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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
Pastor Rich began a new series from 1 Peter called Living as Resident Aliens. Peter gives at least 10 strategies for Christians struggling to remain distinct from the forces of culture. One reality of following Jesus is to feel in many situations like a foreigner – that you are not quite at home, even if you were born in the country that you reside in. Peter is writing to Gentiles, non-Jewish followers of Jesus living roughly in and around modern day Turkey. Like these recent Gentile converts, we live today in a culture “at odds” with our faith. Rather than a culture that “pushes” us toward Jesus and faith, we live in one that forcefully “pulls” us away. Peter responds to similar circumstances by encouraging and reaffirming these new converts’ identities in Christ calling them “Christians”, “chosen people”, and “God’s Elect”. Additionally, he reminds them about the community in which they have been received which can help us hold fast to an identity and purpose bigger than ourselves. Peter also communicates how we should engage the surrounding culture – as “resident aliens”. The following are pictures of cultural engagement from 1st century religious communities – the Essenes withdrew, the Zealots engaged in “culture wars”, The Sadducees conformed, and the Pharisees used legalism. One author attempts to summarize Peter’s alternative view this way:
[Resident aliens establish] a beachhead, an outpost, an island of one culture in the middle of another, a place where the values of home are reiterated and passed on to the young, a place where the distinctive language and life-style of the resident aliens are lovingly nurtured and reinforced.
We live like a colony in the midst of another country. It means at times we’re different and uncomfortable.
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.
•Did you face any “attacks”, or resistance, this week due to your identity as a follower of Jesus? How did you respond? Please share briefly.
•Has your intentional participation with this small group changed the way you engage your neighbors and/or co-workers? What has changed and why? Please share briefly.
•Of the four religious communities mentioned in the sermon, which are you likely to emulate, and why? Please share briefly.
Read Ephesians 2: 11-22(***consider deleting the scripture text to reduce printing pages)
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
•V. 11-13 What was the fate of the Gentiles before Christ came to Earth? Put yourself in the shoes of an early Gentile Christian. How might you feel pressured into conforming to the old Mosaic law of circumcision? Can you think of things in our present culture that would resemble this conflict?
•How does Paul view the act of circumcision (read Romans 2:28-29 to cross-reference this)? What does Paul mean when he says “circumcision of the heart?” Do you ever find yourself living out or practicing something externally that is not an internal reality? According to v. 11 & 12 in Ephesians 2 and the passage in Romans, what sets a Christian apart from the culture? Who initiates this “setting apart?”
•What then has the blood of Jesus done for the Gentiles? Paul, referring to the Gentiles, says those who once were far away have been brought near. Discuss how life may have changed for a Gentile once he or she heard the Gospel? How has your life changed as a follower of Jesus? What brought you near to Christ? What sets you apart now that you are near?
•V. 14 – Paul begins to discuss what is referred to as the Gospel of reconciliation between Jew and Gentile. There are two dimensions to this reconciliation: horizontal reconciliation (reconciliation between people who are divided) and vertical reconciliation (reconciliation between people and God). How does Christ bring peace to Gentiles and Jews? What was the barrier?
•How does God reconcile people to one another and what is the importance of people being reconciled? Have you ever experienced reconciliation in some way with another person? As Christians, how can we better engage in the process of reconciliation with others? Think about potential barriers to reconciliation. How can they be broken down? How does this process bring honor to God?
•V. 15 – 16 – What kind of impact do you think it had on people to see the peace and reconciliation happening between Jew and Gentile in the early Church? What purpose do you think God had in putting to death the hostility between two people groups who were often in conflict? Think about the church today. How might reconciliation and diversity within the Church have an impact outside of the Church?
•V. 17-18 – To whom does God preach the message of peace? How does one gain access to God the Father? What ways can we make room for even greater measures of Gods peace in our lives?
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.
•Pray that the Lord would distinguish you apart from the culture by the peace that comes from following Him?
•Pray for more “vertical reconciliation” in your life. Pray that God would reveal areas of life that are not reconciled to Him and ask him to break down those walls? Pray also for more “horizontal reconciliation.” Pray about ways to engage in the process of reconciliation with others?