sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: be strong in the Lord

 

Most of you have probably seen the videos that have gone viral of late of people accepting “The Ice Bucket Challenge.” It’s a gimmick to raise awareness of – and funds for – the fight against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known to a previous generation as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

I accepted the challenge – dump a bucket of ice water on yourself – and I’ve set aside a contribution to the ALS Association. I challenge you to do the same (at alsa.org).

But this morning I challenge you to consider what it means to “be strong in the Lord.” For that is precisely what each of us here is called to become. “Strong in the Lord.”

Just what does that phrase say to you? What image does it conjure up in your head?

Let’s ask the person who first used it: an apostle of God. His name was Paul. And when Paul thought about “being strong in the Lord” his mind instantly went to an image of war. (Eph. 6.10 NRSV) It’s an image of a soldier fully equipped to do battle with the enemy. (Eph. 6.11 NRSV)

Being “strong in the Lord” is deadly serious business; it’s a battlefield!

In that sort of scenario, you are, if nothing else, fully-focused. There are things you just don’t do (like carry things you don’t need). And there things you do no matter what (you “behave appropriately”). cf. Rom. 13.12b-13a NRSV. For it goes without saying: it’s a matter of life and death.

Now let me ask you: how do you picture yourself when it comes to being “strong in the Lord;” when it comes to your engagement in spiritual warfare?

I can’t see your answer, but I can relate to you what I sometimes hear.

“I want to be strong in the Lord, but I’m just not feeling it. I want to be spiritual and I start out doing well, but I seem to quickly fizzle out. What am I doing wrong?”

Does that sound like you? What it looks like is hand-to-hand combat and the battlefield is your mind. God has put his Spirit in us to permeate our mind and work out his will in this world. However, our enemy, Satan, opposes God and us. His plan of attach is to reverse God’s intended nature of things by using the world and its ways to impact us sensually, taking control of our mind and dominating our spirit. The contested ground, the ground where the battle will be either won or lost, is in our mind.

Through the years I’ve had occasion to talk with combat-hardened veterans of military service. Sometimes I’ve asked them what being truly ready for battle is all about. More often than not they do something like this (“tapping their head”) and say something like “keeping your head in the game.”

One time, I had a young veteran – one of the current generation raised on video games like Call of Duty – look me right in the eye and say:

“They lied to me. There’s nothing quick, easy, or fun about killing a man.”

I’ll leave it to you to sort all of that. Including what all that young man must have wrestled with (and still does).

But I think what he said nailed it. It comes down to what we’re thinking and our expectations. Make no mistake about it: our part in the battle – the fulfillment of our duty to God – will be won or lost in our head.

“What am I doing wrong?,” you ask.

It’s likely the way you think about things. Or more precisely, the way you don’t think about your expectations.

How many of us have been duped by the Devil to think our maturity in Christ can, and will, come quickly? How many of us live under Satan’s deception that being a Christian is supposed to come relatively easily? How many of us have been deluded to believe – and diluted in our faith – to suppose that life in God must be fun?

I tell you the reality of it is more like the difference between the look in the eyes of the fresh, new recruit who has never “seen the elephant” and the eyes of the battle-hardened veteran who has seen it all … again, and again, and again.

I challenge you: name one thing that’s solid and central about Christian faith that happens “quickly.” There’s nothing there. It takes time. A lot of time. A lifetime.

Precious little – if anything – about believing, truly trusting God, is “easy.” Faith is “the proof of what we don’t see.” (cf. Heb. 11.1b CEB) What, pray tell, is easy about that?

And “fun?” While joy is certainly part of the fruit that God’s Spirit grows in/on us, that word was never intended to carry the full freight load of what it means to follow after God and his will. If so, someone forgot to tell our Lord, our mentor, our model, the Man of Sorrows. No, strong Christians make use of all the colors in the box, not just happy yellow. They can, and do, “weep with those who weep” and they can, and do, grieve over their sins.

