Sermon on the Mount - Kingdom Reality

It is interesting that Jesus’ first message, His inaugural address, is a hard-hitting, in-your-face, shocking message against the superficiality of the day. The Sermon on the Mount is meant to confront the different masks we hide behind and to move us from spiritual shallowness into authentic Kingdom living.

Open: Have you ever felt like you were hiding behind a mask of superficiality? Describe a time you experienced a lack of authenticity: What was the result?

Read: Matthew 5:1-16; Matthew 4; John 15:18-19

Discuss:

1. Describe how superficiality was seen in the first century: How can religiosity perpetuate superficiality? Why does Jesus use such strong language in the Sermon on the Mount?

2. The Jews had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Messiah to come. What were they expecting the Messiah to do? How had their waiting for the Kingdom produced superficiality? For us, how can waiting for Christ’s second coming cause us to grow complacent and stale?

3. How is Jesus’ description of the Kingdom different than the Jews expected? Why did Jesus come to create a spiritual kingdom before a physical kingdom?

4. Matthew 5:2-12 is called the Beatitudes. Each of these verses begin with a declaration of happiness. When you read these verses, they don’t seem “happy.” Describe how we find happiness in each of these statements: How does each of these Beatitudes build a picture of the gospel? How does a right attitude toward God lead to beautiful action for people?

5. As you look in the mirror of these “ethics of the Kingdom,” which do you struggle with the most? Describe the value of salt and light: In what ways are you being salt and light in your neighborhood, workplace, school or family?

Pray: Pray that you would be consistent salt and light in your relationships by living with the Kingdom in mind.

Memorize/Meditate: You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Matthew 5:13

UnCommitted: Giving

There is no denying that all we have comes from God. As a result, faith and finances are deeply intertwined. The problem is that the more you have, the more it can have you. So God established tithing as a pattern of financial stewardship. Tithing removes the power that money can have over us and realigns our faith with the God who gives all that we need. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever given money to a gospel cause? Did you have any reservations? Why or why not? How did it make you feel? What sacrifice did you need to make in order to fulfill your giving commitment?

Read: Luke 16; Genesis 14:18-20; Leviticus 27:30-32; Deuteronomy 26:10-11; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2

Discuss:

1. Why is giving such a difficult topic to address among Christians? Why do you think the Bible spends so much time talking about money and stewardship? Describe the context of Luke 16: Who is listening and what parables did Jesus just share with the crowd (Luke 15)?

2. The fundamental principle of biblical stewardship is that God owns everything. Can you think of a verse that proves this truth? In what ways do we act as owners instead of stewards? Describe the role of steward:

3. Jesus gives a parable on stewardship in Luke 16. Verse 1 it says that the steward was “wasting his possessions.” In what ways do you waste money and possessions today? List some frivolous ways we spend money. How does our spending prove whom we are serving?

4. In the parable, what changed the steward’s response to the master’s money? What did he do in response? How was this steward looking out for his future? Why does Jesus commend the steward for his actions?

5. Jesus describes the connection between faithfulness and stewardship in verse 10. While not explicitly, how is a “tithe/tenth” an example of being faithful in little? Describe the “tithing” process: Why do so many Christians struggle with tithing? How does the New Testament describe generosity as the heart behind giving? What are some things God might be asking you to “uncommit” from in order to commit to faithful giving as a steward? Pray that you would be so overwhelmed with God’s compassion for you that you would be compelled to fulfill God’s commission through you.

Pray: Pray for opportunities to talk about God’s compassion with others.

Memorize/Meditate: Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 O

UnCommitted - For Jesus

Your commitments shape your life more than anything else. They can define or destroy you. But for every commitment there is also something that we must “Un-Commit” from. In our Christian journey, it is sometimes harder to UnCommit, to set aside something for the sake of Christ. We will naturally commit to the things that we perceive to be most important. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever felt stuck by a commitment you made that you wish you could get out of? What made you commit to it? How did you eventually get out of it?

