Light of the World - John 11:45-57

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On Sunday Glen Taylor shared about the raising of Lazarus, and particularly about how Jesus is present and weeps with us in our sufferings. Today’s passage gives an account of the response of the people. But first we will review what we’ve read so far.

Opening Discussion:

If you could go back in time and be present for one of the stories we have read so far in John, what would it be and why?

Looking at Scripture:

On Sunday we looked at the final of seven “signs” that John has narrated, powerful miracles that Jesus performed that were meant to point to deeper realities. Skim back through what we have read so far, starting at chapter 2 (v. 11 describes it as the “first sign”). List the signs below, and what you think they were meant to “point toward” or reveal about Jesus.

Sign Meaning

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

What is the overall effect of these seven signs? What kind of picture are we supposed to get about who Jesus is?

Read John 11:45-57.

Clearly after the amazing miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, excitement about him would have spread like wildfire. But once again, the religious leaders rain on the parade. What is it that they are so concerned about that they cannot recognize the Messiah in their midst?

What is ironic about what Caiaphas said about Jesus, and how it was to come true? What does this teach us about who God can use and how he can work?

In response to the negative attention and threat on his life, Jesus withdraws to a place “near the wilderness.” Why did he withdraw when he knew he was going to die anyway? What kinds of things does the wilderness stand for in the Bible (scan the New Testament results of an online Bible search for the word wilderness)?

John ends this chapter talking about Passover, with people wondering if Jesus will come during the feast. How is the story John is telling intimately connected with the meaning of Passover?

Application:

How does this passage (and the seven signs) affect our lives today? How should we live differently in light of the account John has given?

Light of the World - John 10:1-42

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On Sunday we looked at the healing of the man who was born blind. This passage challenged us to think about our own reaction to Jesus—whether, like the religious people, we refused to believe/see, like the parents, we sit on the fence out of fear, or like the blind man, we respond in obedience, faith, and worship. Today’s passage is a famous speech of Jesus gives in the context immediately following the healing.

 

 

Opening Discussion:

If you were to describe yourself as an animal, what would it be and why?

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 10:1-16.

 

Jesus describes a relationship between a shepherd (himself) and his sheep (his followers). List the characteristics of each from the passage.

 

Sheep                                                                          Shepherd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is Jesus talking about in v. 16? Why is this significant for us today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who do you think the “thief” is in the analogy? What about the “hired hand”? The wolf?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think about Jesus’ words in the context of the healing of the blind man that has just happened in chapter 9. In that story, who has listened to Jesus? Who have acted more like thieves/wolves? Who have run away like hired hands? Does reflecting on it in context change any of your previous answers? 

 

 

 

Read John 10:17-42.John continues to build the tension surrounding Jesus and his identity, and helps us understand that Jesus knew where he was headed (meaning, the cross wasn’t some unfortunate or unforeseen accident). 

 

Discuss any insights or questions you might have from this latter part of the passage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

Two thousand years later, we are still included in Jesus’ shepherd-sheep analogy. Review the lists that describe the role/characteristics of the shepherd and the sheep. With these in mind:

 

1.    How have you seen Jesus fulfill his role as the Good Shepherd in your life?

 

 

 

2.    How are you doing at fulfilling your role as one of his sheep?

 

 

 

3.    Can you think of any other “sheep” passages from the Bible that might describe your own life?

 

 

Just for fun, take a look at “Do sheep only obey their Master's voice?” on YouTube. It gives a great visual of what we’ve been talking about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e45dVgWgV64

Light of the World - John 8:31-59

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On Sunday Jeremy talked about Jesus’ invitation to those who were thirsty to come to him and drink. Despite this, we often turn to other sources to get our spiritual thirst quenched. The challenge is to become aware of this pattern and learn to rely on the Spirit more. 

 

Opening Discussion:

Circle the words that best describe the approach you take when you are in a disagreement/conflict:

-      clam up                                   - angry                                     - calm

-      power up                                - uncomfortable                      - clear

-      direct                                      - smooth it over                     - afraid

-      stumble over words               - argumentative                       - avoidant

-      defensive                                 - persistent                              - patient

-      logical                                      - emotional                             - threatened

-      other(s): __________           - ____________                   - ____________

 

Now, which of these characteristics would you like to find in the other personyou are having a disagreement/conflict with?

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 8:31-59.

 

Make a list of the negative things Jesus is says about his hearers of in this passage:

-      e.g. slaves to sin                                        - 

-                                                                        -

-                                                                        -

-                                                                        -

-                                                                        -

 

 

 

Who is he accusing of these things? So far in this gospel Jesus has reserved some of his harshest words for the religious leaders (Pharisees, etc.). However, they are not mentioned in this passage. Why do you think he is being so direct with/hard on this audience?

 

 

 

 

How does this passage help us get a greater understanding of how Jesus understood himself and his mission? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live in a society in which Jesus words in this conversation would likely be viewed as extremely rude and arrogant. If Jesus was Canadian and speaking to a crowd in 21stcentury Canada, do you think he would have softened or changed his message? Why/why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Application

Jesus is not afraid to offend even those who are just starting to believe in him. There is no question about where he stands and what he believes to be true. He speaks with great confidence and directness—even when delivering a challenging and unpopular message. 

