“Where Does Our Hope Come From?” – John 3:16-21 – Pastor Stephen Lien
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
Real Forgiveness is always costly.
When it comes to sin and evil, there is a debt to be paid, and a penalty to be born.
Real, life-changing love requires anexchange, areversal of places. When we trust in Jesus we experiencethe Great Reversal: God, in the place ofultimate power, reverses places with the powerless, oppressed,sinful world, and withyou and me.
Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, son of the Father, and true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. At great cost he has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, not with silver or gold but with his holy and precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
The issue on which the Christian faith depends is not whether or not you like Jesus’ teaching, but whether or notHe rose from the dead.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “If all we get out of Christ isa little inspirationfor a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is thatChrist has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.” 1 Corinthians 15:19-20 (MSG)
Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article
All this he has done in order that I may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Our hope is solid.
Our hope is eternal.
Our hope is infinite.
- List the variety of ways people think Jesus helps them in their lives. To say it another way, what good does it do to believe in Jesus? Do all of these ways correspond with understanding Jesus as the Lord of their lives?
- When the Apostle Paul says that Jesus saves those who call on His name (Romans 10), what do most people think Jesus is saving you from? What do you believe?
- Read Genesis 3:1-15 and Matthew 4:1-17. What similarities in those two passages do you find in the way Satan deals with God’s word of promise?
- What does the word “Lord” make you think? Can you think of both positive and negative ways people think of the word Lord? Think about what it means to you to have Jesus as Lord.
- When Jesus died on the cross, He took on your sin and suffered the consequence of your sin, which was death. How does this relate to Jesus being your Lord/? In what ways does being resurrected from the dead make him the Lord? How does this give you freedom? (Read Romans 6:1-14
- Read John 3:16-18. What stands out to you about God? About what he wants to do? About how a person is condemned?
“Why Do Bad Things Happen?” – Matthew 13:24-30; Romans 5:12, 18-21
Sin is the reason
Before there was sin, there was no evil and no death.
Our fallen nature has left us spiritually blind, spiritually dead and God’s enemies.
The worse the world gets, the more we realize our need for God.
Grace sustains us in our weariness until our joy is restored.
2 Peter 3:9
What can we do?
Receive God’s grace daily.
Remember this place is temporary.
Reject human solutions.
Reach out with God’s love.
Philippians 2:15 (The Message)
- Do you think cancer or sin frightens people the most? Why?
- In what ways are cancer and sin similar?
- When we hear of tragedies and natural disaster, why are we prone to blame God and/or other people rather than recognize death and evil as the by-products of sin?
- How do the phrases “spiritually blind, spiritually dead and God’s enemies” help you understand your own thoughts/actions as well as that of others around you?
- Why is it important to know the difference between Sin (as a condition) and sins (our behavior)?
- When you understand your bondage to Sin, how does that change your understanding of forgiveness (deliverance)?
- What are some ways you think you might be able to help others deal with life’s tragedies?
“How Life Begins and Ends” – John 1:1-14
“I believe that God has created me and all that exists . . .” (Luther’s explanation of the First Article)
Start at the beginning
We all wrestle with life’s two big questions: “Who am I?”, and “Where do I come from?”
Genesis answers “who” questions better than “how” questions.
Awe and Wonder
Remember God thought of us first and created us last.
God has custom designed each of us.
What does this mean?
Your days have destiny!
Your problems have purpose!
Your future is eternity!
- How would you describe Genesis in a book report: The style of writing? The Action? The Purpose? The flow?
- If Genesis were dropped from the Bible, what would be missing from the story of God’s redemptive work in history?
- Re-read Genesis 1. What do you find most remarkable about creation or the way it is recorded in Genesis? How does that affect and shape your understanding of God?
- What does it mean to you to be created in God’s image?
- What connections or similarities do you find between Genesis 1 and John 1?
- What facts about “the Word” do you find in John 1:1-5 and 1:10-18?
- In what ways does Jesus dwell in you?
- How can you be a witness to the Light in your family, the church, or your neighborhood?
“In matters of faith, Luther said that Christians should be:”
- invincible, unbending and stubborn
- tolerant and open-minded
- humble and sweet
“Truth Decay” – John 14:15-21; Ephesians 4:11-16
Read the signs
In our “post-modern” world tolerance is considered more valuable than truth.
When truth is missing we shouldn’t be surprised at growth of immorality, idolatry and injustice.
Truth is present and can be discovered
God’s nature, will and attributes are hidden in plain sight.
Expect to discover divine truth through your conscience, the commandments and clearly in Christ.
The care and handling of truth
Believe it, Do it, Stand for it, Spread it!
- What are some of the ways truth decay is similar to tooth decay?
- What are some of the reasons it makes no sense to say that all ideas are equally valid? (For example- the moon is made out of cheese vs. the moon is made out of rock)
- How and why do you think the definition of tolerance (treating someone politely even though you disagreed with them) got changed to having to accept another’s beliefs or be considered intolerant and judgmental?
- What happens when we value tolerance more than truth?
- What are some examples of how Jesus offered a model for how to rightly exercise tolerance without sacrificing truth?
- Jesus said truth would set us free, he didn’t’ say tolerance would set us free. Why?
- How would your life be different if you had a healthier balance between truth and tolerance?
“Biblical Faith vs. Blind Faith” – Matthew 5:3-12; Hosea 4:1-6
“…. Since the fall every man has been a philosopher, for he has taken his experience of the world and his knowledge of reality — which he has succeeded in describing scientifically — as a standard by which to measure God. But the intellect does not suffice to grasp the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He must be apprehended through the Scriptures. The “God” created by man is a false god of his own making. (“Luther: Man Between God and the Devil,” 170)
You are what you believe
You belief system unconsciously shapes all your decisions based on what you believe to be real and true.