Read: Luke 14; Luke 9

Discuss:

1. In Luke 14, Jesus is invited to the home of a religious ruler. While there, Jesus does something pretty interesting; he heals someone on the Sabbath. Why does Jesus do this? What point is Jesus attempting to make?

2. In Luke 14:7-14, Jesus shares two parables related to feasts and banquets. What do these parables mean? Describe the place of honor in the Jewish culture of the day? How would Jesus’ parables be in direct contrast to their understanding of banquets? In what ways do these examples run perpendicular to our viewpoints today? 

3. In Jesus’ parable in Luke 14:15-24, the invitees make excuses for their planned absences. Describe these excuses: In what ways do we make excuses in our commitments for Christ? What does it mean that there is always something to “uncommit” to when we make a commitment? How have you seen this true in your life?

4. In what ways must we “uncommit” in order to commit to Christ? How does Jesus describe commitment in Luke 14:25-33? Does this type of commitment scare you? Why or why not?

5. How do our desires reveal our commitments? Is it true that we naturally commit to the things we perceive as most important?  Describe the following statement: “When God becomes our greatest desire all other commitments fall into proper place.” How have you seen this true in your life?

Pray: Pray that you would have the courage to “uncommit” from the things in life that are holding you back from following Christ fully.  

Memorize/Meditate: So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33

Echoes of Hope: The Son

No matter what kind of problems and struggles you are facing right now, no matter what kind of season of darkness and pain you might be in, do not abandon hope. As Christians, our hope is still alive because…Immanuel, God is with us. - Pastor Dave

Open: Describe a time you felt absolutely helpless: How did you respond? In what ways did you attempt to fix the situation?     

Read: Isaiah 6-9; Matthew 1-2; Colossians 1 

Discuss:  

1. We have all had moments when we have felt helpless and hopeless. Why does the Christmas season seem to exacerbate these feelings? In what ways should these feelings actually connect us all the more to the Christmas story?  

2. Describe the hopeless situation in Isaiah 7: What is Ahaz’s, King of Judah, reaction? How does “trembled like trees of a forest shaking in the wind” beautifully describe hopeless situations?  

3. How did Ahaz attempt to fix his situation? In what ways do we freeze, fade or fix our situations? What is your natural default? Despite knowing God's promises to take care of us, why do we look to others and to ourselves instead of God? How have you seen this in your life or in the lives of those you know? 

4. God calls Isaiah to bring a message of hope. How does God, through Isaiah, taunt the enemies of Judah?  Describe the four loaded words in Isaiah 7:4: Why is it so difficult to believe at times that God is bigger than our fears? How should the presence of God cause us to stand firm in our faith regardless of the situation?  

5. God graciously offers a sign to Ahaz. What does the fact that he rejects the sign tell us about Ahaz’s character? Describe the sign: How is this sign connected to the Christmas story? 

6. How should “God with us” and “God in us” transform our perspective of life? In Colossians 1:27 Paul says, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” What is the hope of glory? 

Pray: Pray that in the most difficult moments of your life, you will stand confidently in the hope of Christ’s presence with you and in you.   

Memorize/Meditate: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-23 

Echoes of Hope: Humble Child

Christmas is not something that God hid until Jesus came in the flesh. Immediately following the sinful fall, God gave a hope-filled message that promised deliverance from the curse. By coming as a humble child, God made Christmas the eviction notice of the curse of sin and death.

Open: Have you ever experienced a time when having knowledge about something that was going to happen in the future kept you confident in a present difficult moment? Describe this experience:

Read: Genesis 3; Philippians 2; 2 Corinthians 8

Discuss:

1. When you hear the phrase, “Christmas begins with a curse,” what comes to mind? Is this accurate? Why or why not? Describe the curse in Genesis 3:

2. What do you make of the fact that God curses the serpent directly, but not man or woman? What was cursed in the domains of man and woman? In what ways do we experience the weight of the curse today?

3. God gave the promise of a coming curse-breaker before giving the consequence of sin. What does this tell us about God’s character, specifically as it relates to us? Describe the promise to “crush” the serpent’s head: How is this the first declaration of the gospel?

