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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
In our current culture we are constantly at risk of becoming overly tolerant in some cases and overly judgmental in other cases. So how can we exercise judgment with grace and sensitivity? Looking at chapter 7 in the gospel of Matthew pastor Rich outlined some principles and guidelines that Christ gives us to practice judgment with grace and kindness. Jesus understood that exercising judgment was an extremely delicate process, and in so doing, followers of Him, should use tact and discernment before engaging in a conversation about their beliefs. The general attitude that you use towards others speaks profoundly of the work of Christ in your life. We must first be sure that we are using the same standard of judgment on ourselves that we use on others. Jesus forbids us to judge hypocritically. If you are hyper-critical of others then the same kind of criticism will be used against you. The first thing that someone ought to encounter with a Christian is not their moral judgments, but instead it should be their grace and friendship.
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.
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.
•If you think about Tolerance (an aspect of Grace) and Judgment (an aspect of Truth) on a continuum – where would you fall on the spectrum? Can you live both? Share briefly.
•Have you ever unwittingly mistaken someone for another, or failed to recognize someone you knew? How did your assessment of their appearance contribute to your mistake? Share briefly.
•Have you ever thought about what people might say about you at your funeral? What would be 1 or 2 sentences you would like spoken about you. Share briefly.
Read James 2:1-13:
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
•James introduction – It’s difficult to read James in a linear way, the way you might read Romans. But it’s also unnecessary to read James as a haphazard collection of sayings and wisdom. The challenge when reading James’ epistle is to deepen our understanding of the themes and emphases you see revealed throughout the heart of the letter. James longs for Christian maturity – more than just mere profession of faith. He also believes maturity is integral in the community of believers, so within the letter James addresses particular issues.
•(vv. 1-4) What “hypothetical” example does James give his audience? Describe all the characters. Which character might we represent? What is the basic point James wants his hearers to understand?
•(v. 1 & 4) In light of your understanding of vv.1-4, what other situations with believers might you apply this principle toward (perhaps who’s acceptable for leadership – think of Saul and David – 1 Sam 9:1-2 & 1 Sam 16:7, who does Jesus long to be with, the healthy or sick – Luke 5?) What appearances, or “corrupt standards”, are valued in our culture (In Roman empire, social and political “rank” was everything and society “had” to act a certain way – Cicero)? What about your family? How does that conflict with the “practice of our faith”? Please share.
•(v. 4) James makes it clear what the standard should be in v. 4 – but why is it so hard? What other clear standards for relationship exist between believers, but need to be repeated over and over again? Why, when you know the right way to act toward someone, you don’t do it – perhaps because you’re waiting to see what the “other” person does? What holds you back? What’s lacking in you that restrains your actions?
•(vv. 5-7) Does James believe the problems are real or just fictitious? How do you know? When he thinks about those real problems, and the resulting behavior of the church – where does James look for the standard, or principle (v. 5)? What should we be “rich in”? Part of growing in our faith is our ability to practically apply what Jesus did and what he taught to our own lives and situations. Can you share a recent situation where the life of Jesus affected your typical pattern of behavior, especially towards others? Why did it have an impact in that situation and not in the past? What changed?
•(vv. 5-7) It’s clear there were some real divisions in the body. Wealth was an issue for the hearers of James’ letter. Does wealth cause a division in the church today? If so, how – if not, why not? What other divisions do you see in the church (universal), and then in our church (Vineyard Columbus)? What breaks down divisions? Have you experienced this personally?
•(vv 8-11) Writers in the New Testament contrast the OT Law and the Gospel often – why does James seem to appeal to the Law to make his point, rather than Jesus? Part of the answer is the audience is Jewish. The other part is that he does appeal to Jesus – the understanding that Jesus came to “write the law on our hearts” – with the power of the H.S. we can live as God’s true worshippers. Does that make sense to you?
•(v. 8) whose quote does James use in v. 8 (Lev 19:18, Matt 22:37-40)? The Greek word “love” that James uses is “agapeseis” – future tense. What is James’ hope? How does this relate to your introduction on James?
•(vv. 9-11) Favoritism isn’t the only way to break Jesus’ law – what else does James mention? What other ways do we break Jesus’ law that James doesn’t mention? What hope do we have for Christian community?
•(vv. 12-13) Do you ever think about judgment? It’s not unhealthy to imagine at times your own funeral – what do you want to be remembered for? In these verses James contrasts two different lifestyles (speaking and acting) – the way of judgment and the way of mercy. How do we foster the way of mercy in our lives? Being a merciful person is an orientation, an inclination of the heart – what barriers do you have toward the merciful way? How can you live richly in Jesus’ graces?
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
In this weekend’s message, Rich talked about what Jesus meant by judging others, and how we should live, therefore, as Christians. In James epistle, we read about not judging appearances, or social rank, and living in the way of mercy.
•Have you ever been the victim of a judgmental or divisive relationship inside the church? Pray that the Holy Spirit would heal any wounds. Pray for wisdom on how to approach the person whom you’ve wronged, or who wronged you.
•If you feel you’re not walking on the way of mercy – invite the Holy Spirit to minister his Grace and Love into your life.
•Are there situations going on around you that you know you need to confront, but you’re unwilling to “rock the boat”? Ask for god’s boldness, and wisdom, to confront. Part of Love, is speaking truth graciously.