LIFE group guide: the twisted text

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow night (April 21). This guide will enable your follow-up in our LIFE groups of my sermon tomorrow morning from the letter of Jude, with emphasis on vs. 3. This sermon’s title is The Twisted Text and it is the next to the last sermon in the I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means series. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted,  are from the CEB.

Aim

To examine familiar Scripture closely, so as to correct common misunderstandings.

Word

Dear friends, I wanted very much to write to you concerning the salvation we share. Instead, I must write to urge you to fight for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s holy people. Godless people have slipped in among you. They turn the grace of our God into unrestrained immorality and deny our only master and Lord, Jesus Christ. … these dreamers in the same way pollute themselves, reject authority, and slander the angels. … these people slander whatever they don’t understand. … These people who join your love feasts are dangerous. They feast with you without reverence. They care only for themselves. … These are faultfinding grumblers, living according to their own desires. They speak arrogant words and they show partiality to people when they want a favor in return. … These people create divisions. Since they don’t have the Spirit, they are worldly. … But you, dear friends: build each other up on the foundation of your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep each other in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give you eternal life. Have mercy on those who doubt. Save some by snatching them from the fire. Fearing God, have mercy on some, hating even the clothing contaminated by their sinful urges. (Jude 3-4,8,10,12,16,19-23)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Did you ever get into a fight at school or on the playground? Tell us about it.

2. How do you tend to act around others when you’re frustrated (whether or not the source of your frustration has to do with them)?

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. From the text above, profile the specific actions of the “godless people” who had “slipped in among” the Christians to whom Jude was writing (vs. 4).

2. Working strictly from the text above, make a complete list of the behaviors Jude urges Christians to be about (i.e. – what it means to “fight for the faith”).

3. Contrast the two lists you just made in # 1 and # 2.

4. Instead of writing “concerning the salvation we share” (vs. 3a), Jude had to radically alter the content and tone of his letter. How and what do you suppose he might have wrote about if he had stuck to his original plan? What makes you think so?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. In what contexts have you typically seen or heard vs. 3 used among Christians?

2. How could a group of Christians ever get to such a point that they tolerated, or even condoned, such wickedness in their midst as these Christians were doing?

3. Differentiate (a) contending for the faith and (b) being contentious with those of faith.

4. What happens to Christ’s name when the world sees believers fighting each other?

5. Practically speaking, how can the church simultaneously be “a hospital for sinners” and not put up with the bad behavior such as Jude wrote about?

6. How can small group life help foster the practice of the behaviors listed in vs. 20-23?

journey through James (16): twenty questions on James 4:1-12

This coming Sunday morning (Nov. 6) at MoSt Church, most of our adult classes will study James 4:1-12. We’ll use this phrase to focus our mind on the meaning of this passage: learning how to grow toward God and away from Satan, selfishness, and sin. To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, here is the text and twenty exercises and questions.

Scripture

What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? (2) You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. (3) You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.

(4) You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? (5) Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? (6) But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. (7) Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. (8) Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. (9) Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. (10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(11) Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. (12) There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you? (James 4:1-12 CEB)

Exercises & questions

1. List all of the things we know that God does or will do in light of the teaching of this text.

2. List all of the sins you see directly referenced or implied in this passage that were apparently common among the Christians to whom James originally wrote.

3. List what we know about the devil from what is directly stated or implied in this passage.

4. List all of the direct commands given to Christians in this Scripture.

5. Clearly, selfishness is a huge problem among the Christians to whom James is writing. How big a problem would you say selfishness is among Christians in our country today? Explain.

6. Given the immediate context (and other passages in James such as 5:6), would you say the reference to “murder” in vs. 2 is literal or figurative? Explain.

7. “You long for something you don’t have …” (vs.2). Good thing we don’t have that problem anymore, huh? Comment on our culture’s “cravings” and how we Christians often share the same cravings.

8. Struggle and fighting among Christians is sin and comes from sin. What sort of sins does James say fueled the struggles and fights he references in vs.1-3?

9. What does vs.2-3 teach you about prayer?

10. What does vs.3 have to say about the common teaching known as the “health and wealth” or “prosperity” gospel?

11. Given what is said in vs.4, would you say it is possible for a Christian to lose their salvation?

12. Verse 5-6b is notoriously difficult text to translate. Notice the variation in rendering by comparing the passage in several different English translations.

13. What does James mean that God “gives us more grace” (vs.6)?

14. Paul says God does not play favorites (Romans 2:11) and yet, here James says God “favors the humble” (vs.6b)? How can both of these statements be true, or can they be?

15. Given the context, what would you say might happen to a person if God draws near to them (vs.8a)?

16. What does it mean to be “double-minded?” (vs.8b)

17. As surely as we’re called to “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4), we’re also called to “mourn” our sins (vs.8-10). How can a Christian do both of these things?

18. James says criticizing, disrespecting, insulting, or mistreating other Christians is akin to put yourself in the place of God (vs.10-12). What accounts elsewhere in Scripture come to your mind when you think of people (wittingly or unwittingly) putting themselves in God’s place?

19. James is using every possible means of persuasion as he urges the Christians to whom he is writing to get their act together. Try to list the various motivations James appeals to in this text. Which do you find most powerful or persuasive?

20. This much is certain from this passage: church life can sometimes resemble be hell on earth. What advice, derived from this text or elsewhere in Scripture, would you give to a new or troubled Christians who found themselves in the middle of a selfish church caught up in civil war among themselves?