“What are you doing wrong?” It’s likely a matter of the battle going on in your mind. You have a set of assumptions and expectations that have no place on the battlefield, and you’re in the Army now, mister; get your mind right!

Put on the full armor of God! Every day the sun comes up is a day there is an enemy at the gates and evil in the air. (Eph. 6.13 NRSV) Gear up with faith in God, hope in Christ, and love by the Spirit. (1 Thes. 5.8 NRSV) Your life – and the lives those around you – depend on it. And march into battle with the assurance that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, will see us through to our destiny with him, in him and for him. (1 Thes. 5.9 NRSV)

Who today will take up the challenge? Who will get their mind right by turning a deaf ear to the Devil’s propaganda? Step right into the ranks of the legions who call Jesus “Lord.”

sermon notes – maintaining the unity of the Spirit: Q & A

 

The past several Sundays at MoSt Church I’ve been preaching regarding the unity we share as Christians as a result of the work of God’s Spirit. The last two sermons, centered on Ephesians 4.4-6, were closely linked to the sermon preceding them (based on Ephesians 4.1-3). These two sermons seem to have generated a number of questions. And so, my sermon today will address several questions that some have had regarding these sermons.

And, uncharacteristically, I have manuscripted this sermon, the entirety of which follows. One note: my delivery of the sermon doesn’t necessarily follow the manuscript, but the manuscript does record the essence of what I’m trying to get across in this sermon.

So, let’s start by reading Ephesians 4.1-6 once more … very closely, carefully, thoughtfully, humbly, and with prayer.

I … beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4.1-6 NRSV)

Q. Why preach these sermons on unity? And now?

A. Our elders called on me to do so and I serve them in Christ’s name. They detect the need among us and so I am ready to help them feed the flock of which we all are a part (cf. 2 Timothy 4.2). The body of Christ always needs to hear about unity; it is a subject difficult to visit too often.

Q. Are we talking about: (a) unity within our church family, (b) Churches of Christ, or (c) all Christians everywhere?

A. That would be “d,” all of the above, for we are “all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3.28). What holds true for one field holds true for them all.

Q. The Bible is a big book. Why believe the “Seven Ones” of Ephesians 4.4-6 define our unity?

A. Such is the natural reading of the flow of thought in Ephesians 4.3-6. Vs. 3 mentions the unity we share and vs. 4-6 immediately follows as a precise description of the pillars that hold up the roof of unity.

This understanding is anything but original or “new”; it has been the view of many Christian thinkers, scholars, preachers, teachers, and writers across the ages.

Q. The Lord’s Supper isn’t mentioned as one of the “Seven Ones” of Ephesians 4.4-6. Aren’t all Christians to share in such?

A. Given the apostle Paul’s choice of words concerning the body and its importance to faith in his discussion of the Supper in 1 Corinthians 10.16-11.1,17-34, it seems natural to conclude that the Supper is a part of the one faith’s declaration and celebration of the one body. That is, the Supper, though not explicitly named, is implied in the life of the one body lived out together in faith.

Q. What?! You think there are Christians outside of “Churches of Christ?!”

A. Of course! Allow me to call several witnesses to the stand.The combined testimony of Scripture, reason, church history, and personal experience is clear and powerful.

First, our Lord Jesus himself speaks of principles related to thinking so (cf. John 3.8; 10.16; etc.).

Second, reason tells us that when our Lord said the way is “narrow” (Matthew 7.13-14) that he did not mean infinitesimally so (as is the case if one considers the world’s population and limits the size of Christianity to buildings with a sign out front that says “Church of Christ” on them).

Third, Christ’s church – the one body – has existed for nearly two millennium now, but “Churches of Christ” as we know them today did not even exist until the 1800’s. Are we to believe there were no Christians on the earth for 1,500+ years? Did the Lord’s promise that his kingdom wouldn’t end, falter or fail? Phht!

And fourth, who doesn’t know people they consider full well to be one with Christ –  exemplary even of what a Christian is to be in the development of the fruit of the Spirit in them – and yet, who are not a part of “Churches of Christ?”

