The Simplicity of Grace (Matthew 23)

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In this week’s message, Insoo talks about the simplicity of grace, and how even in our being “good” people we can still miss God’s grace. However, we are in desperate need of grace; the world is in desperate need of grace! And this grace is available to us through Jesus! Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more! Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less! Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love us!

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.Have you ever forgotten about something valuable or left something in the rain or winter months and it was ruined as a result? What was the story? How might our spiritual lives mirror that experience?
2.Does anyone have a story about sharing God’s love or grace with someone this past week? Was it worth it?
3.Have you ever bitten into a rotten piece of fruit or boxed candy, or anticipated some wonderful experience, but were sorely disappointed by the reality? Please share.

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 Philippians 3:7-14:

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

•For context, read 3:1-6. (v. 1) “same things to you again”. The church in Philippi was in danger of abandoning the hope of salvation by grace alone through faith alone by returning to hope for salvation through the Law. Paul is really “upset” (v. 2) – it’s not a minor issue. Other preachers were distorting the Good News Paul had preached to the Gentile believers. (v. 3) Rather than an outward sign through circumcision, Paul alludes to the inward transformation of the heart. What 3 identifiers of “inward circumcision” does Paul describe? Why is it important, still today, to continually remind and teach and unpack the message of Grace? Are there still teachers today who teach contrary to Paul’s message of salvation by grace through faith alone? Are there ways your own thoughts and practices undermine the gospel of Grace?
•(vv 3-6) Paul was a Pharisee, just like those whom Jesus challenged throughout his ministry, and particularly, in the sermon this week from Matthew 23. What were the key points about Grace? Which point resonated with you? Why?
•(v. 7) Everything changed when Paul met Jesus, particularly his values. How have your values changed? Do you see anything competing with Christ for supremacy in your life? Please explain.
•(v. 8) Now, Paul “draws a line in the sand” – what is his clear conclusion? Faith in Christ meant losing some things, but the reward was gaining what? Are the former pleasures, friendships, and patterns of living “garbage” for you? What things of value from before are now garbage to you?
•(v. 9) Paul says that the beginning point of knowing Christ is righteousness by faith. What do you think “righteousness” means? Why does righteousness matter? How is it linked to our relationship with God? Have you ever tried to pursue a righteousness of your own?
•(v. 10a) What do you think it means to experience the “power of his resurrection”? Paul desires to know it, do you share that desire? Why or why not? Have you ever experienced this power?
•(v. 10b) Through what means does Paul aim even more intimate knowledge of Christ? (Gal 2:20, Rom 6:5) While we don’t literally die on a cross like Jesus – what kind of death and suffering is Paul referring to? We tend to like the power of the resurrection, Jesus’ life in us, but why do we avoid this next part? What has Paul learned that makes this part even remotely appealing? Please explain.
•(v. 11) We can’t ever earn our salvation from sin and death, but Paul talks about “attaining to”, or living-up, to our future reality. How will Paul accomplish this?
•(vv 12-14) Paul hasn’t arrived, he’s on the journey, he’s in-process, but what does his life look like? How is he living? As you examine your life in light of this passage, would you say that you are “pressing on toward the goal”? Are you moving closer to the goal or further away?

3.Please allow time at the end of your group to wait on the Holy Spirit and to pray for one another, especially for those who are struggling as they wait on the Lord.

•Pray for anyone struggling to live a Grace filled life? What practical domains of life are missing Grace (marriage, parenting, dating, evangelism, etc)? Pray that Christ’s Grace and Intimacy would reign.
•Is your outward life separated from your inward life? Is your unity with Christ missing key dimensions? Are you ignoring them by going through the (Christian) motions? Pray that Christ’s love and power would break-in again.
•Does Paul’s description of life with Jesus challenge you? Seek God’s heart for your life and perhaps places that need surrender. Pray that your whole value system would align with Christ.

Small Group Leaders, We Need Your Help!!!

For Lent this year, we are doing a sermon series entitled, “40 Days of Drawing Near to Jesus” where we will be studying the various spiritual disciplines found in the book of Luke, which we hope will help all of us draw near to Jesus. And for Easter weekend, we wanted to do something really special and have live cardboard testimonies as part of our worship time during our services.

If you don’t know what a cardboard testimony is, please click on this link to see an example:

Here is where we need your help. We are looking for about 100 people from our congregation who would be willing to share a cardboard testimony during our worship time in one of our Easter weekend services (25 people at each of our 4 services). We would like to ask if you would consider having your whole small group (or even just a few people) participate in this together. This would be a great opportunity for your small group to serve together in our church. And it would also be a chance to share the amazing Jesus stories of the people in your small group with our church.

We would like to encourage you to pray about this and talk with your small group and see if this is something that you might want to do together.

Here is one thing you can try: For worship time during your small group, show the video that I referenced above. And then you can ask people to share their own testimonies (just on a sheet of paper) during worship time. And if this is something that was meaningful for the group, you might ask if this is something that your whole group would do together on Easter (in front of 3000 people) to celebrate together what Jesus has done in our midst.

If your group is willing and able to help out in this way, can you please respond back to us at your earliest convenience and let us know how many people from your group will share a cardboard testimony on Easter? As noted above, we are looking for about 100 people.

We would appreciate it if you can respond back to us with the number of people from your small group who will be participating by 3/11/2011.

To respond, please contact Miriam Gray at 614-259-5235 or