 

How can we, as his followers, better walk in his footsteps when it comes to being clear on and direct about what we believe? How is this in tension with our desire to overcome negative stereotypes against Christians and not turn people off? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there anyone in your life you could give the gift of being clearer and more direct with, even if it meant risking confrontation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light of the World - John 8:1-30

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Our service Sunday was cancelled, and we will backtrack next Sunday. This week we continue with a passage that prompts a different kind of discussion about the nature of the Bible itself.

 

Opening Discussion:

2 Timothy 3:16says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Most Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God, but there is much debate about what that means. Words and phrases like “trustworthy,” “authoritative,” “inerrant” (a word that the Bible doesn’t use of itself) and “in the original manuscripts” (which, of course, have long ago disintegrated) are often used in statements about how Scripture is seen, but often seem like verbal gymnastics.

 

What is your own view of the inspiration of Scripture? How did God inspire it? To what degreeis it inspired? Note: Don’t worry about whether it’s the “right” view or the one shared by others in your group. This is a time for honest sharing/listening, not a time to make sure everyone is “in line.” It’s important to think this through for ourselves, not just parrot what we’ve heard. If, after discussion, you want to check out our denomination’s statement on Scripture, see https://www.brethrenchurch.org/bible)

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 7:53-8:11.

 

The reason we began with a discussion of the inspiration of Scripture is that the words we find in the first part of our passage today can complicate how we view the Bible: “[The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include…].” Most modern translations say something similar, and some even italicize the passage. Reading a statement like this about a passage as well-known and beloved as the one we just read can make us wonder what we cantrust in the Bible. 

 

Today we have thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, stretching back all the way to the first few centuries after the books were first written. Copies of copies of copies of copies were meticulously made, but along the way small changes and errors crept in. “Textual criticism” is the art/science of determining what the originals likely said. You will see many notes about possible discrepancies in the footnotes of your Bible. However, what is most remarkable is not that there are minor variances here and there, but that there is so much consistency across the manuscripts that very few notes like this one are necessary!

 

The manuscripts the KJV was based on contained this story; but scholars have since discovered much older manuscripts which do not include this particular section. They are almost certain it was not original to the gospel, but a later addition. So today’s translators are faced with a difficult choice: Should they leave out this beloved passage? Or should they leave it in, because of its popularity and familiarity? What would you have done?

Read John 8:12-20.

 

Jesus claims to be the light of the world, but the self-righteous religious leaders (Pharisees) were skeptical. Earlier in his gospel, John explained why some people responded negatively to the light Jesus brought (use the thematic cross references in the side-columns if needed to find the passage). What might this tell us about the real reasons the religious leaders didn’t accept Jesus? What might it tell us about self-righteous religious people today? What might it tell us about ourselves?

 

 

 

In verse 13, the Pharisees are again questioning Jesus’ authority (v. 13). Since Jesus hadn’t trained under a Rabbi, he didn’t have any of the proper credentials (it would almost be like someone practicing medicine without a license today). If you were them, how would you have felt about or reacted to his answer (vv. 14-19)? 

 

 

 

Read John 8:21-30

 

How is Jesus (and John) foreshadowing what is going to happen to him in the future? Why is it important that we know that Jesus was aware that his life was moving toward the cross?

 

 

 

 

In verse 28, the translators have added the words “on the cross” to clarify for us what they think Jesus meant (note that this is one of the weaknesses of a translation like the NLT we are using, in that while it is easier to read, it is sometimes less accurate). In the literal reading, Jesus told them they would recognize him once they had “lifted him up,” a word that could have a very positive sense like “exalt” or “praise.” How does this add a different sense to what he is saying to them?

 

 

 

 

Twice in this passage we see the phrase “I am” in small caps (vv. 24, 28). What is the significance of this phrase, and what does it tell us about how Jesus saw himself (see Exodus 3:14)?

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s study has been more analytical than most. This is a passage that is admittedly hard to pull practical application from. What is it that stands out most to you about this passage, and how will it affect your life?

Light of the World: John 6:60-7:31

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This Sunday we covered John 6:30-59 in which Jesus describes himself as the bread of life that has been sent down from heaven. Jesus used the metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to describe the type of unique and intimate relationship that we are to have with him. We found that in order to enter this relationship with Jesus we ought to imitate the way he interacts with his heavenly father: spending time with him in prayer, relying on him for strength and direction, and trusting his ways and his purposes. If we can relate to Jesus in these ways he can satisfy the spiritual hunger for something more that we all experience in in our lives. He can become a part of us and offer us true joy, purpose, hope and the gift of eternal life.

 

 

Opening Discussion:

The disciples response to Jesus talking about eating and drinking his flesh and blood is: “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” What is one thing about the Christian faith that you (or others) find hard to understand and/or accept?

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 6:60-7:31 (you may want to split it into parts and have different people read).  

 

We believe these events/conversations happened, and that God oversaw them being written down. But he used a human author who, like all authors, made careful choices about what to say and how to say it. What do you think John is trying to make his readers think and feel in the way that he is unfolding the story here?

