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SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
Reaping and sowing is the basic recipe of how God created the world to work. In general, and particularly in regard to character formation, if you sow good things in wisdom, you will reap good things. The gospel makes it possible to not be doomed forever to the results of our poor choices. We are free to begin sowing good at any time with God’s help. We can be released from the trend of reaping bad things. The Apostle Paul warns that God is not deceived by appearances. Even if you convince those around you that everything is coming up good in your life, God is not fooled, and you will ultimately reap destruction. On the plus side, if we sow to please the Spirit, we will reap eternal life with God.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
1. What are your plans for the summer?
2. Have you ever done something to be helpful that had the opposite effect? Please share.
3. When you buy a gift for someone, do you prefer it to be something practical, or something that is either sentimental or something that the recipient would not buy for themselves?
4. When you think of God’s will, do you typically think in terms of major life decisions and direction, or of the way God wishes us to treat others around us? Discuss briefly.
INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
1. In 5 minutes or less. Briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Briefly explain.
2. Read Matthew 25:31-46:
“18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.””
• Who does the “Son of Man” refer to in verse 31? Is anyone exempt from this scene of judgment (v. 32)? What is the significance of the Son of Man placing the sheep on his right (note where the Son of Man sits compared to God the Father in Matthew 26:64)? Which side then, has Jesus positioned in between them and God the Father: those on Jesus’ left, or His right?
• What kind of things did the sheep sow to reap eternal life with God (vv. 35-36)? What do all of these acts have in common? What does this emphasis on people in need say about God’s character?
• Were the sheep aware that God was noting their actions favorably (vv. 37-38)? What does this say about service in the kingdom of God and the nature of the kingdom of God? Is the kingdom always visible to us? Is “kingdom work” often loud and flashy, or quiet and unseen by crowds?
• Do you get the impression that the sheep were busy tracking all the good they were doing (vv. 37-38)? If the sheep had been focused on doing “great things for God,” do you suppose that they would have lived their lives in the same way? Briefly discuss this based on your own life.
• What is the reason these good works matter to Jesus (v. 40)? Why does Jesus make a point of referring to His “brothers” as the ones that were helped (v. 40)?
• Consult Matthew 7:21-23 and compare it to Matthew 25:41-45 above. Do we get to plead our case before Jesus, telling Him all the wonderful things we feel we have done for Him? In Matthew 25:41-45, Jesus points to the inactivity of the condemned. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus points to their activity, but both groups are condemned. Why do you think God is pleased by the activity of the sheep in this passage? Briefly discuss.
3. In his sermon, Rich talked about sowing and reaping things of eternal worth. Often, we live with a subconscious idea of when and what kind of reward we should get for our efforts. In the above passage, we learn that reaping ultimately comes when we stand before Jesus as condemned or approved.
As a group, pray over the following questions:
• Think of particular disappointments in your life. In hindsight, were you looking more to a certain earthly reward more than the ultimate reward, approval in the eyes of Christ?
• If you have been discouraged by not seeing any good coming from all your efforts, what has been your response? Thinking that God is less good than you previously believed? Giving up on your efforts? Ceasing to pray about the issue?
As a group, pray that God’s Spirit would grant you His encouragement and His power to choose to keep on sowing good things. Repent of any ways that you have given up on or underestimated God, and receive the power of God’s forgiveness that can free you to resume sowing good things.