Prayer | Ephesians 6:18-20

Sermon | Week 3

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

OPENING THOUGHT

The purpose of the Western Meadows Values Series is to articulate the primary values that we hold at Western Meadows Baptist Church. Our study began with the Great Commission, which is Jesus’ final command for His disciples to make disciples. This call toward perpetual discipleship is the mission and purpose of each Christian as individuals and of each church as a community. Because making disciples fills the earth with the glory of God, the Great Commission is not optional for Christ’s followers.

The command, of course, means little to us unless we know how to obey it. Like our walk of faith, discipleship happens at both an individual and communal level. As individuals, we make disciples by witnessing (adorning the gospel with our lives), evangelism (the verbal proclamation of the gospel), and teaching other believers how the gospel applies to their lives. Likewise, there are three broad ways discipleship occurs at the community level: through the preaching of the Scriptures and the devotion to prayer and community.

Last week, we studied the importance of the Scriptures and how the preaching of them is an essential component toward making disciples. Today we will discuss the importance of prayer. Because making disciples is the expansion of God’s kingdom, discipleship is essentially an act of spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6, Paul carefully illustrates this truth by urging us to equip ourselves with the armor of God. He then closes the section by reminding us of the importance of prayer in expanding God’s kingdom, especially prayer for the bold and faithful proclamation of the Scriptures.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read verses 10-17 and discuss the following.

  1. In these verses, Paul describes the Christian life as being encompassed within spiritual warfare. Do you regularly consider yourself to be a part of spiritual warfare? How should this knowledge impact our daily lives?

Read verses 18-20 and discuss the following.

  1. How does Paul expect a Christian to pray at all time?
  2. What might be the all forms of prayer that Paul encourages us to pray?
  3. Why does Paul call us to pray with alertness and all perseverance?
  4. Why is it necessary for us to pray for all saints? How does Paul’s prayer for boldness display the importance of prayer in making disciples?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.
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Exhaustion, Sermon Prep, & Leviticus (Jan. 13, 2017)

I’m Exhausted- How Do I Recharge My Body Without Neglecting My Soul

This episode of Ask Pastor John deals with how we spend our leisure time to the glory of God.

The Necessity of Prayer in Sermon Prep

Do we give our study proportional prayer? I often hear ministers ask for prayer for their preaching, but rarely do I hear requests for their study. I am guilty of doing this very thing. Furthermore, we tend to weight our own prayer for the sermon towards the delivery of it.

No More Channel-Flipping Sermons

So pick a section of scripture, and stick to it. Put down the clicker. Maybe change the channel once, from Old Testament to New, or vice versa. But hunker down. Tell the story, make the argument, sing the song. If I had to make a rule of thumb, I’d say three different texts is plenty, but two is ideal.

Read Scripture: Leviticus

This video is certainly not new, but as I recently began reading Leviticus in my personal time in the Scriptures, I found it very helpful and worth sharing.

Do Not Be Anxious | Matthew 6:25-34

Week 11 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:30-34)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

OPENING THOUGHT

The Sermon on the Mount contains some of the most popular portions of Jesus’ earthly teachings, but its primary purpose is teaching His followers about living within the kingdom of heaven. So far we have studied the characteristics that ought to define a citizen of God’s kingdom as described within the Beatitudes, Jesus proclaimed the purpose of His disciples as being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, Christ established how the Old Testament commandments fit into His kingdom, and He informed us of the right and wrong ways of giving to the poor, praying, and fasting.

Last week, Jesus taught on storing earthly treasures or heavenly treasures. This picked up His thought on seeking a reward for our good works from the Father, not from other people. If we seek any kind of treasure on earth, we know that it is temporal, since we and everything on earth will pass away. Thus, Jesus encouraged us to make an investment toward heavenly treasure, which is eternal. For Christ’s followers, it is black and white: we will either serve God and gain an eternal treasure, or we will serve lesser gods and gain a temporary treasure.

Today’s text is immediately tied into the previous one through the word therefore. If our treasure is eternally secure in God Himself, we will truly be able to live a life without anxiety. Or perhaps I should more accurately say, ONLY if our treasure is eternally secure in God will we ever be able to obey Jesus’ command: do not be anxious about your life. Ultimately, Jesus is inviting us to surrender our worries about life over to the Father. Since we know that God upholds the universe by the word of His power, this should be an easy decision, but these verses are just as challenging as they are encouraging. Will we truly surrender control of our life to the sovereign God?

Read verses 25-33 and discuss the following.

  1. After telling His followers to store up treasures in heaven, Jesus then states, “THEREFORE, do not be anxious about your life.” How does last week’s text (verses 19-24) provide the groundwork for conquering anxiety?
  2. Jesus gives two examples, birds and lilies, to illustrate God’s provision and providence. How do these examples point to the futility of worrying?
  3. Verse 33 is a very well-known verse, but what are some ways that we might seek God’s kingdom first? What does “and all things will be added to you” mean?