 

 

 

Make a list of all the different things that are talked about in this passage (examples below):

 

-      Disciples don’t understand/can’t accept teaching            - Spirit gives life, not human effort

-      People can only come to Jesus w/ Father‘s help              -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

-                                                                                                -

See if you can identify a couple of major or repeated themes in the passage. What are the main things that stand out to you? Don’t worry if this doesn’t come easily—this is a complex passage, and there’s no “right” answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even when he was right there, in the flesh, doing miracles, people just didn’t know what to do with Jesus—not the crowds, not the religious leaders, not his disciples, not even his own brothers. Two thousand years later, people still don’t know how to react to him. How are people’s reactions/struggles today similar to or different from their reactions back then? How do these fit with your own reactions to Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The note on 6:66 gives a few reasons why people may have been leaving Jesus. What kinds of things are most likely to cause you to think about giving up your faith (or keep you from embracing faith in the first place)? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toward the end of his gospel, John lets us in on his goal in writing: “These are written that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you will have life by the power of his name” (20:31). Believing in Jesus—and continuing to believe in him when things get confusing or difficult—is hard. It always has been, as today’s passage illustrates. But Pastor John is trying to convey to his original audience (and us today) that believing is worth it—it’s the very path to eternal life itself. End by praying for each other that you would have faith to keep believing, even when you’re confused or discouraged (if appropriate in your group, you may want to ask if anyone would like to be prayed for specifically in this area).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light of the World: John 6:14-29

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On Sunday Jeremy talked about the miraculous feeding of thousands of people from just five small loaves and two small fish. It was an incredible (and delicious!) miracle, and today’s passage flows directly from it. 

 

Opening Discussion:

It’s been said that the way to a “man’s” heart is through his stomach—but surely that applies to more than just men! Have you ever had someone (a newborn, a pet, a spouse, a child, a friend) who seemed more interested in what you could feedthem than in you? Describe the situation and how it made you feel.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 6:14-29. We’ll use the three step process we learned a couple of weeks ago to think it through.

 

1.   Observation – What does it say? 

 

How do people react to the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand? Who did they believe he was? Where have we heard this term already in John’s gospel? 

 

 

 

 

What role did they want to assign to Jesus? Why do you think Jesus was resistant to this?

 

 

 

 

 

Where was Jesus when the disciples set out in the boat? What do you think he was doing, and why?

 

 

 

 

What does Jesus say God ultimately wants from people?

 

 

 

John 2:24 says that even though people were reacting positively to him, Jesus didn’t trust their sincerity, because he was able to see into their hearts. We saw a glimpse of this last week when he said that the only reason people were paying attention to him was to see signs and wonders (4:48, loose paraphrase). We see this again this week. Why does Jesus say people are paying attention to him at this point?

 

 

 

 

 

2.   Interpretation – What does it mean?

 

The people Jesus fed wanted to make him king—theirkind of king. What kinds of roles do people try to force Jesus into today? What do you think John would have to say about putting Jesus into “a box” of our own desires/understanding?

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is critical that people are just following him because he fed them. What are some other less-than-perfect motives for following Jesus that we might struggle with today?

                                                         

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think he means that faith/belief/trust is the “only” thing God wants (v. 29)? List out some other things that you think God might alsowant from us. What is the relationship of each of them to believing (trusting/having faith in) “in the one he has sent?”

 

 

 

 

 

3.   Application – What does it mean to me?

 

In your own life, how are you tempted to put Jesus “in a box?” What steps can you take to “let him out?”

 

 

 

 

What else can we learn from this passage that applies to our lives?

 

Light of the World: John 5:16-47

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This Sunday, Jeremy shared the healing of the disabled man by the pool, pointing out the parallels to the way that God works in our lives on a spiritual level. Now we’ll look at the conversation that took place (more of a monologue, really) with the religious leaders immediately afterward.

 

Opening Discussion:

If Jesus were to have come to 21stcentury Muskoka (instead of 1stcentury Palestine), how do you think people would have reacted to him?

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 5:16-30.

 

Why is Jesus giving this speech? What is he responding to (see vv. 9-15)? 

 

 

 

Make a list of Jesus’ claims about himself in this passage. Which ones do you think would have been considered blasphemous (or borderline) by those who were listening to him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

In one sentence, sum up what you think Jesus is trying to get across here.

 

 

 

 

Take a moment to glance over John’s prologue (John 1:1-18). How are the themes that he introduces in his opening section taking shape in this passage? 

 

 

 

 

 

How are Jesus’ words in vv. 25-26 a description of what had just happened with the disabled man by the pool?

 

Read John 5:31-47.

 

What are the different things Jesus points to as evidence (witnesses) that his ministry is valid?

 

 

 

 

How does Jesus explain the fact that people don’t believe in him?

 

 

 

 

How does Jesus criticize their use of the Bible? Do you think there are any parallels in our lives and churches today?

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

In the same way that Jesus was trying to explain himself to the Jewish leaders who were criticizing him, John is trying to convey something to his readers as he writes this. What do you think there is for us to learn from these passages:

 

-      About Jesus and how we can relate to him in our lives today?

 

 

 

 

-      About ourselves, and how we can live as disciples (imitators) of Jesus?

 

 

 

 

-      About the way people react to Christianity in our society?

 

 

 

 

-      About anything else?

Light of the World - John 4:43-54

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Exploring the context of a biblical story can reveal a more complete and impactful understanding of the passage. This week Peter looked at the context for the story of Jesus and the disciples in Samaria, and Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. We saw that when we find ourselves out of necessity in places we would rather not be, there is often a reason that we are there. Even in these places God wants to use us to share the good news of Jesus with those around us, no matter how big the barriers between us may seem.

Opening Discussion:

Do you think miraculous healings happen today? Have you ever witnessed or heard of a healing that you thought was genuine?

