing and the blessing of others?

If you know Jesus Christ – truly know him – you don’t merely have hope. You know him as your hope. He is your hope. He is your all. Every day. He is what gives your life meaning.

You could no more turn your back on him and walk away from him than Andy Dufresne could have given up his dream to live in a place with no memory of all wrong and his daily toil to get there.

Know this kind of hope; come to know Jesus Christ. Know him as your Lord – as your daily hope – and he will be your Savior. Take on his mind and ways, and he will become your way to freedom. In this life, and in the one beyond. For no walls, made of stone or perception, can restrain him. Or you in your life with him.

Choose him. Choose life. Every day of your life. For today. For the sake of your future. For him.

It will make all the difference in your life. And in the lives of many a Red Redding.

Get busy living.

LIFE group guide: it comes down to a simple choice, really

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Oct. 5) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To underscore our response to God’s calling us and the seriousness of our faith in Christ.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. (Matthew 7.24-27 NLT)

• Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.” (Luke 9.62 CEB)

• You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do. (James 1.22-25 CEB)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Name a movie that has had a profound effect on you or share a favorite movie quote.

2. Is a person what they intend or what they do?

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Read Deut. 30.19-20 and Josh. 24.15. How do they mesh with Matt. 7.24ff and James 1.22ff?

2. Psalm 119 is a psalm of deep devotion to God. How often does it use words like “obey”?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. A person who has lost their ability to dream and build for the future has a ______ life.

2. Christ challenges us as he calls us. How does he enable us and equip us to respond?

3. What roles do our works play in our salvation? What roles do they not play?

4. How does how you see your past and future affect what you do in the present?

5. How can a disciple insure that their godly intentions and decisions become actions?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Consciously use the word “Lord” more often. Let that focus your mind/ways to act.

2. Build a system of solid reminders and means of accountability for your intentions.

LIFE group guide: love is a battlefield – being strong in the Lord (3)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Sept. 7) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To explore the meaning of, preparation for, and engagement in spiritual warfare.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, “Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?” It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, “Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?” No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it. (Deuteronomy 30.10-14 NLT)

• The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. … The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19.7-11 NIV)

• … God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions. No creature is hidden from it, but rather everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of the one to whom we have to give an answer. (Hebrews 4.12-13 CEB)

• Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5.1-5 NRSV)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. You need to focus on some reading/studying. Which do you prefer: silence or background music?

2. Share with us a word from, and an action of, a loved one that is especially dear and meaningful to you.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Compare Deuteronomy 30.10-14 with 1 John 5.1-5. What matters do these two texts have in common?

2. List the words used in Psalm 19.7-11 to describe the qualities of God’s word. Do the same for the benefits.

3. Answering only from Hebrews 4.12-13, what exactly do we believe God’s word to us is able to do to us?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. I find myself being most mindful of the word of God whenever I __________.

2. A Scripture I find myself recalling frequently or turning to often these days is ________. Why?

3. What excuse(s) and rationalization(s) do you sometimes find yourself offering up to not read Scripture?

4. “Opening up to and receiving God’s word isn’t an end in itself, but just a means to the end.” How so?

5. How truly hungry would you say you are for receiving and doing God’s word at this point in your life?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Reserve a specific, daily time you will spend reading God’s word and asking him to help you live it out.

2. Develop a mental habit of connecting a brief portion of Scripture with all of your actions, big and small.

links: this went thru my mind

Accountability & responsibility: The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

“Accountability … making, keeping, and managing agreements and expectations. … Responsibility … the feeling of ownership.”

ADHD, children, medicine & public schools: Why So Many kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today

“In the following post, Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist … suggests … another reason more children are being diagnosed with ADHD, whether or not they really have it: the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school.”

Community, inclusion, isolation, loneliness, relationships & violence: Sandy Hook Dad on What You Can Do Right Now to Help Prevent Violence

“… we should … do what we can to foster empathy; to create a world where no one feels invisible and ignored — least of all those who disproportionately fall victim to our collective failure to care enough to act.”

Discipleship, obedience & salvation: * Disciple; * Christ is Lord: What Does It Mean?

* “When Jesus describes discipleship, he does so in stunningly simple terms: teaching, obeying, and trusting.”

* “It’d be a pretty sick marriage if one spouse were to ask the other spouse, ‘What’s the minimal level I can be committed to my marriage vows without you divorcing me?’ Well, this is basically what we’re doing when we ask, ‘How submitted do I have to be to the Lord to be saved?'”

Evangelism & outreach: The Great Commission Means Sharing Christ’s Story, Not Yours

“We’re all about ‘sharing our testimonies’ and ‘telling our stories’ and recounting our ‘spiritual journey.’ … But there’s a subtle danger lurking here. Because of our emphasis on conversion stories and testimonies, we can unintentionally make people think that evangelism is the same thing as sharing your experience. We interpret The Great Commission’s ‘Go make disciples’ as ‘Go tell your story.’ They are not the same thing.”

Faith, military service, pacifism, unity & war: Christians Going to War

“The purpose of this blog is NOT to take a position, but to make a VERY IMPORTANT point. I have never heard a church to DIVIDE over the WAR ISSUE. Somehow we argue our points, and then continue to study and pray and work TOGETHER. But ironically we DIVIDE over many other questions. This does not make sense. At the very least, we need to be consistent. Through the centuries, the war issue has been important for some, and not for others. Human beings cannot agree on any issue. But Christians should love one another and love all people even when we disagree.”

Marriage: 5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Tie the Knot

“1. Does this person have integrity? … 2. Do I Respect This Person? … 3. Can I Continue to Respect and Love This Person if Their Most Annoying Habit or Significant Weakness Never Changes? … 4. Does This Person Deeply Love God? … 5. Does This Person Encourage Me in Word and in Action?”

Money & saving: 27 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving Money

“Think you can’t save? Think again. Sure, it seems like there’s not much wiggle room in your budget, due to the rising costs of basic necessities — but that’s all the more reason to have a slush fund. Fortunately, there are plenty of painless ways to siphon cash from even a fixed income.”

LIFE group guide: saved from start to finish

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 23) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Saved from Start to Finish”) works out of Acts 16.11-40 and Philippians 2.12-13.

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this particular sermon.

To consider the importance of not only starting life with Christ, but staying with him.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon.

• “’… what must I do to be rescued?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your entire household.’ … He and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. … He was overjoyed because he and everyone in his household had come to believe in God.” (Acts 16.30-34 CEB)

• … my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2.12-13 NIV)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. As a group, brainstorm synonyms for the word “saved.”

2. Which is most difficult today for most people: coming to, or continuing with, Christ? Why?

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon.

1. Have the group read aloud of the start of the church in Philippi. That is, read Acts 16.11-40.

2. Read Philippians 2.1-4,12-18. Make a list of what Christians are to work out in their salvation.

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Who were the people who had the greatest influence on your becoming a Christian?

2. Name those who have had the greatest impact on your growth and continuance in Christ.

3. If you were to advise someone just beginning their walk of discipleship, what would you say?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Using the list you created above (Research, #2), dedicate a different item on that list to receive your special attention and practice daily for one full week during the coming weeks.