Further, when we preach for all Christians to come together on Christ and his word alone, to whom do we think we’re speaking? Are we just talking to ourselves?

And so: are there Christians outside of “Churches of Christ?” Yes, and the question is now seen for what it is: at best it is unobservant and thoughtless, and at worst it is more nearly absurd, insulting, and revolting! If you think not, try asking some of your earnest, Christ-seeking friends how they hear this question.

Christ’s church is made up of all of the saved, but Christ’s church and the people known as “Churches of Christ” are not synonymous terms. The former includes the latter, but is by no means limited to it. We must be Christ-like – not libertarian or sectarian – in our thinking, as well as in our behavior.

Q. Who exactly are the saved?

A. We believe salvation is through Jesus Christ (John 10.9) and no one else (Acts 4.12). We have many clear examples given to us by the Spirit in Scripture as to how people came/come to be Christians (e.g. – Acts 16.30-33). And we know all who make such a start with Christ are to spend all of the rest of their days growing in Christ’s grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3.18).

But, ultimately, God alone knows who are, and who will be, the saved for God alone is Judge and Mercy-Giver (cf. Romans 9.15). We should rejoice to leave this role to him! As you have heard me say many times through the years: “I’m happy to let God do the sorting.” We dare not come to think we’re big enough to play God (the first sin, as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden).

As we who seek Christ all seek to walk toward God together, let’s avoid the ditches on both sides of the road: the ditch that counts obedience as something of an optional matter (Matthew 7.21) as well as the ditch that equates merely human doctrines and doings with the very teachings of God, thereby laying heavy, human expectations on people’s backs (Matthew 15.9).

It is enough that the saved are in God’s good hands and all who seek God should seek to walk hand-in-hand as they can.

Q. Is there a difference between what is necessary for salvation and what is necessary for fellowship?

A. Yes. God alone can save and does so with perfect knowledge, while we humans recognize fellowship on the basis of very limited knowledge. Think of some of the many differences just within the Churches of Christ – we don’t write everyone else off to hell (do we?) just because there are differences between us great enough to make full, outward fellowship extremely difficult or even unworkable at times. And so then, there are matters of salvation and matters of fellowship. They are two different things.

If this troubles you, think of what our Lord said to his disciples when they complained that another was doing much good but, did not keep company with them (Mark. 9.38-40). Or think about Paul and Barnabas going their separate ways over John Mark and yet, both being used by God to further his kingdom’s work (cf. Acts 15.38-40).

Q. “We’re not the only Christians; we just want to be Christians only.” Where’d that come from?

A. This comes to us from both grief and good.

The grief? The utter disgust over the divided state of greater Christendom planted the seeds of the thought and has cultivated the yearnings of a multitude across time: “Surely there must be a better way than this sorry state of affairs of a multitude of divisions among believers!”

And what is the good? The revealed mind of God through his word to us in Scripture gave such to us: to do all in the name of the Lord; nothing more, nothing less (cf. Colossians 3.17). This is the far better way.

Q. You mentioned Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell last week. Who cares what they thought?

A. I do and you should, too. Why? Because they were used by God as developers of our heritage’s roots, these two men helped shape our thinking today. Being godly, scholarly men who investigated the meaning, application, and maintenance of Christian unity their whole lives with intense research, deep thought, constant prayer, and with a wealth of personal experience, they remain worthy teachers of us all still today. Do take the time to carefully consider Hebrews 13.7 on this.

I would add a word of caution: make no mistake about it, there is a strong stream of anti-intellectualism that runs not just through the minds of many within our heritage, but through our entire country as well, and this must be resisted. Where people do not want to know about their past or where they do not care to hear from those who influenced them to be as they are today, intellect will only deteriorate and Christian faith will suffer much for it.