Intro:

So far in John’s gospel, Jesus called together a small group of followers; turned water to wine (a first “sign” that only a few people knew about); staged a scene in the temple when he drove out money-changers and livestock-sellers with a whip; and performed some miracles in Jerusalem (that John doesn’t give us details about (2:23)). People were starting to pay attention—including people who had known him all his life, who happened to be in Jerusalem for the festival.

In today’s passage John relates his trip back to his home region (Galilee), where for thirty years he had been known as Jesus, son of Joseph, the builder/carpenter. What do you think this first appearance “back home” would have felt: 1) for Jesus? 2) for the disciples? 3) for the people who had known him as a tradesman? 4) for his family?

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 4:43-54.

How does the passage say the Galileans received him? What does v. 48 tell us about how Jesus perceived their welcome (the “you” in the passage is plural, addressed to more than just the man from Capernaum)?

There seems to be an edge of annoyance in Jesus’ statement in v. 48. Why do you think that is? Take a look at Luke 11:29-32 for a similar statement.

What can we know about the man who came seeking healing for his son? What does this tell us about who the message of Jesus is for?

The journey from Capernaum to Cana was over 20 miles on a road that climbed over 1350 feet. What do you think it was like for the man to walk there, alone, in the hopes of finding Jesus? What was going through his mind as he walked?

What do you think was going through the man’s mind as he traveled back toward his home? How do you think he felt when he met the servants on the road the next day, who gave him the good news? How did he respond to the miracle?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt God had promised something good for you or a loved one, but you didn’t see it right away? What was it like to live in the in-between time?

How does this passage present a tension between seeing (miracles and signs) and believing (what Jesus says)? What do you think we can learn about how the two are related, and which is most important?

How can we cultivate the kind of faith that allows us to trust Jesus before we see him work?

Sum up the message of this passage in one sentence (you might want to start with “Jesus wants…”):

John 3:1-36 - Born Again

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On Sunday Jeremy discussed the cleansing of the Temple, pointing out that when Jesus shows up he doesn’t always bring wine (as we discussed last week). Sometimes he brings a “whip,” to drive out of his temple (and our lives) what should not be there. Jeremy also introduced a simple 3-step process to guide study of the Bible: What does it say? (observation) What does it mean? (interpretation) What does it mean to me? (application). 

 

Note:Today we have a whole chapter to get through.You may want to engage at a quicker pace than normal! If you don’t get it all done in the group, finish reading the chapter at home, reflecting on the questions on your own.

 

Opening Discussion:

Write down the first five words that come to your mind when you think of the word “childbirth.” Briefly share with your group what you wrote and why.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 3:1-15.

 

Observation - what does it say?

What kind of person was Nicodemus? Why do you think he came to Jesus “after dark”? (See notes in Study Bible for help answering both questions).

 

 

What are the two things Jesus tells Nicodemus can’t happen unless he is “born again?” What do you think Jesus is trying to get across to him?

 

 

Do you have any other observations?

 

 

Interpretation – what does it mean?

What do you think it means to be “born again” (or the word could also be translated “born from above”)? How does the opening discussion on childbirth shed light on what this experience might be like?

 

 

Application – what does it mean to me?

How have you experienced spiritual rebirth in your life? Where is God at work now?

 

Read John 3:16-21.

 

Observation – What does it say?

How does this passage relate back to John’s prologue for the book (1:1-18)?

 

 

 

What is the bronze serpent referred to in v. 14? What are the parallels John is making between what happened to the Israelites and what is happening through Jesus? (Have someone in your group read the note and look up the passage in the book of Numbers).

 

 

 

Interpretation – What does it mean?

John 3:16 is one of the most famous passages in the Bible, often used as a way to sum up the entire gospel in one verse. What extra meaning does the verse take on when read in the surrounding context? What has chapter 3 been trying to teach about Jesus and what it means to follow him (or be a Christian) so far?

 

 

 

Application – What does it mean to me?

How can you “lift Jesus up” in your life? What other points of application can you see here?

 

Read John 3:22-36.

 

Observation - What does it say?

In point form, summarize how John responds to his jealous disciples:

 

 

 

Interpretation – What does it mean?

What kind of character traits does John display in his response? How does this enable him to better serve God in his specific calling/vocation (as the one to prepare the way for the Lord)?

 

 

 

 

Application – What does it mean to me?

How can John the Baptist be an example to us as we try to fulfill our own vocations? What can we learn from his attitude and actions?

Discussion Questions: John 2:1-12

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On Sunday, Jeremy took us through John 1:35-51, the calling of the first disciples. John offers a gradual, relational perspective on the call to discipleship, reminding us that sometimes “follow me” (full commitment to Jesus) is preceded by a time of “come and see” (getting to know him). Most of the disciples come to Jesus because of the invitation of a friend (or brother). But each one believes because of their own experience—as the initially skeptical Nathanael reminds us, when Jesus wows him by knowing him better than he should have! Today we look at Jesus’ first miracle, and how that further solidified their belief in him.

 

 

Opening Discussion:

Many people today think God is the ultimate kill-joy. They feel that if they were to “become religious,” it would take away everything that is fun and brings fullness to their lives. Why do you think this is such a popular notion? To what extent do you think it is true or un-true?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

On Sunday, Jeremy described the importance of bringing our imagination to our reading of Scripture, putting ourselves in the passage to experience the story being told. Have someone in your group read John 2:1-12slowly, while the rest of you close your eyes and imagine what it would have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples experiencing the events as they unfolded.

