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.

keep calm & carry on (Hebrews 11.1-12.3)

 

Keep-Calm-Carry-OnFollowing are the discussion questions I’ll use in connection with Hebrews 11.1-12.3 in the class I’ll lead tomorrow morning at MoSt Church, the 20/20 class. Let me encourage you to read and re-read this wonderful passage, slowly and thoughtfully, prayerfully and reflectively, as you prepare for our conversation.

1. Circle every occurrence of the word “faith” in this section (11.1-12.3). In all but two instances in vs. 3-40, the word “faith” is stressed in the original Greek text. Would you say that “faith” is something that is emphatic and clear in your life? Why or why not?

2. Contrary what is commonly said, 11.1 is not actually a comprehensive definition of faith, but a description of its connection with hope. How so?

3. How is faith “the proof of what we don’t see” (11.1b)? What exactly is meant by “what we don’t see?”

4. Hebrews 11.3-40 is often referred to as the “Hall of Faith.” It starts and stops with reference to us (“we”). What does it do for you to know that your name is included along with names like Abraham and Moses, Sarah and Rahab?

5. The life lived out in faith is a journey or pilgrimage of faith. Of the people named in vs.3-40, which one makes it most clear to you that faith and hope are, in essence, one? Explain.

6. On a scale of 0-100, score your current “longing for a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” (vs. 16) What can a person of faith do to stoke the fires of their yearning for their heavenly home?

7. Sometimes faith is rewarded with deliverance in the here and now (vs. 33-35a) and sometimes it is not (vs. 35b-40). What are we to make of this?

8. What does faith actually do? Itemize and discuss each of the specific application points the author gives us in 12.1-3.

LIFE group guide: come together

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Jan. 5). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon marks the start of a new sermon 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.

• They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2.42,46-47)

• Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. (Hebrews 10.25a)

Relation

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

1. What things do you enjoy most that happen when your friends/family get together?

2. Whenever I’m not “at church” I really miss __________.

Research

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

1. Itemize everything Christians did “together” in Acts 2.41-47.

2. Read Hebrews 10.19-25. What specifically do the “let us” phrases tell us to do? (vs. 22a,23a,24a). What are the motivations behind each of them? (vs. 22b,23b,24b-25)

3. Find and mark every occurrence of “church” and “together” in the book of Acts.

Reflection

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

1. As God saves you he adds you to his church. Why does he think you need others?

2. Few people deliberately “quit” church; most folks simply “drift” away. How so?

3. What are the most common excuses you hear people use for “skipping church?”

4. What harm comes from seeing “church” as just a “place” to “get something out of?”

5. What benefits are there for all when a Christian devotes them self to church 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. Work hard during all church gatherings to consistently replace self-oriented questions that come to mind (“What am I getting from this?”) with selfless ones (“How can I maximize my contribution to this moment?”).

2. Purge negative talk about “church” from your lips (and listening). Pray daily on this.

Hebrews 1-2: today’s discussion questions

 

1. What has Jesus done for all of creation and what does he do today?

2. What are common distractions and temptations to stop paying attention to God and to drift away from him?

3. What would tempt you to give up your faith in Christ?

4. If you gave up following Christ, what would you leave him to become? Why?

5. “Think right and good actions will follow.” Do right and your head will eventually come along.” Which is it? Explain.

6. What makes salvation in Christ so great?

7. Christ is your brother. What does that mean? To you personally?

8. If God is in control, why does pain and suffering continue on? What good could God possibly bring from it?

9. What makes people fearful of death? Are you afraid of death?

10. Engage this statement: “If you’re a devoted Christian, your life will not be full of pain or strewn with enormous difficulties.”

11. Paint a word picture for us as to what Christ looks like now in all his glory.

12. What does a priest do? What does Jesus, our high priest, do for us?