Jesus (and Martin Luther) warned about outdated, out of order and faulty belief systems.
2 Corinthians 5:17
“You have heard…. But I say….”
Jesus wants to change us from the inside out.
If you want your life to be blessed, get your belief in line with reality and truth not popular opinion.
- Learn the truth
- Discern what is false
- Turn from the world to the Word
- Concern yourself with God’s agenda
1 Corinthians 14:20
- As you look at some of the distortions of a belief system that contributes to terrorism, what are some of the parallels with what Luther addressed during the Reformation?
- What are the differences between hedonism, humanism and materialism?
- What are some of the ways Jesus challenged these belief systems?
- How do these belief systems impact you on a daily basis?
- What are some of the ways your life is affected by the faulty belief systems of others?
- In a recent survey 62% of Americans said they were spiritual but only 16% said they make decisions based on the Bible, what does that tell you about why people behave as they do?
- What are some practical steps you can take to prepare yourself to help others out of the maze that is created by faulty belief systems?
“OUR NEED TO TRUST” – Pastor Steve Lien
Luke 12:22-34; Psalm 136:1-9, 26
CHANGE IS A FACT OF LIFE
We are people created for eternity, yet our world and our lives are constantly changing.
OUR GOD IS NEVER CHANGING
The Psalmist, too, lived in a changing world, but he knew and had experienced a changeless God:
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:1,2)
“ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Psalm 102:11, 12
OUR GOD IS WORTHY OF TRUST
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
1. Skim through or recall the story of the Exodus, Israel’s deliverance from Egypt to the Promised Land. How long did it take? How did the people respond to the changes in their circumstances?
2. In what ways did the Israelites experience God’s faithfulness?
3. Think about the most significant changes in your life (e.g. getting married, having children, getting/losing a job, moving, illness or debility). How long did it take to adjust to the change? How did you respond?
4. How did you experience God’s faithfulness during those times of change?
5. If you are a parent, how does your love manifest itself to your children? How is that a reflection of God’s faithfulness?
6. Use a Bible concordance and look up and spend time meditating on the words “steadfast,” “faithful,” and “eternal.”
“Our Need to Serve” – John 13:6-16; Micah 6:2-4, 6-8
Service is not an option
Jesus calls from a focus on serve us to a life of service.
The truth is, we cannot know God apart from God’s serving love for us
Jesus modeled and commanded
Humble service is simply a matter of our reflecting what God has given to us and done for us.
Because we are created in the image of God, serving is at the heart of who we are.
What do you love to do?
God’s call to servanthood begins by matching us to our gifts and our passions.
Jesus wants to make sure the significant parts of ourselves are developed and used.
1. Describe a time when you served others and walked away with the sense that you had received more than you had given. Why do you think that was?
2. What are some of the ways you can better understand how God has served you as you serve others?
3. How aware are you of your God-given gifts and abilities?
4. How aware you of your most deeply held passions?
5. When you think of times when you have enjoyed serving (and times when you haven’t) how do you see that in connection to your gifts and passions?
6. What are some of your best experiences serving in and through a congregation?
7. What are some of your best experiences serving beyond the congregation?
8. Why do you think it’s important for every believer to find their niche serving in their congregation? Beyond the congregation?
“Our Need for the Key of Christian Community” – Hebrews 10:19-25
Solitaire is for cards
In the beginning, God intended for us to be in families and communities.
Most Christians don’t appreciate the blessings they have in their church family.
Christ meets us in and through others
God uses our friends and families as spiritual incubators.
Even Jesus didn’t go alone hew was part of a small group.
The Holy Spirit calls us into community
Christians have long gathered in large assemblies for worship and in small groups for spiritual growth.
To create/sustain community a group needs equal parts of honest sharing, affirmation and shared commitment.
1. What are some of the ways God has used your family and your church(s) to help make you holy?
2. How does the awareness that God puts us in community to make us holy (not happy) change how you evaluate your family/church?
3. What great truths have you learned from your grandparents? Grandchildren?
4. Who were some of the earliest people who nurtured your faith? Who are the people doing it now?
5. Who do you think would list you as someone who nurtured their faith?
6. How often do you genuinely share your faith with your friends and your family? Are you satisfied with that answer?
7. If you’re a part of a healthy small group, how is it blessing you? If you’re not, what action do you think the Holy Spirit would like to take to change that?
“Our Need for Daily Bible Reading” – Luke 8:4-15
It’s a myth that faith is the absence of thinking or questioning?
Your Bible will speak to you when you approach it with an inquiring mind and a hungering heart.
Meet the author
Daily reading helps you focus on the devotional blessings that are aimed at your spiritual growth.
Expect God to be revealed and be inspired and transformed.
Consistency pays off
Focus your reading more on what you understand than on what you don’t understand.
Take advantage of the familiarity of God’s voice as it God’s heart and character.
- When have you been most satisfied with your habit of reading the Bible?
- What are some of the reasons/excuses that keep you from a daily and meaningful habit of reading your Bible?
- Describe a time (or two) when you read a Bible passage and truly heard God speak in and through it?
- Would you say you are more inclined to read the Bible scholarly or devotionally? How do you think these two approaches are different?
- How has the Bible been spiritual nourishment for you?
- How can you argue or talk with God when you read the Bible?
- Describe a time when you were reading the Bible and a phrase or verse spoke directly to you.