 

What stands out to you initially about this passage? Do you have any questions or points of confusion? Are any of them answered by the study notes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read the Study Bible note on 2:1-3that explains what weddings were typically like, and why running out of wine was such a big deal. Why do you think Jesus chose this as the first occasion to “reveal his glory” (v. 11)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

While some have argued that this “wine” was actually grape juice, verse 10 makes it pretty clear that this was typical wine that contained alcohol. Do a little math—how much wine did Jesus make? How much might it have cost to buy that much today? What does this have to say about the kind of Messiah Jesus would be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember that John is describing how the Creator God (the Word) became flesh and lived among us (1:1-14). What does this miracle and the context in which it happened tell us about the character of God and the nature of his kingdom? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

Think about the kinds of embarrassing, everyday problems that you run into. How would you fill in this sentence: If Jesus cares about a wedding that runs out of wine, that must mean he also cares about…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there any area of your life you are afraid to turn over to God because you’re afraid he will ruin your fun or kill your joy? How can this passage help address that fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can we learn from the kind of faith that Jesus’ mother, Mary, displays in him in this passage? Is there an area in your life where you need to approach Jesus with the same kind of persistence and trust that she does?

 

 

 

Light of the World - Week One - John 1:19-34

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On Sunday Jeremy introduced the series and explored the “prologue” of John’s gospel (1:1-18). Throughout this book, John tells the story of Jesus on two levels: the actual physical events of Jesus’ life, and cosmic “spiritual” realities that happen behind the scenes. In the prologue, John focused on this second, more theological aspect of Jesus identity: that he was the Word that was with God and was God, who became human and lived among us; he is the source of life and the light of the world that shines in the darkness, bringing grace and truth and showing us God in a very unique way. John’s initial reflections are meant to provoke awe and wonder at the miracle of what God did through Jesus. In this next section, however, John transitions to a more historical approach, describing the ministry of John the Baptist (not the John who is writing the gospel).

 

Intro: On Sunday Jeremy discussed the different translations of the Bible available today, which are found on a spectrum from literal word-for-word (e.g. NASB) to looser, paraphrased thought-for-thought (e.g. the Message). We usually use the New International Version (NIV) at MCC, which is in the middle of the spectrum, however for this study we’re using the New Living Translation (NLT, a bit looser) because of the availability of Gospel of John Study Bible samples. Discuss your own experiences and preferences with Bible translations. Do you think a more literal or looser translation is better? Do you have any experience with study Bibles? If so, what did you think?

 

Read John 1:19-34

What initially stands out to you? What did you notice? What questions do you have? Are any of them answered by the notes in the study Bible?

 

 

John the Baptist (or Baptizer) got his name because he ceremonially washed people in water as a sign of their response to the message he brought. Read Luke 3:7-14for a better understanding of the message that people were responding to. Why do you think he was so popular? How did this message help to “prepare the way” for Jesus? 

 

 

 

John has clearly generated a lot of attention at this point and he is even being asked if he is the Messiah. What response does he give to those who want to know who he is? What kind of virtues/character traits do you think John displays in his answers and in his ministry? 

 

How/when did John know that Jesus was the Messiah? Consider the fact that John was Jesus’ cousin and only a few months older than him. How do you think John felt when he came to understand that his carpenter cousin from Nazareth was “the Chosen One of God” (v. 34)? 

 

 

 

John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (v. 29). What does this phrase symbolize? Be sure to check your study Bible notes for insight. Also, the margins contain “cross-references” to other passages of Scripture that are thematically related. Use the cross references for 1:29 to look at three other passages for further insight on this idea. 

 

 

 

Personal Application:

How can John the Baptist be a model for us of a proper way to relate to Jesus? How do you feel you are doing at developing the kinds of virtues/character traits that he displays?

 

 

 

John testifies about Jesus so that those who are listening may believe. His testimony is based upon his experience and what he has heard from the Lord. What have you heard from the Lord or experienced in your own life that gives testimony to who Jesus is? How had God given you the opportunity to share with others?

 

 

 

Is there anything else from today’s conversation that calls for practical application? Pray for each other as you finish this session.

Divine Infancy: The Humble Christ

Click here for a pdf of small group discussion questions.

Click here for Advent Week 3 Devotions

This past Sunday, Peter and Jeremy talked about how the Christmas story illustrates a God who went all-out to express humility. He came to a poor, unconventional family, was born into an oppressed people, while on a forced “vacation,” in an overflow room with animals. Humility is something God desires us to display as well, both in our relationships with others, and our relationship with Him. 

 

Key Verse: 

1 Peter 5:6 -Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

 

 

Opening Discussion:

Describe a situation in your life where you felt “humbled” (or embarrassed!) by something that happened, or something someone said. How did this impact you positively/negatively?

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read Deuteronomy 8:1-18.

 

We looked at this passage as part of our Transformed series, reflecting particularly on the idea that it is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth, and so we ought to view everything we have as a gift from his hand. Now we look at it with the themes of humility and pride in mind. 

In the first part of the passage, what did God do in order to “humble” the Israelites? How do you think this situation helped to teach them humility? (If you aren’t familiar with the story, you can read about it in Exodus 16).



 

Moses repeatedly asks the Israelites to “remember” and “do not forget” what God had done for them in the past. Why was this so important for them? How is it related to humility (and pride)?

 

 



What does this passage tell us about God’s heart toward us in difficult times? 