4. Why don’t you think God destroyed Satan in the garden? In what ways can God not undo sin without undoing us? How is God’s longsuffering a picture of His desire for the salvation of many?

5. Christmas came in the most unexpected way. How did Christ humble Himself to come at Christmas? In other words, what was the perspective of Christmas in heaven?

6. How should our hope in the end of the curse cause us to live differently? What does it mean to “have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus?” Pray that you would be so overwhelmed with God’s compassion for you that you would be compelled to fulfill God’s commission through you.

Pray: Pray for opportunities to talk about God’s compassion with others.

Memorize/Meditate: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…Philippians 2:5 O

Jonah: When God's Mission Hurts

The reason God seeks sinners, saves sinners, and sends sinners is because God loves sinners. There is no other object of worship who loves sinners like God does. This love is our calling. Unfortunately, too often we are more concerned with our comfort than we are God’s commission. - Pastor Dave

Open: Have you ever felt so compelled to do something that nothing could have stopped you? What was it and why did you feel so strongly about it?

Read: Jonah 4; 2 Corinthians 5:16-20

1. How is God’s capacity of grace greater than our capacity to sin? In what ways is this observed throughout the book of Jonah?

2. At the end of the story, we find Jonah sitting outside the city of Nineveh. What was he expecting to happen? What does this “wait and see” posture tell us about his view of God’s salvation of Nineveh? Does Jonah ever answer God’s question?

3. God sends three illustrations to confront Jonah’s displeasure. Describe each of them: What does it tell us about Jonah that the only time we see him exceedingly happy is when God provides a plant for shade? How does our comfort get in the way of God’s call to share His compassion with a lost world?

4. The word “appointed” is repeated over and over again in the story of Jonah. God appointed a storm, fish, plant, worm, and wind. How are each of these an act of God’s gracious hand toward Jonah? How can discomfort keep us focused on our purpose and mission?

5. If we have experienced God’s compassion, how should we be compelled to accomplish His mission? In what ways do you see a superior attitude toward sinners; an inferior grasp of God’s love; and an ulterior purpose for living in Christianity today?

6. What do you make of the ending of the book of Jonah? Why do you think it ends so abruptly? How is this an invitation to fulfill God’s commission in our world today?

Pray: Pray that you would be so overwhelmed with God’s compassion for you that you would be compelled to fulfill God’s commission through you. Pray for opportunities to talk about God’s compassion with others.

Memorize/Meditate: Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord. Psalms 36:6

Jonah: God Being God

The more we understand the consistency of God’s character, the more we are consistently overwhelmed by joy regardless of our circumstances. - Pastor Dave

Open: Describe a time you were angry: Have you ever been angry with God? Explain:

Read: Jonah 4; Exodus 32-34

Discuss:

1. If the story of Jonah was about Nineveh it would have ended at Chapter 3. What makes Chapter 4 so confusing and awkward? What do you make of Jonah’s reaction to the repentance of Nineveh and the mercy of God? How has this story been more about Jonah than Nineveh?

2. It says that Jonah was “displeased” with God. What does “displeased” actually mean? Why is Jonah angry? What about God’s character makes Jonah angry? What are our default responses to emotional moments? Are you a type of person who denies, hides or reveals your emotions? What does Jonah do?

3. How is prayer a great way to deal with our emotions? God doesn’t fault Jonah for his feelings. Notice the terms connected to “I” (“I said”; “I fled”; “I knew”; “Take my life”). What does this tell us about Jonah’s thoughts concerning God’s character?

4. The beautiful phrase “You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…” shows up as a type of creed for His people. Describe the circumstances in Exodus 32-34 that give us God’s description of Himself with these terms: How can we know God’s character, but not submit to God’s character in moments of frustration?

5. God responds with a simple yet profound question. Where are the areas of your life right now that could leave you questioning God’s character? How are our responses a reflection of our hearts?

Pray: Pray that you would embrace God’s faithful, consistent character even at times you might not understand what He is doing.

Memorize/Meditate: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8