Read verse 34 and discuss the following.

  1. Here Jesus tells us not to be anxious about tomorrow because each day has its own trouble. In what ways can we practically live this verse? How does it relate to James 4:13-16?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Make a list of things that tend to cause you to be anxious. Recalling Jesus’ statement in verse 27, does your worry over those things ever help?
  • Pray. Following Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4:6-7, bring your anxieties before God in prayer and supplication and ask that God would grant you peace in Christ that surpasses understanding.

Storing Treasure | Matthew 6:19-24

Week 10 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness, how great is the darkness!  (Matthew 6:22-23)

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

OPENING THOUGHT

As followers of Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom, and the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ guide for living in the kingdom of heaven. This means that the Beatitudes are not pretty and encouraging words from Jesus; they are Jesus’ characteristics for His followers. Christ’s statement on being the salt of the earth and the light of the world tells us our purpose. He then addressed heart-level obedience God’s commandments within the kingdom.

So far in chapter six, Jesus has addressed the topic of religious actions, specifically giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. Though we might consider giving alms, praying, and fasting to be inherently good works, Christ explains that whenever we do them to be seen by others they are no longer good works. If we do religious works for others to notice, then we have already received our reward for doing them; instead, we should seek the reward from the Father.

Jesus now addresses the topic of reward. He warns us not to store up our treasures on earth, since those treasures cannot be destroyed or lost. Instead, we should seek the treasures of heaven, which are eternally secure. Key to this passage is understanding that we cannot do both. Our heart will always be with what we treasure, whether on earth or in heaven. If we store up treasure here, we will find ourselves serving money as our master, but if God is our treasure, we will be devoted to Him instead.

          Read verses 19-21 and discuss the following.

  1. What does it mean for us to be the salt of the earth?
  2. Christ warns against salt losing its saltiness. Does this mean that Christ is saying that a Christian can lose his or her salvation?

          Read verses 22-23 and discuss the following.

  1. Jesus claims that the eye is the lamp of the body. What does this statement mean? How is it connected to verses 19-21 and verse 24?Read verse 24 and discuss the following.
  1. Here Christ explicitly claims that we will serve a master, but we cannot serve two masters. How can we evaluate which master we serve?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Prayerfully evaluate whether God is your master or if you serve another master, considering whether you store earthly or heavenly treasure. Does your life display the characteristics of the kingdom of heaven?
  • Pray. Ask the Lord for the grace to serve Him alone, laying up your treasures in heaven.

Giving | Matthew 6:1-4

Week 7 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4)

OPENING THOUGHT

The Gospel of Matthew is about Jesus bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, and the Sermon on the Mount serves as the citizen’s handbook. Chapter five covered the characteristics and purpose of Christ’s followers, as well as their relationship to the Old Testament Law. The Beatitudes represent the characteristics of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and their purpose is to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. The chapter then concluded with six examples of how Christ came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it.

As we move into the sixth chapter of Matthew, we also enter a new section of Jesus’ sermon. Through chapter five’s discussion of the Law, Jesus flipped many of the Old Testament commandments on their head by revealing God’s heart behind it. Jesus now does something very similar with acts of religious piety. For many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting were the three holiest acts one could perform, but Jesus shockingly reveals that even these godly acts can be done in an ungodly manner.

This week we focus on Jesus’ brief discussion of giving to the poor. It is important to note that Jesus begins with the phrase, “when you give…”. Thus, Jesus begins with the assumption that His followers will desire to give to the needy. We would tend to assume that giving to the poor is always a righteous act, but Jesus warns against giving in order to be seen by others. He claims that if we do good works for others to notice, their attention is our reward. However, if we give in secret, our Father will see us and reward us.

Read verse 1 and discuss the following.

  1. Jesus begins chapter six with a warning against practicing our righteousness before other people. Why does Jesus condemn doing good works to be seen by others?

Read verse 2 and discuss the following.

  1. Most of us are not likely to use to trumpets to announce whenever we give to the needy, so what does Jesus mean by “sound no trumpet before you”?
  2. What are some practical or real life examples of how we might (blatantly or subtly) search for other people’s acknowledgement of our generosity?

Read verses 3-4 and discuss the following.

  1. What does Jesus mean by not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing?
  2. Biblically, how will the Father reward these secret givers?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Consider your current practice of giving to the needy. Do you give at all? If you do, where is your heart when you give? How can you guard your heart from seeking the affirmation of others in your giving?
  • Pray. Pray to the Lord for a greater desire to be generous and to guard your heart against giving to be seen by others.