Q. Why can’t all believers see everything the same way? Within Churches of Christ, at the very least?

A. This is a false and damaging expectation to carry around with us in this life for it presumes the exact opposite of what Scripture tells us, namely that here and now we Christians “know only in part” (1 Corinthians 13.9a). We are destined to see things here only “dimly.” First, because we’re individual human beings. Second, because each individual conscience is developed to a different degree in light what it has been exposed to, and enlightened to, of the will of God. And so, perfect agreement between us all is an absolute impossibility.

And that’s okay, because we are not called to uniformity, but unity in the Spirit. Note our role: we are called to maintain the unity that God’s Spirit has given, not manufacture uniformity by the work of our own hands. The unity of the Spirit makes room for diversity where the human spirit bent on uniformity does not.

And recall what we’ve already noted: we are extremely finite and flawed beings, meaning we often find ourselves not content with God’s “Seven Ones” (Ephesians 4.4-6) and often go off in a meaningless quest for the 70, 700, or 7,000 that God’s Holy Spirit did not give us. May God have mercy.

Q. How can we get along with and work with each other if we don’t agree on everything?

A. The same way a healthy marriage between a husband and wife functions: on the basis of continual, loving attitudes and actions of submission toward each other (Ephesians 5.21). No husband and wife agree on everything, nor do healthy ones expect to do so. They know their unity and faithfulness is not dependent on such. Every healthy marriage is not merely a strong statement so, but serves as a witness for, and encouragement to, earnestly seek unity.

It is the same way with the church, the church with Christ. This is the wisdom that we seek: to live our lives together practically in Christ in unity. This is not a dream; it is doable. Where Christian unity does not exist it is not because it has been tried and found wanting, but because it has simply not been honestly tried and pursued.

Just as in a godly, spiritually-healthy marriage “… what matters is faith working through love …” (Galatians 5.6), it is so with the unity of the Spirit in Christ’s church. May the church, the bride of Christ, discover this again and again, and rejoice in it greatly, making it her ceaseless quest, day by day!

Q. What can/must MoSt Church do in order to do an even better job of maintaining the Spirit’s unity?

A. Ephesians 4.1-3 gives us much of the answer. We can seek with all of our being to allow the Spirit’s growth in each of us these four vital elements: humility, gentleness, patience, and love. There is enough in those four words alone to keep us all occupied quite well all day long, every day. So let us pursue them! Memorize them. Reflect on them. Pray regarding them. And let us practice them every we can.

As well, we can work at growing in respect and care for individual conscience on ever matter.

We can strive for a common vision of the Spirit’s “Seven Ones,” deliberately laying aside our baseless and unnecessary expectations of 70, 700, or 7,000 things.

We can get busy, and continue to be busy, working together, for few people who work hard together with a common vision divide.

We can pray: “Let all that is denominationalism and division within us, and outside of us, die!”

We can, with a will, leave the things that God alone can do, to God for him to do.

We can stress what we’re called by the Spirit to agree on, and not stress out over what we’re not called to agree on.

We can deliberately and frequently speak well of each other, pointing out the good we seen in each from God, and refrain from assumption, judgmentalism, and gossip.

We can focus on the action laid out for us by the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4.4-6 (the “Seven Ones”) and determine to see developed in us in increasing measure the attitudes that accompany the “Seven Ones” (Ephesians 4.1-3), that is: humility, gentleness, patience, and love.

And the greatest of these is love.

And so, let us hear what the Spirit says to the churches, and to us:

I … beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4.1-6 NRSV)

And so, having heard the Spirit’s call as to what can agree on and how, let us pray:

Father God, you are One! And so, in Christ’s name give each of us grace to respond to you here and now, and in every day to come, to maintain the unity that your Spirit has provided for us all. Loosen our grip on anything that is not of you, steering us clear of the ditches on both the right and the left. We would have you sharpen our focus on the one body; your one Spirit; our one hope to which you have called us; our one Lord; the one faith; the one baptism; and you, our only Father, God. All of this we ask for the honor of your name. For the betterment of our lives together as your people, united by your Spirit. And for the sake of a united witness to all who are yet to believe. Amen.