 

Reflect on your own experiences of good times and hard times. How have you seen the dynamics of pride and humility at work in your life during those times?



 

 

Have you ever seen the kind of miraculous provision described in verse 4? Are there any other parts of this passage that strike you as having parallels in your own life?

 

 

 

Close by thanking God for the good and bad times, and asking him to help you walk in humility.

 

Divine Infancy: Growing Slowly

Click here for a pdf (discussion questions).

Click here for Advent devotions week 2.

By coming as a baby, God submitted himself to the natural processes for growth he had designed. We see this in his kingdom, which comes not all at once or in huge and dramatic miracles, but gradually and patiently. We too should learn to submit to the processes of growth God has designed for our lives, patiently allowing him to do his work. And we should show this same patience to those around us.

 

Opening Discussion:

On Sunday Jeremy spoke about the idea that Jesus grew - mentally, physically, spiritually, relationally. He even posed the more challenging idea that “God grew” in these ways. Discuss how this notion makes you feel? What about it is encouraging to you? What about it is challenging? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read 2 Peter 3:3-9.

 

What can we learn about God and his Kingdom from this passage? Why does Peter say God is taking so long?





How might this passage change the way we live our daily lives?

 



 

What does it mean for us to have patience with God’s timing and speed? 

 



 

Read 2 Peter 3:10-15. How does Peter explain his reason for writing about the end of the world?

 

 

 

 

Application/Prayer:

 

What is one way you have seen God at work in the world around you that has taken a long time to come about? 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday Jeremy spoke about being patient with yourself, allowing time for God to grow you and make you mature. In what ways do you see God at work to develop you?

 

 

 

 

 

Where are you struggling to be patient? With God? With yourself? With a situation in your life? With another person? 





 

Pray with each other for the things that God is growing and developing in you, the places where you need more patience, and thank God for the good things that God has brought about in time. 

 

 

Divine Infancy: The Kingdom With Us and Among Us

For a pdf click here (discussion questions).

For the devotions for week one click here.

On Sunday we explored the idea that, by coming as a baby, God situated himself in human history, in a particular family, people, geography, and web of relationships. We see his kingdom working the same way, not as something “out there,” but “among us.” He is always at work, before we even get there. His work is accomplished all around us, through others, through many. We too need to learn to see God at work not just “out there” or “someday,” but in our everyday lives, wherever we go and whatever we’re doing.

 

Opening Discussion:

On Sunday Peter spoke about the idea that Jesus was born into a unique situation and a unique web of relationships just as we all are. Share a glimpse of the situations and relationships that you were born into. Share some of the most positive and the most difficult. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read John 1: 1-14.

 

 

How does this passage describe Jesus (described as “the Word” in this passage) before he came to earth?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 What kinds of things would have to happen in order for “the Word” to become flesh? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the passage we read that the world did not recognize or receive Jesus? What does this mean? How do we participate in not recognizing or receiving Jesus? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fact that the omnipresent God who brings life to all somehow “became flesh”, and put himself into the tiny, vulnerable, physical form of a baby is a miracle that goes beyond our comprehension. But the fact that he lived “among us” as one of us not only led to our salvation at the cross, it also declared human existence to be somehow “okay”—even holy! 

 

What is your reaction to this idea that human existence is in some way sacred? Do you believe it to be true?

 

 

 

 

 

If this is true what implications does this have for the way we live our lives? 

 

 

 

 

 

As you think about your life right now, where do you see God at work “among us” (in your own web of relationships, culture, and situation)? Where do you find it harder to see him? 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there anything you think God might be calling you to do in your life right now? Share it with your group and have them pray with you about it. 

 

Responding to the Message

Click here for a pdf.

 

On Sunday we looked at the story of Lydia, one of the first converts to the Christian faith at Macedonia. In Acts 16 it says that “the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message,” at which point she was baptized (along with other members of her household). We talked about God’s power at work in conversion, and how sometimes we mistakenly think faith is a matter of the mind rather than the heart. Jeremy also invited anyone interested in baptism to let him know so they can be part of a baptism class to be held this summer (with a baptism being held in late summer/early fall).

 

Opening Discussion:

Can you relate to the phrase “the Lord opened her heart”? Is there a time in your life when you felt that God “opened” your heart to something? 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re comfortable sharing, describe how you first became a Christian.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read Romans 10:1-15.

 

What observations or questions do you have about this passage?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The passage begins with Paul expressing his desire to see his own people (the Jews) “saved.” What does it mean to be saved? How do people understand this word in our culture today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The passage lists two requirements to be saved: confess with your mouth and believe in your heart. Why do you think Paul highlights these as two of the most important aspects of putting one’s faith in Christ? Are there any other things (based on other passages of Scripture) that you would say are necessary part of becoming a Christian?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think it means to believe with your “heart” rather than in your “mind”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

The passage talks about the “beautiful feet” of those who bring good news. Who brought the good news to you? Take time to thank God for them today. Maybe you could even send them a note of thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the Bible, baptism is an important step in the life of a believer. Whether you’ve been a Christian for many years, or you have recently opened your heart to Jesus, contact Jeremy (jeremy@muskokacommunitychurch.com) about getting baptized later this summer and joining our pre-baptism classes. 

Click here for a pdf.

On Sunday we explored the idea of God’s call as an important element for thriving churches and individuals. In Acts 16, Paul and his companions are travelling throughout the Roman empire sharing the good news of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit twice says “no” to their plans, and finally directs them toward Macedonia through a vision of a man pleading for help. They head that direction, concluding that God had “called” them there. How do we know what God is calling us to do in our lives?

