Jesus’ “sermon on the mount” is a lesson on the “way of life” found in the kingdom of God. Rather than external righteousness born from mere outward acts of obedience, Jesus is about the righteousness born from within. Born from a heart that has been transformed by God. The connection between adultery and lust is just one key example that Jesus gives to show how there is a “righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.” Anything short of heart transformation will keep us susceptible to the deceitfulness of lust. Are you willing to let God transform your heart and make you into a person at home in the kingdom of God?
What does the word “religion” mean? What is true religion?
What is Jesus trying to uncover in this text?
Why does Jesus look at the heart before He looks at external actions?
In what ways are Christians meant to be different from those of this world?
What is the sin beneath all other sins?
What is idolatry? How is lust an expression of idolatry?
What is a functional saviour?
Why is will power inadequate to overcome lust?
When you wrestle with lust and covetousness what is it that you think you need? What do you think is being withheld?
In what way(s) is lust more than a personal sin?
How are we to overcome lust?
Why is sexual sin so closely accompanied by shame?
What is the Christian remedy for shame?
What struck you in the text?
What challenged you in the text?
How can you put this into practice? What might keep you from doing this?
When asked, most people say that the thing they want more than anything else is happiness. Happiness is based on good happenings. As a result, it is as fleeting and unpredictable as the circumstances of our lives. However, happiness, as good as it is, is actually a counterfeit for the supernatural characteristic of joy. Joy is an inner predisposition towards gladness and hope which is rooted in God’s character and promises, independent of circumstances and expressed in our lives. It is grown in the garden of waiting.
The fruit of the Spirit are the supernatural characteristics of Jesus that are grown in the lives of those who have given their lives to him. But how does this happen? Do you just wake up one day and find yourself more patient? Do you just decide to be loving and bear down hard enough to make it happen? God cultivates this fruit in the lives of believers in a way that is counterintuitive to what we might think – The Garden Principle:
God plants us in a garden, speaks a word to us, and the way that we respond shapes our character and our destiny.
God cultivates love in the garden of rejection.
Who pays the debt in this parable?
What makes God angry according to this parable?
Is forgiveness a feeling or an act of the will? Can you forgive if you don’t feel like forgiving?
Can you forgive if someone hasn’t acknowledged a wrong or asked for forgiveness?
Share an experience of practicing forgiveness in your life.
In the middle of our reading Jesus utters the proclamation “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jewish readers of the Torah would be familiar with the narrative of kingship and of God’s kingdom. Jesus however, in the calling of his disciples begins to give a different example of what that kingdom looks like. Jesus makes clear that:
The kingdom does not look like we might expect
The kingdom is personal
When approached by the king we are expected to respond
In what situations have you acted out 'fake it till you make it' in a negative or positive way?
Have you ever prayed with others or privately the way Jesus corrects in Matthew?
How do you think God the Father and Jesus see you as you begin to pray?
What is the most helpful image of God the Father that you picture when you pray?
What does it mean to magnify the Lord?
How often do you pray?
Do you ever get bored in prayer? If so what do you do?
What small steps can you take to increase your willingness to be drawn closer to God in prayer?
Not much in our reality is unaffected by the 3rd Law of Motion – for every action there are reactions. In the case of Christian faith, there is a revelation and a response. When Jesus was revealed to John the Baptist the world would learn that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the unique Son of God, and the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. After hearing several times about Jesus, the disciples of John were intrigued and wanted to know more. When confronted by this revelation what will our response be? There are two main responses that move us forward:
Putting yourself into a position to learn more: asking, “Where are you staying?”
Sharing with others and bringing them along as you “come and see.”
What do our texts have to say about doubt?
How do you define doubt?
Is there a difference between doubt and unbelief? What?
Why have you doubted? How did you resolve it? (Did you resolve it?)
How does Jesus respond to doubt in our text?
What struck you in the text? What challenged you? What encouraged you?
When Jesus appeared before John the Baptist to be baptized by him, John tried to prevent him as he saw no need for Jesus to be baptized. However, Jesus persisted and told John that there was reason for his baptism. Jesus’ baptism demonstrates three things in particular.
Is on your side
Is well acquainted with your sin
Makes it all personal
Since God knows the plans He has for us, why do you think we have to discover them forourselves? (Jeremiah 29:11)
What is a key component aiding our discovery of his plans for us?
Why do you think we sometimes settle for good and not best?
If the kingdom is never stagnant and His promises are unfailing, how can we apply this truth to our lives?
How does understanding God’s character help us in our quest for the greater yes?
What is the biggest obstacle to your praying: “ God’s will be done”?
At the beginning of every New Year we are faced (both internally and externally) with the pressure of making ourselves better. We’ve all heard the cliche saying: New Year, New Me. 2020 is no different. God’s word however, gives us a different take on what new beginnings look like and what it truly means to be new. John gives us a perspective of the very beginning and the One who makes all things new.
Have you experienced what it means to be a child of God?
Are you enslaved to religious practices and obligations?
Do you know God as your loving father?
Has the Holy Spirit revealed to you all the rights and privileges of God’s children?
Do you long for heaven?
In what way is heaven a present reality, not just a future one?
Is it hard for you to see yourself already present in the heavenly worship service?
Does it bother you to see God’s judgment as part of heaven?
How might thinking of heaven help you live differently in your day-to-day life?
Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant and he knew that he was not the father. In order to spare her the possibility of great shame at the least, and being stoned to death at the worst, he determined to divorce her quietly. However, an angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream and told him that God was at work in Mary and that he should not fear taking her as his wife because the child in her womb was the promised one of God. Joseph made a momentous decision to move from being a spectator to a participant in the work of God. We are challenged to do the same.
Spectating is vicarious, vain and vacant.
Participation is personal, powerful and purposeful.
Which shall you choose?
John the Baptist ends the 460 year prophetic silence with his wilderness call for people to repent. As he does, he also challenges his listeners to move from their self-centered expectations to God-centered anticipation. God is about to do something way beyond their expectations. They are to turn to God and anticipate the remarkable display of his goodness and grace.
Are we led by our self-centered expectations of God or by our holy anticipation of the goodness of God?
What is your first response to a struggle?
Is “discipline” a loaded word for you? Is it similar or different than punishment?
Does it bother you that God uses hardships as a way to train/discipline his children?
What might it look like for you to walk through a trial with a sense of God’s fatherly love and delight in you?
Can you think of a time in your life when you saw how God clearly used suffering to lead you to greater joy and the “peaceful fruit of righteousness”?