LIFE group guide: the unity of the Spirit – what exactly are we to maintain? (2)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Aug. 10) 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 consider the heart of our role in maintaining the unity we experience in Christ Jesus.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• … when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12.32 NIV)

• God’s kingdom is … about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14.17 CEB)

• … I want to make it clear to you that … no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12.3 CEB)

• Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you … I passed on to you what was most important … Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Corinthians 15.1-2a,3-4 NLT)

• The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5.6b NIV)

• … lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4.1b-6 NRSV)

• Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain intruders have stolen in among you … who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4 NRSV)

Relation

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

1. Share one of the most meaningful expressions of family or church unity you’ve experienced.

2. If we Christians strongly emphasized more of what we agree on, what might happen?

Research

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

1. Carefully read Eph. 1.9-23. What links do you see between it and the seven ones of Eph. 4.4-6?

2. Read Eph. 2.8-10. How is unity crucial to the living out of our purpose in Christ (vs. 10)?

3. Study Jude 3-4. What relation does “the salvation we share” share with “the faith?” To Jude, what specific sort of matter constituted a deviation from “the faith,” “the salvation we share?”

Reflection

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

1. If Christians are all “one body” in Christ then how is it division among Christians even exists?

2. Which do disciples tend to agree on more readily, completely: “doctrine” or “morality?” Why?

3. Only by the Spirit can a person say “Jesus is Lord.” Many sincerely worship Christ and seek to live after him, yet differ on a number of matters and levels. What does this say to you?

4. “You ‘Church of Christ people’ act like you’re the only ones going to heaven.” Response?

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. Continually seek to first see things through the eyes of others; to appreciate differing views.

LIFE group guide: the unity of the Spirit – what exactly are we to maintain?

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Aug. 3) 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 consider the heart of our role in maintaining the unity we experience in Christ Jesus.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• … when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12.32 NIV)

• God’s kingdom is … about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14.17 CEB)

• … I want to make it clear to you that … no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12.3 CEB)

• Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you … I passed on to you what was most important … Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Corinthians 15.1-2a,3-4 NLT)

• The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5.6b NIV)

• … lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4.1b-6 NRSV)

• Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain intruders have stolen in among you … who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4 NRSV)

Relation

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

1. What is one of the silliest, most senseless things you’ve ever argued with someone about?

2. As a group, make a list of all the matters you know churches in our heritage have split over.

Research

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

1. What connection(s) do you see between the 7 Scriptures above? How do they work together?

2. Note the phrase “the truth” in texts such as Acts 6.7; 13.8; 14.22; 16.5; et al. What is “the truth?”

Reflection

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

1. “Most items Christians have split over don’t concern Scripture’s direct commands.” Thoughts?

2. Is it enough for Christians to be united on the “7 ones” of Eph. 4.4-6? Must they agree on more?

3. When Christians needlessly divide with each other over an issue, the world surely thinks ____.

4. Imagine spending all of your time maintaining the unity God made with “the seven ones” rather than fuming/fussing other things as you’d like to have them. How would life change?

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. With your words/ways, creatively emphasize one of “the 7 ones” on each of a week’s 7 days.

2. Memorize Ephesians 4.4-6 and repeat it to yourself daily, indeed, several times each day.

LIFE group guide: covering the Spirit’s medley

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 16) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Covering the Spirit’s Medley”) works out of Ephesians 5.18-21 and is the third in a three-part series entitled Sing!

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon, in a series.

To stress the significance of singing in our life together as seekers of God.

