“… where the soul and the spirit are joined …” (Hebrews 4.12 NCV)
NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups on Sun., Sept. 16. This guide will enable your follow-up the third (and final) installment in The Gospel You Never Have Heard Before sermon series. The primary text for tomorrow morning’s sermon, and this discussion, is Acts 2.36-39. You’ll find LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title “LIFE group guides.”
To declare, and delve into, the promise of God’s Spirit as a gift to all of God’s people.
“Therefore, let all Israel know beyond question that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” (Acts 2.36-39 CEB)
Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.
1. What gift do you recall receiving as a child that you considered a favorite?
2. Would you say (or do others say) you’re “gifted” at doing something? If so, what?
3. Tell us of a time you received a great promise from someone, but you didn’t realize the full import or wonder of that promise, until quite sometime after its fulfillment.
These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.
1. To whom is this promise of the Spirit as a gift given?
2. What are the commands in this passage? What are the promises?
3. God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit are noted in this text. What do they each do?
4. Someone asks you: “Since the Spirit empowered the apostles to speak as they did earlier in Acts 2 (vs. 1-21), doesn’t that mean the Spirit the apostles promised to all Christians (vs. 38-39) will do the same for them?” How would you respond?
5. What exactly do humans do as depicted here in Acts 2.36-39? Make a list.
6. From what you know of the rest of Acts, did anyone ever receive the Spirit who had not been baptized? Similarly, could a person be baptized and not receive the Spirit?
These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.
1. How have you previously understood the meaning of “the gift of the Holy Spirit?”
2. What would it mean for you as a Christian to not have the Spirit as a gift in your life?
3. What connection does receiving the Spirit have with acknowledging Jesus as Lord, changing your heart and life, and baptism?
4. What does the Spirit do, or how is the Spirit involved, in a Christian’s life? Build your answer(s) on direct statements in Scripture found in Acts or elsewhere.
5. Complete this sentence: “Because God has given me his Spirit I am ____________.”
6. How can you communicate this promise of God’s Spirit to others?
“… make yourselves beautiful on the inside, in your hearts, with the enduring quality of a gentle, peaceful spirit.” (1 Peter 3.4 CEB)
“You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us. You weren’t written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. You weren’t written on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3 CEB)
Do you have a boss or co-worker who doesn’t know the Lord who tries to make your life miserable because they know you believe? Is your home divided on matters of faith and so you pay the price for your faith daily? Do the pagans pick on you at school because you’re a Christian?
What can you do when you suffer because you believe? What can you do when you suffer evil for doing good?
Though it’s natural to feel helpless, you’re anything but defenseless. Peter, an apostle of God and no stranger to suffering for faith himself, tells us it’s an inside job.
1. You can deliberately project beauty, not ugliness, in response to whatever you receive. “… make yourselves beautiful on the inside, in your hearts, with the enduring quality of a gentle, peaceful spirit.” (3:4)
2. You can decide ahead of time not to return in kind, but to be kind in return. “Don’t pay back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, give blessing in return. You were called to do this so that you might inherit a blessing.” (3:9)
3. You can refuse to let your fears get the upper hand on you. ” Don’t be terrified or upset by them.” (3:14)
4. You can diligently determine deep down that Jesus rules. “… regard Christ as holy in your hearts.” (3:15)
5. You can do the smart work of preparedness so that when you open your mouth, the best of things come out. “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience.” (3:15-16a)
6. You can be consistent in your witness and responses each day so that you can keep a clear conscience about what you’re doing in the Lord’s name and toward others. “… [respond] with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience. … so that those who malign your good lifestyle in Christ may be ashamed when they slander you.” (3:16)
7. You can construct real conviction about not compromising your convictions to try and avoid pain. “… since Christ suffered as a human, you should also arm yourselves with his way of thinking. For whoever suffers is finished with sin.” (4:1)
8. You can dig in your heels and not retreat into living in ways that contradict your faith in Christ, no matter how seriously you are tempted and even if it holds promise of deflecting some of your suffering because of their slander. “You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire … They think it’s strange that you don’t join in these activities with the same flood of unrestrained wickedness. So they slander you.” (4:3-4)
9. You can “… be self-controlled and clearheaded so you can pray.”(4:7b)
10. You can remind yourself again and again not to be surprised that this has come to be your lot in life for you are following the way of Christ, your Lord who suffered for you. “… don’t be surprised about the fiery trials that have come among you to test you. These are not strange happenings. Instead, rejoice as you share Christ’s suffering. (4:12-13a)
My Father in heaven, this is my prayer: that you would strengthen me to give only good witness of you each day, come what may. In the name of Him who suffered in my place, I pray. Amen.