 

Opening Discussion:

Have you ever had an experience in which you believed God was nudging you in a particular direction or “calling” you to do something? How did it turn out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read Acts 26:4-23, where Paul (as a prisoner) tells the story of his conversion to King Agrippa and his courtiers. 

 

On Sunday, Jeremy suggested that the specifics of whatGod calls us to do often begin with a more general sense of who he calls us to be. What can we learn from this passage about who God was calling Paul to be? How was his new calling in keeping with what we know about his personality even before his conversion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Paul had a clear idea of whoGod was calling him to be, it seems that his decisions about what to docame naturally. Read the passage we looked at Sunday, Acts 16:6-10.

 

What evidence do you see of:

·     Paul making his own plans and decisions based on his best judgment?

·     The Holy Spirit specifically directing his plans and decisions (saying no or yes)?

 

 

 

 

When it comes to finding God’s will for our lives, how much do you think is flexible (as in, God lets us make our own decisions) and how much do you think is directed (as in, God has a clear path and purpose that he reveals to us)? 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think we can mess up God’s calling by our lack of attention or our disobedience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think we can do to be more aware of what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do?

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

Write down the name of each person in your group. Beside each name, write one word that you think might capture who God has called them to be (e.g. encourager, teacher, artist, truth-teller, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there anything you think God might be calling you to do in your life right now? Share it with your group and have them pray with you about it. 

 

 

The Problem With Seeds

For a pdf click here.

 

This Sunday guest speaker Brad Rose explored the apostle Paul’s experience in Athens and how he used his time waiting there for his friends as an opportunity to share the gospel with those who would listen. He spoke to them using language and concepts that they could understand, and rather than making a harsh call toward repentance, he urged them to take up a new perspective. However, responses to his message varied. Some people sneered. Others were curious and wanted to hear more. And a few even became disciples (Acts 17:32-34). What can we learn from this about how people respond to the message of Jesus today?

 

Opening Discussion:

Have you ever tried to talk to someone about your faith and had it go completely wrong? What were your thoughts and feelings afterward?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-15. What do you think is the point of the parable? What is Jesus trying to teach his disciples and the crowd?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Acts 17:1-15 (the passage that comes immediately before Paul’s experience in Athens that we studied Sunday). How do you see the parable of the sower come to life in what is described here? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often we judge our success in sharing our faith based on the reaction of the people we’re sharing with. We assume that if they accept it, we did it right. If they have questions or reject what we have to say, we assume we did it wrong. These passages make it clear that we aren’t to judge the quality of the “seed” by the results. What do you think is the best way to judge success when it comes to sharing the message of Jesus?

 

The parable of the sower describes four possible outcomes to the planting of God’s word:

1.    The devil comes and takes away the seeds so they can’t believe and be saved.

2.    They believe for a while, but in a time of testing they fall away.

3.    Their faith is choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.

4.    They retain the word and by persevering produce a crop.

 

How have you seen those scenarios played out in your own life or the life of people you know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think we can do as we share the message of Jesus to give it the best chance to take root and grow? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What kinds of things might we do/say that might lead to it being stolen, shallow, or choked out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

What situation has God placed you in that might be an opportunity to share your faith through words and/or actions?

 

Click here for a pdf.

In Acts 15 the apostles and elders come together at the Council of Jerusalem, deciding that Gentiles do not have to become Jewish proselytes and follow the Law of Moses in order to be Christians. They were allowed to keep their own customs as long as they didn’t interfere with their loyalty to Jesus (e.g. avoiding idols, immoral behaviour). This set a precedent that has allowed Christianity to adapt to many different environments. Because of this pivotal moment, we see the rich beauty of many different expressions of our faith across the world today. It is like liquid—maintaining its essence, but taking the form of whatever cultural container it has been poured into over the last 2000 years. 

 

Key Verse: 

Acts 15:19 –We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

 

Opening Discussion:

Have you ever experienced Christians who are from a different culture, or who worship differently than you were used to? What did you find intriguing, confusing, or encouraging about their expression of faith?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How is our approach to Christianity and style of worship at MCC affected by our 21stcentury Canadian cultural context?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10:1-48.

 

How do you think Peter, a devout Jew, felt going into the house of a Gentile? Has God ever called you into an environment in which you felt uncomfortable or out of place?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review the description of Cornelius at the beginning of the chapter. Despite not being a Jew or a Christian (yet), he is portrayed as devout, God-fearing, generous, and a man of prayer. How does this compare with the assumptions Christians sometimes make about those who are not believers? What can we learn about how God works in the lives of those outside the church? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This incident was one of the things that led to the decision in Acts 15 that the Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to be Christians. In that passage, the apostles and elders decided they should not “make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” They sent very simple instructions, outlined in a letter: 

 

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” (Acts 15:28-29)

 

Scholars are uncertain why those four things were deemed to be the most important instructions, though some suggest it is a summary of Old Testament teachings on how Gentiles could live among Jews without causing offense (see Leviticus 17-18). If youwere to pick four instructions to give to new Christians who didn’t know anything about the faith, what would they be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Ephesians 3:1-6. What do you notice about how Paul describes God’s plan to include the Gentiles in what he is doing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

Take a moment to flip around in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy looking at some of the obscure rules and laws outlined there. There are approximately 613 commandments in the Torah that you would have to follow if it had been decided that Gentiles believers needed to become Jews. Take time to thank God for not burdening us with that “yoke,” and including our culture and society in his plans. How can you show the same inclusiveness to others?