Revelation

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

• Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 NRSV)

• Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 NIV)

• Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 CEB)

• Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life. When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart. Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to thank God the Father for everything. Honor Christ and put others first. (Ephesians 5.18-21 CEV)

Relation

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

1. Music is on that you like. And so, you [choose one]: (a) bob your head, (b) tap your foot, or (c) drum your fingers?

2. Name a song you think has been “covered” better than it was performed by the original band.

Research

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

1. Using the translations above, what are synonyms for “debauchery” (vs. 18)?

2. Using the text above, in what four specific ways are Christians to be “be filled with the Spirit”?

3. Using the text above, ID: (a) what Christians do to each other and (b) what they do to God.

4. Describe the roles (a) God our Father, (b) Jesus Christ, and (c) the Spirit play in the text above.

Reflection

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

1. How is being “drunk with wine” and “filled with the Spirit” similar? How do they differ?

2. Your life is a song. How does the music you’ve made the week before affect Sunday singing?

3. Over the long haul, which most powerfully influences your personal faith: sermons or songs?

4. How can you use Christian music/spiritual songs to reach out to those who are yet to believe?

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. Learn a new, spiritual song. Learn it so well you can easily sing all of it by memory. Repeat.

2. Carefully consider the words of several songs in our hymnal. Use such as prompts for prayer.

LIFE group guide: come together, over me

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Jan. 26). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the fourth (and final one) in a series entitled Gatherings.

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To explore and emphasize the importance of our gathering together as a church.

Revelation

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

• He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” … Jesus answered “… on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16.15-18 NRSV)

• You are God’s building. … no one can lay any foundation other than … Jesus Christ. … Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor. 3.9b,11,16-17 NLT)

• … you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Cor. 12.27 NIV)

• When he [Christ] came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit. (Eph. 2.17-22 CEB)

Relation

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

1. Without reference to what you do for a living, how would you describe yourself?

2. Tell us of a person (or group of people) instrumental in forming your life’s foundation.

Research

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

1. In the texts above, what are God, Christ, and the Spirit specifically described as doing?

2. Utilizing the texts above, list what’s true of us by noting each use of the word “you.”

Reflection

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

1. When you think of “the church,” is your first thought of it as human or divine? Why?

2. What part do you play in the portion of Christ’s body that we know as MoSt Church?

3. “… all of you together are the temple of God.” How is the church’s togetherness reflective of God being in us?

4. How is the church to make it obvious that what good it does is of God, and for God?

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. Meditate on the incarnate quality of Christ’s church; how it is both human and divine.

2. Work hard to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4.3)

people of God; people of the book

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (March 3). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning. This sermon is entitled People of God; People of the Book. The manuscript for this sermon will appear in a post tomorrow morning. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below are from the CEB.

Aim

To declare our faith in the God who provides us with what we need to grow up in him.

Word

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does their part. (Ephesians 4.11-16)

Open

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

1. Tell us of a time you were tricked or misled. It can be humorous, serious or whatever.

2. Tell us of someone(s) who powerfully helped you mature in life. What did they do?

3. Complete this sentence: “I sense that I’m growing as a person whenever I ________.”

Dig

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

1. Where do apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers come from? (vs. 11)

2. Why did God give us apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers? (vs. 12)

3. How long did Paul perceive God’s provision of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers would last? (vs. 13a)

4. How is “unity of faith” and “knowledge of God’s Son” related to each other? (vs. 13a)

5. What is our goal in growth and with what instrument do we measure such (vs. 13b)?

6. Who is vulnerable to misleading and false teaching? (vs. 14)

7. Where does true spiritual growth come from and where does it lead (vs. 15b-16a)?

8. How does Christ’s body, the people of God, grow? (vs. 15-16)

Reflect

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

1. In light of vs. 11, what is job #1 for all who seek to serve and build up Christ’s body?

2. All of the roles listed in vs. 11 involve sharing God’s word. How does this understanding color all of what follows (vs. 12-16)?

3. Why is deep sincerity alone inadequate to grow in God, and “the truth,” a necessity?

4. Tell us of a time when you, due to spiritual immaturity, believed something untrue about serving Christ. What helped you escape that point of false faith?

5. What happens to a body of believers when not every part “does their part?”

6. Someone asks you: “How can I discover my role in Christ’s body?” What do you say?

7. Who gives spiritual growth to God’s people? Let this text’s words shape your answer.

8. What good do you see in the lives of folks who are on a trajectory of spiritual growth?