Anger, Lust, & Divorce | Matthew 5:21-32

Week 5 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

OPENING THOUGHT

With His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus essentially provides us with a citizen’s guide to the kingdom of heaven. Since God’s kingdom is upside-down from the kingdoms of the world, it is fitting that Jesus opened with the Beatitudes, which are characteristics of Christ’s followers that are antithetical of how the world expects people to behave. Jesus then defined the purpose of the kingdom’s citizens: preserving and illuminating the world as salt and light. By living out the Beatitudes, Jesus knew that His disciples would be radically different from the people around them, allowing them to be messengers of the good news of the kingdom.

In our previous text, Jesus discussed His relationship to the Old Testament Law. Likely as a disclaimer to today’s passage, Christ claimed that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. He knew that many people would see His statements on murder and adultery as blasphemy, since He was expanding upon the commandments of the Old Testament. But Jesus is not expanding or adding to the Old Testament laws, He is simply revealing God’s heart behind them. The Pharisees nearly perfected outward obedience to the commandments, but Jesus now shows that outward obedience isn’t enough. To truly follow God, we must follow Him from our hearts.

This week, we will study three of Jesus’ topics: anger, lust, and divorce. He begins each by citing an Old Testament commandment, but then He takes the commandment further, to the heart of the matter. Murder was forbidden, but Jesus says not even to be angry against our brother. Adultery was against the law, but Jesus says that lustful looks and thoughts are adultery of the heart. It seems to be an impossible standard! How can Jesus expect such obedience? First, we can never achieve these standards; thus, these verses should break any self-righteousness in our hearts. Second, by the strength of the Holy Spirit, we are meant to live out these words more and more as we grow in maturity with Christ.

Read verses 21-26 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus equate anger and insulting someone with murder?
  2. How does Jesus’ call to reconcile with a brother before offering a sacrifice apply to us today?

Read verses 27-30 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus equate lust with adultery?
  2. Does Jesus mean for us to literally gouge out our eyes or cut off our hands if they cause us to sin? Why or why not?

Read verses 31-32 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus limit the reasons for divorce only to adultery?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Jesus’ commandments here have a twofold purpose. First, they are meant to break the self-righteousness of non-Christians, in the hope that they would turn to Christ in repentance for salvation. Second, they are also meant to guide Christians toward living like Christ. Therefore, followers of Christ should have an internal longing to obey God’s law. Consider, then, how you will obey Jesus’ call to flee the sin of lust and repent of the sin of anger.
  • Pray. We will never be able to follow after Christ in heart level obedience until God has supernaturally transformed our heart. Pray, therefore, for grace to live in obedience both inwardly and outwardly.

Christ and the Law | Matthew 5:17-20

Week 4 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one an-other: just as I have love you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

OPENING THOUGHT

If Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is essentially a citizen’s handbook to the kingdom of heaven, then we have already broadly addressed the citizen’s character and purpose. The Beatitudes first display the expected character of Christ’s disciples. Showing meekness or mercy goes against the world’s ideals, but Christ’s kingdom turns our expectations upside-down. Jesus then defined Christians’ purpose by calling us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They are astounding metaphors! Like salt preserves meat, so do His follows preserve the world from completely decaying into sin. Like light dispels darkness, so must we shine as the light in a world lost in darkness.

Jesus now moves the discussion to the Law, the Old Testament. He opens by claiming that He has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. This would have been a genuine fear for many who saw Him. The Law forbade the touching of anyone infected with leprosy, but Jesus touched and healed them. Work was forbidden on the Sabbath, yet Jesus healed many people during Sabbath. But Jesus probably said this primarily as a disclaimer to the remainder of chapter 5. Having positioned Himself upon a mountain (like Moses), Jesus spends verses 21-48 citing the Old Testament commandments only to replace them with His own.

Most Jews would have seen Jesus’ declarations as being blasphemous against God’s Law given to Moses. But Jesus defends Himself in our present text. His replacing of the Old Testament commandments is not their abolishment but rather their fulfillment. Jesus goes so far as to claim that not one pen stroke of the Old Testament will pass away until all is accomplished. Jesus loves the Law because being God, He wrote it. Thus, we must be vigilant to learn that the Old Testament is as valuable and beneficial as the New Testament for us because Christ has brought the promises of the Law to completion on our behalf.

Read verse 17 and discuss the following.

  1. Why would the Israelites of Jesus’ day have thought that Jesus came to abolish the Law and Prophets?
  2. In what ways did Jesus fulfill (or complete) the Old Testament Scriptures?

Read verses 18-19 and discuss the following.

  1. What are some examples of the “least of these commandments”?
  2. How do we obey the least of the Old Testament commandments in Christ today?

Read verse 20 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus use the scribes and Pharisees as examples of righteousness?
  2. How can our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Consider your intentions behind obeying the commandments in the Bible. Do you obey because of the consequences of disobedience? Or do you obey because you love God and love others?
  • Pray. Consider how you read the Old Testament commandments. Do you read them as a system of rules to obey in order to please God? Or do you see them as outdated laws from a bygone era? Pray to read the Old Testament laws instead knowing that Christ has perfectly fulfilled each of them for us and that His New Covenant completes them.