 

A Growing Church: The Power of Coincidence

Click here for pdf.

This week we will continue our journey through Acts by studying a passage that isn’t directly related to Sunday’s sermon. In Acts 6 we read about the choosing of “The Seven” who were the first to join the apostles in an official leadership capacity in the church, managing the food distribution program for widows. The apostles had said these were to be people full of the Holy Spirit, and the next chapters give witness to this. First, one of the seven (Stephen) is unjustly killed for his faith in Jesus, becoming the first Christian martyr. Then the entire church faces persecution and is scattered outward from Jerusalem. Philip (also one of the seven) goes to the despised Samaritans to bring the good news to those people (whom Jesus seemed to have a soft spot for). While there, Philip does amazing miracles and wins over many people. One of the most remarkable stories is his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, which we will look at today.

 

 

Key Verse: 

Acts 8:4 -Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

 

Opening Discussion:

Have you ever observed or been a part of a “coincidence” in which two people seem to have been brought together by God at just the right time, for some purpose they couldn’t have foreseen or planned? Share with the group.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read Acts 8:26-40.

 

How do you think a high-standing Ethiopian had become interested in the Jewish faith enough to have visited the temple and purchased an expensive copy of one of the Jewish prophetic writings? What kinds of things cause everyday people to get curious about God today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What different elements did God bring together to lead this man to putting his faith in Christ? 

 

 

 

 

 

The passage the Ethiopian was reading is one in which God (through the prophet Isaiah) is comforting Israel, assuring them that their suffering in exile will be rewarded in the end, when God restores their fortunes. That is how it had been understood for seven centuries from Isaiah to Christ. Yet early Christians quickly interpreted it to actually be pointing toward what had happened to and through Jesus. With this in mind, readIsaiah 52:13-53:12. 

 

(Note the difference in wording between the quote in Acts and the actual verses 7-8 in Isaiah. This is because the author of Acts is quoting from a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, which was in wide circulation in that day. It is possible this was what the Ethiopian was reading. In our English Bibles, the Old Testament passage is translated directly from the Hebrew, resulting in variances in wording).

 

Acts 8:35 says that Philip “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” Put yourself in Philip’s shoes. Where would you start, and how would you share the message? What elements of the Christian gospel (and life of Jesus) do you see reflected in the Isaiah passage?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

When sharing the Christian message, it’s important to start where people are at. How would you frame the gospel for someone who is:

·     A seeker who is actively exploring/comparing spiritual paths?

·     Someone who had been hurt by Christians?

·     A Muslim?

·     An Orthodox Jew?

·     An passionate atheist (does not believe in God)?

·     Someone who grew up in church, but has drifted away?

·     An agnostic (doesn’t know what he/she believes) who has had no exposure to Christianity?

 

 

 

 

Are you willing to be used by God in “coincidental” opportunities to share your faith with others? Ask him to use you in this way, and to help you have the words to say in the moment.

 

 

 

 

Bonus:Have you ever wondered how Jews who don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah interpret Isaiah 53? Read http://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/isaiah-53-a-jewish-perspective/and reflect on whether you find the arguments valid, or if you find the Christian interpretation more convincing.

A Growing Church: Shepherds of the Flock

 

Click here for a pdf.

This Sunday Jeremy talked about something pastors rarely teach about: pastoral ministry. The primary term for “pastor” in the New Testament was actually “elder.” These were leaders in the church set apart for teaching and other ministries, sometimes on a volunteer basis, sometimes supported financially by the church. Paul makes it clear that the goal of leadership in the church was not to be the sole source of ministry, but to equip the rest of the church to do ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). Every elder/pastor is unique and should serve according to their own personality and gifting. We should expect God to call men and women into pastoral ministry from MCC and should support those who embark on this journey.

 

Key Verse: 

1 Peter 5:1-3 - To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

.

 

Opening Discussion:

If you listened to Jeremy’s talk on Sunday, what stood out to you? Were there any surprises or “aha!” moments?

 

 

 

 

Some people joke about pastors only working one day per week. But do you have any sense of what they do the rest of the time? As a group, try to brainstorm any tasks or roles you think might be a part of pastoral ministry today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Scripture:

Read Acts 20:17-38.

 

What can we learn from this passage about the role of an “elder” (or pastor) in the first century? How do you think Paul’s role as an “apostle” (literally, ‘one sent out’) compared to the role of the elders he was leaving in charge?

 

 

 

If you were to list the top 5 traits a pastor should have, what would they be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Titus 1:6-9.How do Paul’s traits differ from the ones you listed? How are these requirements related to the mission of the church? 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think these are meant to be universal requirements, or are any of them flexible/contextual?

 

 

 

 

 

How are members of a church supposed to relate to their pastor? Read 1 Timothy 5:17-21and Hebrews 13:17 and try to sum up what those passages teach. Do you have any further thoughts on how to relate to pastors?

 

 

 

 

 

Split up the following passages in your group, where Paul asks people to pray for him:

Romans 15:30-32; Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2.

What can you learn from those passages about the importance of praying for your pastor and spiritual leaders? How can you pray for our pastor and other pastors you know?

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Application

Is there anyone you know that you think God might be calling to be a pastor? Do you think it would be appropriate to share this with them?