SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
In this message Pastor Rich teaches that generosity should be one of the defining characteristics of life and the goal for every one of us. As Christians being generous not only is good for us, but it is should also define who we are. Oftentimes our generosity is killed by debt, greed, worry, or even fear. But we can become more generous in the face of such generosity killers when we discover a bigger purpose in life and that all of our possessions actually belong to God. Aligning ourselves with such Godly principles allows us to experience both peace and joy. This comes by learning to be open-handed and generous with our giving to His Kingdom, and by giving to those in need.
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. In keeping with the themes of this week’s sermon, can anyone describe a noticeable difference in your spirit of generosity before and after you came to know Jesus? Or, can you share about an “event” that helped propel a major change in your spirit or attitude? Please share.
2. Does anyone have a great story of being the recipient of someone else’s great generosity? How did it make you feel?
3. Does anyone have a good “quality control” story – either from your own work experience or your experience as a customer with another company (i.e. restaurant, grocery, etc)? How did you know the product or experience was “bad” or “sub-par”?
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? Explain.
2. Read 1 John 3:16-23:
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
• Discuss the context of this passage (vs 10-15). John divides the world into which 2 parts? What are the characteristics of each group? What’s the dividing line?
• Why does John introduce this OT story – what’s its meaning? (a. the things in our “hearts”, ultimately leads us toward actions).
• What’s the supreme manifestation of the new life? Why is love, a “life or death” scenario for John? Please share some thoughts.
• Vs16. The love word here is agape love – any idea what that means (a. not romantic love, but intensely practical)? Who is the supreme example? Why does John make self-sacrifice the quality standard? How does this principle make you feel?
• How might this challenge your pre-conceived notions of what it means to love your brother or sister? Have you ever been on the receiving end of self-sacrificial love – please explain?
• Vs17-18 Have you ever had to put your life on-the-line for another person? Most of us probably not – what self-sacrificial scenario is much more likely according to John? Reflect on the word “instinct” – what is it? Does instinct involve choice? John says our instinct in the prior situation, as a lover, should be what? See James 2:15.
• Love for John is only “real” when it’s followed by what? Why do some “other” Christians just pay lip-service to actionable love? How do we live with such hypocrisy (a. if we change what we believe to be true, we won’t feel guilty)? We must live in “truth”.
• Vs19-20 What is John’s litmus test for abiding in Jesus? This is great news, because a “clear conscious”, or “rest”, with God is not about absence of sin, but by the presence of what? Please discuss.
• Do you have a friend who you don’t talk with or see anymore because if you saw them you would have to talk about something uncomfortable? Please explain. Vs21-22 – What does the absence of condemnation with God free us up to do? Now we can have free and open communication with God – what kinds of things can we ask him? Do you think this breeds confidence? Why or why not?
• In the message, worry was a hurdle to being generous (loving) – what do these verses tell you about worry? (John 15:10)
• Vs23 What is the “name” of Jesus Christ (literally his character and person)? Faith is the first step in the family of God, and how should now we live in this new family? This is not just a helpful tip from John, but a command by Jesus – John 13:34, 15:12.
3. Application and Prayer Ministry.
• What are some ways your small group can “practically” love each other?
• How can you build a “generous” spirit into the fabric of your community?
• Are there ways you feel (are) bogged-down by worry, pride, or debt and unable to be free in your agape love? Pray that the Holy Spirit would empower freedom and growth in your life.
• Do you have a cynical edge towards others that prevents you from responding instinctually with generosity or love? Pray that Jesus’ love for you would deeply penetrate any hardness of heart.